Intermittent Fasting For Weight Loss: Experts Share Essentials
Image Credit: Freepik

Going on a weight loss journey is not just adopting a fad diet, juice cleanse or cutting off certain foods from your diet, but a complete lifestyle change. After all, overweight and obesity are lifestyle disorders and major non-communicable diseases (NCDs) right now—so losing weight would naturally require you to undertake holistic, positive lifestyle changes. One of the most popular weight loss methods today is Intermittent Fasting, but is this diet holistic enough to help you with weight loss? 

To answer this for you, Slurrp caught up with nutritionists, health experts as well as Intermittent Fasting practitioners to provide a full picture of what works—and what doesn’t--when you take up Intermittent Fasting. Here’s what they all had to say. 

The very first question you may have about Intermittent Fasting is, is it safe? And our experts say, yes, it is. “Intermittent Fasting is a safe form of diet for people from any culture or background,” says Chirag Barjatya, a fitness entrepreneur with a background in nutrition and the founder of Project Fit Co (PFC Club). Dr Geetanjali Bhide, Sports and Fitness Nutritionist based in Pune agrees, but adds a caveat. “The meals during the eating window of Intermittent Fasting need to carefully planned considering an individual’s health status, ailments, illnesses, medications, exercising timing, etc,” she says. “The meals should be nutritionally adequate to meet the recommended dietary allowances specific to that individual.” 

Video Credit: YouTube/Skinny Recipes

Weight Loss Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting 

Our experts straight off reveal that for Indians, Intermittent Fasting is a great method for weight loss, when done right. “Intermittent Fasting is a great tool to control your overall calories of daily consumption,” Barjatya explains. “And the benefit of calorie deficit is fat loss and overall weight management.” Bhide says apart from weight loss, Intermittent Fasting can help with a lot more. “Intermittent Fasting also helps control blood glucose, improves lipid profile and gives sufficient rest to the digestive system,” she says. “Long term benefits can be gained if nutritional needs are met. People on this diet may also have to take supplements to meet micronutrient requirements.” 

But what about practitioners who have indeed given the diet a try? Did Intermittent Fasting actually help them with weight loss? “I think if done right, it’s very effective,” says Geetika Sasan Bhandari, Writer, Editor and Founder of Let’s Raise Good Kids. “I only did it for 3 months and I lost 4.4 kg. Prior to that I had been losing inches with exercise but the kilos that had piled up during the lockdown just refused to go away. With Intermittent Fasting, it finally went away.” “It works for sure,” says Sonakshi Kohli, a Delhi-based Lifestyle Writer. “You will see results in three weeks, but you still have to be in a caloric deficit during the eating window.” 

So, what does doing it right look like? “I did the 16:8 and I only had a black coffee in the morning,” Geetika explains. “Also, the first week I was hungry in the morning as I was doing 16 hours of fast after dinner. Then after a week the body adjusts and I still don’t eat breakfast most days.” The trick, she says, is being tuned into your body and knowing how to acclimatize accordingly. “I was already doing yoga plus tennis, so I was already exercising and could understand what my body needs,” she explains.  

Sonakshi suggests the smartest way to go about it is to do it with the right knowledge at hand. “You need to make sure you use the right health supplements to make up for any nutritional deficiencies caused due to missing a meal, say breakfast,” she says. “After the first 40 days, you might have to increase your fasting window by 1-2 hours to overcome any weight loss plateaus.” She also adds that for gym-goers, there is an additional aspect to note. "This diet can render you slightly weaker if there’s more than a three-hour gap between your last meal and sleep time. Also working out during your fasting window can break down muscle mass and also affects your lifting power,” Sonakshi adds.  

The Flipside Of Following Intermittent Fasting  

But not everyone who takes up Intermittent Fasting benefits from it, and understanding this basic fact is very important before you jump into it. Dr Disha Sangal, who is a physician, tried Intermittent Fasting and found out it was not for her. “So, I’ve tried it for about 3 months, and it did help in maintaining the weight as is,” Dr Sangal explains. “But there were days when I felt super exhausted and ate really a lot in the eating window. I feel it’s very difficult to maintain if the profession demands a lot of untimely duties and presence.” 

Geetika also agrees that the nature of your profession does come into play when it comes to practicing Intermittent Fasting. “A friend tried it and she’s a teacher, so she has an early start and then on her feet all day, and she got pounding headaches. She couldn’t manage it,” she says. Apart from the professional aspect, is there any other flipside to practicing Intermittent Fasting? Yes, say our experts. 

“Some of the major disadvantages of Intermittent Fasting is that people often get acidity, headache and may develop bad food relationships,” Barjatya explains. “For people who have got blood pressure issues or Type 1 diabetes, Intermittent Fasting should be avoided.” He adds that even for people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, following Intermittent Fasting can lead to difficulties.” Dr Sangal agrees and says that Intermittent Fasting is more of a lifestyle change than just a diet, so those with chronic diseases like diabetes, gastric reflux and heart disease should skip it entirely.  

Common Intermittent Fasting Mistakes To Avoid 

The most common mistake people make with Intermittent Fasting—or any weight loss diet, for that matter—is that they jump into it without getting enough information about their own health status and knowing if a particular diet can potentially do them more harm than good. Both our experts recommend that you get a few basic tests done before embarking on your Intermittent Fasting journey. 

Bhide recommends that you should get a full body composition test done to understand the reason behind your weight better. Getting a complete blood count, lipid profile, kidney and liver function tests can also help you understand if going on a 16:8 Intermittent Fasting diet will lead to weight loss or harmful additional stress to your major organs. “Make sure to check your blood pressure because the fasting window can fluctuate your BP levels,” says Barjatya. “Check blood sugar levels to avoid hypoglycaemic conditions if you have type 1 diabetes. You can also get a food allergy test done to prevent any discomfort during the Intermittent Fasting protocol.” 

Another common mistake is taking the eating window as an opportunity to binge eat instead of eating right. “If you think you can fast and eat any junk or binge on food in the eating window, then the benefit of fasting is nullified,” Bhide explains. The key to any weight loss diet is eating balanced meals that provide you with sufficient nutrition to keep every part of your body functioning optimally. If your Intermittent Fasting diet leads to weight loss as well as decline in immunity or muscle loss, then it is clearly doing you more harm than good. Barjatya explains this well.  

“People generally follow a 16-hour fasting window in Intermittent Fasting and an 8-hour eating window; as the eating window is so small, people tend to miss their protein intake and end up eating less protein overall, which results in muscle loss during their weight loss journey,” Barjatya explains. “Less muscle also results in less energy, weaker bones, and a drop in strength.” What can be done to remedy this common mistake? Barjatya says: “Just make sure you include enough protein food items in the eating window. Do not compromise your protein intake. Make sure to include eggs, soya chunks, fish, chicken, whey, tofu, tempeh, etc.”  

So, what should you be eating during your Intermittent Fasting eating window for best results? “Home cooked meals, complex carbohydrates (whole grains and millets), proteins sources like egg, meat fish, milk products, nuts and oilseeds, a variety of seasonal vegetables and fruits should absolutely be a part of your meals,” says Bhide. “Avoid processed foods, pasta, pizza, burger, other Indian street foods during the eating window,” she recommends.