30 Aug A Beginner’s Guide to Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting seems to be all the rage right now and with very good reason.
Intermittent fasting means giving your body time to digest and utilise your food before eating again. It doesn’t change what you eat, but rather when you eat. When you do eat, you should still eat until satisfied. It’s not about deprivation, it’s about healing and giving your body a chance to utilise the food you eat properly before eating again.
Every time you eat your body produces insulin. The more you eat the higher your insulin levels will be; for a person with insulin resistance this is bad. Fasting gives your body relief from high insulin levels.
The severity of your insulin resistance should play a role in how often you fast. People with insulin resistance (IR) have a reduced capacity to burn carbs as a fuel, both during exercise and when at rest, or to store it as glycogen, therefore most carbs get stored as fat. It takes about 10 to 12 hours to use up the glycogen stores, so even if you are lowering your carbs, but still eating three meals a day and are severely IR, and eating quite a lot of fat, you may never deplete the glycogen stores to get to burning the fat – and your body will either keep putting on weight or plateauing. Fasting gives your body time to use up the glycogen stores so that you can start burning the fat stores. In general, the longer you fast for, the easier it will be for your body to utilise the fat stores.Your body also responds better to variety. It’s quite a good idea to change up your fasting routine so that your body doesn’t have a chance to get used to it.
Remember to consult your doctor before embarking on any dietary change, especially if you are on medication.
Intermittent Fasting is not recommended for people on insulin, growing children or pregnant/breastfeeding moms as they must eat when they are hungry and if on Insulin.
What are the various fasting methods?
5:2 – Eating normally for five days of the week and then fastingfor two days.
16:8 – eating for 8 hoursand fasting for 16 hours. This is easier than it sounds because the 16 hours also includes sleep. So basically it means skipping breakfast and only eating two meals in a day.
24 hour fast – fasting for 24 hours. Usually from dinner until dinner so this would mean skipping two meals in a day.
36 hour fast – fasting for 36 hours – this would mean not eating for a full day.
Which fasting method is right for you?
It all depends on the extent of your insulin resistance and how much weight you want to lose.
Longer fasting methods generally work best for people with severe insulin resistance.
Shorter fasts are usually used for maintenance, and for those who don’t have a lot of weight to lose.
How frequently should you fast?
5:2 – this is a weekly fast.
16:8 – this fast can be done daily
24 hour fast – up to three times a week
36 hour fast – once or twice a week
How do you get started?
It’s important to start off slowly. First start with a 16:8 fast and see how your body responds to it.
Some people have found that once the fast is over, they want to eat everything in sight. For your meals during this time make sure that you are eating enough fat to sustain you through the periods that you aren’t eating. Eating a handful of nuts or a piece of cheese to break the fast might be a good idea to prevent over-eating. Allow half an hour for this to digest before eating your proper meal.
Once you have mastered the 16:8 fast, you can try fasting for longer periods of time.
What can you eat or drink during the fasting period?
The whole point of a fast is to prevent the body from producing insulin, therefore no food should be consumed during the fasting time.
Water, tea, coffee or herbal teas are allowed to be consumed during a fast. If you can handle your tea or coffee without milk/cream that is ideal. But, small amounts of cream can be added to tea/coffee to make it easier.
Bone broth is also recommended to have during a fast as this helps to replenish all of the lost vitamins, minerals and salts.
What can you eat during the eating period of the fast?
A Banting lifestyle should be followed when not fasting. Make sure to eat real food free from sugar and processed carbs. Fill up on vegetables, especially green leafy ones, eat moderate protein and enough fat to keep you satiated.
Eating a handful of nuts or a piece of cheese to break the fast might be a good idea to prevent over-eating. Allow half an hour for this to digest before eating your proper meal.
Are there any negatives to fasting?
Dehydration: A lack of salt and too much caffeine can cause dehydration. It is important to keep drinking non-caffeinated fluids and to make sure that you have enough sea salt, especially during long fasting periods.
Headaches: Dehydration can lead to headaches. Drink lots of water to prevent this from happening,
Muscle Cramps: Make sure that you are getting enough fluid and sodium. Homemade bone broth with added sea salt is a good remedy for this.
Constipation: Eat enough green leafy vegetables, fats such as avocados, seeds and nuts, and vegetables with the skins still on to prevent constipation.
What are the positives to fasting?
Lower blood sugar and insulin levels
Breaking through a weight loss plateau
Helps to reverse the aging process
What else does RMR and Jason Fung advise for weight loss and diabetes management?
Take two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in the evening to lower morning blood sugar levels
Only eat when you are hungry
Reduce stress and get enough sleep
Don’t eat too much protein as it also spikes insulin (about 20g – 30g of net protein at each meal is enough)
Incorporated fermented foods into your diet
Eat fibre-rich foods
Include turmeric to help reduce inflammation
Is salt in bone broth detrimental to someone with high blood pressure, during a fast?
Jason Fung believes that the sodium in homemade bone broth is far less than what would be consumed on a regular eating day. It is still advisable to consult your health care practitioner before embarking on a change of diet.
Test out a few fasting regimes and find the one that suits you best. If you are feeling good and showing signs of improvement you are on the right track.
To make it easier for you, we have a selection of fasting meal plans in our platform for you to follow.
Find further reading on fasting in the platform.