Posted on July 03 2021
"Breakfast is the most important meal of the day"
How often have you heard this?
Breakfast was never really a separate 'meal' historically. People just ate anything leftover form the night before until the 'cereal' industry started booming. The breakfast food industry suddenly was making money like never before.
The first ever cereal invented, by the now infamous Kellogg's brand was by James Caleb Jackson. He believed mastrubation was a sin and eating bland food like cornflakes early in the morning will help's one stay away the same.
Your morning bowl of cereal looking not so good now, is it?
Checkout this picture below:
World renowned actor Deepika Padukone here urges people that the secret to her slim waist is a bowl of Kelloggs special K cereal every morning.
Just a cup full of this cereal has about 4 spoonful's of sugar and nearly 1/3rd of your daily sodium intake! It's nothing but a formula for diabetes and heart diseases.
Several misconceptions have existed for decades in terms of weight loss ideas. Intermittent fasting seems to be the latest trend.
But is it worth the hype?
There has been a growing body of evidence supporting its benefits to reduce body weight and diabetes parameters such as fasting glucose, fasting insulin in resent studies. Let's dig deep.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is an eating arrangement that switches between fasting and eating on a 24 hour clock.
Unlike many diets that focus on what to eat, intermittent fasting is entirely about when you eat. Fasting as an ancient concept and not really a 'new trend'. Imagine our ancestors digging into a bag on chips and 'snacking' every few hours while working at the farms. the number of calories we consume has increased overtime, and our activity level's, decreased.
Considering we are eating more than ever, a little bit of fasting should not hurt us.
Research shows that intermittent fasting is the most effective way to manage your weight and prevent or even reverse some diseases.
An intermittent fasting diet plan is not about starvation. When handled properly, it has several health benefits on your body as opposed to chronic starvation.
With intermittent fasting, you only eat during a specific time. Fasting for a certain number of hours each day or eating just one meal a couple of days a week is enough to start seeing benefit's.
This type of eating in 'patterns' or 'cycles' of fasting, helps people keep away from mindless snacking through the waking hours.
There are several practical approaches to it, but it mainly comes down to personal preference. Here is my personal experience with IF:
Effects of Intermittent Fasting on our Circadian Clock.
Every health and nutrition expert has their own approach to eating the right away. Some believe in a high- carb diet, while others vouch for a keto type diet. Some suggest adding meat to build muscle mass, while others promote a plant- based approach. But irrespective of all the different views, one thing almost every expert will agree upon is to avoid eating once the sun sets.
No expert will tell you to wake up in the middle of the night to get a meal in.
This is because all research done on the circadian cycle points tot he fact that the body responds to food better in the day time VS the night time. Read the below article for more information:
Fasting during the night time and eating post the early dawn hours can interchangeably help fix our circadian rhythm.
The exposure to bright light at night is equivalent to night time eating. Several researches have been conducted to find the correlation between exposure to night light (eg. screen-time at night, staying up at night with the LED bulbs on) and obesity.
The aforementioned researchers specially carried out the studies on women and the studies too show a positive correlation- that exposure to night light indeed seems to aid in obesity among women. Now imagine the adverse effects of staying awake till late at night and munching mindlessly on snacks.
Some studies even characterised obesity as a chronological disease! The timing of calorie intake have changed over time due to the changes in lifestyle- it shifted to the intake of food later in the day, which subsequently raised a question about its possible role in the rise of obesity.
Middle-aged men and women who consume more calories in the morning seem to gain less weight over time. A study ‘Timing of Food Intake Predicts Weight Loss Effectiveness’ found that dieters having their primary meals earlier in the day seemed to steadily lose more weight than those eating their main meal later into the day.
By this logic alone, having a cut- off time by 6-7 pm in the evening and fasting till the next day is beneficial for weight loss.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting.
Before we dive into trying a type of IF routine, let's look at what science says. Tons of research on IF proves beneficial. But so does any kind of restrictive eating pattern.
For me personally though, unlike any other diet plan, IF is sustainable and easy to follow. You do not have to count calories or worry about portion control as long as you do not munch on junk food.
Here are some of the benefits of IF:
- Fat loss – Fat loss is a well-known benefit of intermittent fasting. In your fed state, the pancreas secretes to move sugar into the cells and the bulk of our sugar stores in our liver and skeletal muscles. But when our storage sites exceed, that sugar is stored as fat. However, in our fasted state, the sugar levels are low, and we can tap into fat stores for energy. Thus, just by restricting our eating window, we can burn calories. Check the results of this study below:
- Mental clarity - When in a fasted state, the brain triggers the formation of a particular protein called brain derived neurotropic factor (BDNF). Studies also discovered that BDNF boosts working memory in animals and verbal memory in adult humans.
- Heart health - Intermittent fasting improves blood pressure and resting heart rates, and other heart-related measurements. It also improves blood pressure, oxidative stress, appetite, and some aspects of cardiometabolic health.
- Anticancer properties – Fasting moderately with an 8 to 12-hour eating window may be beneficial to decrease cancer risk, especially breast cancer and its recurrence.
- Obesity and diabetes - The results from a pilot study show that short-term daily Intermittent Fasting may be safe and tolerable. Dietary intervention in Type 2 Diabetes patients may improve critical outcomes, including body weight, fasting glucose, and postprandial variability.
- Better Life Expectancy - There have been advancements in the average life expectancy of people from all over the world who have changed their eating habits. A recent case study revealed that people who regularly fast live 40% longer than the typical life expectancy of their community.
6 Different Types of intermittent Fasting.
Under intermittent fasting, there are mainly six different ways or schedules that might work differently for every individual. The following are those schedules to choose from as your best option to embrace as part of your fasting experiment.
The 16:8 Method involves fasting for 16 hours every day and only eating during an 8-hour window. You can eat your regular three meals during these assigned 8 hours. However, I personally would limit to two big meals and a snack.
Overeating during the 8 hours in anticipation of the 16-hour fast period will be counterproductive to your goals.
It is the most frequently preferred fasting method because the bulk of the fasting period typically happens when you are asleep. What you can try is eating an early dinner and skipping breakfast to stick to the schedule effectively. Generally, if you end dinner at 8 pm, your next meal will be an early lunch at noon.
Drinking plain water during the fasting window is highly suggested.
If fasting for 16 hours sounds too long for you, you can also go for the 14:10 fasting period method. In this case, you would fast for 14 hours and eat your meals for 10 hours. This is the one I prefer the most and often follow.
Ideally, starting your fast at 7 or 8 pm is recommended as it typically has you eating your last meal a few hours before your bedtime. In addition, it gives your body time to digest your food well before you sleep.
With the 5:2 Method, you need to restrict the number of calories (or even completely fast) you consume for two days a week. During the other five days, you can eat your regular meals.
On fasting days, it is typically recommended that you eat no more than 400 to 500 calories or even completely fast. However, if your goal is fat loss, or you struggle with low metabolism, I suggest you avoid this method.
We often look at food as pleasure and abstinence from food as a punishment to the body. However, there are people who have reached a higher branch of spiritual realm who look as food only to fuel the body. Most of us are not there yet.
Trying to go on a full day fast only creates negative association with food and will lead to eating disorders. Not only this, but completely avoiding food will also interfere with your thyroid hormone function, cause blood glucose fluctuation and further damage metabolism.
From a health perspective, any kind of fasting method will lead long term results if it is sustained.
Alternate Day Fasting
Alternate day fasting requires you to fast every other day according to your comfort. This method has become quite popular in recent years, but medical experts advise consulting a doctor before beginning with the diet.
Once again, unless you can sustain this type of lifestyle forever, it is not suggested you start this method. Given that this is an extreme way of dieting, it is advisable to only follow this under expert guidance.
This method involves fasting for 24 hours once or twice a week. This is similar tot he 5:2 method.
Although 24 hours may seem a lot of time to be endured, you can choose the day or time of fasting according to your schedule during the week.
It is of course advisable to drink a lot of water to stay hydrated during the fasting period. Additionally, if you fast twice a week, it is sensible to choose two non-consecutive days.
Spontaneous Meal Skipping
In spontaneous meal skipping, you can skip a meal you don't need to eat from time to time. It is especially great for beginners who aren't sure what intermittent schedule might work best for them.
For example, if you had a big lunch, you might be able to skip dinner. Although flexibility is a massive advantage to this fasting method, you need to make sure that you do not indulge in overeating afterward.
This is not a long- term solution though. Following a planned eating and fasting schedule is essential to help you stay consistent and chronic to be successful at intermittent fasting.
How to get started with Intermittent Fasting?
Researchers who study sleep all agrees to get a minimum of 8 hours worth of rest. This automatically will give you an 8- hour fasting window.
It is generally suggested to avoid food for the first hour of waking up. Watch this to understand more.
Thus, beginners can just aim for a 12 hour fasting cycle by finishing the last meal 1-2 hours before going to bed and eating the first meal 1-2 hours after waking up. As you get more comfortable, aim for a 14- 16 hour fasting window and depending on your health goals, replace the dinner with a wholesome one- pot soup meal.
Besides this basic schedule, do not forget to include at least a 30-minute physical activity schedule, preferably during the daytime.
Drawbacks of Intermittent Fasting.
Some people try intermittent fasting for weight loss, and others use it to address chronic conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, high cholesterol, or arthritis.
As great a strategy as this is, intermittent fasting is not for everyone. It might not be suitable for every individual, and people falling in this category should avoid this form of routine:
- Children, teens under age 18, and people with geriatic diseases.
- Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- Those with a history of eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating.
- People with chronic heart issues, kidney or renal issues.
- People with low body mass index or who have recently been in the hospital.
Besides this, people struggling with eating disorders, negative food association and body image issues should also avoid any restrictive type of eating pattern.
What can you eat or drink during your fasting window?
Technically, a fast breaks the moment your liver triggers the release of digestive enzymes. Any supplements/ medicines/ coffee etc will break your fast.
But drinking fresh water and some zero calorie drinks like herbal tea's are allowed during your fasting window. I would avoid coffee, sugar loaded beverages and supplements though.
It is essential that you only eat healthy, unprocessed nutritional food when you are ready to eat. Especially in the beginning, it is easy to give in to junk food after the fast ends, so planning ahead is essential.
Some foods will be more advantageous for you to consume when you are ready to break your fast.
The most vital food products to focus on are real whole food and plant-based products.
- Ideally, go for the best quality, organic proteins like beans, lentils, seeds, tofu.
- Crucial healthy fats for building healthy hormones and satiety like nuts, seeds.
- Unprocessed carbohydrates like rice, wheat, oats, quinoa, sweet potatoes.
- Lots of green leafy vegetables.
What can you not eat or drink during your fasting window?
There are also some foods that you should avoid as far as possible to get the maximum benefits of this fasting process and ensure a healthy body.
The essential items to avoid or limit are sugar and alcohol. They can offset all the good habits that you are incorporating as part of intermittent fasting.
Additionally, when you break a fast with inflammatory foods like dairy, sugar and oil's, you end up with gas and bloating. Therefore, avoid taking dairy products or any other food that can cause inflammation.
Another thing that you should recognize and keep in mind is that it may take 6 to 8 weeks to realize its benefits. Therefore, make sure that you give a solid 30 days before determining that it is the right strategy for you.
Sample Vegetarian Intermittent Fasting meal plan:
If you want to try Intermittent Fasting, it is recommended that you start with a more moderate approach of time-restricted eating. The process might seem a little overwhelming at the beginning but gets better and easier with time. Once you start getting used to it, fasting is a highly beneficial way to improve your overall health and well-being.
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