Here's Everything You Need To Know About Intermittent Fasting

Suruchi Patwary , 15 Apr 2019

Losing weight can be difficult, but doing it the right way is the real challenge. A lot of times people tend to include big changes in their everyday routine in order to lose weight, but it isn’t a routine which they can realistically follow for the long term. You could workout 5 hours a day for an entire month and lose weight, but you’re going to gain some of it back once you stop. So, I googled and found that the best way to lose weight is—intermittent fasting.

Being a newbie, I had a lot of questions about it before actually deciding to go through with this one. Which is why I got in touch with Janvi Chitalia and Anupama Menon, who are both successful nutritionists, to help me understand the diet better with the right knowledge. Read on to find out what they have to say about intermittent fasting!

1. What is intermittent fasting?

Intermittent fasting is a pattern of eating which involves mainly a small window of 8 hours to eat followed by 16 hours of fast. It naturally brings down the window within which you can eat and hence you potentially eat less food. It is considered as a pattern of eating or lifestyle rather than a diet.

2. What does it do to your body that causes you to lose weight?

12 hours after your last meal is when the body goes into a fat burning mode, accessing your fat stores effectively due to low insulin levels. This actively helps one lose fat. Lean body mass is also sustained in the process, of course, each body behaves differently and each individual has to come to the fasting window period of what suits his/her body.

Intermittent fasting helps to facilitate usage of the fuel stored in the body to lack of glucose readily available in the bloodstream after a fasting period. The goal of intermittent fasting is to improve an individual’s insulin sensitivity levels over a period of continuous feeding and fasting.

When the body moves into circadian rhythmic fasting, alongside with making more wholesome choices of food, the body learns to heal itself by itself. Also, the release of toxins from the body is helpful to reduce systemic inflammation and increase immunity and push the body to rely on fat as fuel than carbohydrates.

3. What factors qualify someone to do intermittent fasting successfully?

Most adults can try it out. It works for people who can’t lose weight and it is most beneficial to people who need a moderate portion of wholesome meals at lunch and dinner. As a lot of the times, people tend to fall off their dietary regime due to the need to eat less portion or carbohydrates.

It can be followed by people who have diabetes (which is not insulin dependent) however they need to be monitored under the supervision of a qualified nutritionist and doctor.

Intermittent fasting is an extremely beneficial practice for people who have medical conditions such as autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, digestive issues, and colon issues, hormonal issues such as hormonal imbalance, people who have high inflammation or low immunity levels and tend to have low energy levels or constant body ache and pain and for anti-aging.

4. What age group should and should not consider intermittent fasting?

Intermittent fasting is not recommended for those growing at a fast pace, like children and adolescents. There is also no scientific evidence to prove it is safe for children. The age group allowed to follow intermittent fasting under supervision should be above the age of adolescents in their growth spurt, above the age of 20 and till the age that one is comfortable in correlation to health, medical history, conditions, and any medication followed.

The main contraindications include women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, young children and adolescents, people with eating disorders, kidney disorder, people on a strict regimen of medication, insulin-dependent diabetics, people who have unregulated sodium potassium imbalances, and who are severely underweight.

5. What to eat and what not to eat (for vegetarians) during intermittent fasting?

Intermittent fasting doesn’t really tell you what to eat, it just decides your schedule of eating. But when you break your fast, you must eat well, eat a healthy meal compromising of proteins, carbs, and fats. The meals can categorically consist of a wholesome grain like jowar, nachni, buckwheat, rajgeera, quinoa, greens and raw salads and a form of protein such as low-fat paneer low-fat tofu, fruits, nuts, and seeds. Nuts, buttermilk, and fruits can make for the snacks when hungry during the feeding period. It is advised that food eaten should have low to moderate glycaemic index.

6. What to eat and what not to eat (for non-vegetarians) during intermittent fasting?

Rice, wheat, proteins for non-vegetarians like fish, lean meats, eggs, dals or legumes, a tsp or two of ghee/coconut oil and vegetables either cooked or raw can compromise a healthy meal for the first meal to break the fast.

3 meals consisting of lunch, dinner and one meal for fruits. Nuts seeds, drinking fluids, black coffee, and lime water can be consumed during the fasting hours.

7. How do you know if intermittent fasting isn’t suiting your body?

After the first week, when the body just isn’t getting used to it, you may feel bloated, acidic, may have constant headaches and may gain weight in spite of eating less. But on the other hand, when it works for you, it brings in a feel-good factor. You need to pay attention to how your body is reacting to the fast.
A diet may take about 1 week to settle in with symptoms such as initial hunger, indigestion, tiredness, acidity, skin breakouts or initial irritability or body tightness (these symptoms can vary from person to person). However, the key lies in intuitive eating. We are all born intuitive eaters, but as we grow we lose our intuitiveness with all the rules and restrictions set on the way we eat. The body, if one listens to it, intuitively knows whether a way of eating is beneficial to it or not. The body will indefinitely send messages or signals, it is just important to turn on the intuitive button and check with oneself if fasting is making one feel better after the first few days of undergoing the adaptive phase.

8. What are the risks associated with intermittent fasting that people should know before starting it?

There are really no known or well-researched studies associating major or serious health risks with intermittent fasting. However, the process of intermittent fasting comes with its own set of discomfort and reactions as the body goes through physiological changes initially. They are:
  1. Hunger during the hours of fasting.
  2. Gas or indigestion coupled with acid reflux as the body releases toxins from the system.
  3. Muscle soreness due to the elimination of toxins.
  4. Electrolyte changes: Change in the sodium-potassium balance due to sudden changes in the body with the commencement of fasting, as the body tries to adapt to feeling a new normal electrolyte balance.
  5. Sleep disturbances: Due to a change in the eating pattern and the adjustment in the timings of the window period to consume food, there may be a lack of sleep due to appetite changes.
  6. Breakouts: There may be initial breakouts due to toxins getting released from the body.

8. How successful is intermittent fasting really?

It is a successful schedule really based on several studies. But these encompass not just fat loss but also health associated benefits like better-controlled sugar levels, better digestions, longevity, lowering the risk of cancer and reduction of tumours.

It also brings about a sustainable discipline for many, easier mental choice than being on restricted hourly regimented diet and reduction of symptoms caused by inflammation and increase in immunity which could increase one’s life span. However, any diet’s success primarily depends on bio-individuality (one person’s food can be another person’s poison) which celebrates the uniqueness of each person. That means that, while an intermittent fasting diet works for one person, a ketogenic diet may work for another person.

What are your thoughts or questions on intermittent fasting? Come join the conversation at Malini’s Girl Tribe on Facebook and tell us about it! We’re having many more such interesting, fun and healthy conversation there.

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