What with all that working from home, many people developed a serious snack habit. Before one knew it, one was developing a midriff and the challenge arose how to shed those excess kilos.
Now that we’re mostly back at work, the habit has proved hard to kick but people are also discovering that a little fasting can go a long way towards getting back in shape. But don’t just stop eating suddenly because you can damage your metabolism, leading to health problems. A good compromise is what’s known as Intermittent Fasting, or IF.
But before we get into that, we ought to get to know more about metabolism mechanisms. Why is it that you can try losing weight for a long time only to find it stuck at a still too high level? And why is it that as soon as some people stop dieting, they suddenly put all the weight they’ve lost back on again? The answer is that the way of dieting has somehow undercut the overall efficiency of the metabolic system.
As a rough yardstick, an adult needs about 2000 calories of nutrition a day. But when you’re on a weight control kick, that figure drops by half to 1000 calories. That’s because while you’re losing weight, the body doesn’t use as many calories, resulting in a calorie deficit. Over a little time, the body adjusts but if you eat less for an extended period, the metabolism slows in tandem. This is why you put on weight again when you stop dieting. You may even end up more over-weight than you were when you started!
IF is how you avoid that counter-productive
syndrome and achieve your goal of effective weight control.
So what does IF entail? It really boils down to controlling calorific intake and limiting the time you spend eating in a way that is in keeping with the body’s natural uptake of stored fat to generate the energy it needs.
Here are the three most recommended IF practices that optimise fat consumption:
• Alternate day fasting or alternating normal eating days with fasting days. On the fasting days, you don’t eat anything at all. Or if you really feel famished, you can consume up to 25% of your calorie needs, or about 500 calories.
• Whole day fasting or fasting 1-2 days a week. You can eat your normal allowance of 2000 calories five days a week and don’t eat anything two days a week, or not more than 500 calories if you’re really hungry.
• Time-restricted feeding, the most widely known about and popular practice. This way you can eat normally for a given period of each day. For example, 16/8 means you fast for 16 hours and eat normally during eight hours. Say your first meal is at 8 a.m. You can eat until 4 p.m. and then fast until 8 a.m. the next day. The exact formula will depend on the individual’s lifestyle. To get started you could split the day into two twelve-hour parts, one for eating and one for fasting, then steadily expand the fasting time to 16 hours as your metabolism adjusts.
There are some things you can still consume during fasting such as water, black coffee and tea (without sugar or milk). Also, don’t consume too little during the eating time because that will make your metabolism less efficient. That’s usually what’s happened when people put the weight back on so quickly after they stop or pause their IF regimen.
Not everybody is suited to IF. In a few cases it can affect the body adversely. Here are the cases when IF is not advised:
• Pregnant or lactating women, as a pregnant woman’s body needs nutrients to build their baby’s tissues and a nursing mother needs nutrients to produce milk for their baby.
• People in their most intensive growing years (10-19 years). They need a full quotient of nutrients to generate enough energy so that their body develops fully.
• Diabetics, as fasting can cause a condition known as hypoglycemia (the blood sugar, or glucose, level is lower than normal, determined as less than or equal to 70 mg/dL). Symptoms include hand tremors, sweating, fatigue, and weak limbs. Seizures and loss of consciousness occur in some cases.
• People with health problems receiving continuous treatment with medication. Adjusting meal times or fasting may conflict with taking medication as prescribed.
Anyone in any of these groups is advised to consult a medical professional before opting for fasting.
Although intermittent fasting is one of the best ways to manage your weight, in order to achieve lasting results and avoid side effects, it should be practiced prudently.
What else should fasters do? Exercise, get enough rest, eat nutritious food in all five groups, and refrain from sweet and fried foods.
Follow these directions and your goal weight and good health should naturally follow.
• Mayo Clinic
• Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
• Harvard Medical School
• Samitivej Hospital
• Division of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Ministry of Public Health
• Health Knowledge Library, Ministry of Public Health
• Faculty of Medicine, Siriraj Hospital, Mahidol University