Intermittent Fasting for weight loss
Intermittent fasting is the ultimate lifestyle hack to speed up weight loss and related good health. To maintain a consistent weight, you can not beat intermittent fasting as an effective tool. It can be wielded with great effect to give added punch to your weight loss and stabilise blood sugar. It can take a little getting used to, both physically and mentally, and you need to do it right for good results.
If you grew up being told breakfast was the most important meal of the day and should never be missed, you may hesitate at the idea of fasting. And if you’ve ever been advised to snack regularly and stick to a strict meal plan – possibly including “mid-meals” – it may sound like heresy. It’s not. In days gone by, most of our ancestors ate only one meal a day without a problem, and it was unusual to “break the fast” in the morning. Ready access to cheap food has made eating a more regular occurrence. Big Food manufacturers push the idea that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and that you should include their high-carbohydrate, high-sugar cereals in yours… Give it a second’s thought and fasting makes perfect sense. You eat less food. Simple. Reduces your insulin levels, which encourages fat burning and a range of related health benefits. Every time you eat, your body produces insulin; the longer you don’t eat, the more time your insulin levels have to drop. Fasting accelerates weight loss. Increase metabolism and mental focus, and reduce the symptoms of, and in some cases reverse type-2 diabetes. For those who are insulin resistant and who may take 10 or 12 hours to use up their glycogen stores, fasting can be the tactic that finally sees them lower their insulin levels. Get into the fat-burning state and break a weight-loss plateau. It is also effective for those who aren’t following strict low-carb diets.
What are the benefits of intermittent fasting?
- Lower blood-sugar
- Lower insulin levels
- Weight loss
- Weight-loss plateau breaker
- More energy
- Improved digestion
- Improved concentration
- Reduced chronic inflammation
- Possible cell-regeneration and anti-ageing effects
- Convenient and inexpensive
The best advice
Don’t be scared of missing meals. There is a liberating element to fasting: you don’t have to prepare and eat a meal! Spend an extra 20 minutes in bed before going to work, skip lunch and go for a walk, work through lunch and leave early…
But if you fast, best do it right. In which case, read on.
What can you eat or drink during a fast?
The point of a fast is to prevent the body from producing insulin, so eating is out. Water, tea, herbal teas and coffee are all fine and are in fact encouraged, especially to start, to get through the hunger pangs. But your tea and coffee must be black (and sugar- and sweetener-free). Bone broth is also recommended, especially during longer fasts, to replenish lost vitamins, minerals and salts.
Types of fasts?
Many ascetics have been known to fast for weeks or even months at a time – but relax, this is not what we recommend for you. We would only recommend doing a fast like that under close supervision. If you are starting out, you could fast for 12 or even 16 hours if that feels comfortable. This should allow insulin levels to drop to encourage fat-burning. There are some standard fasting regimes that folk in the fasting community use, which we have outlined below. Use one or more of four general fast durations.
Fast for 16 hours and eat in the eight-hour window that follows. This is easier than it sounds because the 16 hours also includes sleep. It means skipping breakfast and only eating two meals in a day. Can be done daily or as needed.
Fast for 24 hours. This would usually be from dinner until dinner, which means skipping two meals in a row. Can be done up to three times a week.
Fast for 36 hours. This fast usually incorporates two nights of sleep and a complete day without food. Use it once or, at most, twice a week.
Eat normally for five days of the week. And fast for any two days of the week. It advises a reduced calorie intake on fasting days; as such, it’s not strictly a fast and not necessarily low-carb, though we would recommend carb restrictions on those days.
Which fasting method is right for you?
Longer fasting methods generally work best for people with severe insulin resistance. If you are a type-2 diabetic, or pre-diabetic, you could consider up to three 24-hour fasts a week with the occasional 36-hour fast. On other days you could use the 16:8 fast. Shorter fasts are usually enough for those who don’t have a lot of weight to lose and for maintenance.
How do you get started?
Slowly. At first, fasting can be both a physiological and mental challenge as your body and mind adapt. In time, the hunger pangs become much easier to handle and often go unnoticed. Kick off with a 16:8 fast and see how your body responds to it. Some people find that once their fast is over they want to eat everything in sight, which obviously isn’t ideal. For your meals during this time make sure that you are eating enough fat to sustain you through the periods when you aren’t eating. Once you’ve mastered the 16:8 fast, you can try fasting for longer periods of time as you prefer or need.
How do you break a fast without overeating?
One of the temptations of intermittent fasting, especially when you’re starting out, is gorging when you’re done or “rewarding” yourself with poor food choices. In which case you’re doing it wrong and it rather defeats the object… Don’t use fasting – whether planned or unplanned – as an excuse to binge. Be prepared and keep a healthy snack on standby in case of an emergency. Break a fast with a bowl of broth, a handful of nuts or a piece of cheese half an hour before your next meal. Enough time for your snack to digest and prevent overeating.
Should you develop a fasting routine?
While it may be a good idea to break your fasts in a similar way each time to prevent overeating, we advise against developing a regular fasting routine. One of the apparent risks of fasting every day is that your body can adapt to this strategy by lowering your metabolism, the opposite of what you want it to do. To prevent this we recommend fasting randomly and out of sequence to keep the body guessing.
What are the potential side effects of fasting
- A lack of salt and too much caffeine can cause dehydration. Drink enough non-caffeinated fluids to stay hydrated, and ensure you have enough salt, especially during long fasts. A by-product of dehydration.
- Muscle cramps. Another potential problem due to dehydration and a shortage of salt. Bone broth with added salt is a good remedy if this is affecting you.
- Yet another problem potentially exacerbated by dehydration. Avoid this while not fasting by upping your fibre and ensuring you’re eating vegetables with the skins still on, along with green leafy vegetables and healthy fats such as avocados, seeds, and nuts.
Who should NOT fast?
Intermittent fasting is not recommended for infants, growing children, pregnant/breastfeeding moms or anyone who suffers from a medical condition or is taking chronic medication that may be adversely affected by skipping meals. If you are unsure, check with your doctor.