I Tried Eating All My Food Between 10am and 6pm
- August 28, 2021
You’ve heard of the potential health benefits of intermittent fasting: advocates of the 5:2 diet – in which you have five days of eating normally and two days on 500-600 calories – have made some pretty bold claims about it’s possible outcomes, including enhanced cognitive function and protection against conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
(To note: there is not scientific consensus on this – and the jury is very much still out.)
But the latest incarnation of this idea is somewhat simpler.
The 16:8 entails consuming all of your food in an eight hour window. If you are looking to lose weight in a safe, sustainable way, then it’s been suggested that this could be one way of doing it.
To see how compatible it is with real life, one writer tried intermittent fasting out.
Here’s the results.
Intermittent fasting results: I tried eating in an 8 hour window
It’s 9pm and my boyfriend is sitting opposite me devouring dinner. I, on the other hand, am clutching a glass of water, my last meal a distant memory at 5.45pm and my next not till 10am tomorrow.
I’m on week four of trying 16:8 intermittent fasting. I can eat anything and everything, as long as I consume it all within one eight-hour window per day, then give my body 16 hours off food.
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How does intermittent fasting work?
‘In our evolutionary history, we never had regular meals,’ explains nutritionist Petronella Ravenshear. ‘The idea of set mealtimes is relatively new.’
Time-restricted feeding goes against the popular ‘eat little and often’ wave of nutritional advice – research has suggested eating multiple small meals a day maintains a healthy metabolism and stabilises blood sugar levels.
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However, in a new study, the 16:8 was found to be effective at both reducing fat percentage and maintaining healthy muscle mass. And further research found it could prolong your life by allowing your body ‘rest’ time – called autophagy – to do its ‘housekeeping’: killing off bad cells and regenerating the useful ones.
‘Fasting also increases a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which helps with memory, learning and cognitive function,’ says Ravenshear.
How do I start intermittent fasting?
‘It might be wise to gradually ease into longer periods of fasting,’ says Dana Hunnes, PhD, RD, a senior dietitian at Ronald Reagan-UCLA Medical Center.
However, she points out, the long-term weight loss benefits from the 16:8 diet i.e. intermittent fasting weren’t that much greater than those you’d reap if you just ate less throughout the day or switched to a more plant-based diet—so you could try simply cutting back on how much you’re eating or adding in more plant-based foods, too.
‘It’s a personal choice, and everyone needs to make these choices based on their own lifestyles and ability,’ Hunnes says.
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Who should not do intermittent fasting?
People with diabetes, kidney disease, or certain metabolic disorders. These conditions can alter your body’s balance, storage, and use of insulin and glucose, making the 16:8 diet a possibly unsafe choice, says Hunnes.
Another no-go? Pregnant and breastfeeding mamas. In short, you’re eating for two, and you’d be depriving you and your baby of essential food, nutrients, and much-needed energy when you need it.
Otherwise? If you’re interested, give it a try.
Intermittent fasting meal plan: the reality
I set my eating window from 10am to 6pm. Even though I didn’t change my diet (a typical day would be porridge with fruit and nuts at 10am, a chicken stir-fry at 2pm and salad topped with avocado at 5.45pm), only consuming food between set hours came as a shock.
Despite snacking on fruit and chocolate and upping my water intake to three litres, my stomach frequently growled and I got crippling headaches.
But within a couple of weeks, my body had adapted and I felt less bloated and more energised. Plus, it’s pretty hard to overeat when you only have eight hours, so the inches gradually fell away.
Weekends were tough. All that extra time to notice you’re not eating, and the antisocial aspect of not being able to make it to brunch and dinner.
The pay-off is that you’re only restricting when, not what you’re eating. And fasting for 16 hours isn’t as daunting as it sounds when you factor in sleep.
But Ravenshear stresses the importance of not taking the eat-whatever-you-like approach too literally. ‘Fill up with protein-rich ingredients and healthy fats and avoid the empty calories in sugars and refined carbs if you want real long-term results.’
Intermittent fasting benefits and does it really work?
So what are intermittent fasting results? After eight weeks, I’d lost 4lbs, 3.5in from my waist and 2in from my hips – plus I felt more confident.
That said, I’m not sold on the sustainability of this diet plan. So much fun happens after 6pm.
The research behind intermittent fasting
So what’s the actual research behind intermittent fasting—does science believe it can work, or is it just another wellness fad sure to shade from the limelight as quickly as the Atkins diet?
Whilst the number of studies carried out on the matter is still fairly limited, one 2017 study in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine found that those who followed a fasting diet every other day or a restricted calorie diet every day lost the same amount of weight.
However, it’s interesting to note that 38% of the fasters dropped out of the trial, which may reflect how unattainable the approach is long term.
On the other hand, several studies have found fasting to promote fat loss. One study in Int J Obesity found intermittent fasting to be more effective for fat loss in young women than a calorie controlled diet and further improved insulin sensitivity.
Similarly, a study published in the journal Free Radical Bio Med saw those following a fasting diet lost 8% of their body fat over the course of eight weeks, whilst at the same time lowering their inflammation, oxidative stress and asthma levels.
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Interestingly, they also ranked higher on quality of life symptoms at the end of the eight weeks.
And another study published in the J Nutr Biochem journal concluded that fasting could reduce stress, promote quicker learning and memory function and stereotypical improve biomarkers of disease.
The nutritionist’s verdict on intermittent fasting
Nutritionist Resource member Ruth Taylor said: ‘Intermittent fasting is proving to be a simple and safe method to help support weight loss and can also help reverse type two diabetes for some people. It is an easy to adapt method of eating that fits in with most lifestyles.’
So there you have it. Would you try it?
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