Monday, 30th October 2017

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Fasting mode: On

Intermittent fasting is a practice that is deep-rooted in our culture with many plus points. Here are some benefits (and myths!)

By Karan Kakkad
  • Published 3.02.20, 12:22 AM
  • Updated 3.02.20, 12:22 AM
  • 3 mins read
  •  
(Shutterstock)

There is a lot of conventional wisdom on eating right that we keep hearing, like having more fibre-rich foods, focusing more on plant foods and most of these advices revolve around what to eat and how much to eat. However, a third parameter is also gaining a lot of popularity these days, namely ‘when to eat’. This technique — known as intermittent fasting — seems to be the talk these days. So let us understand in details as to what actually is intermittent fasting and everything you need to know about it.

What is intermittent fasting?

The basic concept or the physiology of intermittent fasting requires you to eat all the calories and nutrients you would ordinarily consume throughout the day within a specific time window. In simple terms, from the time you finish your dinner, you should give a minimum of 12 hours fasting time. Lot of people do 14 hours or even 16 hours but the minimum rule of thumb is 12 hours. Hence, intermittent fasting is not a diet; it is a pattern of eating. It is a lifestyle habit.

The science behind intermittent fasting

Japanese cell biologist Dr Yoshinori Ohsumi won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2016 for his research on autophagy. Autophagy is a process whereby cells recycle and renew themselves. During autophagy, cells destroy viruses and bacteria and get rid of damaged structures. It’s a process that is critical for cell health, renewal and survival. Dr Ohsumi showed that in people who get affected by cancers, Alzheimer’s and many other devastating diseases, the body cannot clean itself, that is, the process of autophagy stops. He then went on to prove that intermittent fasting reactivates the process of autophagy, which helps to slow down the ageing process and has a positive impact on cell renewal and overall health.

Should one do it and why?

If intermittent fasting suits you, then you should definitely make it your lifestyle. The reason is very simple. The digestive system has billions of enzymes that can either digest food or can clean our system. Shutting down the process of digestion for a while is important because the digestive system utilises nearly 80 per cent of our body’s energy, leaving merely 20 per cent for other processes, like detoxification, repair, healing, growth and rejuvenation. So by giving a break to your digestive processes for a while, the body is able to direct all its energy towards healing and detoxification.

How to fast intermittently

There are a number of ways to actually perform intermittent fasting, but the easiest and most popular varieties involve taking advantage of your natural overnight fast by skipping breakfast and pushing the first meal of the day back a number of hours. Once you have passed the 12-hour mark from dinner the night before, you are truly in a fasted state and you begin to rely on stored body fat for fuel. The longer you stay in fasting state, the more metabolic practice you will get at burning stored body fat and the deeper your fat adaptation will get.

The benefits

Right from losing weight, to correcting high blood pressure, detoxifying the body, healing lifestyle diseases like diabetes, fatty liver and also promoting healthy ageing, intermittent fasting has a key role to play. According to Johns Hopkins Health Review, intermittent fasting can improve connections in the brain’s hippocampus and also protect against amyloid plaques, which are found in patients with Alzheimer’s.

How to break intermittent fasting?

Irrespective of whatever number of hours we follow — 12 or 14 or 16 — the best way to break intermittent fasting is with a fruit or green tea which are comparatively easy to digest. Many people after doing 16 hours of intermittent fasting, straight away have their lunch, which is not a good idea.

What should I eat during...

Drink water. There is no better way to keep your body hydrated and metabolism working at an optimum level. Try to avoid green or black tea or any herbal infusion, like jeera water.

Myths

There are many myths that revolve around intermittent fasting. A few of them are…

Intermittent fasting means only 16 hours: It is a myth. The minimum number of hours has to be 12. It can be more than that depending on your convenience and health issues.

It is not good for diabetic people: It is extremely beneficial for diabetic patients as it helps in lowering blood sugar levels and treating insulin resistance.

If I don’t eat will I get low blood sugar? Studies have shown that healthy persons who have no underlying medical conditions, who are not taking any diabetes medications, can fast for extremely long periods of time without suffering from any hypoglycemia.

Is it okay to exercise while fasting? Absolutely. In fact, combining fasting with endurance exercise can produce superior changes in body weight, body composition and lipid indicators of heart disease risk, compared to either exercise or fasting alone.

Who should not do it?

It is not recommended for pregnant women.

Karan Kakkad is a nutrigenomics and disease reversal expert. His passion in medical nutrition led to the birth of Reverse Factor, which is backed by an extensive research in nutrigenomics — the scientific study of the interaction of nutrition and genes. Visit www.reversefactor.in for more information. He tweets @karan_kakkad