Intermittent fasting is the practice of calorie restriction for a certain number of days during the week. Some people fast on alternate days, either not eating at all or reducing calories to a minimum; usually 20 per cent of normal daily intake. Others, restrict calorie intake on three days a week, say Monday, Wednesday and Friday. On the non-fasting days there are no restrictions, although it isn't a good idea to exceed the recommended intake for your age, height and activity level.
The advantages of intermittent fasting are that you can fit it around your lifestyle, and you lose the sense of deprivation, knowing you can eat the following day. James B. Johnson, M.D., author of “The Alternate Day Diet,” claims that fasting for short periods is beneficial to health and improves and prevents conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, inflammation and asthma.
As with any radical weight loss program, you should consult your GP beforehand.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
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Things you need
- Bathroom scale (optional)
- Calorie counter
Weigh yourself, decide on how much weight you want to lose and calculate the calories required to maintain your ideal weight. The NHS website (see references at the end of this article) has some useful information. They say the average man needs around 2,500 calories per day, and the average woman around 2,000. That will be the amount you consume on “feasting” days. Make a note of your current weight and plan on weighing once a week. The best time is on the morning of a feasting day, before breakfast.
Work out how many calories you need to consume on your fasting days. It is very difficult to get through the day on nothing apart from water, so you may find it easier if you hold to 20 per cent; for a man that would be 500, and for a woman, 400 calories per day.
Plan your eating program. Decide which days will fit in with your lifestyle. For example, some people will find it hard to fast on the weekend, so they restrict their fasting to week days. You may prefer a cycle of two days fasting and three feasting. You might want to build up to your chosen cycle slowly, restricting calories for just one day during the first week, two days the second week and three in the third.
Decide on how you wish to consume your calories on fasting days. Your calorie counter will help you here. You could choose to make up a smoothie recipe and divide it into portions to sip throughout the day. You may prefer to consume your calories in one meal or two smaller ones. It is down to preference, and you can always alter and adapt as you progress.
Begin your first day of calorie restriction. It will be difficult at first, and it helps to remind yourself that you will be eating normally the next day. Remember to include the calorific value of any drinks you consume. It's probably a good idea to only drink water, however, if you are regular coffee or tea drinker, you may experience headaches.
Eat normally the following day but don't over-do it. It is tempting to eat the contents of the fridge in order to “stock up” calories for the next fasting day, but this will compromise your chances of losing weight. You don't have to count calories on these days if you are sensible, but you might find it easier if you do for the first few weeks.
Tips and warnings
- Make the diet fit around your lifestyle. For example, if a special occasion falls on a fasting day, simply adjust your calorie intake around it. Say the occasion is taking place on Saturday but you would be fasting on Thursday and eating normally on Friday. Fast as usual on Thursday and restrict to 50 or 60 percent of normal intake on Friday. Eat what you want on Saturday, restrict to 50 or 60 per cent on Sunday and fast on Monday.
- Drink plenty of water to keep hydrated and to stave off hunger pangs. You may find that hot water is preferable to cold; add a slice of lemon to liven it up.
- You can use a book, app or website as your calorie counter and guide.
- It is not recommended you fast for longer than two consecutive days without consulting your GP.
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