Intermittent fasting or IF has in recent years become a wellness buzz word. Practised by many celebrities such as Gisele Bündchen, Halle Berry, Scarlett Johansson and husband and wife, Chris Hemsworth and Elsa Pataky, IF has been adopted by more and more people as a seemingly easy way to promote weight loss.
Metabolic switching, the philosophy behind intermittent fasting, believes that when hours without food are prolonged, the body, after burning the calories of the last meal, will start burning fat. “Scientific evidence shows that intermittent fasting can induce the body’s capacity to repair cells by removing waste products and toxins,” explains Dianne Hernandez, senior nutritionist of the Baron Method. “Recent research articles also say that when conducted at a particular period, IF can drop the body’s insulin level, eventually triggering the body’s burning capacity. Weight loss is expected to happen soon after. Other studies suggest that it can also slow down aging by delaying the DNA degradation, while simultaneously stimulating DNA repair.”
The appeal of IF is its accessibility; most people can easily adopt a daily fasting window by including the six to eight hours at night when they are asleep and adding more time before and after. “The most common method in following intermittent fasting is 16/8, a fasting window of 16 hours and an eating window of eight,” says Hernandez. “Some people, however, push it further to 18/6.”
Businessman and wellness and fitness enthusiast, Bernard Fäh, discovered IF four years ago when he was practising a ketogenic diet. “I was losing weight and muscle while on Keto. I didn’t mind losing the weight, but I was losing strength, muscle and size as well,” he shares. “I wanted a diet that had fewer restrictions but would help me get leaner and still keep my strength up.” Fäh is on a 17/7 method, fasting from 8pm to 12pm. “My feeding window is from 12pm to 7pm,” he says. “I eat whole foods as much as possible during this time. My workouts are done at a fasted state which has its benefits as well. Since then, I have been able to get leaner, stronger and dare I say better looking,” he laughs.
IF is not for everyone, particularly people prone to hyperacidity. “Since the body is no longer used to fasting longer than four hours, acidity starts when this eating method is done over a period of time,” says Hernandez. “After a while, a snowball effect of symptoms like an elevated lipid profile, uric acid and liver markers may start to whack the body and may lead to a more serious condition.”
She continues. “Quality is the one most damaged during IF. People normally lean towards items like donuts, cakes, pastries, lechon, chicharron and so on but these foods will not give the body enough energy and nutrition to function during the day and might result in sluggishness and very low energy level. Prioritise high quality macronutrients. The body will function more efficiently if it has the right quality and quantity of carbohydrates, protein and fat plus vitamins and minerals.”
Hernandez shares some tips when determining whether IF is for you:
Start slow. Don’t pressure yourself into doing it daily or on a regular basis. Observe first how your body is responding.
Re-visit your current eating pattern. Check if your planned eating window is conducive for you to sit down and have good set of meals. If not, IF might not be the best option for you.
Evaluate your health condition. If you have maintenance medication and supplements that require food intake at a designated time, explore other options.
Ask yourself “what is my goal?”. If you want to achieve a specific weight but tend to fall short on the eating window, there are other eating plans and diets that might be more sustainable and closer to your reality.