FAST - A - WEIGH!
Day-on, day-off eating regimes could hold the key to permanent weight-loss and a longer, healthier life. But do they work, or are they just another fad?
Ever since Dr Michael Mosley shed 7kgs in five weeks by following the 5:2 eating plan, intermittent fasting seems to be the new kid on the block and it truly has become a dieting phenomenon over the past few years.
As a fitness and nutrition consultant, I was a tad septical about this eating programme when I first read about it. After all, this approach goes against the grain in our way of thinking, especially as during the last decade or so we've been told to eat every few hours to keep our metabolism boosted. In addition, breakfast has always been the meal we're urged not to miss and dietician talk involves eating small meals spread three to four hours apart, starting with a healthy breakfast.
But it seems not only dieting fanatics are fans of intermittent fasting. We are seeing very fit, healthy, muscular guys, as well as ordinary men and women, all doing something a whole lot different these days. They're into the on-off fasting mode which fires up fat-burning like a charged-up furnace! They may skip breakfast or restrict eating for extended stretches and, through all this they're getting healthier, leaner and more muscular.
Normally, a restricitve diet will put your body into starvation mode where it learns to survive on fewer calories and becomes extremely efficient at storing fat. The body ends up needing less food simply to stay at your target weight. However, intermittent fasting seems to trick the body out of this starvation response.
Apart from vanity, the reported health benefits of an intelligently-designed intermittent fasting programme makes for a wonderfully positive reading list of how it helps us to live longer. Benefits include reduced blood lipids, blood pressure, markers of inflammation, oxidative stress and cancer, increased cell turnover and repair, fat-burning, growth hormone release and metbolic rate, improved appetite control, blood sugar control, cardiovascular function and neuronal plasticity. Overall, research has shown that this simple lifestyle tweak can significantly modify body composition and reduce fat mass.
Are you convinced? Perhaps this information can simply get you thinkng about your own eating plan - where it needs improvement and how you can initiate starting it. The research certainly makes sense and although the weight loss is great, the absence of hunger and sugar cravings once you're fat adapted are the real winners. Your desire to eat unhealthy foods seems to magically disappear.
Here are a few examples and variations of intermittent fasting programmes.
- Women - consume just 500 calories, and men 600, for two consecutive or non-consecutive days each week, then eat normally for the other five days. This equates to a light breakfast ie; scrambled eggs with a thin slice of ham and black tea, lots of water and herbal tea during the day, and grilled chicken or fish with vegetables for dinner.
- Restrict your normal daily eating to an eight-hour window of time without cutting calories. For example, eat between 11am and 7pm only. This is more difficult, but I can highly recommend doing this twice a week, especially after a weekend of eating and drinking too much. If you cannot manage waiting until 11am then try 7pm to 9am the following day.
Fasting is an effective tool to take control of your health, however, proper nutrition becomes even more important when fasting, so addressing the foods you eat should be your priority. When following the 2 meal day it is imperitive to ensure you nourish your body with nutrient-dense healthy and whole foods. It works this way but you cannot outsmart your mouth if you continue to eat processed foods and sugar!
Fasting is not recommended if your are pregnant or on medication for diabetes. Always consult your GP before embarking on any diet.