How in­ter­mit­tent fast­ing can be the miss­ing link to those stub­born ex­tra pounds

RSWLiving - - Department­s - BY KLAU­DIA BALOGH

It wasn’t long ago that I would carry snacks with me all the time, con­vinced that eat­ing ev­ery two to three hours was the road to the right diet and weight loss. The lat­est re­search shows, how­ever, that this may not be the best ap­proach af­ter all. The new­est blip on our diet radar is called in­ter­mit­tent fast­ing, and celebri­ties such as Bey­oncé, Ben Af­fleck and Hugh Jack­man—yes, Wolver­ine—are avid adopters.

Fast­ing isn’t new. Hu­mans have evolved in en­vi­ron­ments where food was rel­a­tively scarce, so our bod­ies had to adapt to func­tion at a high level, both phys­i­cally and cog­ni­tively, in a food-de­prived or fasted state.

Is science play­ing catch-up try­ing to un­der­stand the con­se­quences of this “time-re­stricted” eat­ing plan just now? TOTI Me­dia talked to reg­is­tered di­eti­tian and nu­tri­tion­ist Elaine Hast­ings to see what it’s all about.

“Fast­ing has sig­nif­i­cant car­dio­vas­cu­lar health ben­e­fits,” Hast­ings says, not­ing that y ou could lose one to two pounds each week. “But it’s very im­por­tant to lis­ten to your body’s re­sponse to it.”

In ad­di­tion to weight loss, sev­eral stud­ies have re­ported in­ter­mit­tent fast­ing leads to im­proved cog­ni­tive per­for­mance, lower blood sugar, re­duced can­cer risk and in­flam­ma­tion, and bet­ter blood pres­sure.

The con­cept builds upon the foun­da­tion of al­ter­nat­ing pe­ri­ods of fast­ing with pe­ri­ods of eat­ing, which can vary from a 16hour to a 24-hour fast and be­yond. What de­ter­mines whether you’re in a fed or fasted state is what source your body uses for en­ergy. You can burn ei­ther food you just ate or stored food. It’s al­ways one or the other, never at the same time.

Fed state be­gins when you eat and lasts about three to five hours while the body breaks down that food for en­ergy, as op­posed to us­ing fat de­posits that have ac­cu­mu­lated over time.

In a fasted state, how­ever, you tap into fat and glyco­gen stor­age. Glyco­gen is a form of sugar all car­bo­hy­drates, such as bread and pasta, turn into once di­gested.

One of the key com­po­nents re­spon­si­ble for whether you lose or gain weight is in­sulin, and fast­ing plays an im­por­tant role in reg­u­lat­ing it. In­sulin pushes sugar into your cells when you eat, so when it’s high,

your body stops burn­ing stored fat for fuel. Hence, in­sulin is of­ten called the “fat-stor­age hor­mone.” Fast­ing al­lows in­sulin to re­main low for an ex­tended pe­riod, which re­sults in the body us­ing stored food for en­ergy, lead­ing to weight loss.

“It’s not some­thing we’re taught to rec­om­mend,” Hast­ings says, “but it tends to work for peo­ple who hit a plateau [in their weight loss].” She adds that peo­ple lose weight with in­ter­mit­tent fast­ing be­cause there’s a re­duc­tion in food con­sump­tion over the week.

Re­search avail­able in the U.S. Na­tional Li­brary of Medicine looked at how nor­mal and over­weight peo­ple have re­sponded to fast­ing ev­ery other day of the week. It found ef­fi­cacy for weight loss and im­prove­ments in mul­ti­ple health in­di­ca­tors in­clud­ing in­sulin re­sis­tance and re­duc­tions in risk fac­tors for car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease.

Fast­ing al­lows the body to detox and re­pair by en­hanc­ing the struc­tures (mi­to­chon­dria) within cells that con­vert the en­ergy from food into a form that cells can use. It leads to ad­van­tages such as in­creased in­sulin sen­si­tiv­ity, men­tal fo­cus and en­ergy.

On feed­ing days, in­ter­mit­tent fasters end up eat­ing about three times with at least a four-hour break in be­tween. They must be care­ful, though, not to fall into the trap of binge eat­ing. For peo­ple who are used to eat­ing fre­quently and snack­ing, leav­ing a big­ger gap be­tween meals might be dif­fi­cult at first. It is there­fore best to choose healthy, wisely and in mod­er­a­tion. “Ev­ery­body should eat a bal­anced diet with a good source of pro­tein first, lit­tle carbs, and low or mod­er­ate fat,” Hast­ings ad­vises.

Ev­ery­body is dif­fer­ent. “Al­though our bod­ies are func­tion­ally built the same, they re­spond to things dif­fer­ently,” Hast­ings says. At first you might feel light-headed, dizzy, have a drop in blood sugar, maybe even feel “hangry” (feel­ing an­gry due to hunger), but once your body re­al­izes that it doesn’t need feed­ing ev­ery three hours and can use the en­ergy al­ready stored, it will kick in and run just fine.

Be­fore try­ing in­ter­mit­tent fast­ing, con­sult with your doc­tor to en­sure it’s a good idea given your cur­rent health con­di­tion.

In ad­di­tion to weight loss, sev­eral stud­ies have re­ported in­ter­mit­tent fast­ing leads to im­proved cog­ni­tive per­for­mance, lower blood sugar, re­duced can­cer risk and in­flam­ma­tion, and bet­ter blood pres­sure.

Al­ter­nat­ing pe­ri­ods of fast­ing and eat­ing can be ef­fec­tive for some peo­ple in achiev­ing weight loss.

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