Intermittent fasting (IF) is an umbrella term for various diets that cycle between a period of fasting and non-fasting. The real win with IF (in my opinion) are the numerous health benefits it brings. But a desirable and beneficial side effect (when combined with calorie restriction) is weight loss.
Experts believe (and are doing much testing to provide demonstrable proof) that IF reduces your risk of contracting many modern ailments and diseases including (but not limited to): cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes (a modern epidemic), high blood pressure, high cholesterol.
In basic terms, fasting allows your body to repair itself at a cellular level, boosting your immune system by removing stored toxins and damaged cells and generating new cells.
Most popular IF protocols can be grouped into 3 categories: alternate day fasting, whole-day fasting, and time-restricted feeding.
Alternate day fasting involves a 24-hour fast followed by a 24-hour non-fasting period.
Whole-day fasting specifies various ratios of fasting to non-fasting days, such as the 5:2 diet in which people consumed 400–500 calories (women) or 500–600 calories (men) during the days of fasting. During feed days, the diet was regular.
Time-restricted feeding involves a set daily fasting period and shortened eating window of 3–12 hours. For example, one form of TRF calls for fasting for 16 hours each day and eating total daily calories during the remaining 8 hours, typically on the same schedule each day.
Please note: People with certain medical conditions are advised not to participate in IF. Please see your doctor to make sure IF is safe for you.
I should add that I think children need to have a good (protein based) breakfast each day but for adults I think we’ve been conned by the big marketing machine for cereal companies.
THE KEY TO SUCCESS IS PLANNING!!
If you don’t plan your strategy and your meals you won’t succeed, I guarantee it.
What follows is a basic plan you might like to follow to give IF a go. There are many ways to fast, this is just one. Your exercise regime shouldn’t really impact fasting at this level but when you add a 24hr fast you may initially wish to choose days that you aren’t doing a high level of intense exercise.
Let me know how you go!
In the beginning I always suggest keeping a food diary for at least a week (2 or 3 is better). You can use a pen & paper, put it in an online doc or use an app (there are hundreds, I use myfitnesspal). The main reason for documenting everything you eat (very specifically) is that it will a) show you exactly how much you are eating and b) teach you about your food habits and behaviours. I’m yet to meet someone who doesn’t learn a lot about themselves from this exercise.
Feel free to email it to me and I’ll happily share my thoughts.
Fasting – A basic Plan
(This plan is designed with weight-loss in mind. Additional calories will be required to maintain current weight)
During your 1st week of fasting, start gently by following the 16:8 method – Choose an 8hr window during each day,
EG: 11am – 7pm. You eat during these hours. You don’t eat outside of them.
People are often surprised by how easy this is. It doesn’t take much getting used to and, an additional benefit is how much easier your mornings are with 1 less thing to do! Feel free to have tea, coffee (black or with a dash of milk, not made with milk), water in the morning but no food.
Your day might look like this:
11am – a piece of fruit (100cal).
1pm – lunch – a protein with veg/salad (600cal).
3 or 4pm – snack – boiled eggs(2), or a handful of nuts (1 only), or 30g trail mix, or fruit/yoghurt, cheese & apple, apple or celery with nut butter (200cal).
6.30pm – dinner – a protein with veg/salad (600cal)
*lots of water, dehydration can happen more easily when fasting.
During week 2, stick to your 16:8 hours and add in a 24hr fast. I’ve experimented with this and for me, the easiest way has been to fast from lunchtime to lunchtime.
Week 3 (and beyond)
Add a 2nd 24hr fast day. You can split the days or do them back to back with a big lunch in between. It’s up to you.