Intermittent fasting has become a trend. It’s said to help with weight loss, improve metabolic health, and perhaps even extend lifespan.
Mayo Clinic defines intermittent fasting as ‘not eating for a period of time each day or week’. Some popular approaches to intermittent fasting include, alternate-day fasting—that happens due to eating a normal diet one day and either completely fast or having one small meal (less than 500 calories) the next day.
5:2 fasting; this is eating a normal diet five days a week and fasting two days a week yet daily time-restricted fasting involves eating normally but only within an eight-hour window each day. For example, skip breakfast but eat lunch around noon and dinner by 8pm.
Intermittent fasting (IF) is an eating pattern that cycles between periods of fasting and eating. It doesn’t specify which foods you should eat, rather, when you should eat them. In this respect, it’s not a diet in the conventional sense, but more accurately described as an eating pattern.
Some studies suggest that alternate-day fasting is about as effective as a typical low-calorie diet for weight loss. That seems true because reducing the number of calories you eat should help you lose weight.
Losing weight and being physically active help lower your risk of obesity-related diseases, such as diabetes, sleep apnoea and some types of cancer. For these diseases, intermittent fasting seems to be about as beneficial as any other type of diet that reduces overall calories.
Although it is necessary to know that intermittent fasting can have unpleasant side effects, they usually go away within a month. Side effects may be hunger, fatigue, insomnia, nausea, headaches, and so forth.
Some research suggests that intermittent fasting may be more beneficial than other diets for reducing inflammation and improving conditions associated with inflammation, such as Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, asthma, multiple sclerosis and stroke.
Dieudonne Bukaba, a nutrition expert based in Kigali, is of the view that intermittent fasting is safe for many people, although not for everyone—skipping meals may not be the best way to manage your weight, especially if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.
“If you have kidney stones, gastroesophageal reflux, diabetes or other medical problems, it is advisable to talk to your doctor before starting intermittent fasting.
“This kind of fasting can be difficult, but as one’s body adjusts to a new way of consuming foods, the diet gets easier. The idea is to be more aware of what and when a person is eating— it gives them limits and boundaries.”
Bukaba says that intermittent fasting should go hand-in-hand with daily exercises, limiting or avoiding sugars, and choosing fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats.
While eating, he says, if you wish to lose weight, aim for a calorie level that supports a weight loss of less than two kilogrammes a week. On average, to lose almost one kilogramme a week, it will require you to cut out 500 calories a day.
“Drinking water in plenty is necessary as one plans to engage in fasting, but not to forget other fluids during the hours you are not consuming solid food. However, soda and beverages containing caffeine should be avoided, Bukaba says.