Intermittent fasting (IF) is fast growing on trend alongside the ketogenic diet and is based on changing your eating patterns in order to reap potential benefits such as increasing metabolism, lowering blood pressure and lipids, ingesting lesser calories, managing late night snacking. These are just some of the many other greater benefits of fasting intermittently.
Based on my 6 week experience with IF, I lost weight (both fats and muscle) through smaller portions and lesser meals during a 24 hour stint. If you’re a woman who is interested in trying IF, do note that women bodies are biologically sensitive to changes in the environment, especially the one in our gut. Our gut home affects our hormone levels and can cause a variety of side effects on our periods, pre-menstrual symptoms, sleep cycles, hunger cycles etc.
I tried it out on a 8 hour eating window fasting plan. This was first and foremost an experiment and more so because of my curiosity as a nutrition explorer. I have to admit it worked for me somewhat (this was without training much) and the one thing I took away most from the whole experience was that I tend to overeat previously without much awareness.
These are my 6 tips to do intermittent fasting if you are completely new to this whole concept:
- Go into it with an open mind. Do not get hard up or stressed about sticking to the fasting times. This might sound contradictory but once you start to stress out, your body releases cortisol, the stress hormone. Once cortisol is released and your nervous system acts up, it acts in the opposite way; i.e. at the end of the day you’d probably be eating a lot more to make up for lost eating time or trying to fast way more than usual and crave for junk foods.If you happen to not fast one day, just reset the next day.
- It is okay to shift your fasting windows. We are social creatures and have dinner dates, brunch dates, family gatherings, coffee dates, ice cream perks etc. IF should not be affecting your way of life! It should be INCLUDED in the way you go about living your life and should not feel like something that is impacting your social relationships.
- Eat as clean as possible during your eating window. Of course, fasting for 16 hours and then expecting to eat whatever you want during the 8 hours of allowance is not going to work. No matter what kind of eating patterns you choose to undertake, having whole foods with plenty of vegetables, fats, proteins and fibre will bring about those IF benefits as compared to fast food and oily takeouts.
- You can choose to fast on your period, or you may not. If you’re doing it throughout your period, you might have to break your fast one of the days due to lack of energy. That’s fine. Your body is already going through a transition phase and hormones change rapidly during this time of the month. Stressing about whether to eat at 10pm is not going to help your body get through it better! If you happen to eat more carbohydrates during this time, it’s a signal that your body just wants more fuel to get through a rather trying period (pardon the pun).
- Choose the fasting plan that is most suited to your lifestyle. Someone wanting to fast for 20 hours may not work for you if your work has long shift hours or you are working on training for a bodybuilding competition. Choose something that works entirely to your work schedule and social life! Start off with two days a week and build it up. Have your eating window start much later in the day if you start work after 10am.
I learnt all of this through 2 months worth of effort. It was fun for me and enlightening for me to observe how my bodily need changed every day. For example, I could fast for 16 hours one week, while the next week I could only do 12 because of changes in sleep quality, stress levels, nutrition quality etc. The bottom line is the fact that anything you choose to change with regard to nutrition and wellness in general depends on what your body needs at that stage of your life. IF can work for you when you’re 25, but it may not work in the long term when you are 40. As with all experimentation, listen to your body and your inner spirit, and happy fasting!
Contributed by Melissa Dorai, Founder of NourishMel and Personal Trainer
Photo credits: Pexels and Pixabay