Intermittent Fasting: Decoded
A comprehensive guide to Intermittent Fasting–the eating pattern that focuses on ‘when’ and ‘what’ to eat.
There have been so many fad diets like Atkins, Keto, Paleo, Mediterranean and GM that it has become hard to keep up with them. Each has seen an all-time boom in their popularity and then a sudden lull. You hear about them, you read and gather information, you give them a try; sometimes they work and other times they don’t and the times when they work wonders for your friend and nothing for you are the most frustrating. Intermittent Fasting is another diet or rather an eating pattern that has become immensely popular in our trending scheme of diet options.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent Fasting is an eating pattern where you alternate between fasting and eating in restricted time windows. The long drawn adage of eating six meals a day doesn’t stand anymore. The idea is to restrict the time of eating to limit calorie intake and create a calorie deficit in the body. But it is also important to not binge eat during the eating hours/days. Mark Mattson, senior investigator for the National Institute on Aging, part of the US National Institutes of Health has investigated extensively on the benefits of Intermittent Fasting. According to Matt, “If you don’t eat for 10–16 hours, your body will go to its fat stores for energy, and fatty acids called ketones will be released into the bloodstream. This has been shown to protect memory and learning functionality”. During the fasting window, the body burns and consumes the stored fats resulting in significant fat loss and an increased metabolic rate.
Types of Intermittent Fasting
16: 8 diet also known as 8 hour Diet
Martin Berkhans, a nutritional consultant, personal trainer and writer from the United States is one of the earliest proponents of Intermittent Fasting. His approach to Intermittent Fasting is called leangains where he emphasises on fasting 16 hours every day. According to him, “Intermittent fasting is a pattern of eating where you alternate between periods of fasting and feeding. Fasting in this context basically means no calorie consumption. Water, coffee, and other non-caloric beverages are allowed in unlimited amounts”. The day is divided into a fasting window of 16 hours and the eating window of 8 hours.
Hugh Jackman adopted this diet in 2013 to prepare for his role in X Men: Days of the Future Past. Following his footsteps, Hrithik Roshan too has admitted to eating for only 8 hours in a day.
5:2 the Fast Diet
Dr Michael Mosley, Science Journalist and the bestselling author of The 8-Week Blood Sugar Diet and The Fast Diet popularised the Fast Diet. He firmly believes, “If you go for longer periods without food, 10 or 12 hours at a time, your body goes into what’s called negative protein balance, and instead of producing new proteins it starts to get rid of the old, broken-down ones”. When following the 5:2 diet, restrict your calorie intake to 600 calories for men and 500 calories for women for two days in a week. Eat whatever you want on rest five days. But it is always advisable to not overeat or indulge in foods with empty calories. Comedian and talk show host Jimmy Kimmel limits his calories intake to less than 500 calories on Mondays and Thursdays and lost 25 pounds.
20:4 the Warrior Diet
Created by Ori Hofmekler, the warrior diet is an extreme fasting pattern where you are allowed to eat for only 4 hours and fast for the remaining 20 hours of a day. This diet is inspired from ancient warriors who ate very little during the day and spent most of their time hunting for one big meal to be consumed in the night. The diet has no support in science and is entirely based on Ori’s observations. In his book The Warrior Diet, Ori states that you will be better able to burn fat for fuel, have greater energy and you'll become lean without counting calories if you adapt to this diet. He also lays emphasis on high intensity workouts along with fasting.
Fitness expert Love Chauhan, M.D Anabolics and Hormones, doesn’t advice his clients to fast alone. “Intermittent Fasting is helpful if your goal is only to lose weight. But if you are striving toward fitness, you can’t achieve that without exercising. Limiting the eating hours will only be beneficial if you eat judiciously in those hours. Eating according to your body’s nutrient requirement is extremely important. Clocking in a 45 minute workout every day along with the Intermittent Fasting pattern will ensure that your muscles stay firm and toned while you maintain the calorie deficit in your body.”
The Verdict: to fast or to not fast
Adopting a new diet or eating pattern involves making lifestyle changes. Do not make this change without consulting a doctor. Not every eating pattern will suit everyone. It is best to get an expert advice. Do not jump deep. Start small. Be receptive to how your body reacts to the long hours of fasting and then decide if you want to continue Intermittent Fasting or not.