Why Intermittent Fasting Doesn't Have To Be Scary!
Ciara Ryan is a nutritional therapist, specialising in gut and digestive health. As many people use the New Year as motivation to get healthier, and maybe even lose weight; she's writes this month about Intermittent Fasting. Thinking of making changes yourself? Remember that everybody is different, so it's always best to seek the advice of your GP before making any big changes to your diet, or exercise regime.
It’s January again, and after the indulgences over the festive period, many of you may be thinking of getting fitter and healthier, perhaps losing a few pounds, or getting rid of that belly fat once and for all!
So, what to do? Cut carbs? Count calories of every morsel you ingest? Ramp up your exercise regime to arduous cardio 7 days a week? What if it was as simple as limiting your eating window to 8 hours a day? The emerging scientific evidence on Intermittent Fasting or Time Restricted Eating is compelling, with studies supporting its many health benefits, from weight control to hormonal regulation.
When you think about it, it makes sense. Our days are very long with early starts and late nights, and we have constant access to food. Not to mention the sheer abundance and availability of food 24 hours a day at home, work, whilst commuting and so on.
The environment we live in these days means that we are often consuming food across as many as 16 hours a day, regardless of hunger levels or meal times. But when we eat frequently and over a long period of time, this means that the levels of insulin (the hormone that controls blood glucose levels) remain elevated. Having high levels of insulin over an extended time promotes inflammation and fat storage.
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There are various options with Intermittent Fasting: Some people like to abstain from solid food for a 24-hour-period each week, the 5:2 diet is another possibility whereby on 2 days of the week you limit your calories to 500 a day for women and 600 a day for men.
But my preferred option is Time Restricted Eating whereby you limit your food intake to just 8 hours a day (For example, between 10am and 6pm.) This could mean having your evening meal at 6pm on Day 1 (something like fish, sweet potato and 2 or 3 varieties of vegetables, or a chicken or turkey stir fry with some wholegrain basmati rice) and not eating your next meal until 12 to 16 hours later; so a brunch style breakfast at 10am the next day would work well (this could be an omelette or poached eggs on wholegrain or spelt toast with mashed avocado for example.) You then eat normally for the rest of the day (normally healthy that is!)
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Only food is restricted so water, coffee and teas can be consumed, which can help you avoid feeling too hungry. Keeping busy also helps enormously! In the evening have an Epsom salt bath, a nice cup of herbal tea and early to bed, this will help keep your mind off food and evening snacking (my own personal downfall!)
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In preliminary studies carried out on rats, the rats were given free access to high-fat foods but only for short periods of time. The rats weighed less, had no raised cholesterol or blood glucose levels and no inflammation in the liver whereas the rats given free access to food across 24 hour periods gained weight, had high cholesterol and blood glucose. It is thought that constant feeding means that the body goes into storage mode gaining weight and stressing the liver as well as increasing blood glucose levels, all of which can contribute to health issues and weight gain.
If you have been toying with the idea of giving Intermittent Fasting a go, then jump right in. Go for 12 hours at first and try it 2 or 3 days a week to see how you go with the idea of pushing it a little further if you feel it suits you. You’ve nothing to lose and potentially lots to gain. Good luck.
Ciara Ryan is a nutritional therapist specialising in gut and digestive health. As well as having clinics in Drogheda and Dundalk, County Louth; she also offers consultations over Skype. You can find more great nutritional advice from Ciara on www.ciararyannutrition.com and by visiting her Facebook page.
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