Ro Huntriss - EXALT Clinical Lead Dietitian - Feb 2021
Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss: Safe & Sustainable?
Our clinical-lead dietitian & nutritionist Ro Huntriss, was recently asked by Women's Health to contribute her thoughts on intermittent fasting on our behalf 🤯🥳
What are the benefits of intermittent fasting?
Cntermittent fasting has become a popular dietary intervention over recent years and has been associated with many benefits. One of its best-known benefits is weight loss, with intermittent fasting being an effective weight loss method for many people (1). The benefits seem to stretch further as studies have shown a reduction in blood sugar and insulin levels (2) so could be a useful tool for those with diabetes or at risk of diabetes. Intermittent fasting has also shown to improve inflammation (3) and could even help us to live longer (4)!
Is fasting a sustainable way to lose weight/fat?
Intermittent fasting can be a sustainable way to lose weight if it is a method that is acceptable to you, for example, if you can go for longer periods of time without feeling hungry or like having set guidelines to follow. For these reasons, some people can find intermittent fasting very easy. If you think you may feel restricted or do not like the idea of following dietary rules, then intermittent fasting may not be the right choice for you and is unlikely to be sustainable.
To make things more sustainable, when people reach their goal weight, people often relax the fasting rules slightly to support weight maintenance as opposed to weight loss.
What would an intermittent fasting regimen look like? (16/10, 14/10 etc.)
There are many variations of intermittent fasting. Two of the most popular are the 16:8 and the 5:2 dietary patterns. The 16:8 is where you fast for 16 hours (including the time your sleep) and you eat within an 8-hour window. So, fast for 16 hours and eat across 8 hours of each day. Some people may also adapt the duration of this window.
The 5:2 diet can be done in a number of ways, one of which is when calories on two days of the week are significantly reduced to approximately 500-600 calories per day. The fasting days can be changed each week, as long as there are two fasting days in each seven. So, you fast for two days and then have five days of normal healthy eating.
What foods should people prioritise eating after fasting? (Wholefoods etc. rather than processed.)
As important as the fasting aspect is, what we consume during the non-fasting window is equally as important. If you consume lots of high-calorie, processed foods during the time in which you do eat, the positive effects of the fasting can be lost, so it’s important to focus on whole, nutritious foods such as fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains and lean protein sources as the foundation to your diet, with - of course - the occasional treat.
What are the downsides of intermittent fasting? (Potential for nutritional deficiencies etc.)
Although intermittent fasting can work well for many, it won’t be suitable for all. For example, this approach would not be advised if somebody was pregnant, breastfeeding, prescribed certain medications or has experienced an eating disorder in the past. Additionally, some people may simply not like the idea of intermittent fasting due to prolonged periods of time without eating. Crucially, it is important to also focus on what you DO eat. You need to ensure you nourish your body adequately with the food that you do eat to prevent any nutritional inadequacies in your diet to reduce the risk of any health issues.
EXALT's high-protein smoothies offer all three macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein and fat) using only natural ingredients offering a generous nutrient provision. The EXALT range is a great option on your non-fasting days if following the 5:2 diet or during your eating window if following a 16:8 or similar approach. The high protein levels also help you to manage your hunger whilst fasting, and the nutrient provision will help to avoid any nutritional deficiencies.