Intermittent Fasting: Is It Good For Our Health?
Since The Horizon programme “Eat, Fast and Live Longer” presented by medical journalist Michael Mosley in August 2012, the concept of intermittent fasting has hit the headlines, and many of us are choosing to adopt Michael Mosley’s fasting strategy for the purposes of weight loss and improved overall health. The practice of therapeutic fasting is not new, it has existed for centuries and is embedded in many religious rituals and over the centuries has been widely used as an intervention to address various illnesses.
Indeed, there is a firm scientific basis for the benefits of fasting for our health; many research studies show that intermittent fasting improves markers associated with ageing, vitality and a number of chronic diseases. Interestingly, its weight loss benefits are not solely linked to calorie restriction, but more importantly to the effects of calorie restriction on body composition and metabolic processes. For example, fasting increases the secretion of growth hormone (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/ 110403090259.htm), a hormone which promotes fat burning. Fasting also decreases fasting insulin levels and since insulin prevents the breakdown of body fat, this is good news for anybody who wants to lose weight. Research also shows that fasting improves insulin sensitivity (http://jap.physiology.org/ content/99/6/2128.full); importantly, loss of insulin sensitivity, otherwise known as insulin resistance, is the determining factor in diabetes onset.
Thus, overwhelmingly, the evidence suggests that fasting is good for our health. So, how to proceed? There are many ways to undertake a fast. I recommend a modified intermittent fast involving eating a maximum of 600 calories on two, non-consecutive days of the week, since anecdotal evidence suggests that modified fasting is easier to follow than a complete fast and it still has the associated health benefits.
I therefore propose that on 2 non-consecutive days of the week (e.g. Monday and Friday) consume breakfast in the morning, and lunch in the afternoon only.
Meal Ideas on Fast Days (any 2 of the following, one a.m., one p.m)
1 or 2 poached or boiled eggs with raw or steamed vegetables (e.g. wilted spinach, mushrooms, broccoli, asparagus)
1 piece of fruit with a small handful of mixed unsalted nuts or a handful of mixed seeds
A shake made up of 250 ml water (or coconut or unsweetened nut milk), 1 small banana, handful of berries, 2 dessertspoons of Pulsin Whey Protein : place ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth
A shake made up of 250 ml water (or coconut/nut milk), 100g cherries, 1 tbsp ground flaxseeds or chia seeds : place ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth
1 whole avocado, handful of olives, 5 Brazil nuts
1 medium fillet of steamed fish with raw or steamed vegetables
Things to Remember :
Drink water throughout the day, it is important to keep yourself well hydrated
Do not undertake strenuous exercise on your fast days.
Follow a healthy balanced diet in-between fast days; failure to do so will nullify the effects of your fast days
Please note that if you have diabetes or heart disease, or any other chronic condition which may be adversely affected by big drops in blood sugar levels, it is important that you consult your GP first before undertaking a fasting programme. Similarly, if you are on long-term medication, please seek advice from you GP before undertaking a fast.
Juliet Schaffer, Nutritionist, Evolve Nutrition