What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting means eating for a limited amount of time a day. This will reduce your calorific intake and can benefit fat loss. There isn't really much evidence to show that it benefits muscle gain at the moment. You need to be in optimum health and fitness to attempt fasting so check with your GP first. it is also not recommended for those who are under strss as this way of eating is a stressor on the body. An eating window of 8 hours and a fasting time of 16 hours is one option e.g. in a 24 hour period start eating sensibly from 12 noon and stop at 8pm, for the remainder of the time only drink water or black coffee or tea (no milk as then you are not really fasting!). This can be adapted to suit your lifestyle e.g. eat from 8am to 4pm. Eat whatever hours suits you.
For people who get hungry in the morning and like to eat breakfast, then this can be hard to get used to at first. However, many breakfast skippers actually instinctively eat this way.
Drinks You can drink water, coffee and other non-calorific beverages during the fast, and this can help reduce hunger levels. It is very important to eat mostly healthy foods during your eating window. This won’t work if you eat lots of junk food or excessive amounts of calories. Drinks with sweetners have been shown to effect blood sugar levles so its best to avoid these.
Women It is generally recommended that women only fast 14 hours, because they seem to do better with slightly shorter fasts due to their smaller size and body weight. this means it is putting more stress on the body which may increase fat gain rather than loss. Fasting for 14 hours gives an eating window of 10 hours.
Plan your fasting
Start with a shorter fasting period and add in an extra hour a day e.g. start with a 10 hour fast and then the next day an 11 hour fast and then a 12 hour fast and so on until you reach 16 hour fast per 24 hours. You do not have to fast for 18 or 16 hours a day you can fast 14 hours and eat for 10; or 12 hours and eat for 12. Start with fasting overnight 12 -14 hours and then build up from there. If you can manage 12 -14 hours fasting (that means not eating anything in-between) and going 4 -6 hours between meals then you are ready to take it further. Continue this everyday until you have reached your goal and then fast 2-3 days per week to maintain your weight if needed.
Intermittent fasting can be good for shift workers. If you are a shift worker eat before and after your night shift and fast in-between whilst you are at work. However this needs careful meal planning. Eat a high protein meal with low carbohydrates before your shift and a higher carbohydrate meal after your shift. This will help you to get to sleep. Do not consume caffeine within 6 hours of wanting to go to sleep (longer if you are sensitive to caffeine) as you will not be able to sleep. Chew sugar-free gum in between to help you to stay wake and aid concentration. Plan what you will do in your break if you are not eating – drinking water, herbal drinks, zero calorie drinks and black tea/coffee are all OK.
· There are a lot of people get great results with intermittent fasting but it is not for everyone.
· It is not something that you need to do. If you are maintaining a healthy weight and body fat then there is no need to fast. It is just another tool in the toolkit that can be useful for some people.
· It may not be as beneficial for women as men. It may also be a poor choice for someone who is prone to eating disorders or stress.
· You need to ensure that you consume the correct amount of calories.
· If you binge on junk foods and alcohol during the eating periods you cannot expect to lose weight and improve your health. Occasional treats are OK it will just take you longer to achieve your goals. If you regularly eat unhealthily you will not reach your goal. It is consistency and persistence that will get you to your goal.
· Try it for 3-4 months and you should see a difference in your weight and body composition. Then fast for 2-3 days a week to maintain your weight if needed.
· Check with your doctor before you start a new dietary regime particularly if you have any health issues.
· If you decide to try intermittent fasting, then keep in mind that you need to eat healthy food as well e.g. Mediterranean diet to avoid junk food and refined grains. Instead eat fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats.
Be active throughout your day and exercise regularly..
Clean your teeth early in the evening to stop you snacking and breaking your fast.