A study by Ipsos Mori and Kings College London in the middle of May this year suggests that 25% of people in the UK are over-eating during lockdown. 25% are not exercising enough and 13% admit to drinking more than they did before the restrictions. A combination of anxiety and boredom has driven many people to the cookie jar (and the gin bottle). Already, Slimming World is reporting a surge in new members desperate to lose the Covid-19 kilograms.
Many people find traditional dieting a pain. Who wants to spend all day being hungry and then having to work out what you can eat and how much of it you can have?
Intermittent fasting is a popular way to lose weight because it cuts out the worry of what to eat. Instead, you are only asked to look at when you eat things.
Popular intermittent fasting regimes include:
(1) Twelve-hour fasting – eat only within a twelve-hour window.
(2) Sixteen-hour fasting – eat only within an eight-hour window.
(3) 5:2 fasting – eat as normal for five days then reduce intake to 500-600 calories for the remaining two days.
(4) 4:3 fasting – alternate days of eating normally and controlling calorie intake.
Dr Rangan Chaterjee, in his book ‘The Stress Solution‘, talks of stressed-out shift workers who have lost the natural rhythms of eating. They have higher than normal levels of diabetes and a greater risk of contracting cancer. Experiments on mice have shown the benefits of an eleven hour eating window. They can stay fit and lean on a diet of junk food if their intake is time-limited. In another study, intermittent fasting also improved learning and memory performance.
Intermittent fasting isn’t easy – eating only 500 calories a day may be difficult in the early stages. It usually takes Planning high fiber, high protein meals for those fasting days is essential. Soups, vegetables, nuts and lots of fluids will help you to fend off the hunger pangs. For an average human-being, a deficit of 3,500 calories a week will result in weight loss of about 0.5 kg or 1 lb. The two reduced-calorie days on the 5:2 diet will give you that sort of result. Obviously, you won’t achieve this if you eat more than usual on the other days because you are hungry!
There are other benefits from fasting:
- Insulin sensitivity improves making stored fat easier to access. There is some evidence that a combination of intermittent fasting and the Keto diet may be very good.
- Your body starts to clean up dead cells and improve disease-resistance.
- Growth Hormone levels increase with huge benefits to your quality of life.
A study at the Heidelberg University Hospital compared 5:2 fasting with traditional calorie-controlled dieting. The results showed negligible differences. The benefit of fasting is that you don’t have to think about your diet every day of the week. You just have to focus on it for two days out of seven.As always, there are potential downsides to be aware of:
- Women tend not to respond as well as men to intermittent fasting and the menstrual cycle can be affected.
- People with type 1 diabetes should talk to their doctor first.
- Pregnant women, women hoping to conceive, children and anyone who suffers from variable sugar levels should speak to a doctor first.
The best way to eat is to have a balanced diet with loads of vegetables, pulses and nuts and plenty of exercise. If you do need to lose weight, intermittent fasting can work but don’t expect it to be a magic fix.