There seem to be two types of people in the world. The ones that always wake up each morning with a ravenous hunger, and the ones who need a few hours to get their bearings before developing any type of appetite. I fall into the latter. Unfortunately I grew up in the era where it was pummelled into us that ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day’ and subsequently forced myself to ingest something that constituted a balanced meal before doing anything else. But now things have had a shake up! Intermittent fasting is the new craze, and before you say ‘oh no, another fad’, this one actually has some merit. Here’s the lowdown.
What the heck is intermittent fasting?
In a nutshell it’s an eating pattern when you cycle between periods of eating and fasting. It involves consuming all your daily calories during a specific window of time.
Why? Is it only about weight loss?
Firstly, intermittent fasting is a schedule, not a diet. Sure, weight loss is a common and often welcome side effect because theoretically your calorie consumption will be reduced. But the benefits are actually much more than this.
Fasting is believed to cause a nifty little thing called autophagy. Without wanting to get too sciency, autophagy is a process whereby your cells remove toxins and cannibalise parts of themselves in an attempt to clean up and become stronger. Autophagy generally functions at a moderate maintenance level, but it’s given a significant boost when the cells are put under stress. Intermittent fasting deprives the cells of nutrients and energy, activating autophagy. Basically, cellular function is enhanced.
When cells are rejuvenated like this we can see improvements in lifespan and longevity, and a reduction in age related illnesses. Benefits can include increased metabolism, the prevention of neurodegenerative disorders, assistance in fighting infectious diseases, reduction in insulin resistance, improved muscle performance, and prevention of cancer growth. Pretty amazing huh?
Types of intermittent fasting
Whether you know it or not, you’re already doing a form of intermittent fasting. Yes, those hours you’re in the land of snooze each night count, so you’re half way there – go you! Here’s a breakdown of some of the most popular methods of intermittent fasting.
- The 16/8 Method: Fast for 16 hours each day, for example by only eating between 11am and 7pm. My personal favourite and what I do most days, this is almost effortless for a natural ‘non breakfast-eater’. If you favour your early morning meal you could try skipping dinner instead.
- Eat-Stop-Eat: Once or twice a week, don’t eat anything from dinner one day, until dinner the next day (a 24 hour fast).
- The 5:2 Diet: During 2 days of the week, eat only 500–600 calories. The other 5 days eat as normal.
- The Warrior Diet: Fast during the day, eat a huge meal at night. This was popularised by fitness expert Ori Hofmekler. It involves eating small amounts of raw fruit and vegetables during the day, then eating one huge meal at night within a 4 hour eating window.
- Spontaneous Meal Skipping: Skip meals whenever is convenient to you without a structured plan.
One thing to note is about overcompensation. With any type of intermittent fast try not to let your fast breaking meal be one of complete gluttony. Don’t have the phone poised at the ready for a Glovo Macca’s delivery as you count down the seconds to your first meal! Try instead to eat a healthy, balanced meal with plenty of nutrition so you don’t undo all of your hard earned gains.
What can I drink?
While in fast mode you can have water (naturally), black tea and coffee (no sugar though!), and other non-calorific beverages. Before you get too excited, this doesn’t mean you can throw back the espressos and luxuriate in the subsequent appetite suppression while you wait out the fast. Doing this will wreak havoc on your adrenals and may cause anxiety and fatigue. There is also the possibility of damaging your stomach lining because of the coffees acidity.
Who shouldn’t fast?
It’s best to steer clear of intermittent fasting if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, a child or teenager, have diabetes or hypothyroidism, or are underweight, malnourished, or have an eating disorder. If there’s any doubt ask your health care professional before you begin.
Written by Ché Miller
About the author
Ché has always had a passion for hospitality having completed a conjoint Bachelors Degree in International Business and Hospitality Management. She has spent the last 15 years working in the hospitality industry. When this passion led her to working in a premier health retreat in Australia in her twenties, she found the knowledge she gained there inspired her to start living a healthier life.
Now Ché loves to combine her two favourite things, hospitality and wellbeing, by scouring the island for the best nourishing restaurants, products and services. She has been living in Mallorca since early 2017, having moved from her home in New Zealand. She absolutely loves the energy of the island and everything it has to offer.
Ché’s other interests include ashtanga yoga, boxing, reading, writing, and really good coffee.