Fasting 101: Is it the way forward?
We all know eating late is ‘bad for us’ but should we be skipping the last meal of the day and fasting? Here’s the lowdown on spacing out your meals.
The science behind every weight-loss diet is taking in less than you are expending. So naturally, restricting calorie intake to certain hours of the day will also boost your metabolism and help your body to burn fat. But should we throw our evening meal out in favour for a nightly fast - and what are we letting ourselves in for if we do? Here are the facts on fasting:
Benefits of fasting
One of the most popular diets to abide by this mindset is the 5:2 diet, which recommends normal calorie intake for five days of the week while slashing calories for the other two days. This restriction in eating habits creates a mildly significant improvement in calorie burning. A six percent increase was observed in those who ate during an alloted 6 hour slot throughout the day in comparison to those who ate over 12 hours during a recent study.
Another study is now suggesting that intermittent fasting (an eating pattern where you only consume food at specific windows of the day) could have a positive effect on aging and age related disease as well as other health benefits - fat loss being a big one. Another huge benefit is that you’ll be able to differentiate feelings of true hunger - when was the last time you felt that? All too often we feel a slight pang in our stomachs and head for the fridge. Experiencing true hunger gives your body and mind a different perspective. Further investigation is currently underway to connect the dots between intermittent fasting and slowing of the aging of cells.
The big question - is fasting safe?
The problems with fasting seemingly arise because it has to be an ongoing process to be fully effective. We’ve all rewarded ourselves with unhealthy food after a invigorating gym session or a day of sticking to a strict diet. This inevitably creates unhealthy eating habits on non-fasting days and negates the hard work the body has done. While hunger pangs from fasting doesn’t automatically lead to overeating or binge eating, the potential is there. Rewarding ourselves with unhealthy foods can severely hamper any progress made and also cause health problems - so the key to fasting is always balance.
Fasting has also been associated with the lowering of blood pressure. Research has found as much as a nine percent reduction in the blood pressure of participants on the 5:2 diet in comparison to a normal daily intake.
The final word on fasting
It can never be a bad thing to give our systems a little boost. Bumping your metabolism, immune system and reducing stress on the cardiovascular system are boxes we should all want to tick. The road to good health is never going to be an automatic one - you have to want this to be a lifelong journey rather than a quick fix.
To fast optimally, it’s important to make sure you’re taking in enough calories throughout the day to keep your body going during your fast period. Doing this prevents binge eating and the reward routine that a lot of serial dieters become reliant on.
Ultimately, this type of dietary restriction won’t be for everyone. It certainly has its positive effects on our health and is worth trying out to see if it suits your lifestyle. If not, don’t beat yourself up - try not to eat too late and boost your metabolism in other more achievable ways.