Everything you need to know about intermittent fasting

The Asian Age.

Life, Health

This popular diet has found its way into almost every household now.

As with any diet change, it is advisable to consult your doctor or certified nutritionist before starting it. (Photo: Representational/Pixabay)

Intermittent fasting has been the rage of late. You will find everyone from your co-worker to your neighbour trying out intermittent fasting (IF). It is popular as it doesn’t require you to cut down on consuming your favourite pizzas and ice creams.

The draconian challenge of cutting out of your favourite foods isn’t necessary in this diet, so many people are using it to lose weight quickly and effectively. Research has also shown that IF can improve metabolism and help with weight loss. But is it really as miraculous as everyone thinks it is?

The concept of IP is pretty straightforward- one shouldn’t eat anything a certain number of hours at a time and there are several variations to it. There is an alternate-day fasting, in which you don’t consume calories on one day and eat unrestrictedly on the next day. The more popular one is the 5:2 fasting, in which you eat 20 to 25 per cent of what you would normally eat in a week and eat normally on the rest of the 5 days of the week.

The most realistic version is the time-restricted version. In this, your food intake is limited to certain times a day that is convenient for you. It entails around 12-20 hours of fasting depending in your preference. For example, you can eat between 9 am to 3pm and fast for the rest of the day.

IF benefits those who don’t like banishing foods from their diet. “A lot of diets out there, whether it’s keto or vegan, restrict what you eat rather than when you eat,” said Abbey Sharp, a registered dietitian and founder of Abbey’s Kitchen. “Studies show diets like intermittent fasting have a pretty high adherence rate versus those where you’re restricting different types of foods.”

As the window to eat is smaller, it cuts calorie intake and thus leads to weight loss. Depending on the timing you choose for your IF, you can even squeeze in a dessert or a late-night snack.

IF regulates insulin production and blood sugar levels as well. “People who are suffering from insulin sensitivity…the kind of people who are pre-diabetic and are at risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol” are the ones who benefit most from this diet, said Sharp.

Sharp however, doesn’t recommend this diet for those who want to lose weight. It has only short-term benefits and long-term implications.  “Timing [your meals] can be hard for a lot of families; you might not be able to potentially eat with your family at night and the morning,” Sharp explained. “And if you have children and are trying to teach them how to have a healthy relationship with food, they’re going to be like ‘Why is mom not eating today? Why isn’t she eating with us?’”

It could however be a slippery slope for those who have a history of unhealthy eating habits. People will tend to binge-eat in the window where they can eat and it can have the contrary effect on your health. “Any time you set food rules up for yourself, it’s easy to fall down that rabbit hole and turning it into an obsession,” Sharp explained.

As with any diet change, it is advisable to consult your doctor or certified nutritionist before starting it. It may be popular among the masses, but there is no guarantee it will suit your body and your lifestyle.