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Home arrow Nutrition arrow Intermittent Fasting arrow Combining Paleo and Intermittent Fasting: Powerful Duo or Nutritional Disaster?

Combining Paleo and Intermittent Fasting: Powerful Duo or Nutritional Disaster?

HR_author_photo_Rosmy
Written by Rosmy Barrios, MD
Dr. Donika Vata
Fact checked by Donika Vata, MD
Last update: October 15, 2023
7 min read 513 Views 0 Comments
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Are the paleo diet and intermittent fasting a worthy duo? Research and studies say yes! So dive in and learn how to combine these two diets to reap the benefits and the several caveats to consider.

paleo and intermittent fasting

From potentially lowering blood sugar to reducing inflammation, helping with weight management, and more, the paleo diet and intermittent fasting are two popular diet strategies that work well on their own. 

However, embracing the principles of our ancient ancestors while tapping into modern science is said to work even better.

Whether you are a curious newcomer to the world of diets or eating patterns or a seasoned practitioner looking to fine-tune your approach, read on to discover the truth about combining the paleo diet with intermittent fasting.

How Do Paleo and Intermittent Fasting Work Together?

Primarily, the paleo diet and intermittent fasting work together to promote insulin sensitivity, thereby making it easier to stick with your fast.

Glucose is an instant source of energy for the cells in your body. However, when fasting, there is very little to no supply of glucose, and your body gradually switches to using fat as the primary energy source. The time taken for this switch can be anywhere from 10 to 24 hours after food consumption has stopped.

Many people fail at intermittent fasting because their body is used to running on processed carbs and glucose all the time. This means they start yearning for processed food or sugary snacks when fasting and eventually give in to their cravings.

The paleo diet promotes an anti-inflammatory eating pattern involving unprocessed foods and avoiding grains, legumes, refined sugars, and dairy products. And with intermittent fasting, the primary goal is to prevent hunger for as long as possible.

Hence, practicing a paleo diet for a few weeks before embracing intermittent fasting can help your body adjust to lower glucose levels and use fat as the primary fuel source. Meaning your body can go longer without food and be energetic due to the lack of blood sugar spikes caused by processed foods and grains.

So, while they are distinct dietary strategies, paleo and intermittent fasting can complement each other and work together to improve metabolic health, support weight management, and enhance overall well-being.

What Is Paleo?

Often referred to as the “caveman” or “hunter-gatherer” diet, paleo refers to eating like our ancestors during the Paleolithic era (pre-farming and industrialized agriculture era).

The core principle is to focus on consuming unprocessed foods or food found in the wild. This includes food rich in nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, such as:

  • Animal products – lean meats, seafood, eggs, etc.
  • Fruits, seeds, and nuts
  • And non-starchy vegetables. 

The paleo diet excludes food groups introduced with the advent of conventional farming and manufacturing practices. This includes grains, legumes, dairy products, processed sugars, refined vegetable oils, etc., because they are thought to cause inflammatory reactions and blood sugar imbalances in our bodies.

Simply put, the paleo diet promotes a balanced intake of whole, unprocessed foods rich in protein, healthy fats, fiber, and essential nutrients while limiting the intake of added sugars, starchy carbs, and unhealthy fats.

A lot of paleo dieters report the dietary approach’s potential to:

What Is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting is a conventional eating pattern that features cycles of fasting and eating periods. Unlike traditional diets that restrict the consumption of several foods, intermittent fasting tells you when to eat and when not to. It emphasizes establishing a specific time window for eating and fasting, so it is commonly referred to as time-restricted feeding/eating.

While there are many popular intermittent fasting methods, the 4 common ones are:

  • 5:2 – Eating normally 5 days a week and fasting or limiting caloric intake to around 500kcal for 2 non-consecutive days.
  • 24-hour – Eating normally 6 days a week and fasting for a day (only consuming water or non-caloric beverages).

With intermittent fasting, there is no caloric restriction during the feeding window. Whereas, during fasting, you cannot intake any calories and should stick to drinking water, unsweetened tea/coffee, or other non-caloric beverages.

The fasting window helps your body deplete the glycogen stores and transition to ketosis, which burns the stored body fat for energy. This supports weight loss and fat burning.

In addition, intermittent fasting also promotes cellular repair and autophagy, a cellular cleansing process that is thought to have anti-aging and disease-fighting effects. This is particularly found to occur with long-term intermittent fasting.

Additional benefits of intermittent fasting include:

Benefits of Combining Paleo and Intermittent Fasting 

There are numerous health benefits to combining the paleo diet with intermittent fasting. However, remember that the key to achieving these advantages is consistency and providing your body with a balanced diet when you eat. 

Read on to learn about the top 3 benefits of combining the paleo diet and intermittent fasting.

#1 Easier adjustment to lower glucose levels

Fasting promotes insulin sensitivity and low blood sugar levels. This is primarily because once your body stops getting glucose from food, it starts using the glycogen stores to function normally.

Generally, eating foods after a period of fasting causes your insulin levels to spike. On the other hand, the paleo diet focuses on low-glycemic foods, thereby stabilizing blood sugar levels and preventing insulin levels from spiking when you eat again.

#2 Improved gut health

The paleo diet promotes the consumption of whole foods that are unprocessed and free of artificial additives and eliminates grains, legumes, dairy, and other processed foods which can be hard for your stomach to digest.

Intermittent fasting, on the other hand, offers the digestive system periods of rest, thereby improving nutrient absorption.

Together, intermittent fasting and paleo promote gut health by improving gut microbiota composition, reducing intestinal permeability, and relieving IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) symptoms.

#3 More sustained energy

Paleo focuses on consuming protein, fat, and nutrient-rich food. Since the diet is low in carbohydrates, it teaches your body to use the macronutrients more efficiently. Therefore, when combined with intermittent fasting, the paleo diet can be very satiating and offer long-lasting energy.

5 Tips for Combining Paleo and Intermittent Fasting

The first step to the dietary approaches is to choose an intermittent fasting method (perhaps, 14:10) and eat mostly paleo for at least 2 weeks before starting intermittent fasting. Also, ensure you get enough sleep and are not in a high-stress situation. 

Once that is done, keep the following tips in mind.

#1 Ease into the process

Remember that a lot of people fail on the first day of intermittent fasting. So, it is completely fine if you can’t stick to not eating during the 14-hour window on your first day.

Gradually train your body to adjust to the new eating pattern rather than going from 0 to 100 in a single day. For instance, begin with shorter fasting periods, such as for an hour or two, and gradually increase the fasting window as you get more comfortable.

In addition, you might also want to avoid a high-fat diet. For instance, lower your carb intake and avoid snacking between meals to prevent your body from experiencing insulin spikes and dips. If you feel hungry, consider drinking a glass of water or non-caloric beverages.

#2 Track your nutrients

When practicing intermittent fasting, it is easy to lose track of the nutritional profile of the meals you consume during the short feeding window. After all, nearly 1/3 of Americans fail to consume enough nutrients even when they have access to food 24/7.

In addition, though paleo emphasizes the intake of nutrient-dense meals, people who follow the diet are susceptible to nutrient deficiencies.

Hence, it is crucial you keep track of your macronutrients and micronutrients and maintain a balanced diet involving a variety of nutrient-dense foods.

#3 Meal prep

Cooking and eating 3 paleo meals a day from scratch can be hard to do within the 8-hour window. Hence, preparing meals in advance can be a helpful strategy. Planning and cooking your meals ahead of time will ensure you stick to your dietary goals while avoiding unhealthy options.

One way to go about meal prep is to double or triple a recipe and save the leftovers for meals over the next few days. Alternatively, you can peel and chop all the vegetables you will need for the upcoming days’ meals and store them in the refrigerator until needed.

#4 Prioritize healthy fats and protein

Consuming enough proteins and healthy fats during the eating window will help prevent muscle loss when fasting and provide sustained energy. Increasing your protein intake is particularly important if you are looking to build muscle.

Lean meats, fish, eggs, legumes, and nuts are good sources of protein. Healthy fats include avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, etc.

#5 Drink enough liquids

Staying hydrated throughout the day is quite essential for overall health. It can also help manage hunger during fasting periods.

Drink plenty of water throughout the day. You can also include non-caloric drinks like herbal teas and coffee. However, remember that caffeine might increase hunger. So, limit your consumption.

FAQs

Does intermittent fasting work with paleo?

Yes, paleo and intermittent fasting complement each other and work well together to support weight loss, improve gut health, and boost cognitive abilities.

What diet works best with intermittent fasting?

The paleo diet is an excellent choice for intermittent fasting. It focuses on eating unprocessed, nutrient-dense food and avoiding sugar, dairy, and processed oils. Hence, it can significantly complement intermittent fasting by helping your body adjust to longer periods of fasting without feeling lethargic or tired.

Can you lose weight fast on a paleo diet?

The paleo diet is a great way to lose weight relatively quickly since it emphasizes consuming whole, unprocessed foods. You will be eating a lot of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and healthy fats that are low-calorie and nutrient-rich, making it a perfect choice for weight loss.

A Word From a Nutritionist

Paleo and intermittent fasting are a combination that has gained immense popularity in recent years.

The paleo diet is centered around consuming nutrient-rich, unprocessed foods that our bodies are thought to be more biologically fit to digest/process, unlike foods produced through conventional farming and manufacturing methods. On the other hand, intermittent fasting involves alternating periods of fasting and eating.

Following a paleo diet before and during intermittent fasting eliminates blood sugar spikes and ensures your body adjusts to using stored fats as its energy source.

Hence, this combination is ideal for regulating blood sugar levels, promoting weight loss and metabolic benefits, ensuring adequate intake of macro and micronutrients, and maintaining a balanced diet while fasting.

Nonetheless, the paleo intermittent fasting combination isn’t for everyone. Intermittent fasting, in particular, may not be suitable for older people, pregnant women, and those with chronic diseases. Hence, it should be approached cautiously, and it is more important to listen to your body and prioritize your overall health and well-being.

Conclusion

The paleo diet with intermittent fasting is a potentially powerful combo that can improve blood sugar levels, promote weight loss, and reduce inflammation. In fact, if you want to practice intermittent fasting, following a paleo diet before and during intermittent fasting would help make the transition much easier and beneficial. 

Despite the many advantages, intermittent fasting might not be for everyone. Older people, pregnant women, and people with chronic illnesses should rethink their choice and consult a health practitioner before embracing intermittent fasting.

Lastly, remember that your health is unique. What works for one person might not work for you. So, be mindful of the combination, and consider your unique circumstances before embracing the dietary practices.

Written by Rosmy Barrios, MD
Dr. Rosmy Barrios, MD, is a medical advisor for the Health Reporter, the head of the anti-aging department, and a regenerative medicine specialist in several medical institutions with years of experience in aesthetic medicine and cosmetology.
The article was fact checked by Donika Vata, MD
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HR_author_photo_Rosmy
Written by Rosmy Barrios, MD
Dr. Donika Vata
Fact checked by Donika Vata, MD
Last update: October 15, 2023
7 min read 513 Views 0 Comments
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