What is intermittent fasting?
With intermittent fasting, you don’t have to give up your favourite foods. It’s the time at which you eat which is important. From a historical perspective, this is not unusual for humans. Hunters returning empty-handed had to go hungry. Although involuntary, this meant that people in the past were fasting intermittently on a practically permanent basis. For this reason, fasting from time to time does not pose a problem to our bodies.
The 5:2 pattern of intermittent fasting
Eat normally for five days a week and «partly fast» for two. This is the best form of fasting for those who can't imagine not eating for a whole day. During the two days of fasting, you only consume 25% of the normal number of calories. For women this is 500kcal, and for men 600kcal. But no carbohydrates or fast food are permitted on these days. Perfect on these days are green smoothies, soups, any amount of vegetables and steamed fish.
The best solution is to always fast on the same days each week, as this enables the body to get used to these days. And even at the weekend, if possible, in order that you have enough energy for your work. You can still do sport, but it’s better to do more gentle activities such as yoga, Pilates or easy cycling – not strenuous workouts.
The small print
The 5:2 pattern has one small downside : due to the calorie intake, the fasting effect (autophagy) is not achieved and fat reduction is delayed. In addition, the body gets used to whole fasting days more quickly than it does to smaller meals.
The 16:8 pattern of intermittent fasting
The 16:8 pattern is ideal for beginners, since you fast for 16 hours of the day, and eat normally for the remaining 8 hours. This means, for example, that you eat dinner at 6.00 pm and eat breakfast the next day at 10.00 am. Or you eat later in the evening and miss out breakfast altogether.
In any case, it’s advisable to schedule the 16 hours overnight, as 8 hours ideally are spent sleeping. During the remaining time, you can drink water, unsweetened tea or black coffee. Experts recommend drinking 2 to 3 litres of water a day when fasting. Coffee suppresses hunger pangs and is therefore particularly popular with people who fast.
No need to go without
The good thing is that in the 8 hours when you’re allowed to eat, you don’t have to miss out on certain foods or count calories. Of course it’s advisable to follow your normal eating habits and not to overeat or fill up on sugary products.
Why 16 hours?
After 16 hours of fasting, the autophagy process takes place, i.e. the cells are taken away with the garbage. The 16 hours thereby serve as a time out for the body and relieve the gut at the same time. This makes fasting easy and socially feasible. If you want to ease into fasting gently, start with a 12-hour window and gradually work up to 16 hours.
Losing weight the healthy way with intermittent fasting
Which people are best suited to which pattern depends on the individual. The only way is to give it a try. Basically, intermittent fasting is an alternative way of kick-starting healthy weight loss and makes it easier to achieve results. However, it mustn’t be forgotten that a healthy lifestyle is essential. This includes a healthy diet, daily exercise and relaxation.
Who should not practise intermittent fasting?
If you belong to one of the following groups, you should either not practise intermittent fasting at all or consult your doctor first.
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women, or women planning a pregnancy.
- People who suffer from chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes.
- People on regular medication.
- People of an advanced age.
- Growing children and adolescents.
- People with eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia.
- Underweight people.
- Women who are missing their periods due to health reasons.