Intermittent Fasting – A Dietitian’s View
One of the most popular ‘diets’ out there today is intermittent fasting. There are different ways to go about fasting – some healthy, some not so healthy. Today I thought I would share my views on intermittent fasting, and how to do it the right way.
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is a pattern of eating food that restricts when you eat.
There are two main types of intermittent fasting that I recommend to people. The first is the 5:2 approach. With this, you would eat a normal amount of food 5 days per week – these are known as ‘feast days’. On the other two days, you would reduce your intake to 500-600 calories per day. Some people have this as one large meal, and others will split it up into little snacks throughout the day.
The other approach is the 16/8 fast. With this, you will fast for 16 hours, and then consume all of your calories in the remaining 8 hours.
Is intermittent fasting a diet?
It really depends on the type of intermittent fasting you follow. If you are doing 16/8, it is not technically a ‘diet’, but a pattern of eating. However, many people will reduce their calories in conjunction with fasting if their end goal is weight loss.
Similarly, 5:2 can be considered a diet if you eat your normal intake on feast days, as you will be in a calorie deficit. But as you might know, I don’t like that word!
Is intermittent fasting healthy?
It really depends on how you go about it. If you are intermittent fasting but still eating McDonalds every day, it might not be. But if you focus on plenty of wholefoods when you eat, intermittent fasting can be a healthy and natural approach to eating. Research suggests it can be beneficial for things such as insulin resistance and cardiovascular risk factors.
With that being said, intermittent fasting is not a silver bullet – it won’t fix your health overnight. But it can be used as a tool to support your wellbeing.
Who might suit intermittent fasting?
The clients that I suggest intermittent fasting to are the ones that are already halfway there. For example, they might already be skipping breakfast because they aren’t hungry or feel nauseated in the mornings.
It can also suit people with a busy lifestyle. After all, we’ve all had a busy day where we’ve forgotten to eat a meal! Those sort of days are ideal for a planned fast.
Who might want to skip intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women, as there is not enough evidence of its safety. It may also be best to avoid this if you have a history of disordered eating, as it may trigger these patterns.
Tips to intermittent fast the healthy way
Like any approach to food, there are ways to make sure you’re going about intermittent fasting the right way. Here are a few tips to get you started.
Be prepared – it can take a bit of work to get into the swing of things, especially when you start out. If you follow 5:2, pre-plan your food for fast days ahead of time. If you go for 16/8, adjust your eating period for outings and events if needed.
Focus on wholefoods – the majority of your food intake should still be protein, fruit and veggies, nuts, seeds, healthy fats and wholegrains. Fasting is not a way to get around a junk food diet!
Drink plenty of water – not only will it hydrate you, but it will keep you feeling fuller for longer. In fact, many people find that fasting helps them to drink enough water!
Seek the help of your health practitioner – if you come across any hurdles, it’s best to seek out your dietitian to look over your eating and address any issues that arise.
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