Does Fasting Work?

Does fasting work
Does fasting work

You might have heard about the Fast Diet – it’s the biggest diet trend at the moment. Back in 2012, Michael Moseley, a GP, appeared on BBC’s ‘Horizon’ programme, talking about the ways that intermittent fasting could improve health and weight.

In early 2013, Lifehouse Spa in Essex launched a spa break based around the principles, aimed at bringing the benefits of fasting to older people, in a healthy way. Also in 2013, Michael Moseley and Mimi Spencer published a book about the diet which has been on the best seller list ever since. So, what’s it all about? I asked Sue Davis from Lifehouse if she’d explain it for us…

“I first came across the concept of restricting calories for health when I chose ‘Human Ageing’ as an elective subject for my Human Health Science degree. The focus was very much on telomeres. These are protective caps at the end of chromosomes which shorten with age and act as significant biomarkers of cellular ageing. Short telomeres have been linked to a whole host of health problems ranging from diabetes, heart disease and dementia to premature death. I learnt that calorie restriction was one way to extend the length of telomeres and ultimately the lifespan of a human.

“We are designed to fast and in many cultures and religions fasting forms a regular and significant part of people’s lives. As man evolved there would have been periods of gluttony interspersed with very little sustenance being available. Man survived these periods of feast and famine and now, through further scientific research, as featured on the BBC programme Horizon last year, calorie restrictive regimes have become popularised as the new non-diet and way of life.

“Calorie restriction is nothing new and has been known about for many years. Anti-ageing specialists, especially in Europe, prescribe ‘dinner cancellation’ twice a week. This involves missing dinner on two non-consecutive days of the week. Since the bulk of calories often feature in the evening meal this serves to reduce the calories in a day quite significantly. This tactic or intermittent calorie restriction, whereby a normal daily calorie intake is reduced to 25%, triggers certain mechanisms in the body to switch from continual growth mode to repair mode. Thus the life span of an individual cell is programmed to live for longer. The other important benefit of calorie restriction is the reduction of Insulin-Like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1). Good supplies are needed to create a full size adult but once a human has stopped growing it would appear high levels of IGF-1 can be responsible for accelerated ageing and even cancer.

“With my wedding looming in June I have been on the 5:2 regime, as it is popularly known, for a month and the weight has been steadily coming off. I’ve found that hunger comes in waves and you can feel a little light headed when you first start out. I start the day with a hemp protein and super greens smoothie and then drink green tea and water throughout the day until around 5.00pm when I have dinner. That’s it until bedtime. There have been weight fluctuations but overall the weight loss holds especially if you commit to an exercise plan. I’ve been doing interval training type classes three times per week; four is reported to give faster results. In addition my sleep has been better and my thought processes sharper. Once I reach my ideal weight I will then switch to a 6:1 maintenance mode to continue reaping the many health benefits associated with calorie restriction.”

Key points for Intermittent Calorie Restriction:

Calories are reduced by 25% of normal intake – 500 for women and 600 for men

The fasting days should be non-consecutive i.e., Monday & Thursday

The weekly fasting days can be changed to suit your social life

Keep busy when fasting to take your mind away from food

It is perfectly Ok to exercise on fasting days unless otherwise advised by your doctor

Be savvy with your calories and portion sizes. Keep a track of calories and exercise with a free app such as ‘my fitnesspal’.

Nip hunger pangs in the bud with plain or sparkling water or green tea. No milk to avoid extra calories.

Include protein in your fasting meals to stave off hunger and curb carbohydrate cravings

Relax and avoid calorie counting on your non-fast days

Log your weight and waist size before embarking on the programme

Weigh yourself regularly and log your progress

Switch to a 6:1 maintenance mode once your target weight is achieved.

For more information about Intermittent Fasting: http://thefastdiet.co.uk/

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