Health and wellbeing coach Daniel Steven, CEO of DSPT, writes for The Executive Magazine on diet and intermittent fasting and it’s benefits for executives in the workplace.
Daniel Steven is a health and wellbeing coach who has helped hundreds of executives improve their quality of life both in and out of the office through his bespoke online coaching programs.
When you want to ensure your health and wellbeing is optimal, and to perform at your best, it’s important to consider your diet, levels of exercise, sleep, stress levels and overall mental health. They all affect each other and can, if done right, support one another.
Diet is the first place I start with a new client. It can be confusing figuring out which one of the myriad of diets might work best for you. Whether you want to lose some extra weight that’s crept on over the years of client lunches or improve energy levels at work to rid yourself of those mid-afternoon slumps and reliance on caffeine, most people don’t have the time or mental energy to implement and follow a strict diet.
In my experience working with Executives as a health and wellbeing coach, for many trying to stick to some of the more popular diets such as Paleo, Atkins, Zone or Ketogenic, they’re simply too restrictive. Try having a client dinner at a fine restaurant and sticking to those diets. It’s anything but practical.
Most of the diets I mentioned require some level of meal preparation. However, if you’re time poor then you won’t have time to meal prep and even if you did, your schedule is so fluid that chances are you’ll be pulled from pillar to post and not be able to eat those prepared meals. The best diet is one that has minimum impact on your life and that you can adhere to over the long term. Adherence is what creates results.
For those reasons my clients have had great results with Intermittent Fasting. There are multiple versions but the least disruptive, and easiest to switch to, is the 16/8. 16/8 refers to sixteen hours of fasting (absolutely no calories) followed by eight hours in which you can eat and drink normally. You should make healthy changes to what you eat and drink at the same time but that’s separate to how Intermittent Fasting works.
The idea of fasting to many sounds like torture but we all do it already. Between when we stop eating at night and when we start eating the next day we’ve been fasting. All we’re looking to do is to extend the time spent in a fasted state.
During the 16 hours you’re allowed water, black coffee, black or herbal teas but no sugar or sweeteners or calories of any kind. Once your fasting period is over you can resume eating and drinking as normal. For example, if you had dinner at 20.00 you’d need to avoid calories until 12.00 the next day but could have water and black coffee. Coffee acts a hunger suppressant, so it can help you get through the mornings.
For most of my clients they find themselves skipping breakfast and only eating lunch and dinner with a snack or protein shake in between meals. This helps go a long way to creating a calorie deficit which is essential if you want to lose weight/fat.
Other than simply helping create a calorie deficit there are a lot of other potential upsides to intermittent fasting. Here are some of the proposed benefits:
- Blood lipids
- Blood pressure
- Markers of inflammation
- Oxidative stress
- Risk of cancer
- Cellular turnover and repair
- Fat burning
- Growth hormone release later in the fast
- Metabolic rate later in the fast
- Appetite control
- lood sugar control
- Cardiovascular function
- Effectiveness of chemotherapy
- Neurogenesis and neuronal plasticity
I think anyone would agree that those are all great side effects of a diet on top of weight loss.
Extending the fasting hours from sixteen to eighteen, or even twenty hours, is quite common. As long as you then eat enough of a balanced diet during your non-fasted state it’s fine. However, reducing the hours spent fasting is not ideal. The minimum should be sixteen.
Like with any form of diet, intermittent fasting and the 16/8 rule won’t be for everyone. It’s not meant to be. No diet is. However, in my experience, it’s the easiest dietary style to adhere to and as I said before, adherence is the key to getting results. Another upside is that it’s sustainable in the long term. It becomes a habit after a few months of adhering to it and it’s flexible too. I dare say most of my client’s end up enjoying intermittent fasting.