Intermittent fasting has become anubiquitous term in the fitness industry. This offers several benefits like weight loss, better health, and increased longevity.
It is a form of eating where people consume all their daily food in an eight to 10 hour window, and refrain from eating anything in the rest of the 14-16 hour window. Sound familiar?
The month of Ramadan allows us to adopt an eating pattern similar to intermittent fasting, yet most people miss out on the opportunity to capitalise on its health benefits.
This is primarily due to unhealthy eating habits in that small eating window- usually starting with a heaped plate of high caloric fried foods.
If you are trying to achieve a healthier lifestyle and lose some weight – here are threegolden rules you should look to incorporate along with your fasting.
Rule 1: It is all about the calories
Generally speaking, our body needs a certain amount of calories to function.
This is termed as maintenance calories which can be calculated via several online scales by simply inputting basic information like weight and height.
They can be found by Googling 'maintenance calorie calculator' or 'Basal metabolic rate (BMR)' calculator.
The online scales are not 100% accurate but they do provide a general guideline which you can work around to structure your daily food intake.
The target for weight loss should beeating 500 calories less than the maintenance number. For example, if your maintenance calorie shows 2000, you should aim for a 1500 calorie daily diet.
A 500 caloric deficit is a good number to start with. If you are trying to lose weight faster, you can target a greater calorie deficit, however too low a deficit can make you feel weak and demotivated to continue in the long run.
So, it is better to start small and enjoy the process.
Rule 2: Smart food choices
You do not need to resort to bland oatmeal or salads. There is no magical food that makes you lose weight; it all boils down to the number of calories you consume.
A good diet is simply eating at the right calorie level as discussed in rule one. Go over your daily foods and calculate the total calories.
Packaged goods have nutritional information at the back. For unpackaged goods you can simply Google 'nutritional information', for example when you search for nutritional information for rice, the results will give you various categories and amount of rice to choose from.
MyFitnessPal is a popular easy to use mobile application that can be used for tracking calories in various food items.
However, keep in mind that it does not include a lot of Bangladeshi dishes, so you will have to choose an Indian or western equivalent.
Another handy tool to have is a kitchen scale- you can use it to measure out ingredients while cooking or to get a more accurate calculation of calories.
If you are trying to lose weight, your calorie target will be low, hence it is better to have foods that are filling and lower in calories.
For example, a small apple has roughly 60 calories, which can satiate your hunger better than a small serving of French fries which consists of 200 calories.
Explore food alternatives that are more nutritional and make switches in your existing diet with food that are not.
A general guide for planning diets is to include more protein (chickens, egg whites, fish) and less carbohydrates(rice, bread, potatoes) while keeping fat (cooking oil, butter, cheese) intake at moderate to low. It is also advised to cut down on sugar and dairy.
Do not completely cut off carbohydrates because they provide energy. It is okay to have a bit of rice or a slice of bread as long as your total calories are within your target goal. Brown bread or brown rice are better than their white versions.
Rule 3: Tracking your progress
Tracking and monitoring your progress is crucial to notice results (or lack of it).
Using a body weight scale, measure your weight daily or weekly at a specific time and note it down. A good aim is to lose half to one kg per week.
If you are losing less than this, you are simply eating too much. If you are losing more than this, you can assess if you should make any changes.
If you feel weak or exhausted most of the time, you can allow yourself to bump up the calories by a bit to get more energy.
If you feel fine and want to lose weight at a relatively faster rate- then keep at it.
There lies an overwhelming amount of information regarding health and fitness on the internet.
Different things work for different people- a diet that works for one person may not work as effectively for another person as they might have differing caloric needs.
Set your goals, start off with the basics, monitor your progress, and keep learning and adapting from there.