While fad diets come and go with alarming regularity, the premise of intermittent fasting is not new, but recently it has become popularized with the 5:2 diet by Dr Michael Mosley. Generally, for those struggling with their weight, the advice has always been to eat small meals frequently — but could the problem be that we are eating too much, because we are eating too often?
Intermittent fasting is going for periods of time without food, of which there are many variations., but basically it’s like this; you consume your kilojoules within a certain time frame at the beginning and at the end of the day, and do not eat anything else in between those hours. This essentially gives your body a break from digestion but also gives it time to use stored body fat as energy. For the two fasting days to restrict your kilojoule intake to 2000 kilojoules or 500 calories per day if you are female and 2400 kilojoules or 600 calories if you are male. Breakfast and dinner should consist mainly of protein rich foods and vegetables to fill you up, but in reality you can choose grains if you like. Just keep the meal within the kilojoule limit. And remember no lunch or snacks in between, just low kilojoule fluids like black tea, coffee and water. It sounds challenging, but think about this; when you sleep, do you worry about eating? Sometimes it could be 10-12 hours since you’ve eaten and you don’t give it a thought!
Interestingly, emerging research has shown that this type of eating pattern results in weight loss and significant improvements in body composition, such as fat distribution and metabolic markers like cholesterol, triglycerides, blood glucose and IGF-1 (a biomarker for cancer risk). Other benefits are good immunity, enhanced tissue repair and reduced inflammatory processes.
Generally speaking, I like to try these diets for myself so that I can really get the feel for what it’s like to follow such a regime, as well as help me shape my advice. I think this eating style will suit people who are ‘foodies’ and really enjoy eating out. This way they could balance their over-consuming with 2 days of under-consuming and therefore maintain their weight. I lost an average of half a kilo per week (which is perfectly safe) and even after the 6 month trial was completed, I decided to follow a 6:1 regime to maintain the weight loss. I eat very healthily most of the time, so by keeping my normal eating patterns for six days and the low kilojoule level fasting on one, it enables me to continue with my lifestyle without altering anything drastically and maintain my weight. Although most of the research regarding the efficacy of this style of eating on weight and overall health has been limited to animals, early human trials are indicating that there are benefits to metabolic rate. In other words, when you restrict your energy intake every day you can get a lowering of your metabolic rate, making it harder to maintain weight, while when you restrict intermittently it may well be that metabolic rate is maintained.
Article written by Karen Inge on behalf of Dineamic Nutrition