INTERMITTENT fasting is one of the many relatively new diet trends. Increasingly, I am hearing: “I can’t eat until midday”; or, “We have to eat before eight, I can’t eat after 8:00 pm; I’m intermittent fasting”.
So what is intermittent fasting? And should you be considering it?
Many individuals and systems of dieting have utilised the pattern of eating which is now being commonly called intermittent fasting. Sadly, the media wave and popularity of the term have forced the rest of us to refer to what we have been doing as “essentially the same as intermittent fasting”.
It is a pattern of eating in which there is a longer daily fasting period before breaking your fast (think breakfast). The fasting period can last anytime between 23 to 14 hours.
The most popular pattern is fasting for 16 hours out of your day, and eating all your meals within an eight-hour window (16/8). There are other methods which include eating on alternating days, and other time-restricted eating methods.
Two examples of the 16/8 intermittent fast may be:
Begin eating (break your fast) at 8:00 am and complete your last meal of the day before 3:00 pm.
• Begin eating at midday and complete your last meal by 8:00 pm.
Why intermittent fast?
There are three main arguments for intermittent fasting.
First, is the discovery that fasting triggers a mechanism which causes our cells to utilise stored waste and cellular materials, facilitating a mechanism known as autophagy, or self “eating”/cleaning.
Secondly, a smaller eating window means less hours secreting insulin and, since insulin is a fat-storage hormone, this will allow your body to use fat as a fuel source — becoming a fat-burning machine.
The third and least argument sees the smaller eating window as fewer opportunities to add extra calories to your daily intake.
What can you eat?
Technically you can eat any regular healthy diet during your eating window; some people choose to have one meal per day (23-hour fast) or as many as four meals per day. The important rule is, do not overdo your caloric intake and eat nutritionally dense foods, not empty calories.
During the fasting hours, most forms of intermittent fasting allow for zero-calorie drinking options, such as water, black coffee, unsweetened tea without cream, and so on.
Energy drinks, protein drinks, sports drinks, chewing gum, and mints are not allowed. In some systems, even artificial sweeteners are frowned upon.
Does it work better than other “diets” for weight loss?
Bluntly, no it doesn’t. At least, there are no human studies which support that it does, and several which concluded that is does not — including a 2015 review of 12 clinical trials.
There is a one-year 2017 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine which showed that even alternate day fasting did not produce any superior weight loss over regular, daily calorie restriction.
Also, some studies have recommended that intermittent fasting is not safe for individuals who are: diabetic (the jury is still out on this one); healing from trauma; or pregnant. As always, consult your physician before beginning any diet regimen.
It turns out that when it comes to weight loss, intermittent fasting has the same success and failure rates as other calorie-restricted diets, including the methods often frowned upon by intermittent fasting gurus such as multiple small meals for up to 12 hours per day.
In general terms, any sustainable, reasonable, calorie-restricted diet will force your body to utilise stored fat (and some muscle) for energy. Eventually, with patience, there will be weight loss.
When it comes to weight loss, the best advice is to choose a method which fits your individual preference; if that is intermittent fasting, then have a go at it.
Benefits of fasting
Fasting holds a specific place in wellness. In laboratory tests, intermittent fasting and fasting in general have been shown to increase brain health and reduce the signs of ageing internally and externally.
Here are a few testimonials from ITK members on the most recent challenge:
M Jameson: No sah. I had no idea I could lose weight like this. I really needed this now. Thanks guys.
G Mundy: Got a great support team and an excellent programme. I like totally don’t even understand how I ate ice cream yesterday and still posted loss this morning.
A McDonald: The tea is suppressing my appetite…I am not feeling hungry. I am looking forward to my ice cream day. This is really working. This holiday I overate and I needed to lose a few pounds quickly. I have lost eight pounds and this is my fourth day. Bring it on.
D Maxwell: I have lost 15.2 pounds in four weeks. Thanks. Great system. Recommend to all.
S Robinson: It’s working great for me! I love the tea.
A good programme
A good intermittent fasting programme is:
a) Solid enough to take the weight off healthily;
c) Nutritionally dense natural meals, helping you fight unhealthy habituations;
d) About building new healthy habits;
e) Built around a strong support and accountability system;
f) Flexible enough to help keep you on track and adapt to your personal needs.
For your wellness, choose to embrace a system which utilises several fasting methods, including 12-hour, 24-hour, 36-hour, 48-hour, 72-hour, and phased (like intermittent) fasting.