Over the past several years, intermittent fasting has emerged as a darling of the weight-loss world. Countless experts have chimed in to recommend extending the time between meals, and research shows impressive results in the lab too. In an animal study at the University of California at San Diego, mice that had access to unlimited food for just nine hours each day lost 73 percent more weight than those with access to food all day.
“It’s the magic formula for accelerating your metabolism,” asserts nutrition and fitness pro Jorge Cruise, bestselling author of more than 20 books, including his latest, The Cruise Control Diet ($17.47, Amazon). “By lengthening your period of not eating, you can trigger effortless weight loss and increased energy.”
Why is intermittent fasting so effective? Because the body switches between two states: the fed state and the fasted state, explains Jason Fung, MD, author of The Complete Guide to Fasting ($20.36, Amazon). In a fed state (after a meal), the body burns some of the incoming food as fuel — but it doesn’t need much. The “excess” fuel is ferried to fat cells by the hormone insulin, where it can be stored for later. “If we spend our entire day in the fed state, then we are constantly storing fat,” explains Dr. Fung.
In a fasted state (when you haven’t eaten for several hours), insulin levels are lower. Because there’s no excess fuel, there’s no need for the hormone, so the body switches to burning stored fat for fuel. That’s where the weight loss happens, Dr. Fung asserts. But it’s also where things fall apart for many busy women: The “hanger,” brain fog and fatigue caused by switching from one fuel to the other, make it hard to stick with the plan in the real world.
How Fasting Fights Aging
All of the cells in the human body have an innate “recycling” program — allowing them to reuse damaged or non-useful cellular parts to build new, functional cells. With each passing year, this mechanism (called autophagy) starts to slow. We experience this as aging: wrinkles, dull skin, and low energy.
But studies show that intermittent fasting is an effective way to dial up the body’s recycling program: “It’s the only known dietary way to stimulate autophagy,” asserts fasting expert Jason Fung, MD. “Simply put, fasting cleanses the body of unhealthy cellular junk. At the same time, fasting also signals the production of some new snazzy cell parts, giving our bodies a complete renovation. Fasting may be considered one of the most potent anti-aging methods in existence.” This brings incredible anti-aging benefits, including 30 percent fewer wrinkles and 25 percent more even skin tone. Research also shows that boosting the body’s natural recycling program can improve cognitive function, strengthen the immune system and reduce cancer risk.
Fortunately, Cruise has discovered how to trick the body into thinking you’re fasting… without actually forgoing food! “I found a scientific loophole that demolishes hunger pangs and keeps energy revved up so no one has to struggle to get the benefits of intermittent fasting,” cheers Cruise.
His delicious, easy secret: healthy fats. “It turns out, certain healthy fats don’t disrupt the body’s fasting state, so you can eat them during your fast, but your body won’t ‘know’ you’ve eaten — it just keeps burning up fat stores as if you haven’t eaten anything at all.”
According to Dr. Fung, pure dietary fat has almost no effect on insulin levels, so the fat isn’t stored in fat cells. Instead, it is immediately burned for fuel, providing an instant energy boost. That means you can eat pure fat snacks without “breaking” the fast, putting the brakes on fat burn or stalling body-fat loss.
What’s more, the weight loss comes without any of the uncomfortable hunger pangs that make dieting so frustrating. “Dietary fats kill hunger pangs, allowing you to enjoy the benefits of fasting without feeling deprived,” asserts Dr. Fung.
Indeed, researchers at Texas Tech University in Lubbock report that eating fat decreases the body’s production of key hunger- promoting hormones and increases the production of satiety hormones — and the combined effect reduces calorie intake by 40 percent for four hours each time you enjoy a pure-fat snack.
The results go beyond hunger-free weight loss. “You really can reap all the benefits of intermittent fasting with none of the adverse effects. You don’t have to exercise or restrict calories,” promises Cruise. “This strategy transforms health dramatically — I regularly hear stories of women being taken off blood pressure medication, of radiant skin, of shiny hair, of clarity and focus that’s been missing for years.”
In fact, studies show that burning fat for fuel boosts energy by 88 percent, improves sleep quality by 21 percent, and boosts mood as effectively as prescription antidepressants — often within as little as eight days. Ready to start your transformation? Read on for the easy plan!
How to Do the Cruise Control Diet
While on the Cruise Control diet, you’ll enjoy two meals and two snacks between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. each day. “Aim to eat real food,” says Cruise, who has designed meals to keep metabolism humming and minimize fat storage.
That means filling up on 6 oz. of protein (about two large eggs or a serving of fish or poultry the size of two decks of cards), at least 2 cups of dark leafy greens and unlimited non-starchy vegetables (like asparagus and eggplant) per day. You can also enjoy whole-grain bread or pasta at one meal. Cruise suggests eating these carbs with dinner because they foster the production of sleep hormones.
You’ll top off each meal with plenty of high-quality fats (coconut, olive, and avocado oils; nuts and seeds; avocado; and organic dairy), while avoiding fats that stall slimming, including canola, corn, soy, sunflower, safflower, and palm oils.
A sample day to get you started
Pizza for Two: Mix 11⁄2 cups riced cauliflower, 1 egg, and 1 cup shredded mozzarella. Spread on pan. Bake at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 min. Top with cheese and toppings. Broil 5 min.
Roasted Chickpeas: Toss 4 cups cooked chickpeas with 2 Tbs. olive oil and 1 tsp. salt. Spread on baking sheet. Bake at 400°F for 25 min., stirring often. Makes 4 servings.
Steak Salad: Mix 1 cup spinach, 1⁄2 cup carrot ribbons and 3⁄4 cup bell pepper slices with 3 tsp. olive oil. Top with 6 oz. steak, broiled to desired temperature.
Lemon Cake: Mix 1 egg, 2 Tbs. lemon juice, 2 Tbs. cream, 1⁄2 tsp. lemon stevia, 2 Tbs. flour, and 1⁄4 tsp. baking powder. Microwave for 90 sec. Top with whipped cream.
How to Fast for Weight Loss
During your “fasting” window, you can enjoy a pure-fat snack to stave off hunger and sidestep fatigue while keeping insulin levels steady and prodding the body to burn stored fat for fuel.
If you feel hungry during your fast, enjoy a pure-fat treat, like one of the examples below. “You can enjoy as much as you want,” says Cruise, who has developed a line of healthy oils, fat-infused coffee creamers and fasting-friendly sweeteners (available at CruiseControlFasting.com). “Pure fat doesn’t trigger insulin, so your body will still think you are fasting.”
One note of caution: “If you’re shifting from a low-fat, high-carb or vegan diet, you may experience some tummy trouble at first,” says Cruise. To ease any discomfort, he suggests taking a digestive enzyme that contains fat-digesting lipase before your pure-fat snacks to help the body break down the fats. One to try: Enzymedica Lypo Gold ($22.49, Amazon).
Cruise Control Coffee: In blender, combine 12 oz. cooled coffee, 1 Tbs. Cruise Control Latte Creamer (or 1 Tbs. each MCT oil and room temperature grass-fed unsalted butter), 1 Tbs. cinnamon, 2 tsp. monk fruit (optional) and a pinch of sea salt. Pour over ice and enjoy. Not a fan of coffee? Try using 12 oz. of black or dandelion tea as a base instead.
Strawberry Pops: In small saucepan, bring 1⁄2 cup water to a boil. Remove from heat. Add 1 box sugar-free strawberry gelatin, stirring constantly until dissolved. Pour mixture into blender. Add 1 cup heavy cream. Blend until smooth. Pour into 6 Popsicle molds and freeze for 4 hours.
Chocolate Butter Bombs: Over double boiler, mix 1 cup coconut butter, 1 cup coconut milk, 2 Tbs. unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 tsp. vanilla extract, 1⁄2 tsp. cinnamon, and 1⁄2 tsp. monk fruit. Transfer to bowl; refrigerate until solid. Roll into 10 (1-inch) balls. If desired, sprinkle with unsweetened coconut flakes or cocoa powder.
Margarita Panna Cotta: In bowl, sprinkle 3 Tbsp. gelatin onto 12 oz. coconut cream. While gelatin softens, heat 1⁄4 cup coconut oil, 2 Tbs. stevia and 3 tsp. vanilla extract over low heat until melted and combined. Stir in gelatin mixture. Once combined, remove from heat and stir in the juice and zest of 2 limes. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Garnish with lime, then serve.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.