5-Day Water Fast (Part 4 of 4) – Intermittent Fasting, Diet Variation, & Metabolic Flexibility

So, we’ve done a 5-day water fast, we’ve come off the fast properly in order to glean the greatest benefits from our efforts, we’re enjoying our new lean and energetic self… now what? How do we NOT lose the benefits of what we just accomplished? How do we incorporate something like this into our lifestyle on an ongoing basis?

In case you haven’t yet read the earlier articles in this series, you can get up to speed here:

Part 1 – Why? Benefits

Part 2 – Results, How-To, and FAQs

Part 3 – How to Properly End the Fast

I don’t know about you, but my food goals in life do NOT include starvation diets, limiting myself to 500 – 800 calories per day on an ongoing basis, counting calories, counting macros, counting “points”, feeling deprived, or feeling like I can’t go on certain adventures or to certain events because of the food (ie. a cruise or all-inclusive resort). I don’t mind keeping track of some details for a few days until I get the swing of things, but beyond that, I’d like it to be more intuitive.

I don’t want food to be hard work. I need no additional stress in life!

I want to know that I own the “tools” and the skills… can do the metabolic work required… to establish metabolic flexibility, to tap into ketosis easily, and come back out without my body falling apart!

The ability to move into and out of ketosis easily, to be an efficient fat burner vs. a carb-addicted sugar burner, is something to aim for when it comes to our health. Not having this metabolic flexibility (largely as a result of eating too often and eating too many carbs… I’ll get to that in a bit), can be easily linked to increases in chronic illness and diseases of lifestyle.

Fasting is one of the quickest ways to get yourself into ketosis and to start developing this metabolic flexibility.

With fasting, many people can tap into ketosis in 3 or 4 days. With dietary changes alone, it can take a month or longer. Either way is great!

(If you’re the type that wants to know for sure that you’re “in the keto zone”, use a reliable glucose/ketone measuring device to monitor your levels a couple times per day as needed. Keto Mojo {shown below} is reliable, simple to use, and very cost-effective.)

Intermittent Fasting (IF)

IF provides your body with some of the benefits of a full “block fast” like the 5-day water fast, just not quite so profound. You will still have some autophagy, increased stem cell production, increased Growth Hormone production, hormone optimization, gut healing, and mitochondrial biogenesis. Intermittent fasting closely resembles the eating patterns of some of the healthiest cultures and ancient ancestors around the world. It’s nothing new… we’ve just forgotten how to NOT eat in our modern world full of convenience food that’s always at our fingertips!

Some basic tenets of IF:

  1. Clean up your sources of fuel: choose from healthy fats & oils, clean/non-toxic protein, organic veggies, full-fat non-toxic/organic sources of dairy, some organic fruit (berries). In other words, eat real food, whole food, non-toxic food, and food that’s closest to its naturally occurring state. Limit carbohydrates to primarily those from vegetables and some fruit… less from starchy sources or those with a high glycemic index.
  2. eat fewer times each day
  3. eat within a “window”… a time certain time frame

Our cells can only use sugar (glucose) or fat for energy. In simple terms, when you’re not eating, the body is forced to use fat for energy… and it gets it from our fat storage. NOT eating gives the body a chance to burn the fat throughout the day. If we keep eating and snacking our way through the day, we continue to spike glucose & insulin (which keeps us addicted to carbs) and it stresses our mitochondria, costs massive metabolic energy, AND ages us faster!

Eating fewer times per day helps stop this cycle, provided we decrease our intake of carbs/sugar.

I didn’t say eat LESS… I said eat LESS OFTEN! When it’s time to eat… EAT!! That’s a key to efficient metabolism and maintaining lean muscle mass.

This grazing, small meals & snacks stuff is for the birds. 🙂

If this is where you currently are, start by removing snacks, or one of the snacks. Perhaps your first goal could be to just eat MEALS, not snacks. 3 meals per day. Baby steps are better than no steps!

Then, we’ll talk about graduating to 2 meals.

(Hold up. If you’re training for an elite-level physical event of some sort, I’m not talking to you with this advice. {Not saying it doesn’t work for you, too… just not talking to you right now!} This is advice for the rest of us who also care about our health, function, longevity, fitness, performance, and appearance… but we’re just not training in any extreme way.)

Eating Window

A good beginner step is to split the day in 1/2 with eating and non-eating windows. 12 hours in which you can eat, and 12 hours of no eating. For example, if dinner is at 7pm, don’t eat again until 7am… and then wrap up your eating for the day by 7pm again.

As you move forward, you’ll tighten up the window for eating.

  • 10 hours for eating, 14 hours fasting (e.g. dinner at 7pm, first meal the next day is at 9am… last meal at 7pm again)
  • 8 hours for eating, 16 hours fasting (e.g. dinner at 7pm, first meal the next day is at 11am… last meal at 7pm again)
  • 4 – 6 hours for eating, 18-20 hours fasting (e.g dinner at 7pm, first meal the next day is around 1-3pm… last meal at 7pm again)

For some folks, getting into ketosis alone is not the key to losing fat… and, for some, they can’t even get into ketosis in the first place without intermittent fasting!

Increasing the amount of time without eating forces the body into a fasting state which optimizes hormonal communication as the hormone receptors on the cell membranes become more sensitive… they “hear” the intended communication between brain & body much better! When the cells become more sensitive like this, we can start burning more fat. THIS is what gives ketosis the leverage it needs!

IF drives ketosis… which increases autophagy (getting rid of old, toxic, damaged cells… cleaning house!).

NOTE: Even with all this – cleaning up your fuel intake, eating fewer times, and eating within smaller windows of time – you STILL might get stuck and find yourself resistant to weight (fat) loss!! 

That’s the importance of:

  1. proper detoxification (I’ll talk about TRUE cellular detoxification another time!)
  2. Diet Variation

Diet Variation – “Feast or Famine”

Think about this. Not one healthy ancient culture ever stayed on one diet year round, year after year after year. They were forced to change diets seasonally, due to weather, due to location, etc. They quite naturally practice “feast or famine”.

Transitioning to a lower carb diet is a good thing overall. Burning fat vs. sugar for fuel is cleaner, produces less oxidative stress, down regulates cellular inflammation, and so on.

BUT, here’s a potential problem – being super low-carb and burning so much fat for a long time can cause the body to think it needs to start conserving some of its fat for fuel. Uh-oh. It might even start using muscle as a source of fuel… so you can hang onto more fat AND be losing lean muscle!

Ever heard of “skinny fat”? Yep. This is it.

Let’s avoid this little trap, since we’ve worked so hard cleaning up our diet and tightening up our food consumption addictions and habits! We’re going to remind the body that it’s NOT starving! It’s time to FEAST!

Fasting provides incredible benefits, as we’ve been discussing. It turns on good genes, turns off bad ones, resets our microbiome, etc. Feasting is just as important to make this whole thing come together. When you come out of your feast, the body says, “Let’s burn everything!!” Bye-bye fat.

Now, before you map out your fast food drive-thru window stops for your feast day, keep in mind that we’re building HEALTH here! These are still (predominantly) CLEAN foods! Just a lot more of them… and more carbs!!! Woo hoooo! Have at those sweet potatoes and fruit galore!

And, wise guy… don’t think you can just strut your way into a feast day! Do the work in building your metabolic machinery FIRST! Get yourself into ketosis FIRST before implementing this! (Or, at the very least, get your carb intake down below approximately 50g/day consistently for a few weeks.)

Weekly Overview

An example of tying this all together in any given week could look like this:

  • 5 days of intermittent fasting – eating 2 meals per day in a 4-8 hour window of time
  • 1 day of “famine*” – eat just ONE big meal (or, because you’re a healthy beast, maybe even NO food for 24 hours!)
  • 1 day of “feast” – healthy carb day!

The body never thinks it’s starving and always stays metabolically flexible and efficient.

The breakdown above is just an example. You can play around with more “famine*” days, more “feast” days… in any combination.

*Research shows that we get a nice boost in autophagy around 30 hours of fasting… and even after 15 hours without food! We miss out on a LOT by constantly shoving food into our faces! 😉 

Big Picture/Seasonally

Consider doing a “BLOCK FAST” (like the 5-day water fast) at least once per year, if not more. The benefits are profound… it’s worth the effort.

Consider getting yourself into true ketosis for a few consecutive weeks each year to reap the unique benefits of that metabolic state. eg. 4-6 weeks. The rest of the time:

  • eat real foods, clean foods, God-made vs. man-made foods
  • adopt a higher fat/lower & smart carb/moderate protein approach
  • eat a variety of foods… if possible, eat the healthiest foods available “in-season”… mix things up!
  • incorporate Intermittent Fasting and Feast & Famine days on a regular basis

When we vary our diets like I’ve described, the body hormonally makes healthy adaptations, as does the microbiome. This is one of the reasons why IF and diet variation can finally help people break through weight loss resistance!

This overall approach keeps you metabolically fit, fat adapted, looking more youthful, more energetic… and it’s easier to slip in and out of “indulgent” times without falling apart!

Is chocolate cake a “healthy” carb? 😉


Read the entire 5-Day Water Fast Series!

Part One

Part Two

Part Three


p.s. YES, there are plenty of products in the marketplace now that will help you get into a state of fat-burning ketosis. Just be sure YOU are doing the work of limiting your carb intake! It’s null & void if both your ketones AND glucose levels are high!

Dr. Colleen Trombley-VanHoogstraat (“Dr Mom Online”) is a popular personality in Natural Health & Wellness and is in her 23rd year of active practice in Michigan, along with her husband Dr. Marc VanHoogstraat. She’s also the proud mom of two rather fabulous kiddos that she currently home schools. Her unique perspective of the science of Wellness provides predictable solutions and transformational results for those struggling with chronic health issues, as well as those seeking lifelong health. To discover her simple strategies for creating better health through nutrition, movement, mindset, cellular detoxification, and metabolic re-setting, jump on board as a regular reader of Dr Mom Online when you plug in your name and email address.

*** Be sure to download your personal copy of “The Bull’s Eye Daily Food Guide”  – it’s my FREE gift to you! This is your single-glance tool to simplify nutrition, maximize fat loss & metabolic flexibility, and optimize vibrant health & longevity! You will definitely want this tool posted in your kitchen or on your phone for reference! Claim your copy!

For more of Dr. Colleen’s Wellness Lifestyle books, check out her library available online at http://amazon.com/author/drcolleen.

Dr. Trombley

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