Can meal replacements be used during intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting, just like meal replacements, is a popular nutrition trend and has been a buzz for quite a while in the fitness space. Nonetheless, many still get confused by this concept. Intermittent fasting refers to a pattern of eating rather than a diet type. Meal replacement shakes can be used to boost your intermittent fasting efforts.
Let’s begin by understanding what intermittent fasting is and how it works. While most nutritive solutions aimed at weight loss alter “what” you eat, intermittent fasting changes only “when” you eat. The objective is to force your body into a fasting state for a certain period so that it can burn off some extra calories.
The digestive and metabolic systems work in three harmonious cycles:
- The fed state - lasts for 3-5 hours after eating. During this time, the food is digested and absorbed into the blood stream significantly raising the blood glucose levels. If the diet contained a lot of fast carbs like most potato and wheat products, then the blood glucose levels will rise significantly. This stimulates the body to release insulin which helps to regulate the glucose by converting the excess into different storage forms, mainly glycogen and fats.
- Post absorptive state – lasts for 8-12 hours after the last meal, during which most of the absorption has taken place except for slow-digesting proteins and some minerals, vitamin & water that is yet to be absorbed in the large intestines. Most of the blood glucose regulation occurs during this phase and alongside corresponding metabolic activities like heat generation and detoxification in the liver.
- Fasted state- kicks in around 12 hours after your last meal. During this phase, most of the glucose from the previous meal has been either used up or converted into the storage forms. In a healthy human being, there is less than the normal blood glucose levels. But because the body functions keep going, your body now has to tap into its energy reserves and convert them back into glucose for use all over. This is the stage during which the excess fat is most likely to be used as a source of energy…this is the pivot point for intermittent fasting.
There are different models designed by various nutritionists and scientists to help push the body into the fasting state. Amongst the many include the following:
- Daily intermittent fasting/ 16:8 method
Designed by Martin Berkhan of Leangains, this model allows for an 8-hour eating period followed by a 16-hour fast. This gives you at least 4 hours in the fasting state. So if you favor breakfast and have your first meal/meal shake of the day at 8 a.m, you can eat all through till 4 p.m after which you fast till the next morning at 8 a.m. If you favor dinner, then you can have your first meal of the day at 1 p.m and dinner anytime before 9 p.m then begin your 16 –hour fast.
- Weekly fast – this pushes for longer fasting hours, up to 24 hours. In this kind of intermittent fast, you only fast once a week or once every fortnight but for a longer period of around 24 hours. So if you have lunch, you have to wait for the next lunch.
- Alternate day intermittent fasting – this is designed to ensure that you fast for long hours but still manage to eat at least one meal every day. So you can have breakfast on Monday morning, fast for 24 hours and then on Tuesday, you can, not only take breakfast (to break the fast) but also have the meals throughout the entire day. However, after Tuesday‘s dinner, you begin the next 24 hours of fasting. Alternatively, if you want to keep all your meals to the daytime, you can choose to fast only on alternate days i.e Monday, Wednesday and Friday
Other models include the 5:2 ratio.
Intermittent fasting is an efficient tool for weight loss, it often even works better than changing the diet during initial weight loss program. It might sound difficult to conceptualize at first but quite easy in execution. Most time it involves minor modification in eating times plus a little more discipline. You can still retain your old diet if it’s good enough or opt for a healthier one.
Take for instance the 16/8 method, it hardly changes the eating times except maybe for one meal which will be taken a little earlier or slightly later than you’re used to. This makes it more sustainable in the long-term and helps with consistency compared to giving up all the food you love (healthier food choices are still very important in weight management).
Incorporating meal shakes in your intermittent fasting schedule
Meal replacement shakes help to keep you fuller for longer. They also supply you with complete nutrition which is very crucial lest you risk developing deficiencies. Meal replacement shakes can be consumed during meals to help boost your nutritional profile. Instead of trying to squeeze several meals within your short eating period, it is better to have varied forms of meals to keep your nutritional supply great…liquid meals like meal shakes will come in handy.
Vitaminfood meal replacement shakes not only build your overall nutritional profile, they also ensure you have it easy on your intermittent fasting schedule. With a bulk of protein and a healthy blend of slow carbs and enough dietary fiber, a Vitaminfood meal shake can help you feel satiated for longer at no extra calorie intake.
Advantages of intermittent fasting
- Promotes nutritious, whole foods diets
Intermittent fasting promotes healthier food choices by advocating for bulk foods like protein-rich diets and slow-carbs which will leave you feeling fuller for longer. It is much easier to get on with intermittent fasting if your food choices are healthy. Fast carbs will leave you feeling very hungry in as little as three hours and that can quickly turn into starvation rather than fasting.
- Aids in weight loss
As explained, Intermittent fasting pushes your body to the fasted state forcing it to tap into the reserves which comprise extra calories and undesirable fat deposits. Dr. Helen and Krista Scott, PhD, describe how intermittent fasting and calorie restriction helps to create a calorie deficit that the body offsets by tapping into the energy storage forms. This also helps to improve metabolic health and repair of damaged cells and organelles.
- Sustainable weight loss program
Intermittent fasting doesn’t depend upon your ability to correctly count calories or the ability to avoid your favorite meals. It works on a behavior change which is much easier in practice than a total diet change. The beauty of behavior changes is that the brain can adapt and in a few weeks, it becomes normal. You’ll feel less hungry as your brain will have adjusted to the new routine.
- Reduced cancer risks
Calorie control and healthier food choices optimize the body’s metabolism and help in regulating the harmful components. Intermittent fasting candidates have been shown to have fewer free radicals and fewer toxins and harmful blood markers while maintaining their initial dietary preferences. Reducing calorie intake by eating more bulk foods has for a long time also been linked to a longer lifespan.
The advantages cited here are but a few notable ones, of course, there are many more pros of intermittent fasting. Likewise, it has some cons which include:
- Initial feeling of hunger- the first couple of days will most likely not be as rosy and it would be a crime to try and convince you otherwise. Diverting from the eating schedule that you’ve had for years and probably even several decades will have you feeling like your intestines are auto-digesting. That should however not deter you from your goal. A few days of perseverance is all you need then it’s a downhill ride afterward.
- Discipline and planning ahead- you need to be quite strong-willed to embrace such a bold change in diet for the medium or long-term. If it seems like too much of a burden, it is advisable with weekly/monthly intermittent fasting or short fasting periods of like 8-10 hours as you gradually advance to 16-hour fasting state where you reap the benefits.
- Mood and productivity may be affected- low blood glucose levels is characterized by anxiety and feeling of fatigue. Irritability is also common during low-blood glucose stints. The initial days of adopting your preferred intermittent fasting model will most likely be chaotic. Mood swings and anxiety aren’t the best attitudes to have around friends or colleagues but it gets better in a few days when you get used to it and your body & brain will have adjusted.