Performance

Weighing up the benefits of Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent Fasting (IF) has grown quite a reputation. Hailed as the choice for a healthier lifestyle, it puts the body through reduced eating windows and long bouts of starvation which may at times seem torturous, but the results speak for themselves.

Let’s get things straight. Intermittent fasting is not a diet, it’s a pattern of eating. It doesn’t look to change what you’re eating, but rather change when you eat.

People are leaving the crash diets in favour of IF. It’s a trend that’s sparked debate on whether this approach to daily food intake really can keep its promises. This article will look into both sides of IF and how you can sculpt it around your lifestyle.

THE UPSIDES

WEIGHT LOSS

Intermittent fasting is most often associated with weight loss. It opens up the opportunity to drop stubborn pounds without making drastic changes to your core diet or taking on an excessive exercise regime. During the fasting period, your blood level of insulin drops significantly and the body enters a high-fat burn mode.

And don’t fear for your body eating away at muscle mass, the Human Growth Hormone is kick-started during a fasting period which facilitates muscle gain.

SIMPLICITY

Always welcome in hectic lives, just start the day by grabbing a glass of water. There’s no need to plan, prepare or eat first thing, which means you save time, effort and money. You can still enjoy your favourite breakfast foods, just wait until your eating window has opened.

FULL MEALS

Practising IF confines you to your eating window in which you should aim to eat 2-3 satisfying meals per day. Eating three times in a shortened space of time means naturally minimizes your need to snack, meaning you’ll still lose weight without restricting portions.

REGULATING BLOOD SUGAR LEVELS  

Research shows that IF can help to protect the body against Type 2 Diabetes. Regular fasting reduces insulin resistance by about 30% and blood sugar by about 5%. Over time appetite and hunger pangs will diminish as your body adjusts to the new routine.

THE DOWNSIDES

RESEARCH   

There is little scientific research to support many of the claims and benefits associated with IF. Human data experiments are limited and even ethical animal research does not make for an accurate model for testing human response.

OBSESSION

It goes without saying that you’ll need to be strong-willed to stick to your eating ‘windows’. But too much determination can lead to obsession, potentially damaging mental health.

For example, if you have planned to have your first meal of the day at 12:00 pm, but you’re starving by 11:45 am you might prolong eating for 15 minutes. Obsessive eating habits can lead you into an unhealthy relationship with food.

CONCENTRATION

If all you can think about is food while fasting, productivity can crash through a lack of concentration and motivation. Lethargy may only be short-lived as your body adjusts to the new routine, but in some cases this may be unmanageable.

Nia Shanks writes that she first started noticing the ‘dark side’ to IF when her energy levels started decreasing, she goes on to reveal IF was not for her and subsequently stopped.

BAD HABITS

Nutritionally it’s important to ensure that you make the most of your eating windows.

It’s easy for people to fall into bad habits and fill up on unhealthy foods on their non-fasting days. Take it easy on the fatty foods and try to maintain a healthy and balanced diet.

SOCIAL ROUTINES

Our social lives revolve around food—dinner with friends, meeting for brunch, and of course special occasions. It’s highly likely that some of these engagements will fall outside of your eating window, causing a mental tug of war over which sacrifice to make.

WATCH Nia Shanks and Marianne Kane share their IF experiences

GETTING STARTED

There is no ‘one size fits all’ method for intermittent fasting, everyone will find their preferred routine when practising. This is about doing what’s right for you. Decide on a fasting regime which is the most manageable and suits your lifestyle.

DAILY

A 16-hour fast will take place, followed by an 8-hour ‘eating window’.

Remember that for 8 hours of the fasting you will be sleeping. The times you choose to fast are flexible. Most people tend to eat between 12 pm – 8 pm. However, depending on your work schedule, you may want to alter this slightly.

WEEKLY

The Weekly approach involves fasting for 24 hours once or twice or week. Aim to fast from dinner one day to dinner the next. It makes no difference if you choose to fast from breakfast to breakfast or lunch to lunch, the outcome is the same.

5:2

Also known as the ‘fast diet’, 5:2 requires you to eat normally five days of the week while restricting calories to 500-600 on two days of the week. It’s recommended that women eat 500 calories and men 600 calories on fasting days. Make sure your fasting days are broken up with at least one day of eating in between.

WARRIOR

This variation of IF involves eating small amounts of raw fruits and vegetables during the day, followed by eating one huge meal at night. Essentially, you fast through the day and have a 4-hour window to feast at night. Paleo food choices should be favoured when warrior fasting, choose lean meats, nuts and whole grains.

IS IT FOR YOU?

The benefits aren’t universal, and aren’t always clear. But many people are championing Intermittent Fasting for its results. Before you decide which route you want to follow you need to weigh up which option suits your day-to-day lifestyle.

If you’re ready to give it a try, make sure you’re still eating a healthy and balanced diet. Fasting isn’t easy, and you’ll need to remain strong-willed throughout the non-eating phases. Stick it out for a few weeks and allow your body to adjust before judging for yourself.

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