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Intermittent Fasting- Commonly Asked Questions

Last week I wrote a blog where I discussed the basics of intermittent fasting (IF).

If you do a quick ‘Dr Google’ search on IF you will be inundated with information and it’s so hard to sieve out the facts from the fiction. The scientific evidence itself is also a tad confusing, as many of the studies done are either on animals or small subject groups, producing mixed results.

The bottom line is, there is validity in why IF has so much attention, but more validating research needs to be done.


Should I be Intermittent Fasting?

Well, that question is dependant on who you are, what medical history you have and what your health goal is. IF is not a ‘one size fits all’ solution; in fact, there are certain groups of people that should not be fasting at all:

  • Women who are breastfeeding or pregnant
  • Women who might have fertility problems, a history of amenorrhea (skipping periods) or hormonal problems
  • Anyone with a poor relationship with food or has a history of eating disorders
  • Those with diabetes and on insulin or other treatment
  • Anyone who is underweight or has severe nutritional deficiencies
  • Those who are on chronic medication for an illness (would need to consult with their doctor and dietitian)
  • Those with thyroid, adrenal or circadian rhythm disturbances (would need to consult with a health professional)

If you are interested in IF and whether it will work for you, it is advisable to discuss it with a healthcare professional who can guide you appropriately.


Is there anything I can have during the fasted state?

Yes. You can consume anything that has a zero caloric value. This includes black tea and coffee (no milk or sugar) as well as water. It’s a great time to stay hydrated, which will also help in opening your bowels.


Can I eat whatever I want on the days or hours that I am not fasting?

Technically there are no restrictions in dietary intake, as IF is about food timing rather than dietary restrictions. To good to be true?! If you find yourself gluttonising during non-fasting hours with a mentality of ‘making up for lost time’, I fear you will not succeed at achieving your goal, especially if it’s weight loss.

Don’t fall into this IF trap. If you are eating in excess of your daily caloric requirement, especially if it’s processed foods high in fat and refined carbohydrates, you will undo all the benefits that IF can possibly provide.


So, what should I eat during non-fasting hours?

Firstly, and most importantly, you should be eating mindfully. Letting your tummy hunger guide you as to how much you should be eating and stopping when you are full. Over-eating because you fasted is not the right mindset to have and can lead to increased insulin levels and inflammatory markers.

If your goal is weight loss, then it is still important to try and create a caloric deficit by eating less calories than you burn.

All the tips for ensuring you are nourishing your body and mind on a deeper level still apply. A well-balanced meal and snack are important to ensure you still get all your macronutrients, micronutrients and a variety of bioactive ingredients:

  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day and stay hydrated
  • Ensure you limit refined carbohydrates and focus on low GI starches and root vegetables
  • Include fibre in your daily intake by eating vegetables, fruit (in a limited portion), grains and legumes
  • Pile up on your green leafy and cruciferous vegetables as those are like diamonds on our plate
  • Avoid fatty, processed or charred animal-based proteins. Increase your intake of oily fish (salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, herring, trout). Try incorporating more plant-based proteins into your meals.


Will skipping meals slow down my metabolism?

Research shows that IF helps to ‘flip the metabolic switch’, from using glucose as fuel sources to using fats as a source of fuel . IF for short periods of time have been shown to increase resting energy expenditure , whereas longer fasts, where the fast is kept for more than 3 days, have been shown to reduce energy expenditure, and can be harmful. It is important to bear in mind that individualisation is key, and some people need structured and regular eating to re-develop their hunger intuition.


Am I breaking my fast if I take my supplements?

This is all dependant on what supplements you are taking and whether they have significant caloric value. If you are referring to shakes that contain calories, then the answer is no. If you are referring to certain vitamins and minerals (not in an effervescent form as it usually contains sugar), then you most certainly can. Remember that some supplements need to be taken with a meal to increase their absorption.


When should I be exercising when I’m Intermittent Fasting?

This question is a tricky one, as it all depends on what training you are doing, how long you are training for, what your training goal is as well as whether you exercise better on a fasted or fuelled state.

If you are exercising for a short period of time, e.g. a 30-minute cardio session, it may be beneficial to do it on a fasted state as some studies show that this will increase your ability to use fat stores as fuel.

There comes a point, though, where your body may start using protein (muscle) stores as fuel, resulting in muscle loss rather than gain. You also might find that your inner energizer bunny starts to lose battery power, and that exercising on a fasted state really dampens your performance levels.

Food rich in protein will allow for muscle repair and building, thus the timing of fasting and exercising is important here.Exercising in conjunction with long-term fasting may slow down your metabolism which will be a huge bummer.

Obviously, the most important thing is to listen to your body, or work with a health professional to maximise the impact.


What is the most sustainable eating approach?

I implore you to ask that to yourself!!! I am an advocate for balanced healthy eating; everything in moderation. If a certain lifestyle is not healthy or sustainable for you then that’s that. If you find that certain fasting methods or fasting in general causes imbalanced eating with extreme hunger, then compliance will be poor and its not for you. Maybe you do need to have breakfast and eat regularly for many reasons. Learn what is good for your body for health and go with it.

And, once again, If you are thinking of IF for your healthy lifestyle then it is best to speak to a dietitian or health professional first.


Nourish yourself to the sunrise.

Written with love ,
Sunrise by HM

Nourished yet? Comment on what I should write about next?

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