Intermittent fasting involves disrupting normal eating patterns with periods of prolonged fasting. We explain the 5:2 diet and the 16:8 method and show the benefits of these types of diets.
Fasting involves the removal of some or all food and drink for a specific period of time. There are various types of fasting.
Intermittent (or interval) fasting has recently attracted a lot of public interest. Regular eating patterns are interrupted by recurring periods of fasting. The aim of intermittent fasting is long-term weight regulation.
One method is the 5:2 diet. This involves eating normally for 5 days then reducing calorie intake to around a quarter of the usual amount for 2 days. For most people, this equates to around 500 kcal of energy. During the 5 days you should follow the tips for a balanced diet.
Another type of intermittent fasting is the 16:8 method. This involves restricting eating to an 8-hour window then going without solid food and beverages with calories for 16 hours. If you eat your dinner at 7 pm, you should plan to eat your next meal after 11 am. Normal food consumption can be resumed on the weekend or the 16:8 pattern can be continued.
Dinner cancelling is also regarded as a type of intermittent fasting. This involves not eating dinner on certain days, leading to a period of about 14 hours of fasting.
Fasting can disrupt the balance of hormones. This has a bigger effect on women than it does on men. However, not everyone will have such a strong reaction. That’s why it is important to listen to your own body, and if required, to consult your gynaecologist.
Nowadays, food is readily available virtually 24/7 at a reasonable price. We are surrounded by temptation. However, if our body is constantly provided with food, there is no need for it to draw on its reserves. This results in excess calories being converted into fat deposits in the body and thus weight gain. Intermittent fasting forces the body to draw on its reserves for a specific period of time. That is the advantage of intermittent fasting. One thing is for sure: our body doesn’t need to be constantly provided with food. Three main meals and, if necessary, two small snacks throughout the day generally suffice.
Our health consultation advisors are happy to help you. We can offer you information and tips on a balanced diet and controlling your weight.
Long-term studies have yet to rule out potential negative health effects. It is currently unclear as to whether the body’s nutritional needs can be covered in the long term despite periods of fasting. As to whether this type of weight regulation is far better than others remains to be seen. It is also unclear as to what role intermittent fasting plays in the development of eating disorders.
Intermittent fasting is not suitable during pregnancy or when breastfeeding, because in these cases it is especially important to eat a balanced diet which contains all micronutrients. It forms the basis for the healthy development of the child.
Children should also not fast. They need a good supply of nutrients in order to grow and so that their bodies develop without problems.
If you suffer from a chronic illness such as type 2 diabetes, take regular medication or are trying to have a baby, you should discuss fasting with a doctor beforehand.
Julia Pieh (doctorate in pharmacy and toxicology, pharmacist, naturopath) works as a health consultation advisor and quality coach at Helsana. She is committed to providing health advice to our clients. Ms Pieh provided the editorial team with advice and input for this article.