Fasting for Begınners
Heard about the benefits of going without food for a period of time but think you’ve no willpower? You need to try a micro-fast.
Are you determined to clean up your diet or lose weight this year? Before you start cutting the calories or hitting the green juice, consider this: the latest research suggests it might not be so much about what you eat as when you eat it.When The 5:2 Diet burst onto the scene in 2012, it seemed destined to be another fad diet, sure to fizzle out after the initial hype. Yet five years on, support for intermittent fasting (cycling your diet between periods of eating and non-eatingis stronger than ever, backed by an impressive body of scientific research.While best known for its weight-loss results, it’s the potential health benefits of intermittent fasting that are most impressive, from reducing the risk of diabetes and heart disease to boosting cellular repair and slowing down the ageing process. As the scientific evidence mounts, more health andnutrition experts are advocating the benefits of restricted eating patterns and giving our bodies a break from the demands of digestion.‘Humans evolved during periods of regular feast and famine, so our bodies are designed for going without food for certain periods of time,’ says GP Dr Rangan Chatterjee, author of new book The 4 PillarPlan:How to Eat, Sleep,Relax and MoveYour Way to ate ’Longer, HealthierLife by (PenguinLife, £12.99).But the modern environment, inwhich we’re surrounded by temptationsto eat, means we tend to inundateoursystems.’
Heard About The Benefits Of Going Without Food For A Period Of Time But Think You’Ve No Willpower? You Need To Try A Micro-Fast Photo Gallery
Give your body a break from eating and a ‘health-promoting cascade’ of beneficial metabolic effects is triggered, says Chatterjee. And the good news is you don’t need to deprive yourself of food for lengthy periods for your body to see the benefits. ‘After six to eight hours, the liver has used up its internal fuel stores and the body starts to burn fat,’ says Chatterjee.‘After about 12 hours, a process called autophagy kicks in. This is your body sorting out the mess that builds up as a by-product of it going about its daily functions. İt busies itself with cellular repair, immune system repair and a host of other essential maintenance projects. Eating all your food in a restricted time window allows your body to enhance its own natural house-cleaning,’ adds Chaterjee.To help trigger this process the easy way, the GP advocates daily micro-fasts, shortening your eating window – the length of time between the start of your first meal of the day and the end of your last – to 12 hours. So, for instance, if you eat breakfast at 7am, you’ll aim to finish your last meal of the day by 7pm. ‘İt’s possible to enhance these benefits by shortening our eating window even more, but 12 hours is manageable and long enough for most of us to see real benefits,’ says Chatterjee. The reported benefits of shortening your eating window include lower levels of inflammation, improved blood-sugar control, enhanced detoxification and improved appetite signalling.
ALL ABOUT TIMING
So when should you eat your first and last meal? Research suggests that eating earlier in the day may be best, rather than skipping breakfast, which is often recommended by intermittent fasting programmes. ‘Human studies are already hinting that scheduling an earlier evening meal – or skipping it completely – may bemore beneficial than not having breakfast,’ says Chatterjee. İndeed, just as the human body has sleep/ wake cycles, it seems that our metabolic and nutrition systems are influenced by circadian rhythms and, once night falls, the body starts to wind down its digestive processes, ready to divert its energies to recuperation and repair. ‘İf you ask me, we’re not meant to be eating just before wego to bed – we’ve evolved to eat in the light,’ says Chatterjee. ‘Today, we’re eating out of sync with our natural rhythms. Time-restricted eating helps us readjust and give the body what it’s expecting at the time it’s expecting it, so it can make the most efficient use of the fuel we swallow.’Can’t imagine surviving your evenings without eating? Give it a try and you may be surprised, says Chatterjee. ‘Recently, İ experimented by not eating after 7pm. İ found it surprisingly easy,’ he says. ‘As it turned out, eating later was just a habit. When İ stopped it, İ felt more energetic, had better sleep and was a little lighter in myself.’ Here’s how to give it a try.
HOW TO MICRO-FAST
Here are Dr Chatterjee’squick tips to get you on track
1. Choose a 12-hour eating window (from the beginning of your first meal to the end of your last meal) that suits your lifestyle.
2 Your body likes rhythm, so try to keep to the same times every day, even at weekends.
3 Outside your eating window, stick to water, herbal tea or black tea and coffee.
4 Try to involve members of your household or even work colleagues to help keep you motivated and increase your chances of success.
5 Don’t worry if you miss a day or two. When you feel ready, try again.
6 Once you’re feeling comfortable with 12 hours, you can experiment with shorter eating windows on different days. See how it makes you feel and adjust accordingly.
The 4 Pillar Plan: How to Eat, Sleep, Relax and Move Your Way to a Longer, Healthier Life by Dr Rangan Chatterjee(Penguin Life, £12.99) is out now.