IS THE WAIT WORTH THE WEIGHT?
First thing’s first, let’s explain what fasting is, as it is important to note the difference between fasting and starvation.
The definition of fasting is ‘the voluntary abstinence from food intake for a specified period of time’. Fasting is not starvation, but merely an altered meal frequency and or pattern.
Fasting basically adjusts your “feeding window”, and in doing so, it gives your digestive system time to rest and kicks off a number of benefits in the body.
There are a few different types of fasting and because this is a relatively new concept, their definitions often overlap, but these are the main four:
1. Time Restricted Feeding (TRF): TRF is when food is ingested in a certain period of time during the day and the person refrains from eating for the other part of the day.
2. Intermittent fasting/Alternate day fasting: Fasting on less than 500 calories for women or less than 600 calories for men for two non-consecutive days a week.
3. Short term fasting: less than three consecutive days
4. Prolonged term fasting: also referred to as the Fasting Mimicking Diet, this is fasting with food for 4-7 days
SO WHY THE CRAZE NOW?
So even though the concept of fasting and the health benefits associated with it have been around for hundreds of years, it’s popularity has definitely increased more recently. There are numerous studies (albeit mostly animal studies) that have now been done, which are able to identify as well as quantify these benefits during periods of fasting. The increase in this evidence is revolutionizing the way we look at dietary intake and patterns.
THE BENEFITS OF FASTING
Studies have shown that fasting could potentially:
– Improve blood lipid (fat) control
– Improve blood glycaemic (sugar) control
– Reduce blood pressure
– Reduce insulin levles
– Decrease inflammatory markers
– Decrease fat mass
– Improve lean muscle mass
THE SCIENCE BEHIND FASTING
So how exactly does fasting induce these claimed remarkable benefits? It is achieved through changes in key metabolic pathways and cellular processes, some of the main ones include:
– Stress resistance
A BIT MORE ON AUTOPHAGY
The word ‘autophagy’ is of Greek origin, and directly translates to “auto” (meaning self) and “phagy” (meaning eating). It is basically your body’s way of carrying out cellular renewal processes. It clears damaged cells from the body; these damaged cells serve no function but tend to linger inside tissues and organs, which can be potentially harmful. Autophagy is present in all cells, but is substantially increased during periods of fasting. By ridding your body of these damaged cells, it results in a number of benefits, beyond just weight control, but also improved longevity as well as improved daily bodily function.
SO HOW CAN YOU IMPLEMENT FASTING?
As discussed, there are numerous different types of fasting, however two of the most popular and relatively easiest to implement are the 16/8 and 5/2 methods.
These two methods are explained in a bit more detail below, however if you are interested in implementing fasting into your routine, enquire with one of the dietitians at Alex Royal Dietetics, to ensure you are able to implement this correctly and safely.
All calories for the day are consumed within an 8 hour period, followed by 16 hours of fasting.
For example: eat dinner by 6pm, then only have your first meal the following day after 10am to ensure a full 16 hours of fasting.
NB: don’t break your fast prior to this with any food or drink that contains calories. You can have water or black tea/black coffee (with no milk, sugar, or honey).
5 days of the week consists of normal caloric intake, and 2 days of the week consist of restricted caloric intake.
With this method, more so than 16/8 method, it is very important to consult with a registered dietitian to ensure the correct calorie intake is achieved.
NOTE: Fasting is a controlled diet method and shouldn’t be attempted without the guidance of a health care practitioner.