The idea of boosting metabolism is something people trying to lose weight are familiar with. Metabolism is the rate at which your body uses fuel. A high and fast metabolism is preferable for weight loss. It enables your body to use food before it is stored as fat. If you eat less food than you need a fast metabolism can enable you to burn fat stores on your body. There are several well established ways to boost your metabolism, including eating regular small meals, exercising in the morning and building muscle. But recently a number of scientists and nutritionists have been discussing the idea of boosting metabolism through intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting, AKA ‘The 5:2 Diet’, involves consuming less than 500 calories (600 calories for men) on two non-consecutive days each week. On non-fasting days, AKA ‘feeding days’, you can eat whatever you want. According to some scientists and nutritionists intermittent fasting every second day could be an effective solution to reducing your weight and lowering your risk of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and heart disease. That is, not only can intermittent fasting help you lose weight, it can also improve your health and enable you to live a longer life.
INTERMITTENT FASTING: THE 5:2 DIET
The 5:2 Diet has been given a lot of publicity lately. A BBC documentary by Dr Michael Mosley, ‘Eat, Fast and Live Longer’ follows Dr Mosely as he loses 6kg and a quarter of his body fat in 6 weeks. Also, it notes his ‘borderline diabetic’ blood glucose level and cholesterol level dropped and his blood pressure improved. The program concludes that his risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and premature death have dropped.
But is the 5:2 intermittent fasting ‘diet’ another fad and similar to Atkins, Lemon Detox, etc, etc…? Intermittent fasting works on the premise that reducing your body’s need to constantly digest food allows it to rest and therefore has a lot of health benefits apart from just reducing calories. Devotees to the diet have documented a lot of successful weight loss from fasting. They have also reported side effects. These include difficulty sleeping and mild anxiety, particularly in the early stages.
INTERMITTENT FASTING: CRITICISM
Intermittent fasting is also not without its critics. For people who are doing regular exercise, particularly heavy training, going without fuel is potentially dangerous, particularly as a long-term weight loss strategy. Generally, fitness professionals recommend a balanced diet of healthy wholegrain carbohydrates, lean proteins, healthy fats, fruits and of course generous servings of vegetables.
In my opinion, intermittent fasting sounds like a sensible way to give your body occasional rest from the rigors of constant digestion. If you’re doing it in a way that amounts to a ‘diet’, however, then you’re taking it too far. And it shouldn’t be something long term. Healthy eating and regular exercise are the keys to a healthy lifestyle. Effective long term weight loss and maintenance are the natural consequences. I think it’s best to avoid fad diets or extreme workout routines.
THE 5:2 DIET: WHAT’S INVOLVED?
Eating 500 calories a day is something everyone does from time to time. A couple of eggs for breakfast, a healthy salad for lunch and a piece of lean white meat and vegetables for dinner would keep you under the limit. Just don’t expect you’ll have the energy to run for any length of time on the treadmill. You simply won’t have the energy. That’s where a healthy balanced diet is important – energy and nutrition. Paired with regular strenuous exercise calories are good. They enable you to power through your day effectively and keep your heart pumping and your lungs sucking in oxygen to feed your muscles and your brain.
Being overweight is a significant health worry and simply eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly may not be sufficient to force your body to burn the fat that is slowly knocking years off your life. You need to act and act fast to make a change. If you’re in this situation, whether you’re considering intermittent fasting or the 5:2 diet or not, you need to see your GP and get medical advice before you start trying to lose weight. Seeing a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise program is good advice for anyone.
ANOTHER FAD DIET?
Fad diets come and go with sufficient regularly to indicate they are not providing people with sufficient long term benefits. If you go without any food group for a period of time you’re likely to lose weight as your body adjusts to the change. The biggest worry with these diets is when they end and you have to go back to regular eating – and possibly old habits.
Whether you’re contemplating intermittent fasting or any other diet – fad or otherwise – make sure you are also considering your lifestyle after the diet ends. Do something to put in place a way to improve your lifestyle in a way you can sustain. Intermittent fasting may be a good addition to many people’s health generally, provided it is something that is done in moderation. But isn’t that the golden rule, anyway?