INTERMITTENT FASTING 101: WHAT IS IT AND WILL IT HELP ME LOSE WEIGHT?
If you never heard of intermittent fasting or you haven’t met someone who is swearing by IF, you need to keep on reading.
In a nutshell, intermittent fasting is just that: fasting intermittently.
This eating plan was used already in the early 1900s to treat disorders like epilepsy and diabetes and started gaining attention again since The Fast Diet was published in 2013.
So what exactly is intermittent fasting? It’s limiting calorie intake during certain hours of the day or days of the week. It’s more of an eating pattern than a diet. It limits when to eat, and not so much what to eat. And that’s part of its appeal to people who don’t want to count calories or use their food log to track everything.
The theory behind intermittent fasting is that your body stores fat for later use, allowing you to skip meals for the fasting period.
Some would say that it’s a more natural way to eat because humans evolved without refrigerators, drive-throughs, or 24-hour convenience stores. We now have access to food (including junk food) all day long, so eating several meals per day plus snacks may be less natural than fasting from time to time.
WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON TYPES OF IF?
- 16/8 Method – which is 16 hours of fasting, and eating only within the other 8 hours (often 1:00 pm. – 9:00 p.m. but you can decide which hours are convenient to you). This method involves skipping breakfast and eating the dinner not later than 9pm.
- Eat Stop Eat method – it involves fasting for 24 hours once or twice a week, and not eating from dinner one day to the dinner next day.
- 5:2 Days Program – where you eat regularly for five days of the week, then take in just 500-600 calories/day for the other two (non-consecutive) days. (The original Fast Diet).
- The Warrior Diet – fast for 20 hours a day and eat only one large meal every night.
WHAT CAN YOU DRINK DURING THE FASTING PERIODS
- Coffee and tea without added sugar, cream or milk
- Water – some fasting experts recommend adding lemon juice and maple syrup to your water for a dose of energy
- Vegetable broth – boil vegetables in water, remove them and drink what is left (rich in nutrients)
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF INTERMITTENT FASTING?
There are many studies showing that the benefits of intermittent fasting have impressive health benefits that go beyond weight loss:
1. You’ll eat less – intermittent fasting can help to lose weight because it helps you eat fewer calories while revving up your metabolism. Studies found that IF was as effective as daily caloric restriction for weight loss but the IF group has less lean muscle mass loss during the diet period.
2. Improves blood sugar and helps reduce the risk of diabetes – IF not only plays a role in improving insulin sensitivity, one of the risk factors for type 2 diabetes, but also helps reduce visceral belly fat.
3. Keeps your heart healthy – studies showed that fasting can influence several components of heart health, it helps increase good HDL cholesterol while decreasing both bad cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
4. Reduces inflammation. A study published in 2015 investigated the effect of intermittent fasting on a certain marker of inflammation and the results indicated a decrease in this measure of inflammation with fasting.
5. Protects the brain – animal studies showed that IF helps enhance cognitive function of the brain and improves memory.
6. Decreases hunger – by reducing the levels of leptin (satiety hormone). Lower levels of leptin lead to less leptin resistance, less hunger and increased weight loss.
7. Fasting shifts your body from using glucose for fuel to burning fat instead.
FACTS YOU NEED TO KNOW IF YOU CONSIDER INTERMITTENT FASTING
Intermittent fasting is not for everyone. People who are underweight, or have eating disorders shouldn’t fast. Neither should women who are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or are breastfeeding.
Certain medical conditions can be worsened with longer periods of fasting. Also, people taking certain medications can be prone to side effects with intermittent fasting as well. Always talk to your doctor before practicing an intermittent fasting regimen.
Also, the hours and days of fasting can be very difficult. So having strong social support will be key to those intermittent periods of fasting.
Intermittent fasting is a weight loss trend that seems to work for some people. It can help to lose weight and reduce belly fat. But, it isn’t safe for everyone. Many people should not try intermittent fasting because it can be risky. It can also be difficult to stick with.
For the best chance of long-term weight loss success, finding a diet, you can stick with is key.
What about you – Have you or someone you know tried intermittent fasting?
LAURA PEISCHL, BA, INHC
Laura is a Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, Holistic Menopause Health Specialist and Certified Hormone Health and Wellness Practitioner. She is the founder and owner of Feel Good Menopause™️