Intermittent fasting has become all the rage lately, with celebrities such as Nicole Kidman and Kim Kardashian swearing by this latest health trend. With so much information on the internet, it can be difficult to sift through the confusing and utterly contradictory stats on intermittent fasting. While there’s nothing wrong with wanting to follow our favourite Kardashian’s lead (although we wouldn’t advise it), we thought we’d get an expert’s opinion.
We spoke to Gabi Meltzer, a registered dietitian based in Sea Point, Cape Town, in the hopes of getting the low-down on the good, the bad, and the ugly [side] of intermittent fasting.
First on our list of questions – binge eating. Over the years, intermittent fasting has gained a reputation for encouraging binge eating, but just how true is this? According to Gabi, intermittent fasting “may work for some, but it is not for everyone.”
For those of us who feel hungry in the mornings (hey there!), “suppressing these hunger signals and eating only once feeling starved and depleted of energy may lead to more difficulty in controlling the amount of food consumed as well as the type of food consumed.“
When this is the case, it becomes easier to consume equal to or higher amounts of calories than you would if you were on a more regular meal pattern. Gabi suggests focusing on eating when you’re hungry and when your body is asking for nutrients, as this can be more important than following any specific pattern as “one size does not fit all.”
“If you listen to your body’s hunger cues and eat nutritious, balanced meals and snacks it will be much easier to avoid overeating or binge-eating episodes,“ she says.
While fasting is a practice that many religions and cultures adhere to, intermittent fasting is often associated with shedding those extra kilos. According to Gabi, this type of eating pattern does have the potential to help you lose weight if the total energy consumed is less than the total energy expended, irrespective of how you decide to cut back on these calories.
“The key is the type of calories and the timing of the intake of these calories in order to feel the most satisfied, energised and sustained. In this way, healthy habits can fit into one’s lifestyle and can be sustained after the weight loss stage.”
However, this type of “weight loss” plan comes with a warning label.
“It is important to note that weight loss attempts and continuous weight cycling can create more weight management problems in the long run. It is for this reason that unnecessary weight loss attempts following countless different diets should be avoided. Weight management is successful only when goals are individualized, realistic, maintainable as well as contribute to overall well-being,” she warns.
If you’re currently on an intermittent fasting journey and you’re searching for the best foods to break your fast with, a balanced meal that incorporates a variety of nutrients is best. Think, high fibre carbohydrate sources that will help you sustain your energy and blood sugar levels. Here are a few of her recommendations:
- Carbohydrate Source: Wholegrains/legumes/starchy vegetables with the skins on.
- Lean source of protein: Skinless chicken/eggs/low fat dairy products/legumes/tofu/tempeh/lean beef/ostrich/venison/seafood/fish
- Healthy source of fat: Avo/tahini/hummus/nuts/seeds/olives
- Lots of colour: Vegetables/salad/fruit for fibre, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals
For those looking for an alternative practice to intermittent fasting because they suffer from blood sugar challenges, she suggests portion-controlled and nutritionally balanced regular meals with small snacks in intervals of three hours.
“This would work best for those who feel hunger more often or those who experience dips in blood sugar levels which lead to cravings, fatigue and high hunger levels,” says Gabi.
No matter your reasons for trying intermittent fasting, remember to always listen to your body and give it the nutrients that it needs when it needs it.
For online or in-person consultations with Gabi, make sure you visit her website for more information: www.gabimeltzerdietician.com
Facebook: Gabi Meltzer Registered Dietician
Picture: Juan Moyano