As we come to the end of the year, you might already be thinking about your own personal "New Year, New Me" strategies to get in shape in 2019.
Whatever your reasons may be for wanting to lose weight, there are so many outlets of information out there.
Most diet trends are rooted in legitimate science, however often the provider of diet information can focus on the benefits and ignore the risks in an attempt to gain a following in their diet trend. It's important to focus on the scientific evidence when you are trying out a new regime.
When you are thinking about undertaking a new diet, it is important to consult with your doctor to rule out risk factors. if you push your body too hard you may do more harm than good. Always remember that the ultimate method to sustaining a healthy weight is through a healthy diet and regular exercise.
This week, LetsGetChecked wants to talk to you about the truth behind intermittent fasting for weightloss including the facts, the reported health benefits and the secrets from actress, podcast host and author Melanie Avalon.
- What Is Intermittent Fasting?
- Intermittent Fasting: The Facts
- What Are The Reported Health Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting?
- Melanie Avalon: Intermittent Fasting Secrets
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting describes a diet that includes periods of fasting and non-fasting over a defined time-frame.
Intermittent fasting is still being researched and there is no comprehensive evidence that claims that it is better than other dieting techniques which may include calorie restriction, cutting out certain food groups or increasing how much exercise you do per week.
There are a few different methods you can use when you are using intermittent fasting to lose weight. The most common methods include:
The 16:8 Method
You can eat during an 8 hour window, you fast for the other 16 hours. For example, you could eat from 1PM-9PM and fast from 9PM to 1PM.
The 5:2 Method
You eat normally 5 days of the week. On the other 2 days days, you eat 500-600 calories.
You fast for a 12 or 24 hour period a few times each week. This is also known as spontaneous fasting.
Alternate Day Fasting
Fast for one day and eat normally the next day. Fast and feed every second day.
Intermittent Fasting: Quick Facts
Dr. Michael Mosley made intermittent fasting popular following the publication of his book "The Fast Diet".
Intermittent fasting may lead to a reduction in blood sugar levels and control insulin production.
You should not try intermittent fasting if you are pregnant, breast-feeding, have type 1 or 2 diabetes, have low blood sugar, have light periods, are on certain medications or are suffering from an eating disorder.
Intermittent fasting periods should last no longer than two months, this is also dependent on the type of fast you are doing.
Most intermittent fasting studies have been completed on animals as opposed to humans.
Intermittent fasting is said to encourage the body to go into ketosis. Ketosis is defined as a metabolic process in which the body produces ketones to provide the body with energy from fat cells in the body. (The body converts existing fat cells into energy.)
What Are The Reported Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting For Weight Loss?
There is a number of reported health benefits associated with intermittent fasting. Next we're going to talk you through some of the reports out there:
Provides Sustainable Fat Loss
One systematic review of 40 studies completed on the topic of intermittent fasting reports that the average individual will lose 7-11 pounds in 10 weeks. This average has been taken from a review with a vast number of variables, including the length of the trials, the weight of the participants prior to the study and different methods of fasting. Generally, it has been proven that intermittent fasting promotes weight loss, however this method is said to be equally as effective to calorie restriction overtime.
Improves Insulin Sensitivity
Insulin is produced and secreted by the pancreas, the function of insulin is to allow glucose to enter the cells in the body where it is used for the release of energy or is stored for future use.
It has been reported through studies using mice that insulin sensitivity may be improved through intermittent fasting. In a small sample group of men with prediabetes, it was also shown that intermittent fasting could improve insulin sensitivity even if it didn't promote weight loss. This regime is said to regulate the circadian rhythm which is defined as the 24 hour cycle our body goes through and tells us when we are hungry and tired.
Increasing insulin sensitivity ensures that your body's cells will be provided with the energy stores that they require.
Lowers Blood Pressure
Intermittent fasting is said to lower blood pressure alongside weight loss. In one study, the BMI and corresponding blood pressure of Ramadan participants in Indonesia was documented. It was found that blood pressure is lower in those who fast conistently.
Red blood cell production was also found to be lower in those who took part in the study which highlights the need to be aware that you may be experience anemia as a side effect to fasting if you don't eat enough iron-rich foods during your feeding periods.
Reduces Oxidative Stress
Oxidative stress is defined as the imbalance between the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and the antioxidative defense in the body. In other words, it describes your body's reaction to stress.
Intermittent fasting has been shown to increase the physiological response to stress including a variety of human diseases including "cancer, cardiovascular, pulmonary, neurological, renal, and liver diseases, and even the physiological aging process."
Intermittent fasting is said to reduce oxidative stress because the process of cell turn-over speeds up between fasting and feeding periods.
Improves Brain Health
Intermittent fasting is said to create more brain cells, and therefore improve your brain power. Neurogenesis refers to the growth and development of new brain cells and nerve tissues. One study that monitored brain activity alongside intermittent fasting exemplifies that the 16:8 ratio of intermittent fasting stimulated the production of new brain cells.
Intermittent fasting has also been shown to up the production of protein known as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which improves mood, learning and boosts memory.
Improves Your Immune System
Intermittent fasting reportedly improves your immunity through regulating the circadian rhythm which we touched on earlier. The digestive system was not made to work around the clock yet it often is. With busy schedules, we can end up snacking at all hours of the day, including right up until we go to sleep. The metabolic processes involved in digesting food may be slowed during particular times of the day, especially in the evening.
Intermittent fasting is said to bring about improved immunity by increasing your body's reaction to stress as well as autoimmune conditions including diabetes, arthritis, thyroid issues, irritable bowel syndrome, multiple sclerosis and certain cancers. There is a need for more research in this area before these claims can be confirmed due to small sample sizes and the sample groups used in these studies mainly involving male rodents.
Autophagy is a physiological detox process in which the body gets rid of damaged cells and regenerates new ones. It is also described as the body eating itself which sounds quite worrying, however it is a common process that may occur when you are fasting. The benefits of autophagy include reduced inflammation, the delay of neurodegenerative diseases and increased longevity.
Intermittent fasting works to stimulate autophagy by preventing toxin build-up. During a fast, your body will begin to use up or eat up old unnecessary cells; improving your body's ability to regenerate cells for optimal function.
Melanie Avalon: Intermittent Fasting Secrets
What does health mean to you?
Struggling with my own fair share of chronic disease has given me an entirely new perspective on the definition of health! To me, health is living in a body free (mostly) of inflammation, filled with radiating energy and the potential to live life. Health is the ability to move through the world with purpose, accomplishing the goals which bring the most purpose. It is not about vitamin levels or BMI or other labs per se, but rather a nurtured state of capability. Stress can be handled. Battles can be faced.
Beauty can shine. Perhaps you are most likely to be “healthy," when health is not even on your mind, since you are living in - rather than burdened by - your body.
How did the IF podcast get started?
I’ve been listening to podcasts since before podcasts were a thing, and always dreamed of having one of my own! After writing What When Wine, I really wanted one, but knew I needed the perfect co-host. I decided to gauge interest by posting in a Facebook group run by fellow intermittent faster and author Gin Stephens, author of Delay Don’t Deny: Living an Intermittent Fasting Lifestyle. While the post actually stirred up quite a bit of controversy (looking like self-promotion - oops!), Gin herself, however, had just had her first podcast interview, and was contemplating starting her own! The stars had aligned! We teamed up, and haven’t looked back!
As an actress, do you feel there is a pressure to look a certain way?
Definitely! Ironically, there truly are roles for every “type," and getting cast comes down to so many factor beyond looks. (Although in some cases, it’s looks entirely - and who even knows what that “look” is!) I think perhaps one of the biggest stumbling blocks of the matter, is our self-perception of what we think we should look like, rather than embracing our true beautiful selves. I also think, in reality, the health aspect is even more important, since health is what can fuel the vitality and energy necessary for an acting career.
You say that you tried all of the diets out there but intermittent fasting was the one that stuck. Why do you think this is?
Intermittent fasting was the first approach I tried which actually did everything I’d been searching for in a “diet.” Finally, I was losing weight almost effortlessly, without any feelings of restriction, and while getting to eat (feast!) to my heart's content each and every night! And if that wasn’t enough, it also gifted me with other wonderful things - insane time and productivity, a feeling of resilience, and an overwhelming sense of freedom from food cravings and dieting. (Not to mention a myriad of health hacks, like daily detox, cellular autophagy, muscle preservation, and anti-aging effects!)
How would you define the 16:8, 5:2 and eat-stop-eat techniques?
16:8: A popular form of intermittent fasting developed by Martin Berkhan, in which you fast for 16 hours each day, and eat in an 8 hour window. (For example, eating from 10am-6pm each day.)
5:2: A form of intermittent fasting developed by Dr. Michael Mosley, also known as the "Fast Diet." It mandates 5 days of normal calorie intake, with two "fasting" days of 500 calories.
Eat-Stop-Eat: A form of intermittent fasting developed by Brad Pilon in which you fast once or twice a week for 24 hours, with normal eating days in between.
How do you think intermittent fasting fits into the lives of a busy society?
IF is absolutely perfect for our busy modern lives! By eating in a shortened time window, you gain a substantial block of time, uninterrupted by snacks and meals, with no distracting hunger or cravings! And since fasting is fueled by slow and steady burning fat and ketones, it creates a productive state of epic brain power and energy, perfect for a society that never sleeps! (But please, do sleep!!)
For intermittent fasting to work, do you need to incorporate exercise, and if so what are the best exercises you would recommend?
IF actually doesn’t require conscious “exercise” for fat burning, since fasting naturally instigates a fat burning state! When fasted, all activity and movement in life becomes a form of "exercise” - no chronic cardio required! From running errands to fidgeting to carrying groceries, everything becomes exercise! This is the way I like to view “exercise,” not as some quota to be filled, but as vital and wondrous movement through life! IF also supports muscle maintenance and growth to boot!
That said, I like to further hack my physique with IF, by engaging in what I call “functional exercise.” This is where I wear light ankle and wrist weights while doing my “normal” daily tasks, to further support muscle. I also love engaging in activities which maximize body composition, fat burning, and lymph flow, with minimal effort, such as vibration plates and cold exposure!
For actual “exercise," I believe high intensity interval training (HIIT), in which you alternate brief periods of maximum exertion (like running) with brief periods off recovery (like slow walking), typically for a maximum of 15 minutes total, is likely the best for both fat and glucose burning. Mind/body connection exercises like yoga are also fantastic for the holistic health of the body! I only recommend exercise like cardio if the person finds it therapeutic or stress relieving, rather than for fat burning. (Let IF handle that for you!)
What does body image mean to you and what are your secrets to maintaining a positive body image?
Body image is a hard one! To me, body image is how we perceive our physical characteristics, often as they are perceived by others, rather than even by ourselves. It is whether or not we think the world will perceive our physical attributes as “beautiful” or enticing. We are often much too hard on ourselves, self critiquing and judging our every flaw - truly believing the voice in our head (even though no one may have asked for his or her opinion!) To maintain a positive body image, I encourage the following practices:
- Seeing your body as a friend or loved one, rather than “you” per se. How would you treat someone you love?
Practice gratitude daily. Thank your body for the wondrous things it does for you - allowing you to pursue your goals, experience joy and love, all while fighting toxins and invaders! Start and end each day by writing down 3 things you’re grateful for, and if you struggle with body image, make at least one of these things about your body!
For girls who lack confidence in the way they look, what is your advice?
In addition to the above:
- Explore the practices of mindfulness and identifying the voice in your head as a separate voice and not you. It is this voice - our inner roommate - which often critiques our bodies, and leads to doubt and insecurity surrounding body image. But we don’t have to entertain or believe it! I recommend the book The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer, for more on this!
- Any time you have a negative thought about your body, see it as a cue to immediately let it pass and replace it with an encouraging, positive thought of something you love about yourself! This means every thought you have concerning your body can be beneficial, because it can either be positive, or a cue and movement towards the positive!
-It sounds simple and trite, but remember that beauty truly comes within. A beautiful spirit is truly the most captivating thing! Smile with your eyes!
For those who want to try out intermittent fasting, what are your top tips?
- Commit for a week - you can do anything for a week
- Start on a busy day, so you won’t be distracted by hunger. Physical activity also ramps up fat burning
- Fuel yourself with black coffee or unsweetened tea during the fast. Don’t use artificial sweeteners - they’ll only keep sugar cravings present
- Try out IF with a friend
- See IF as an experiment
- Do NOT restrict or count calories in your eating window
- And of course check out my book What When Wine: which I wrote to break down the science of IF, and provide all the tips for finding your perfect protocol, getting started, dealing with roadblocks and any social hurdles and common Q&As.
LetsGetChecked Check Out Intermittent Fasting
Keep an eye out for my upcoming feature which will document the LetsGetChecked intermittent fasting challenge. We will be trying out the 16:8 technique, offering you insight into how it affects bio-markers, physical and subjective health awareness. Stay Tuned!
Written by Hannah Kingston | Medically Approved by Dr. Dominic Rowley