Dietician answers 12 frequently asked questions about Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting (IF) is an eating pattern that cycles between the periods of eating and fasting. There is specification and limit on the time of foods eaten rather than the type of foods eaten.
Intermittent fasting is not a diet in the conventional sense, but more correctly recounted as an eating pattern.
The following are the most common FAQs on intermittent fasting
1. Shouldn’t we eat every 3 hours? Then how is it healthy to give such long breaks between meals?
Eating several small meals throughout the day may not really move the needle when it comes to weight loss or calorie burning. It doesn't matter if you get the same amount of calories in 10 meals or in 1 meal, you'll end up in the same place.
In fact, a few studies have also also shown that eating two large meals per day improves insulin sensitivity and promotes weight loss better in some individuals than consuming frequent small meals, even when the total number of daily calories is the same. (1)
2. Can I exercise while fasting?
Yes of-course. The key to weight loss is not only diet, but also exercise. It is possible to exercise while fasting, but precautions are necessary.
When you are fasting, your body’s glycogen stores are empty. Hence, while exercising, your body starts burning fat for energy, which aids in weight loss.
For optimum results, you need to schedule your exercise sessions and timings strategically around those fuelled and empty time slots. So, schedule those weight lifting sessions during or after your feeding windows, and do cardio before them.
3. Am I allowed to drink any liquids?
It depends highly on the beverage and the type of Intermittent fasting diet you may be following.
A good thumb rule is to avoid any calorie drinks when fasting. You can sip on some black coffee or black tea (without sugar). Water is a natural calorie free drink, so no restriction required.
Also, water may be required during fasting for good hydration and it fills your stomach, thus satisfying hunger. Fruit infused water can be added for variety. Not to forget, Skip those soda and alcohol drinks.
4. Can intermittent fasting lead to muscle loss?
Grant M Tinsley et al. Nut Rev. 2015 oct studies show that some amount of muscle mass (around 1kg) may be lost after several months of intermittent fasting.
When you lose weight, you typically loose both fat and muscle mass. Along with losing weight while fasting, if your body enters a calorie deficit, it is more likely that you will lose muscle mass also.
So, the fix is pretty easy. Count your calories and ensure you are consuming at least maintenance calories. Also studies have shown that inactivity or not using muscle is a bigger cause for muscle loss than intermittent fasting. So continue with your workouts or resistance training to keep your muscles intact.
5. Is there anyone that shouldn’t intermittently fast?
Pregnant women, lactating women and Diabetic people should refrain from intermittent fasting. In addition, people suffering from eating disorder like bulimia or anorexia nervosa shouldn’t intermittently fast.
Also in people who are engaged in tough sports, endurance and strength training activities, their body depends on the proper nutrient timings which can go for a toss with this diet plan.
6. I have heard that if you skip meals, your body goes into starvation mode and slows your metabolism, thinking that it is a “time of famine”. Is it true?
Intermittent fasting is a powerful weight loss tool. Fasting for short periods can actually improve your metabolism and metabolic health, not slow it down (J Webbar et al. Br J Nutr. 1994 March)
7. Can I eat all I want during my eating window since anyways I will be skipping a meal and making up for it?
Intermittent fasting does not focus on “what you eat, it focusses on “when you eat “. It is absolutely true that intermittent fasting allows you more freedom to eat what you want.
But some people make the mistake of eating too much of processed and junk food during the feeding window, hence undoing all the benefits of fasting.
If you are looking for a healthier overall, replace the junk and processed food with more of plant-based food, and cut back on the refined sugars.
8. Will I be hungry and tired the entire day since I will be starving myself?
Yes, you may feel tired and groggy, especially as an intermittent fasting newbie. Your body is running on less energy than usual. In addition, fasting increases stress levels, it can also disrupt your mental state and sleep pattern.
However Intermittent fasting gradually becomes easier as you ease yourself into it. Once your body adjusts to its new energy consumption pattern, it will make changes to the way your body operates — including feelings of hunger.
9. Which is the most effective way to practice intermittent fasting for weight loss benefits?
The 5:2 diet. This diet involves eating normally for 5 days a week while restricting your calorie intake to 500-600 for 2 days a week. You can then move towards fasting for 14 hours a day and gradually increase it to 16 hours.
10. Should I give up on my social life when intermittent fasting?
You might not necessarily have to miss out on those late-night dinners, birthday parties or meals with family and friends. Proper meal planning and implementation will help you to solve problems of having meals outside.
When a social activity comes up, you can modify your schedule to accommodate it. If required you can also take a break from intermittent fasting once in a while and resume your fasting schedule after a vacation, a weekend getaway or even a night out with friends.
11. Your personal opinions on intermittent fasting
We all must have fasted at some or the other point in life due to many religious occasions. Have you ever thought about the scientific reason behind it? You need to understand the concept of intermittent fasting and its effects on our body systems in order to decide for yourself if it is good for you.
However, if followed in the right manner with healthy eating options and adequate exercise, this diet can really prove good for weight loss.
12. The cons or issues that may arise due to intermittent fasting
This fasting may leave you ravenously hungry making you unproductive at work. It can cause fatigue, feeling of sickness and reduce blood sugar levels too.
Intermittent diet can be totally against mindful eating. It can cause digestion issues, nutrient deficiencies, electrolyte abnormalities and fertility and reproductive issues in women.
Hence, it is always recommended that you consult a dietician who can advice you based on your metabolism levels and health conditions.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sneha Jain, Dietician
Sneha is a Post graduate with specialization in Nutrition and Dietetics. She is a university topper and holds 5+ years of experience in Apollo hospitals, VLCC, slimsutra and first cry fit-kids . She has successfully counselled clients all over India for weight loss, weight gain, diabetes, hypertension, PCOD, hypothyroid, Pregnancy and lactation and growth charts for children. She has her own diet consultation e-clinic (diet_diariez)
She believes in customized diets and eating local and seasonal foods. Her counselling not only involves diet planning, but also lifestyle modification and stress relief strategies.