Everything there is to know about Intermittent Fasting (article as it appeared in Men’s Health, India)


Here’s how intermittent fasting can trigger weight-loss and keep you healthy at the same time.

time.Anupama Menon


Fasting. It’s age-old, it’s tradition, it’s inheritance, it’s global. Almost every known culture has its veins wrapped around this symbolic abstinence. It was meant to cleanse the system, to be proof of discipline, to influence political thought and today fasting is being proven, by research, to sport medical and health advantages.

Nutritional fasting is of several kinds and one of them is Intermittent Fasting (IF). It demands an 8-hour feeding period followed by a 16 hour fast for a man and a 9-10 hour feeding period followed for a 14-15 hour fast for a woman. And that calls for a bias! Anyway, we shall get to gender specifics later. Let’s start at the top.

What You Should Keep In Mind While Attempting This

1. The 16-hour fasting window begins after your last meal of the day, any time after 4 pm. From then on, there is no eating for 16 hours. So, if one finishes dinner at 6 pm, the next meal would be at 10 am. Or if one finishes eating at 8:30 am, the next meal would be at 12:30 pm. You can use the fasting window which is most comfortable to your lifestyle, routine, hunger peak and eating pattern.

2. When you break the fast, ironically a small measure of food fills you up faster than you would think. And it’s clever to listen to your tummy at this point. More than the quantity of food, it will be the quality of food that will satiate your nutritional requirement. The body is under a state of starvation and will absorb what you give it most efficiently. So, give it protein, a spool of vegetables and a modest portion of carbohydrates.

3. The meal before you end the fast must have a good share of wholesome fibre-rich carbs equal to the protein. Keep yourself well hydrated through the eating period and don’t miss the supplements charted for you. A moderate number of nuts, some good fats and some homemade yoghurt will tether advantage.

4. Through the fasting period, any liquid below of 50kcals once or twice during the 14-16 hours is said to maintain the fasting state. Black tea or coffee, salted unsweetened lemon juice, green tea can keep you going. But remember not to overdo the caffeine.

5. To stay safe, one could fast 3 days a week or resort to the 5:2 formula where you eat well 5 days a week and under 600kcals two days a week.

6. Remember this must not be done by pregnant women, growing children, anyone with a medical condition, people on any long term/short term medication and anyone with a liver or kidney issue.

The Advantages

The advantages according to medical research are plenty; anti-ageing benefits, positive effect on neurogenerative disorders, protective benefits on the brain and the heart. Intermittent fasting also reduces inflammation, helps one lose weight, regulates insulin and blood sugar and curbs appetite. If the list isn’t long enough there is even some evidence that it could reduce the size of cancerous tumours.

The Disadvantages

1. You could get specific about the fasting window and exhibit some anti-social properties. Besides, one may feel acidic and lightheaded. You will experience hunger pangs and it may affect your metabolism. There could be chances of nutritional deficiencies if the 8-hour eating window isn’t well planned.

2. There are high chances of a hormonal disadvantage too. It could spike the stress hormone cortisol or the hunger hormone ghrelin that could throw the 8-hour eating pattern out of the window. The dependency on caffeine to curb the appetite maybe high but can be controlled with conscious effort.

3. The disadvantages for women are far greater than for men. It could inspire hormonal disharmony, cause period irregularity, anxiety, depression, metabolic stress, sleeping difficulty, shrinking of ovaries, irregular periods and amenorrhea. And hence, women on IF must maintain shorter fasts of anywhere between 12-14 hours.

Just like there is no diet that works wonders for everybody, there is no fast that works alike for everyone. Fasting may or may not be for you. Listen to the signals your body sends out to you. And then decide whether you are comfortable with the idea. Fasting doesn’t have to be long ended, it could be practiced once a month or twice every couple of months a year. Moderation is the key to this as well. Just like everything else in life, do not overdo fasting.

About The Author: With a Bachelors in Food Science & Nutrition and a PG in Food technology & Nutrition, Anupama successfully runs ‘Right Living’ (established in 2012), a nutritional counseling and education entity that offers some of the most ingenious food & lifestyle plans.

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