One of the most frustrating symptoms that we constantly hear from our ladies is weight gain. The average weight gain is between 2 -5kg. Unfortunately, most of that weight tends to be deposited around the tummy. Abdominal fat is strongly associated with diabetes, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, asthma and inflammation. Women with a waist circumference greater than 88cm are at a greater risk of health problems (1).
As a result of this, there has been great interest in identifying alternative nutritional weight loss strategies. It is well known that restricting energy (calorie or kilojoule) consumption can aid weight loss but the results are not generally sustainable.
Intermittent Fasting and Time Restricted Eating are fast becoming the new flavour of the month. So what are they and do they work?
Intermittent Fasting (IF) consists of a 60% restriction of energy (energy from our food comes from protein, carbohydrates, fats and alcohol) either on alternate days or over 2-3 days (with the other 4 or 5 days eating normally) although there are few variations (which does makes research tricky).
Time Restricted Eating (TRE), limits the amount of time for eating. It’s recommended that eating takes place in an 8-10 hour window thereby increasing the night time fast. Some advocates use a hybrid of the two.
There is a growing body of research on both IF and TRE in terms of health benefits and I personally use and advocate TRE as I have experienced and witnessed the health benefits of it.
A review conducted in 2019 specifically assessed the effectiveness of Intermittent Fasting, Time Restricted Eating and continuous calorie restriction specifically for weight loss. The review found that weight was lost on all three ‘diets’. Basically, eat less and you will lose weight (assuming that other reasons for weight gain have been ruled out such as underlying health conditions or medication side effects) (2).
Fasting has been around for millennia, our ancestors regularly fasted and those communities in the Blue Zones (the areas with the greatest population of centenarians) all fast. Today, if our eyes are open we are eating – 3 meals a day plus snacks and our sedentary lifestyle just exacerbates the energy imbalance.
There are numerous studies that convey the benefits of both IF and TRE including prevention and treatment of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancers and neurological disorders (most of them have been on rats but there is a growing number of human studies coming out).
The benefits of IF and TRE go beyond just weight loss and are certainly worth considering.
The problem isn’t always losing the weight its keeping it off. So once we lose the weight, why do we put it back on? This is the million dollar question that researchers are desperate to find. In my next blog I’ll share some of the current breakthroughs.