Fasting doesn’t have to make you furious
Now that Summer is officially in full swing, people are exercising more outdoors and changing their diets. Moving more and eating less meat and more vegetables are certainly the most common ways to shed a few kilos. But did you know that warm to hot weather is actually a natural appetite suppressant? And that's good news to anyone who’s thinking about starting to practice intermittent fasting. But how does outside temperature affect the human appetite?
The heat is on
Most would agree that the human body is the perfect machine, and there’s no question that our bodies are certainly very intelligent and perceptive. Our brains, through the function of the hypothalamus, help us prioritize biological processes to suit actual conditions and act on these conditions. When it’s cold, our bodies crave energy (as calories) and store up fat reserves. Whereas, in warm and hot weather, our bodies lose its natural moisture as the brain tries to regulate the internal temperature in the form of sweat. So, when your body sweats, the hypothalamus is busy trying to stay cool, which means less brain power is spent on perceiving hunger. Eating and digestion are counterproductive to this natural cooling process (because these actions produce internal heat!), so the brain instinctively suppresses the appetite as a defense mechanism.
There are lots of way to fast: no sugar, no dairy, no meat, no carbs, no solids, just juices and liquids. For example, a religious fast, like for Ramadan, means completely fasting between sunrise and sunset, whereas an intermittent fast means not eating for several hours between meals. Intermittent fasting, is a growing diet trend which may help with weight loss by giving your body more time to process food either in the morning or at night. In intermittent fasting, food intake is allowed during short windows (usually 4, 6, or 8 hours) and the rest of the day is spent skipping meals and staying hydrated with caffeine-free beverages, sugar-free beverages – in effect, fasting.
Fasting isn’t “fast”
Before beginning any type of fast, it's important to be mentally focused and to prepare your body for the dietary adjustments. Smaller portion size and hydration are great way to get started. When your body is well-hydrated, it's easier to manage your day without your usual amount of food and drink. 1). Reducing food consumption (smaller meals, less sugar and fatty foods) to get your stomach (and brain) used to processing less. 2). Drinking plenty of water and herbal tea (more and frequently) in the days leading up to a fast. So, yes, 8 glasses (about 1 liter) of water a day is a good rule of thumb. In fact, starting the day with a large glass of room temperature water helps 3). Eliminate white flour and sweets (1-2 weeks in advance) so your body doesn’t react with cravings and hunger pangs. 4) Reducing physical activity. Light activity is ok, but strenuous exercise will only prompt your body to look for energy—meaning carbs and solid food. 5) Waking up a bit earlier and mentally preparing for the day’s fast – mind over matter! Meditation may help to settle your mind and body. 6) Taking power naps (30 minutes or less!) before and during the fasting period. 7) Writing down a fasting schedule. If you know what to expect each day, the challenges to break your fast may be easier to manage.
When strictly followed, intermittent fasting can be a powerful tool in weight reduction -- by eating fewer (and smaller) meals, calorie intake is reduced and the hormones associated with fat burning improve. There are many configurations of intermittent fasting plans but some of the most popular methods are:
- The 16/8 Method: skipping breakfast and restricting your daily eating period to 8 hours, for example from 1 pm to 9 pm. The remaining part of the day (16 hours) is spent "fasting".
- Eat-Stop-Eat: fasting for 24 hours, once or twice a week. So, this means not eating from dinner one day until dinner at the same time the next day.
- The 5:2 Diet: eating reduced number of calories (500-600) calories on two consecutive days. Then you eat normally (and healthy) the other 5 days.
Not matter what your inspiration for fasting might be – religious, mental, physical or nutritional – the key to a successful and rewarding fast is planning and determination! Before changing your diet or completely fasting, you should always consult your doctor or health care professional. Your health comes first!