The benefits of intermittent fasting when travelling

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Whether you are a keen traveller, want to lose a few kilos or want to be as healthy as you can, then science says you should be intermittently fasting. Here’s our comprehensive guide to all you need to know about it. It may sound intimidating to deprive yourself of food for periods of time, so we’ve broken it down for you to make it easy and more understandable if it’s something you’d like to try.

What is intermittent fasting?

Intermittent fasting is a form of eating pattern where you go extended periods of time where no food is consumed and only water or black coffee/tea is allowed. Examples of intermittent fasting practices include 16 hours fasting and an eight-hour eating window (called the 16:8 diet), 5:2 dieting where two days a week you restrict your food intake to 25% of what you would normally eat or a 24-hour fast once a week.

There is plenty of research on intermittent fasting showing that it is good for your body. It’s been practised since the dawn of time when we had to hunt and catch our food, and before intermittent fasting became more mainstream, people practised it during religious holidays such as Ramadan each year where no food or drink can be consumed in the hours of daylight.

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(Photo by Getty Images/Westend61)
(Photo by Getty Images/Westend61)

What are the benefits of intermittent fasting?

One of the first questions people ask when first looking at intermittent fasting is “is intermittent fasting good for you?” A simple look at the science behind intermittent fasting shows there are several benefits.

It may help with jet lag

Fasting may help synchronise the body rhythms faster as the hunger response (when we do and don’t eat) can influence our circadian rhythms as much as light and dark can. A practice of intermittent fasting can access the “feeding clock”, which therefore helps regulate circadian rhythms and then comes back to life again after the reintroduction of food at your destination — resulting in less jet lag.

It’s great for the immune system

When you have a break from food, your body starts the cellular repair processes, which removes waste from your cells. Looking after your immune system is essential if you’re a frequent traveller.

You may lose a few pounds

If you are one of those people that the diet goes out of the window when travelling, then fasting may be a good way to stay on track when you’re away. Fasting lowers insulin and increases growth hormones, which promotes fat loss, and in general, you will consume fewer meals during the day when fasting.

It may protect against inflammation and free radical production

If you’re concerned about the effect on the body from travelling a lot, especially from cosmic radiation (the amount of natural radiation you receive when flying for long periods and at altitude) then fasting may help the body fight inflammation and enhance resistance to oxidative stress. Fasting may also help protect the body from DNA damage and ageing through stimulating a process called autophagy — a clean up of the cells of the body and the removal of waste material.

It’s good for the brain

Intermittent fasting may increase the numbers of new nerve cells and levels of a brain hormone called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, where if deficient, can cause depressive symptoms and reduce learning and memory. If you need to be switched on and engaged for your business meeting when you land, then perhaps give it a try.

Read more: 5 of the best health gadgets for frequent travellers

Photo by Getty Images/Dimitri Otis
(Photo by Getty Images/Dimitri Otis)

How to do intermittent fasting

First, you have to choose which form of fasting you wish to do.

12-16 hours fast

This is where you simply do not eat for 12 to16 hours. If you are new to fasting and don’t think you can get to 16 hours, then start at 12 hours and move up. You can adapt the intermittent fasting times to suit your schedule. Choose whether you are going to fast in the morning so you would skip breakfast or in the evening so skip dinner. Example eating times would be 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. or 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. if doing 16 hours of fasting. You can do this every day if you wish but it also works well doing an alternate day fasting. If you are fasting in the morning then a black coffee without sugar is fine to give you a boost.

The 5:2 approach

Simply two days of the week, you reduce your calorie allowance to 500 calories but you should also have an eating window rather than graze through the day. The other five days you try your best to eat a normal balanced diet but keep in mind if you eat in excess, then the fasting benefits will be reduced.

One-day fast

Not for the novice, it’s a day where you go without food for 24 hours. While some biohackers (people who are trying all the latest science trends to hack their health) claim to thrive on this doing a 24-hour fast once a week, others may not.

Read more: Top tips to beat your fear of flying

(Photo by lacaosa/Getty Images)
(Photo by lacaosa/Getty Images)

How do you break your fast?

So you’ve got the easy part out of the way, now you need to know what to eat when on an intermittent fasting diet. It’s good to break your fast with a high-protein meal and perhaps something light with no sugar. A great example is smoked salmon, poached eggs, avocado and spinach, which will feed your body and also help keep you alert.

When may it not work?

Fasting should work regardless of whether you eat healthily or not, as it’s the break from food that is giving you the benefits. However, to support this, it’s wise to eat well in the feeding times. If you’re over-consuming sugar and drinking a lot of alcohol, then the benefits will be minimised. You should also make sure you are hydrated with water both during your fast and when you’re eating.
Remember to tailor intermittent fasting to your own needs, and if you have questions about whether intermittent fasting is right for you, then it’s advised to consult your GP or health professional.

Bottom line

Intermittent fasting may support health and longevity. Finding a fasting pattern that works well for you is one of the most important factors to ensure your overall diet is balanced when practising.

Featured photo by Getty Images/artJazz

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