By Dr Paul Kasenene
I have been considering doing intermitent fasts as a way of losing weight. I do not know whether they are effective or if I can manage because I feel hungry when I miss even one meal. David
Intermittent fasting is popular these days. And for a good reason. When the body goes without food for a while, what we call fasting, two important things happen.
First, the body experiences mild stress and tries to increase efficiency and prepare for tough times. This mild stress brings about increased repair, increased elimination of toxins and recycling of nutrients. Consequently, your body functions better. Of course, fasting for too long has negative impacts.
Second, the body often runs out of glucose, its primary source of fuel, and begins to rely on ketones, a source of fuel that comes from fats stored in the body. Therefore, the body begins to breakdown fat as a source of energy. Breaking down fat can lead to weight loss which is why many people would like to have ketones as their primary source of fuel.
Intermittent fasting can, therefore, be something quite healthy. It can be done in various ways. The most common is what is called 16:8 fasting, where you fast for 16 straight hours and eat only over a window of 8 hours. For example, dinner at 6 pm and breakfast at 10 am. Others do what is called OMAD (One Meal A Day). And others fast whole days or more. The idea is that there should be a long enough period without food.
That said, your body should be able to go 16 hours without food comfortably. Do not be afraid to go without food for a short while. Besides, intermittent fasting should be a comfortable process. If it is not and you feel bad or very uncomfortable, then your body will no longer experience mild stress but moderate to extreme stress which will undermine the benefits of the fast. So, always ensure you are comfortable. Begin with a 12-hour fast and slowly but comfortably work your way to 16 hours or more. Again, please do not overdo it, or it becomes stressful on the body.
By the way, intermittent fasting is not a new and western concept. It was always a part of traditional African life. People ate early dinners and later breakfast after going out to work or dig.
Intermittent fasting is something we should all occasionally do but always listen to your body. If you feel hungry, eat but next time try to go longer without food. Eventually, your body will adapt. However, if you have diabetes or any other medical condition, seek the advice of your doctor before doing intermittent fasting.