By Zainab AbdulAziz
We have all heard about the health benefits of fasting during Ramadan, but very few of us – with the exception of super dedicated athletes – think to incorporate fasting into our everyday lives. However, Dr. Nourhan Kandil is here to prove otherwise! Dr. Kandil has studied everything there is to know about intermittent fasting during her time at the California Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and she is a huge fan of the eating plan, which boasts a number of health benefits and can help you tackle those pesky problem areas.
CWM: What are the principles of intermittent fasting?
Dr. N.K: Intermittent fasting is not a diet, it’s a lifestyle and a pattern of eating. You change the timings of when you eat, not the quantities of what you eat. So, you eat within a window of 8 hours and then you stop eating entirely for a window of 16 hours which includes your sleeping hours. You can drink as much as you want within that 16-hour window, with the exception of drinks that include milk and/or sugar. Focus on zero calorie and zero glycemic index drinks. You don’t want to raise your insulin levels at all during these 16 hours.
How effective is it and what are some common weight gain issues does intermittent fasting address?
In my opinion, this is one of the most effective and successful dietary plans anyone can try because one of the benefits is that it can be used alongside other programs like Keto or plant-based diets.
Intermittent fasting can really help overcome common weight gain, and the problem of concentrated fats, especially in the belly area. This can commonly occur due to insulin resistance. Insulin is so important because it’s the hormone responsible for regulating your blood sugar, which in turns fuels our cells.
The reasons and side effects of insulin resistance can vary from genetic factors or eating too much sugar and carbs. Another factor to bear in mind is that as cells increase in fat, the less sensitive you become to the regulatory effects of insulin. People who are affected by insulin resistance are always hungry and specifically craving sugary food.
Not addressing insulin resistance can create a cascade of unfortunate health problem. You can be a risk for diabetes, that stubborn pot belly, or ovarian cysts which many women suffer from and can affect your chances of getting pregnant.
In fact, when you address the root cause of this insulin resistance, you will find a lot of these side effects disappearing and you’ll be able to conceive easier and live a healthier life. You can still overcome the unhealthy side effects of insulin resistance and not pass on this trait to further generations.
Is it safe for all age groups?
Yes, it is safe for all age groups, except anyone under-16. Under-16s should not do intermittent fasting.
Can anyone follow this, or are there medical and health conditions that preclude it?
Anyone with diabetes or experiencing blood sugar problems shouldn’t fast unless advised by a doctor on how to do it safely.
How long can this diet be used for safely?
This type of eating pattern can safely be carried out for a lifetime. It can be done for 16 hours, 18 hours, or 20 hours – there are no hard and fast rules, you can do intermittent fasting for only two days a week if you wish.
Are there any dangers involved?
There are some studies and trials that showed that some people experience constipation, usually due to a lack of maintaining good water intake during eating hours. Others may not have been aware of pre-existing medical conditions, so trying intermittent fasting triggered some feelings of fatigue and discomfort. However, it’s important to note that there is no danger caused directly by intermittent fasting itself unless there is a preexisting condition to be taken into consideration.
The 3 Top Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
- Intermittent fasting helps with battling the issue of insulin resistance by reducing insulin and helps with weight loss while maintaining muscle mass.
- Muscle mass not only gives you shape, but it also stores your blood sugar in a healthy way to allow your cells to transform energy properly.
- It increases your growth hormone, which maintains your muscle mass and reduces insulin, which is responsible for storing fats.
- Improves your immune system and reduces the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and supports healthy heart function
Dr. Nourhan Kandil holds a BA in Clinical Pharmacology from Ain Shams University and an MA in Public Health Coaching from the California Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She also holds an MBA in International Business Administration from ESLSCA.