What is Intermittent Fasting?
There has been a lot of interest in the health world around intermittent fasting.
This is the practice of not eating for a certain number of hours a day, or not eating for two or three days out of the week.
The obvious result of this is limiting your calorie intake over the fasting period. If you look across a whole week intermittent fasting generally causes people to consume less calories than they otherwise would. The inherent result of this is going to be weight loss, which means without dramatically changing what you eat you can lose weight. This has made the idea of intermittent fasting very popular.
In the office both Niamh and Bobby have tried it. Niamh doesn’t eat anything before 2pm and claims her energy levels have never been higher.
Bobby tried fasting for 24hours and said he felt a little bit lightheaded and dizzy on the day but after doing it, he felt lighter, refreshed and less bloated.
This is not a particularly new concept. In fact there were several studies in the 30s and 40s that came to the conclusion that restricting calorie intake of certain animals led to those animals leading a comparatively longer life span.
How Does Intermittent Fasting Work?
To understand how fasting works we need to understand how the body behaves when you eat food and when you don’t.
When you eat food your body spends typicaly 3 to 5 hours digesting and absorbing food. During this period it is typically hard for your body to burn fat because of the increased insulin levels.
After about around 8- 12 hours your body is no longer absorbing or digesting food which means your insulin levels are low and this makes it easier for you to burn fat.
Because we don’t stop absorbing energy and food into our system 12 hours after eating, it is rare that our bodies are in this fat burning state.
By intermittent fasting you choose to force your body into this state which allows you to burn more fat than you otherwise would, without dramatically changing what you eat and how much you exercise.
The Effects of Intermittent fasting
1. Losing Belly Fat
The main argument for intermittent fasting is there is evidence that skipping the first meal of the day and not eating late at night, not only helps you lose weight, but helps you retain muscle mass and increases your energy levels.
2. Increased Energy
This is the main thing Niamh has noticed from her own intermittent fasting. She has more energy in the mornings, and to quote her, ‘no longer falls asleep at work.’
3. Increased metabolism
Other purported physical benefits of fasting include:
The Not so Good
As with any form of dramatic change for your body, there can be side-effects, especially if you don’t plan and structure your fasting properly.
1. Running low on nutrients
By altering your eating habits like this, you may find your body begins to get less of the good stuff that it needs because you aren’t eating properly.
2. Junk food becomes more tempting
Especially when you start, your food cravings may lead you to over indulge in junk food.
3. Not being able to exercise
Exercising without eating properly can lead to alarming fatigue, light-headedness and nausea.
Exercise requires you to massively increase your energy output. Burning body fat is an inefficient way to create energy; the potential energy in fatty tissue is stored as long molecules that are harder to break down than sugars.
However, Niamh, after daily intermittent fasting for nearly a month argues that she now has more energy than ever before!
Less going in means less going out. You don’t need medications unless you experience discomfort.
These tend to disappear after the first few times on fasts. Make sure you are drinking lots of water to help with this.
Other possible side effects include dizziness, heartburn and muscle cramps.
Eight tips for successful Intermittent Fasting:
1. Drink lots of water.
2. Stay busy and exercise.
3. Drink coffee or tea.
4. Hunger comes in waves, if you can ride them out you’ll find they quickly dissipate.
5. Don’t tell anybody who is not supportive that you are fasting. It can be mentally challenging to fast.
6. Give yourself one month. It won’t feel great to begin with. But stick with it and let the results speak to you.
7. Follow a low-carb diet between fasting periods. This reduces hunger and makes fasting much easier. It may also increase the effect on weight loss and type 2 diabetes reversal, etc.
8. Don’t binge after fasting!
The first thing you need to do is decide what kind of fasting you are going to do choose something that will fit into your lifestyle.
Second, you then need to decide on the length of time you are going to fast.
Thirdly, plan! The key to a successful fast lies in the planning. What are you going to eat, and when? When are you going to exercise and for how long? Which days are going to be feast days? When are you likely going to be in social situations that require you to eat or drink? For example, is your friend having a bottomless brunch party for their birthday? You need to incorporate that into your plan so that you can still go about enjoying life as normal but still stick to your fasting schedule.
When you’re ready, start fasting. If for any reason this makes you feel unwell or if you have any concerns, stop and seek help.
Continue all your usual activities outside of eating. Stay busy and live normally. Imagine you’re “eating” a full meal of your own fat.
Finally, when you break your fast, do it slowly and gently.