Intermittent Fasting (IF) is perhaps the most rolled-up topic in recent years and it would seem to be exhausted. Nothing could be further from the truth. People look for phenomenal slimming effects and they are convinced that only starvation will provide them.
By searching the pages, without insulting anyone, we can find the information that ‘nutritionists and doctors forbid intermittent fasting, although it works phenomenally’. This statement is both true and false, and it also lacks a cause and effect relationship. Intermittent fasting does indeed produce quite decent results and this certainly cannot be a reason to prohibit its use. In turn, the very phrase “forbid” is not appropriate here, because nobody is forbidding anything and nobody can forbid it.
Why then do people from the medical community (not all!) stand in opposition to the IF? The answer is trivially simple. Because it is not worth the effort. The following questions will be answered: What kind of torment is this? How an intermittent fasting should look like? How to endure it?
Table of content
- Several principles and no rules
- Does IF need to be prepared?
- How to survive fasting?
- Why shouldn’t it be worth the trouble?
Several principles and no rules
Intermittent means discontinuity and this is the first and perhaps the most important principle of the whole feeding method. In our fasting we must take breaks for normal eating. With this ‘normal’ is not such a simple matter either, but one by one.
You have to know how to interrupt – IF types
“Eating windows” and the magic time of 6 pm
The first type of IF is Time Restricted Feeding (TRF), i.e. the limitation of food consumption to so-called “feed windows”. This means more or less that during the day we set ourselves specific times to eat and for the rest of the day we starve. An example of a TRF is Ramadan in Muslims. The time for a meal takes place after sunset. A closer picture is night fasting. One can argue that it is not the same, but we have an ‘eating window’ in the form of a day and we are starving when we sleep. It is all right.
By the way, such night fasting is the healthiest for us, as it helps to regulate the natural daily cycle. We can start as early as 6 p.m. and continue in the fast until 6 p.m. or later. As a result we have a 12-hour hunger strike that satisfies all parties. Of course you have to correct yourself right away. Eating after 6pm is not unhealthy, we can eat up to 2 to 3 hours before going to bed. But when we consider any form of IF, it seems to be quite reasonable.
Another form is Alternate Energy Restriction (AER). In this case, every other day we apply a calorie restriction to about 600 calories a day, and in the remaining days we eat as much as usual. This method is also worth paying attention and much easier to withstand than any other. After all, we can eat something and we can eat it every day.
Twice a week not so terrible
Twice a week (5:2) is another IF method. Here we apply caloric restriction for 2 days a week. The choice is free but it is important that there is a day off for a normal diet between them. It is stated that the restriction should be 25% of the usual demand, and in practice it is about 500 kcal, divided into two meals (200 and 300 kcal each).
It sounds nicer as eat-stop-eat or 24-hour fast (24F). It is the most restrictive and the most difficult method, as it assumes complete abstinence from eating around the clock. But here, too, we can start the 24-hour period at any time. We may not eat from dinner to supper, from lunch to dinner, and so on.
We eat what we want, but…
In fact, the rules do not specifically say what we can and should not eat during and outside fasting. That is why so many studies have given different effects of IF.
As far as the principles of a healthy diet are concerned, it is advisable to provide vegetables, fruit and whole-grain products. Protein should appear in the form of lean meat, dairy products and legumes, unsaturated fatty acids (oil, rapeseed oil, linseed, nuts, avocados, fatty fish) and limited the supply of saturated fatty acids from butter, lard, red meat, confectionery and simple sugars from sweets, dried fruit, etc.
Some studies have shown both the positive and negative effects of IF on carbohydrate management or lipid profile. All depends precisely on the type of products consumed. Even the best form of fasting or any other diet will not benefit our body if it is based on a grilled neck and lollipops.
What else should be done during fasting?
Fasting, although it is a change in the daily diet, is not a limit to other activities. In fact, we do not change anything except the amount of food that is consumed.The diet should still be healthy, and if it has not been so far, then it is time to change it. That is all you have to do.
During Intermittent Fasting you have to drink water, it will help you cope with hunger a little better. In the “nutrition window”, we eat every 3-4 hours, again as the healthy dietary recommendations say. Coffee, tea and other drinks are allowed as much as possible. However, it is recommended to avoid these sweetened and juicy drinks.
As far as physical activity is concerned, there are no contraindications here either. However, there is often a decrease in strength and efficiency and concentration, which makes exercise difficult and even dangerous. In the context of questions about building muscle mass or the right time during the day we answer. It is better to train after a meal. If you are fasting in the evening, night and morning, there is no problem. You exercise after breakfast or any other meal. When you are fasting from lunch to dinner or from dinner to supper, training on an empty stomach in the morning is not a good idea. There is a risk of losing muscle mass. With AER, it is best to refrain from activity on the day you are fasting on, as with the 5:2 method.
Does IF need to be prepared?
Yes and No. Intermittent fasting is not a terrible method that will drastically change our bodies. Or otherwise, it will not do so if we fast wisely, i.e. we give ourselves a 24-hour method and keep to healthy habits.
IF means for us a greater feeling of hunger, fatigue, distraction, sleepiness, especially when we immediately decide on a larger calibre. Therefore, what is often recommended and what we will also recommend is to gradually enter into fasting. What does that mean? It means that we are gradually extending the nighttime eating break. If we go to bed usually at 10 p.m., have dinner at 8 p.m. and breakfast at 6 p.m., let’s try to have our last meal a little bit earlier next time. 2 days earlier again and so on. Breakfast is worth eating up to 2 hours after waking up, but it also means that we don’t have to eat it right after getting up. In this way we gradually move towards a situation where the break from eating is 12-16 hours and the eating window is 12-8.
We could basically stop there because, as we mentioned earlier, this is the healthiest form of IF. But if the goal is something else, we get a good basis for throwing ourselves into wide waters in this way. As we lengthen our fasting, let us monitor our mood and possible symptoms, and preferably ask for advice from a dietitian, one with a fresh but also wise approach.
How to survive fasting?
There is no golden rule. It is going to be difficult, and it is certain, we just have to endure it. Drinking water will help, but under no circumstances can we eat between meals. First of all, we will exceed, even unwittingly, the recommended calorie supply. Secondly, we will abolish the beneficial effects of IF.
What can help to cope with hunger is the choice of products with a low glycemic index, i.g. whole-grain products, some vegetables and fruits, generally products with a predominance of proteins and fats – meat, fish, nuts, etc., and high fibre content. That is why the basis of the diet during fasting days will be mainly vegetables. They have few calories and also a lot of dietary fiber, so they will saturate for longer.
Sometimes it will also help… sleep. If we have a day off, or if we can afford to take a nap, it will definitely help us to withstand this hardship of starving.
Intermittent fasting is definitely not recommended for three groups of people. These are children under 18, pregnant and feeding women and the elderly. As far as the results of animal testing are concerned, the introduction of IF can also have an adverse effect on women in general. We will never translate the results on a 1:1 animal model into a human being, but worrying symptoms such as menstrual disorders should be controlled. Also, people seeking offspring, both male and female, should give up IF for that time.
Why shouldn’t it be worth the trouble?
What makes us lose weight with IF is nothing else than a caloric restriction. Even though there is the “eating window”, there is really no “eat less!” recommendation. However, we won’t fool physiology. Besides, eating what we normally eat in 12-16 hours in about 8 is quite heavy and ends up consuming less calories thay usually.
A reduction diet, in which we “cut off” the calories by 500-1000 kcal, also works on the principle of restriction. These are small amounts, and the slimming effects are the same. The opponents will say that in the reduction diet we eat less every day, and in IF only sometimes. It is hard to disagree, so let everyone give their own verdict. Let us note, however, that a person who needs 2000 kcal for reduction will eat 1500 kcal every day, and in some IF variants only 600 kcal. Every day, or not, the difference is less than 1 000 kcal, and that is a lot.
Other effects are also similar, provided that the diet is healthy and balanced. We repeat this so often, because it is the key to success. Both types of slimming will improve the lipid profile, carbohydrate metabolism, reduce inflammation, and so on. But the traditional reduction diet will no longer give us headaches and fatigue, activity will also be possible without much whining. It also means more meals and shorter periods of hunger, and thus an improvement in insulin sensitivity, among other things.
A standard reduction diet wins because it is closer to normal nutrition. So little and so much.
On the way to your dream weight all tricks are allowed. If IF is the one who knocked you to your shoulders, put it into practice. The best form will be AER or 5:2. Remember to eat wisely and healthily, because on “junk” food the road can be short (at least for quick results) and painful. Moderation is always the best voice of reason.