Intermittent Fasting – how to do this “my healthy way”
Intermittent fasting has become trendy and popular in recent years as people adapt this style of eating to lose weight. There are many studies that show spending time in a fasted state delivers many health benefits, but I prefer a simpler way to reach your weight and health goals.
Traditional Intermittent Fasting (IF) is a restricted calorie intake consumed within a specified window (usually a maximum of 8 hours). The advice given is often to consume less than 25% of your usual calorie intake (approx. 500 calories is often touted as the goal).
This is a very low calorie intake and can be hard to follow with a busy working life or with social engagements.
Fasting has been shown to halt or even reverse the progression of disease and lead to a body that can age well both mentally and physically. Studies have shown improvements to diabetes risk, improved memory, blood pressure, lower triglyceride and LDL cholesterol.
Another benefit – and usually the main reason why people follow this style of eating – is weight loss.
During times of extended fasting, cells become more responsive to insulin, and they can adapt to burn fat more efficiently (metabolically switching from burning sugars). The body is more adaptive to clearing out damaged cells to generate newer, healthier cells (known as autophagy).
This also applies to mitochondria – the energy power houses in each cell. A growing body of research has shown the role that damaged mitochondria play in chronic disease, from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) to Alzheimer’s.
IF leads to less inflammation in the body and less cellular oxidative damage. Overall, it leads to a metabolically healthier body that can age well. And it has also been shown to be very effective at reducing weight.
It can cause side effects initially such as fatigue, insomnia, nausea and headaches as it is an extreme style of eating.
It is not suitable for those with blood sugar management problems, during pregnancy or breastfeeding, if you have kidney stones or diabetes. Always speak to your doctor before embarking on an extreme “diet”.
Why Time Restricted Eating is my model
First, I don’t agree with counting calories. We should not spend our lives choosing foods based on a calorie count, as this leads to poor choices. Gram for gram, fats are over twice the calories as a carbohydrate.
But which is a healthier choice- a handful of nuts or a crumpet? The (unsalted) nuts win hands down each time. And are you one of those who will “sacrifice” a proper meal as you’ve had a piece of cake in the afternoon, so you have exhausted your calorie intake?
My Healthy Plate ratios that I have spoken about in my blogs many, many times is always my recommended dietary style. And continues to be the approach I follow during Time Restricted eating.
Second, I encourage clients to follow a Time Restricted eating pattern on 2-3 days a week – of their choosing. This involves picking an 8-hour window in which to consume your properly balanced meals and fasting the remaining 16 hours.
For example, if you finish your evening meal by 8pm, you will avoid eating until midday the next day. But if you prefer to eat breakfast, you may eat between 8am and 4pm. You choose the window and the days that work for you and your lifestyle. It’s simple to follow, and I am all about simplicity as this makes it achievable.
This style of eating should not be attempted if you feel you struggle with imbalanced blood sugar levels like shakiness, poor concentration or irritability between meals.
The first step is to get your meals balanced with sufficient protein and fats and low starchy vegetables. And always slowly build up to the 16-hour fast. For example, on Day 1 choose a 12-hour fast, then add an hour t a time until you have comfortably achieved 16 hours of fast time.
Some recommendations say coffee is OK to consume, but be careful as it is a stimulant (with a subsequent stress response) and this results in a release of glucose into the bloodstream.
Ideally, stick to water and herbal teas. Do not consume low calorie drinks with artificial sweeteners as these can play havoc with hunger brain signalling.
This style of eating avoids calorie counting, as you will eat your balanced meals such as lunch and dinner in the same way that you usually eat. Try to avoid a snack in between these meals, as this can be counterproductive. It is snacking that leads to additional glucose and insulin release that we are trying to avoid.
If you cannot manage initially, then have one small protein and fat snack and avoid starchy carbohydrates. For example, a handful of nuts or seeds, half an avocado with a piece of cheese, coconut yogurt with blueberries. Try to avoid most fruit as a snack as it can be too sugary.
It isn’t necessary to follow this time restricted model every day. I firmly believe in “shaking things up” to keep your body on its toes. As Hunter Gatherers we did not eat in a set pattern and this is the model we need to try and follow.
Find a clear day when you can have a go at extending your fast time and stay busy to keep yourself distracted and away from the kitchen! You’re trying to adopt a new habit and as you know, habits take time to implement and become the norm.
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