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Is Intermittent Fasting Actually Worth It?

No one should feel pressure to diet, especially in the diet culture of January. But, if you wish to learn more about fasting, here are the facts...


Intermittent fasting has actually been around for a long time and has been common practice in many religions for centuries. However, it didn't become a mainstream diet option until 2012 when a BBC reporter promoted it. Since then, it has become one of the most popular health and fitness trends of the last few years and is getting more popular by the day.


This diet can be done in different ways but the ultimate goal is to restrict your eating to smaller window of time than your usual diet. There is no specificity on what you should eat for any of the following types of fasting but, rather, when you should eat.

Dieting and salad

16/8 fast or Leangains protocol: this fast requires you to eat within an 8-hour period and suggests keeping it to 7am-3pm for the diet to be more affective. This is the most sustainable of all the fast as it is usually only a slight alteration on most people's diets.


Eat stop eat: this is probably the most difficult of these three fasts as it requires you to fast for 24-hours once or twice a week. However, thinking about this diet as 24 hour blocks can be intimidating but it still means eating every calendar day. If you start your fast at 8am on Wednesday and end at 8am Thursday, you will have a meal just before the fast and just after. This means you aren't fasting for any longer than the 24 hours required.


5/2 diet: this was probably the most popular fast of the last few years. It requires dieters to the consume only 500-600 calories for two, non-consecutive days in the week. This is a rather sustainable diet because you are still eating everyday but it can also be difficult to keep an eye on the number of calories that you eat on your fasting days.

 

How Does it Work

Bread and butter

So here is the science-y bit. The food we eat is broken down in our gut and eventually ends up in the bloodstream. Carbohydrates are broken down into sugars which our cells use for energy. Any excess sugar is stored in our fat cells as fat, with the help of insulin. Insulin is triggered when our blood sugar rises and this insulin then signals the body to store the extra sugar (are you following me so far?).


During fasting, insulin levels reduce and the stored sugar in our fat cells gets released to be used as energy. The point of fasting is to allow our insulin levels to go down for long enough so that we use up the fat for energy.

 

What Are The Potential Benefits?


Other than weight loss, intermittent fasting can have other benefits. Evidence has shown that fasting can have a positive effect on the brain and even increase verbal memory. It can improve blood pressure, resting heart rate and increase insulin sensitivity which, in turn, increases access to body fat for energy conversion. Some research has also shown that intermittent fasting reduces tissue damage and increases cellular repair.


All these benefits do need to be taken with a pinch of salt as much of the research was conducted on animals so might not be a reliable outlook for humans. However, intermittent fasting has shown to be an effective way to lose weight when mixed with a healthy lifestyle.

 

Is It Worth It?


There is evidence that intermittent fasting is effective in terms of weight loss and especially increased insulin sensitivity with the 16/8 diet. The 16/8 diet is least likely to cause negative effects such as mood swings or low blood sugar because it is a generally short fast which is a similar case with the 5/2 fast.


The eat stop eat diet is a controversial one as there isn't enough strong evidence to suggest that it is worth fasting for 24 hours. Eat stop eat can also lead to inadequate nutrient intake and disordered eating such as binging and obsessive thought of food.


The trouble with all types of fasting is that some can feel the need to compensate for the fasting period, eating more than what they normally would in the non-fasting period. This effectively makes the fasting period null and void. There also isn't enough research to suggest that fasting is more effective than other types of dieting. However, it can help with weight loss and, possibly, provide additional benefits over other diets.


It must be stressed that fasting should be discussed with your doctor before starting and fasting should be avoided by people with diabetes, eating disorders and who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

 

Quick Recipe - Lentil Soup


Whether you are dieting or not, I have added a quick and healthy recipe for you to enjoy. It is a delicious, hearty lentil soup that is really simple to make.


Prep time

5 minutes

Cook time

20-25 minutes

Serves

3-4

 
Lentil Soup Recipe
 

1 Medium brown onion

1 Garlic clove

800ml Water

170g Red split lentils

1 Stock cube

Salt to taste

 

Place all ingredients (minus the salt) in a small pan and bring to the boil.


Boil the ingredients for 10 minutes before removing from the heat and blending (stick blender is best but be careful because it can spit when blending).


Place back on the heat and bring to the boil. Boil for 5 minutes and its done. Add salt to taste and then enjoy!


You can boil it for longer if you prefer a thicker soup. Enjoy with your favourite crusty bread.

 

Health benefits


Red lentils are packed with B vitamins, zinc, magnesium and potassium. Lentils are also a great source of iron and are 25% protein which makes them ideal for low meat/ vegetarian diets. They are also high in fibre and we all know why that's good for us.


Onions are full of antioxidants, red onions in particular. They have been shown to support heart health and lower cholesterol. Onions have also shown certain antibacterial properties, great for immune support.

 

Have you enjoyed this recipe? Let me know by commenting or letting me know over social media


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About Me

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Hi and welcome to Baking with Sally. I am a food scientist, chocolatier and baker and it is

my passion to promote mindful nutrition and food waste reduction through EXCITING and DELICIOUS recipes.

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