By Jenny Phillips our LowCarbTogether Nutritionist
Intermittent Fasting (IF) can be as simple as eating three good meals per day with nothing in between. Snacking is a modern invention and the current advice of “eat little and often” may not be helpful for many people (although exceptions could be if you are very unwell or need to gain or maintain weight).
When I first followed a programme requiring three meals and no snacks, with only water between meals, I was not happy! I always planned for several healthy snacks and believed the dogma of eating little and often. I was shocked to find out this simply wasn’t true. Instead, IF was truly liberating. I now coach most of my clients to follow three good meals a day with about 5 hours in between, which gives an “eating window” of 10–11 hours and an overnight fasting period of 13–14 hours. Quite simply, when you fast, provided you have low insulin levels, you switch into burning fat stores.
As Dr Unwin mentions, your body is like the engine of a hybrid car – running beautifully on either fat or glucose. This is liberating because eating less frequently saves both time and money. It is convenient, as you don’t constantly need to be searching for food.
The other brilliant benefit of IF is that you can regulate your weight easily without reducing your metabolic rate. Once you become “fat adapted” (using fat as energy), it becomes easy to reduce the number of mealtimes further to reduce your calorie intake, without feeling hungry.
Many of us on the lowcarbtogether team frequently skip breakfast, and on one day a week I eat one meal. In contrast, even the smallest low-calorie snack can cause fat-burning to grind to a halt. Low-calorie foods are almost always low fat, which means that they are mostly carbs and hence they increase insulin levels. Unfortunately, this prevents your body from being able to access fat stores; instead, it faces a calorie deficit that can, over time, reduce your metabolic rate.
In a study of people following a combination of calorie restriction and vigorous physical exercise, significant weight loss was achieved but at the expense of the Resting Metabolic Rate (the number of calories required to maintain life). This reduced by more than 700 calories a day and means that when normal eating is resumed rapid weight gain becomes almost inevitable.