Troubleshooting intermittent fasting (IF)
For those of you who are new to intermittent fasting there a few common mistakes you should avoid making.
1. Your focus should be be around achieving healthy outcomes and not necessarily just losing weight. Ultimately, IF will by default make you lose weight. Some of the proposed health benefits associated to this eating plan are:
Increased fat burning
Lower blood sugar and insulin
Improved blood lipids
Promotes “Autophagy”: this is your body’s way of cleaning out its damaged cells.
Possibly reduction of inflammation: greatly beneficial in diseases such as Psoriasis and Arthritis
2. Find the best fasting plan to fit your lifestyle. People fall in the trap of following trends that will not necessarily accomodate their lifestyles. It is best if you find the pattern that best suits your schedule:
- 16:8 16 hour fasting and 8 hour eating window. This option is the most versatile of the lot. Generally, this involves skipping breakfast or dinner. If you are someone who relies on breakfast, your eating window starts as early as you wake up and continues for the following 8 hours. On the other hand if you can skip breakfast, your eating window can start at 10-11am and go till 6-7pm. I always ask patients what is the meal they enjoy the most or they share with their loved ones and suggest to keep it in their eating phase.
- 20:4 This option is a bit more harsh on the individual as it involves a 4 hour eating window and a 20 hour fast. Your options would be eating a large meal or 2 small meals within this period.
- 5:2 This modality has the greatest scientific evidence however, its two 500 calories days are difficult to tolerate.
- 12:12 Fast for 12 hours a day and eat within a 12 hour window (this is good for beginners).
3. It is paramount you eat slowly and healthy during the eating window. The effect of slow spaced eating (chewing) improves our satiety hormones. Enjoying whole foods, high-fibre and high protein, including fish, meat and nuts will also generate satiety hormones such as GLP1.
4. Hydrate. Water is essential in IF to compensate for the liquid lost during the fasting. It is not unusual to feel dehydrated during the fasting phases and commonly the increased hunger that follows the inanition overrides our thirst sensation. Drink water regularly.
5. Avoid sarcopenia. IF can lead to detrimental long-term muscle wasting. Consider resistance training and higher consumption of proteins to avoid muscle wastage. Aim to complete at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise while in your fasted state.
6. Avoid binging. Consume a high intake of vegetables to generate satiety and decrease your eagerness to consume high content of carbohydrates.
7. Coffee, tea, vitamins and water are ok during the fasting phase.
8. Take a multivitamin that contains the most essential vitamin and minerals. Ask your health professional for suggestions.