What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting for pets, (and humans), involves not eating for a certain period of time during each day, and then eating all of your calories for the day within a certain timeframe (eating window). Everybody does this whether they know it or not, when you sleep at night you’re fasting! That’s why the first meal of the day is called ‘breakfast’ (you BREAK your FAST). This a key time for your body to perform other functions necessary for health and longevity. Your body essentially cleanses itself, in a sense. Everything I write about here is true for both humans and animals.
Why is Intermittent Fasting Important?
Every time you eat, your insulin spikes, and not just when you eat sugary foods. Too much insulin is bad, and leads to obesity and diabetes. When you eat, insulin goes up and glucagon drops, meaning your blood sugar levels rise (glucagon helps control blood sugar levels). And when you fast, the opposite is true; insulin drops and glucagon rises. When more glucagon is circulating throughout your body, it triggers autophagy. Autophagy is essentially your body’s maid service. It cleanses your body and removes or replaces dead/useless cells (senescent cells). Also, when you fast, your body produces more AMPK (adenosine monophosphate activated protein kinase), which is an anti-aging enzyme. Further, mTOR goes down when fasting. mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin) is inflammatory, and is triggered by oxidative stress. It increases inflammation by slowing T-cell development.
We weren’t meant to eat constantly throughout the day, and neither are our animals. Dogs naturally aren’t the best hunters and likely wouldn’t eat breakfast every day first thing in the morning. Even when we started to domesticate wolves, the humans had to go out and hunt and collect food. It’s not like they could open up a box of cereal and eat first thing in the morning. When we fast our animals, we are contributing to their health and longevity.
When we fast our animals, we are contributing to their health and longevity.
How Do I Implement Intermittent Fasting for My Pet?
If you are familiar with the keto diet, you know that it restricts carbs (which just turn into sugar), and encourages more protein and especially more fat. Our bodies, as well as our pets, prioritize what it burns first. Carbs get used as energy first, then the fat stores get used.
To implement intermittent fasting for your pets, you need to establish a timeframe that works for you. Create a window that fits your schedule, trying to stick as close to 18/6. This means an 18-hour fast and a 6-hour eating window. Ensure you feed them all required calories in this window, and at least 2 hours before bed. I feed Dozer and Nova at 11:00am and again at 5:00pm. You can also feed them once a day, or fast them for an entire day (cue the gasps by loving pet parents!). I know, I wasn’t sold at first either. But once you read The Forever Dog by Dr. Karen Becker and Rodney Habib, your views will change. The evidence is piling up that proves a fresh food diet, coupled with intermittent fasting is the healthiest way to feed our animals. The oldest living dog was over 30 years old! The owner’s advice? Feed them less, exercise them more.
As always, feel free to reach out if you have any questions regarding this article.