We’ve been told that, eat 3 meals a day, with snacks in between, or 5 small meals a day to boost your metabolism, and that putting your body on starvation mode will slow down your metabolism and losing weight will backfire at you if you reduce your number of meals daily. In fact, intermittent fasting (IF) increases your metabolic rate, it is now the key to losing excess weight, having good health, mind, and body. This reminds me of the holy Quran, most of what is mentioned for us to be engaged in, is for our own good. The prophet Mohamed has always been fasting twice a week, and now evidence points out to the benefits of IF. During the holy month of Ramadan, our 14 hours fasting is literally a form of the modernized way of saying IF.
What is intermittent fasting?
Our body is made to strive for a longer period without food, it is made to do the right thing just at the right time. IF can mean eating for 8 hours and fasting for the remaining 24-hour period or fasting for 20 hours and having 4 hours window period. It could also mean eating one meal a day every day or twice a week. Consistency is key when engaged in IF. I hear most people say, “I stop eating after 7pm till the next morning”, which is also a form of IF. Studies have shown that fasting for 16 hours kickstarts burning of stored fat, meaning it takes 16 hours for your body to consume calories that you have ingested before, for it to start burning excess fat stores, especially in the belly area. Try to avoid eating 3 hours before going to bed.
Strategies to losing belly fat through IF.
Before we dive into strategies to lose weight, let us first know the different types of fat, we have the subcutaneous fat, which is the fat underneath our skin and the visceral fat which is the fat wrapped around our organs. People have this false belief that abs exercise can help burn belly fat, it is through fasting that belly fat can be minimized. However, cardio exercise can help you lose belly fat, especially subcutaneous fat.
The first thing you need to realize is that fat is excess sugar, excess hormones, or toxins. Hence, if you want to lose belly fast, you can adopt the above IF schedule but to be mindful of what you eat and how much you eat. When breaking your fast, the first step is to eat high fiber and clean protein foods, to keep your insulin levels low. Eat green leafy vegetables, foods with probiotics and healthy fats like avocados. Avoid inflammatory fats like canola oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, vegetable oil and soybean oil. In addition, avoiding all processed food, eating natural carbs is the best way to achieve healthy goals apart from losing weight.
Practicing mindfulness can also help reduce belly fat indirectly because it reduces or prevents production of the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol production spikes up in the morning after waking up, hence it is best to go for a walk within 2 hours after you wake up. Stressful jobs or situations can also increase your cortisol levels, which translates to increased belly fat if you do not exercise, sitting on a chair the whole day at the office.
Intermittent fasting mistakes that make you gain weight.
Not varying your fast, i.e., not adopting different schedules of IF but just sticking to one. It is also important to take breaks during IF for like a week or two.
Not fasting long enough
Not eating the right foods and binge eating
Intermittent Fasting Benefits
IF helps to reduce insulin levels, increases levels of growth hormones which help in fat burning process.
Helps in gene expression which is related to prevention of certain diseases that lead to inflammation or cancer.
IF also helps in cellular repair i.e., removing toxic wastes from cells.
Can help you lose weight and increase physical performance.
Lowers risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) and helps reduce insulin resistance in T2DM. Studies have shown that people with T2DM who fast under their doctor’s supervision, have better glucose control and were able to reverse the need for insulin therapy.
Lowers blood pressure, bad cholesterol, and inflammatory markers.
May help prevent Alzheimer’s disease as it improves verbal memory.
Is intermittent fasting safe?
IF is safe for most people but not for everyone. If you are pregnant and breastfeeding you should not do IF, or if you have kidney stones, gastroesophageal reflux, type 1 diabetes, or other medical problems. Speak to your doctor before starting IF.
If thou wouldst preserve a sound body, use fasting and walking; if a healthful soul, fasting and praying; walking exercises the body, praying exercises the soul, fasting cleanses both. ~Francis Quarles
Dr. Manal Ghazzawi BPharm(Hons), PharmD, MPH, FWPCP
Specialist Pharmacist/ Consultant Clinical Pharmacist
CEO CitiGlobe Pharmacies Ltd
Founder Knowhep Sierra Leone