Intermittent Fasting and Weight Loss
Intermittent fasting is a catch-all term that covers lots of different patterns of eating. It refers to a scheduled fasting diet made up of set periods when you eat and set periods when you don’t. While intermittent fasting in general doesn’t dictate what kinds of foods you should eat, and merely when you should be eating, many versions of fasting diets will also recommend certain types of foods to eat or calorie restrictions to keep to.
For example, the 5:2 diet and the alternate day diet, which we have looked at more in detail are both in essence forms of intermittent fasting, involving days when you eat a normal level of food and days when you eat a largely reduced amount of calories. On both of these diets, however, you are still consuming some food on your ‘fasting days’, even though it’s not a great deal.
However, intermittent fasting as a term on its own, usually refers to diets that involve eating absolutely nothing for a set period of time, also called ‘time-restricted fasting’. One method of intermittent fasting is to have a regular fast day, where you eat nothing at all for 24 hours. This is usually repeated once or twice a week.
The 24-hour period usually includes the night-time to make the fast easier to manage. Many people opt to have a filling, healthy dinner one night and then not eat anything at all until dinner time at the same time the next night. This means that you’re not really having a whole day without eating – just that you are not eating until the evening.
The fasting element of Ramadan works in similar way – adult Muslims who follow this do not eat or drink from sunrise to sunset, breaking the fast at night with a shared feast, before repeating every day for a month. One of the most common methods for intermittent fasting, particularly for weight loss, weight management, and general health and well-being, is the 16:8 cycle. This refers to hours and dictates the time in which you fast, restricting the time you can eat in.
Your calorie intake is restricted to just 8 hours a day, and for the other 16 hours you don’t eat at all. Some people follow this pattern a few days a week, and some follow it every single day. It’s an easy diet to follow, and once you get used to it, you should find that you can maintain it long term, making it more of a lifestyle change than a short-term diet solution.
The first thing you do is pick your preferred eating window. The most common way to undertake this diet is to skip breakfast and eat from about midday until 8pm. This means you can have a healthy lunch and big dinner, plus snack. Some people prefer to do the majority of their fast in the evening and overnight, so they eat between 9am and 5pm, during which time it’s possible to have a normal 3 meals and still not eat for the remaining 16 hours. It really does depend on your own lifestyle and what works best for you.
Versions Of The Diet
There have been many versions of the diet in the mainstream over the last decade. The 16:8 method of intermittent fasting has often been attributed to Martin Berkhan, who refers to himself as the ‘godfather or high priest of intermittent fasting’. He is the nutritional consultant, writer and personal trainer behind leangains (www.leangains.com). His book, The Leangains Method, introduced the concept of the 16-hour fast.
Though it’s very much aimed at getting lean and building muscle – ‘the art of getting ripped’ – its principles have been replicated in many other similar diets aimed at those looking to lose weight or get healthier. Berkhan advocates a fast that begins at about midday, saying that for most people this is the easiest, both behaviorally and socially. You don’t need to skip meals out with friends, for example.
Another, more recent, incarnation of the 16:8 diet is the 2 meal day plan (www.2mealday.com) by Max Lowery, a former stockbroker turned health expert. The idea is that you undergo a period of fasting in order to become ‘fat adapted’. This is quite a buzzword at the moment, particularly among endurance athletes, but it basically means to reduce your body’s reliance on carbohydrates and sugars ( which are converted to glucose in the body) as a primary fuel source, and adapting the body to tap into your existing fat stores as fuel instead.
It doesn’t require any calorie counting and it also doesn’t have strict ‘eating windows’. It relies on a very basic principle of having just two main meals a day, either breakfast and lunch, or lunch and dinner, which giver you a 16-hour fast period. The majority of the plan’s followers opt to skip breakfast, but it is flexible to suit your lifestyle.
The Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting
There are reasons to undertake this kind of fasting diet way beyond weight loss, though this is often what draws people to intermittent fasting in the first place. Fasting allows certain changes to happen in the body at both cellular and molecular level – which is why the body needs to fast overnight, every night, from dinner to breakfast.
Several biological processors take place in a fasted state. For example, studies have shown that levels of Human Growth Hormone rise, which is needed to help manage fat stores and increase muscle mass. Our blood-sugar level regulates, lowering insulin levels to ensure we can access fat stores more easily. Cells start to repair themselves. All of this combined leads to great health benefits, as well as a longer, healthier life.
Of course, weight loss is still a primary benefit. Losing weight in itself reduces your risk of certain illnesses and diseases, helps to control Type 2 diabetes, and improves brain and heart health. Intermittent fasting on daily basis aids steady weight loss – you will be eating less over the course of a day and a week, which will lead to a drop in your weight. It’s also thought that a daily fast improves your metabolic rate, meaning that you are burning more calories too.
This relies on eating normally within your eating window. If you use your eating window to binge on unhealthy foods, this will sabotage your chance of losing weight and gaining the health benefits of the diet. You also shouldn’t under-eat – it’s all about balance. Eat enough calories through healthy, well-balanced meals in your eating window to sustain you through the fasting period.
Side Effects And Risks
There are, of course, side effects with this diet, as there are with any intermittent fasting pattern. Mainly, you can expect to feel overwhelmingly hungry to start off with. We are used to eating three meals a day, often with snack in between. We’re not used to actually feeling properly hungary and it can be uncomfortable sensation at first.
You may also feel week, tired, get headaches or find it hard to concentrate. It may also affect your ability to exercise at first. However, in most cases these side effects are temporary as you get used to the eating pattern. Once you are over the first few weeks, you should find that you don’t feel hungary outside you eating window and that you can function normally.
There are some people who shouldn’t attempt to follow any intermittent fasting pattern without seeing a GP, and this includes those who are pregnant, breastfeeding or trying to conceive; who have low blood pressure; have diabetes; are on certain medications; are underweight; or have a history of eating disorders
Secret To Success
The secret to success in this diet is really paying attention to what you do eat during your eating periods. Eating too much junk food might fill you up temporarily, but you will later crash and feel hungary, which will make the fasting periods far more painful. It’s much better to balance your meals around filling whole foods, things that will keep you full longer so that you don’t feel extremely hungary while you are fasting.
Your diet should include plenty of fruit and vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and your choice of protein – full-fat dairy, eggs, meat, poultry, fish, legumes, nuts and seeds. To avoid overeating, it’s best to plan to main meals that will fill you up and one health snack in-between to keep you going between meals. When you are in the fasted state, you should continue your fluid intake. For one, hydration is very important, so you need to keep drinking water. Second, it can actually help you with hunger pangs.
Drinking coffee, for example, can make you feel full up and is particularly useful on waking to help you going until your first meal at lunchtime. Generally you can have any calorie-free beverage., but it is wise to avoid diet drinks and sodas, as they are sweetened and can leave you craving sugar. Try and opt for herbal teas or warm water with lemon is good, calorie-free alternatives.
The idea behind this pattern of eating is to fall into a scheduled rhythm. Therefore, it becomes a lifestyle that you continue with, ensuring that you are reaping the benefits for years to come.
Thank-you once again for reading my article on Intermittent Fasting and weight loss. I hope this article has been beneficial to you and hope it can really help kick start your weight loss journey and healthy lifestyle with the correct healthy food choices. Remember to always speak with your GP before starting any new diet. If you have any Intermittent fasting stories please share them with me. You can also check out one of my other weight loss articles @ weightlosspro.org Thank you for your time and I hope your weight loss journey is going well.
Shawn founder of Weight Loss Pro