Updated: Jul 13, 2020
Are you intrigued by this new style of eating? Thinking of trying it out?
As a Nutritional Therapist, I’m always on the look out for options that might suit my clients. My service promises an individual approach offering nutrition and lifestyle solutions that are tailored to each client’s specific needs. That means I must have experience of all the different dietary and lifestyle approaches to managing health conditions such as weight management, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, food intolerance and allergies, thyroid imbalances, hormonal issues, stress, poor sleep, constipation and other digestive issues.
Intermittent Fasting is one of those approaches, albeit the newish kid on the block. But the evidence is mounting, both scientific and anecdotal, that Intermittent fasting is safe and effective, and some of its proposed benefits include weight loss, improved metabolic health, diabetes prevention, and increased longevity. It’s not just about calorie restriction (but that’s part of it), it’s as much about resting your digestive system, giving the body time to clean out its debris and forcing the burning of any excess fuel we are storing (as fat).
One the benefits I love is that functionally, it can be tweaked and amended to suit the individual. As a health and wellness therapist, there is no one size that fits all. We are all different, with different health challenges and lifestyles so we all need a solution that is personalised. That’s what you get when you choose to book an appointment with me – a personalised nutrition and lifestyle solution to support your health challenges or goals.
Here’s a brief look at a few different styles of intermittent fasting that are growing in popularity.
1. Time Restricted Eating. Fast for a set number of hours each day: You have a window of time during which you eat, and you then fast for the remainder of the day. The number of hours fasted is unique to everyone. The most common and effective appears to be the 16:8 (Fast for 16 hrs, eat for 8 hrs).
2. Alternate-Day Fasting: Alternate-day fasting allows you to eat normally on non-fast days, but you then restrict the number of calories consumed on fast days to around 25% of your usual intake. Normal caloric intake ranges anywhere from 1,600 to 2,400 for women and from 2,000 to 3,000 for men depending on age and level of physical activity.
3. The 5:2 Plan: The 5:2 plan is like alternate-day fasting. On five days of the week, you eat normally. On the other two days of the week, you restrict the number of calories consumed to around 500–600. Fast days should not be consecutive days. This is probably the most well known but means you must count calories on your ‘fasting’ days.
4. Weekly 24-Hour Fast: With this style, you eat normally six days out of the week but fast completely during a 24-hour period. This style can be very difficult to maintain since it requires consuming only liquids for 24 hours straight.
My two favourites, both personally and for clients, are number 1 and 4.
Time Restricted Eating
A good option for beginners, this option allows you to start with fasting for around 12 hours a day, most of which you will be asleep. After you get more comfortable with 12-hour fasts, you can slowly lengthen the time of the fast. The health sweet spot seems to happen when you reach a 16hr fast and 8hr eating window. This could look like last meal at 7pm and net meal at 11am or move about to suit. This is a great option for personalising to suit your favourite meal time – are you a breakfast person or a late evening eater. Which can you miss out or delay?
Weekly 24-Hour Fast.
This is exactly what it says on the tin. This one needs a bit of a mindset shift though. I mean who in their right mind would voluntarily choose to not eat for 24 hrs?
The key here is that this is voluntary. It’s not starvation - you know exactly when you are having your next meal. Having read all the evidence, and listened to a shed load of experts, the health benefits make this worth a try out.
I’ve played around with the 24 hr fast and the key to success seems to me to be finding the right starting time. I’ve tried starting the fast after an early evening meal (6pm), through to 6pm the next day. It’s doable but I struggled the last few hours. I’ve tried starting after a late lunch (3pm) through to 3pm the following day. That was better but still a bit of a struggle, depending on what I had on that day.
The best timing, and easiest experience for me was this week. I finished
eating at 1.30pm and fasted through to lunch the next day. I think this worked best for me as on day one, I was working through the normal dinner time (from 6.30pm through to 9pm) slept from 10.30pm to 7.30am, walked from 8am to 9am and I was busy from 11am through to 1.30pm.
The key to success is planning. For me, busy days are best, With the proviso that you have time to enjoy and eat mindfully a nutritious pre fast meal and time the following day for your post fast meal.
On this occasion I started with grilled salmon with pesto sauce, avocado, spinach, grated carrot, stir fried leeks and celery and a fresh fig, Protein, healthy fats and some complex carbohydrates to provide satiety and a raft of vitamins and minerals. My post fast meal was an americano followed by a thai chicken stir fry and roasted vegetables. During the fasting period I had water, hot water and lemon, and herbal teas.
Intermittent Fasting doesn’t suit everyone, and it is not recommended for certain groups, such as those with advanced diabetes, pregnant women, and individuals who have a history of eating disorders.
It is important to know which options might work best for you as a beginner. I recommend you consult with a nutrition professional to determine your options and schedule.
And always keep in mind that the quality of food you consume is still of utmost importance. In general, eating nutritious foods is just as important as adherence to an intermittent fasting schedule.