Ramadan is fast approaching and preparing is important to do especially for the long spring and summer fasting days. Intermittent fasting is a useful method to help in this transition. It is a timed approach to eating and unlike a dietary plan that restricts where calories come from, intermittent fasting does not specify what foods a person should eat or avoid.
Intermittent fasting involves cycling between periods of eating and fasting. At first, it may be difficult to eat during a short window of time each day. Here are tips on the best way to begin fasting, including identifying personal goals, planning meals, and establishing caloric needs.
Identify Personal Goals
Typically, a person who starts intermittent fasting has a goal in mind. It may be to lose weight, improve overall health, or to get in the habit of fasting during the days of Sunnah. A person's ultimate goal will help them determine the most suitable fasting method and work out how many calories and nutrients they need to consume.
Alternate Day Fasting Using the 5:2 Method
Some people fast on alternate days to improve blood sugar, cholesterol, and weight loss. You can also try to incorporate the sunnah of fasting on Mondays and Thursdays to get you on track for Ramadan every year. The idea behind the 5:2 method is to consume 500 to 600 calories on two non-consecutive days each week. For the rest of the week, you consume only the number of calories that you burn during the day. Over time, this creates a habit and mentally and physically prepares you for the month of Ramadan.
Figure Out Caloric Needs
There are many tools available to help you work out your caloric needs and determine how many calories they need to consume each day to sustain daily physical and mental needs of our bodies. Once you have an idea of your necessary caloric needs, you can then work out meal ideas that can meet these requirements and give you the energy you need to last the days of Ramadan.
Figure Out a Meal Plan
Meal planning offers many benefits, such as helping you to find creative and healthy ways to stay alert, energetic, and provide the necessary nutrition your body needs. It can help you ensure you have the essential foods on hand for cooking recipes, quick meals, and snacks to munch on during the hours we are able to eat.
If you are interested in losing or gaining weight, having a meal plan in place may help to plan what you are going to eat during the day or week. This also goes for someone who is interested in fasting throughout the month of Ramadan.
Meal planning does not need to be overly restrictive. It considers calorie intake and can help you to incorporate proper nutrients into the diet.
Make the Calories Count
Not all calories are the same! Although there isn’t set restrictions on how many calories a person should consume when fasting, it is essential to consider the nutritional value of the food.
In general, you should aim to consume nutrient-dense food or food with a high number of nutrients per calorie. You may not have to abandon junk food entirely, but you should still practice moderation and focus on healthier options to gain the most benefits.
How Effective is Intermittent Fasting?
Fasting has several effects on a person's body. These effects include:
- Reducing levels of insulin, which makes it easier for the body to use stored fat.
- Lowering blood sugars, blood pressure, and inflammation
- Changes gene expressions, which helps the body protect itself from disease as well as promoting longevity.
- Dramatically increases human growth hormone, or HGH, which helps the body utilize body fat and grow muscle.
- Encourages your body to activate a healing process called autophagy, which essentially means that the body eats up its own damaged cells.
Other research backs up the claims that fasting can help a person lose weight.
Effects of Fasting on Exercise
For healthy individuals, intermittent fasting should not affect their ability to exercise except during the period when the body is adjusting to the new eating schedule. After the adjustment period, a person should not feel any ill effects from fasting on their exercise routine.
If you are worried about losing muscle while fasting, be sure to consume enough protein during eating periods and participate in resistance training regularly. By keeping protein intake up, you are less likely to lose muscle mass from fasting.