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Intermittent Fasting – Does It Work For Weight Loss?

If you keep up with the latest diet and weight loss trends, you have probably heard about intermittent fasting. More than a diet, this new way of eating is said to have many health benefits. Fasting to lose weight has even become the new slimming secret. In this article, discover the real benefits of intermittent  fasting and how to practice it with a typical day of special fasting menu.

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Since ancient times, for spiritual or religious reasons, people have deprived themselves of food as a way of atonement. Today, this practice, which has become fashionable, is done for the sake of well-being and health. “The aim of intermittent fasting is to purify the body of junk food, excesses and toxins by putting the emunctory organs, such as the liver, kidneys and skin, on haitus”. During this fast, the body uses the glucose circulating in the blood or in the liver to continue to function properly. Intermittent fasting is a more realistic, sustainable, non-pharmaceutical and effective approach for weight loss, as well as for diabetes prevention.

Intermittent fasting, referred to as IF, is an eating plan that alternates between periods of eating and periods of fasting.   Almost all of us fast overnight already.  The period between dinner and breakfast is usually spent sleeping and not eating.  The word breakfast itself indicates the we are breaking the overnight fast.  In most cases, this means that we are fasting at least 8 hours.  Intermittent fasters take their fasts a little (or a lot) longer than overnight.  Fasts can range from 12 hours, 16 hours, 18 hours, or extended fasts that last for several days.

For our purposes here, we will only consider fasts of up to 24 hours.  Anything longer than that would be considered extended fasting.  Many people combine IF with specific diets such as Keto, Paleo, or Weight Watchers.  Others combine IF with their regular foods in which they can eat whatever foods they like.  Depending on your goals, IF can be customized to help you reach your desired goal.

What are the Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting has many positive effects on your body and mind that become apparent soon after adopting it. One of the reasons intermittent fasting is so successful because, when eating normally during the meal phase does not cause cravings or fatigue. Your body continues to receive all the important nutrients, only for a limited period of time which is followed by a fasting phase.

Most people who have tried it for a long time report positive experiences. Here are some of the health benefits of Intermittent fasting:

Weight loss

By reducing the number of meals per day, many people will experience weight loss.  Having a restricted time to eat each day eliminates mindless snacking or eating that can lead to weight gain.  With the absence of food, the body reverts to burning fat which can result in the reduction of belly fat.

Read also: Best 14 Diet Hacks To Keep Your Weight Loss On Track

Increase in energy levels

During the fasting phase, your body has plenty of time for detoxification and cell renewal. This is because digestion and other processes related to eating are on hiatus, which otherwise focuses almost all attention on the metabolism. Through fasting, your body has the opportunity to produce more growth hormones for cell renewal. These hormones facilitate fat metabolism (commonly known as “fat burning”) and support muscle growth. At the same time, your immune system recovers and the quality of your sleep improves. As a result, you are less tired and have more energy to reach your maximum potential.

Reduction on insulin resistance

With the rise in obesity over recent years, we have also seen an increase in the number of the instances of Type 2 diabetes.  IF can help reduce blood sugar levels that can protect insulin levels.  When insulin levels drop, fat burning increases.

Read also: Top Ten Exercises For Diabetes And Insulin Resistance

Increase concentration

Intermittent fasting can also reduce oxidative stress and increase the growth of new nerve cells. Another benefit of intermittent fasting for your concentration is that the release of the hormone BDNF. These hormones positively affects your neurons in the peripheral and central nervous system. Mental performance is therefore improved via: abstract thinking, logical thinking, organisational thinking and memory.

May help with heart health

Many of the risk factors associated with heart health can be helped with periodic fasting.  Blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood sugar can all be reduced with IF.

Increased lipid metabolism

During the fasting phase, your metabolism works at full speed because the longer your body is not supplied with food, the more it draws on its fat reserves. About 8 to 12 hours after the last meal, the metabolism goes into ketosis and burns fat mass – the fats – and the lean mass – the muscles – remains the same. Many studies have shown that intermittent fasting helps to reduce fat tissue.  Also, if you are interested in adopting the ketogenic diet, intermittent fasting will make it easier for you to get into this form of nutrition.

Improves quality of  life

When the incidences of cancer and chronic health issues is lessened, lifespans are increased.  Additionally, with the improvement of critical health markers such as cholesterol and blood pressure, makes a quality life possible.

How to Intermittently Fast

In its simplest terms, fasting is abstaining from food.  The period of fasting is known as the fasting window.  The alternating time is called the feeding or eating window.  If one fasts for 16 hours and has an 8 hour feeding window, that will be expressed as 16:8.   A 20 hour fast followed by a 4 hour eating window  would be 20:4.

For a 16 hour fast, skipping dinner or breakfast is the most common option.  Since we’re already sleeping for around 8 hours, fasting during one of the adjacent meals works best for most people.  Water is allowed and some types of fasting allow for black coffee or green tea with nothing added.  Purists allow only water during fasting times but coffee is a deal breaker for many people.  Because coffee and tea do not spike insulin levels in the body, they are generally accepted among most fasters.  Adding any type of sweetener (sugar, honey, Stevia, etc), creamer, or anything else will end the fast.

The end of the fasting period signifies the beginning of the feeding window.  During this time, you can eat according to your specific dietary plan.  For weight loss, a caloric deficit is necessary so it is important that this time not become a feeding frenzy.  At the end this time period, it’s back to fasting.

The convenient thing about IF is that it is highly customizable.  Fasting times can be varied from day to day.  And it is not required to fast every day to see results.  Some people opt to follow 16:8 most days and have one 24 hour fast per week.  While there are not an extensive number of studies at this point, it is believed that even periodic fasting can have positive effects.

Who should fast (and who shouldn’t)

With so many health benefits, it’s easy to see why so many people are trying IF.  However, IF is NOT for everyone.  Certain people should avoid IF altogether while other people should consider the benefits.  You should always talk to your doctor before trying IF or any other type of program.

If you have disordered eating or have ever suffered from an eating disorder, IF is definitely not for you.  This is not zero or super low calorie method of eating; it is a way to gradually take charge of your eating. For those looking to lose weight gradually, this may be a good option.  For those looking to improve your vital health numbers, IF may be a good solution for you.  IF can help you better understand your body’s nutritional needs by determining the difference between true hunger and just wanting to eat.  If you are prone to binges, avoid IF.   If you have any other concerns with trying intermittent fasting, please remember to consult a professional.

Myths Regarding Intermittent Fasting

Researchers have proven that Fasting is an all-natural solution that allows your body to rid itself of excess sugar and fat, thus permitting the body to metabolize effectively. Fasting comes in a variety of methods, like Intermittent Fasting, and it could be YOUR winning strategy for weight loss and fat loss. But there is a lot of misinformation about this intermittent fasting as with every other popular trend. We will dispel some common myths surrounding intermittent fasting to help you distinguish fact from fiction.

#1 – Fasting will slow your Metabolism.

Each time you consume calories, your metabolic rate increases. Ironically, it takes energy to break down and absorb energy (aka Thermic Effect of Food, TEF). The amount of energy you expend digesting food is directly proportional to the amount of calories and nutrients you consume during the meal.

Whether you’re eating 3 – 600 calorie meals or you’re eating 9 – 200 calorie meals, the amount of energy we expend to burn the calories is the same because were consuming the same amount of calories within that 24 hour period.

Read also: Simple Ways to Boost Your Metabolism

#2 – Fasting will burn Muscle.

Let’s refer to the body’s biochemistry. The body stores energy in the forms of glycogen in the liver (sugar) and body fat. When you start fasting, you start burning off all of the glycogen, then at a certain point you burn some excess amino acids. There’s the confusion. The body does not upregulate its protein catabolism, so it is never burning muscle. When you consume a sufficient amount of Protein, there is a normal turnover that occurs. And when you start fasting, that turnover goes down and Fat oxidation commences. You have essentially switched fuel sources from burning sugar to burning fat. And lord knows we have plenty of that to burn.

Read also: Workout Nutrition That Helps Muscle Gain and Recovery

#3 – Fasting will cause the body to go into Starvation Mode.

When you reduce your calorie intake, the body’s natural response is to reduce its energy (calorie) expenditure, overall causing a significant decrease in metabolism. The body is smart enough to know when you are starving it and it will do everything in its power (store fat) to prevent death. However, when you incorporate fasting, the opposite effect occurs.

It has been suggested that your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) actually increases. From an evolutionary perspective, this makes sense. Fasting is said to produce Epinephrine and norepinephrine (adrenaline/noradrenaline). These hormones sharpen the mind and can kick start us to move more. The body does not just shut down. As mentioned above, your body will switch fuel sources from burning food to burning fat.

#4 – You need to Consume Protein three times per hour to build Muscle

Research shows that protein intake in larger amounts doesn’t impact muscle mass. For muscle growth, you don’t need to eat protein every two or three hours. Instead, you should eat 20-30 grams of protein each meal or snack. Intermittent fasting can help you gain muscle and shed body fat. For muscle growth, eat before and afterwards strength training workouts.
Read also: What are Health Benefits of Hemp Protein

How to start IF?

Note: First and foremost, get approval from your physician – it’s not for everyone.
And don’t even think about jumping right into an extreme fasting window. Think small changes. Also, please note that there is no one “right’ way to fast so please experiment with different fasting methods (see below).

  • The easiest way to begin is to start with an overnight fast of 6-8 hours. This will also help with your circadian rhythm.
  • You can always try intermittently fasting between meals. If you’re eating a balanced and nutrient-dense meal, you should be able to go 4-5 hours between meals. And if you can’t, that might be an indicator that your macros are off, you are undereating or you may not be hydrating enough.
  • Once you’ve established the above routine (s), lengthen your fasting window by 1 hour before you go to bed and 1 hour after you wake up.
  • Based on how your body responds, add another fasting hour before bedtime and/or after you wake. This is where you must consider your lifestyle and continue with a fasting method that is sustainable for consistency.

Example windows

  • For a healthy woman with zero contraindications, an optimal IF method for fat loss is 14 hours fasting/10 hours eating. Fasting hours are dependent on the individual and can be lengthened.
  • For a healthy man with zero contraindications, an optimal IF method for fat loss is 16 hours fasting/8 hours eating. Fasting hours are dependent on the individual and can be lengthened.

For Best Results

  • Make your eating hours earlier in the day (between 7 am to 3 pm, or even 10 am to 6 pm and limit eating right before bed.
  • Avoid snacking between meals or eating late at night.

When we snack, our insulin levels rise and our fat cells are unable to release stored sugar to be used as energy. If we desire weight loss, our insulin levels must drop low enough so that burn off our fat.

What NOT to do

If you’re coming off a long fast, the last thing you should do is:

  • Eat whatever the heck you want. The quality of food and quantity STILL matters and fasting doesn’t give the green light to abuse food.
  • Be unprepared. It’s important that you plan out how you will break your fast (i.e. have your food prepped, review the restaurant menu beforehand, etc.)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How will I feel after I start Intermittent Fasting?

After 3 days to 1 week FANTASTIC. Or at least that’s what the majority of fasters experience better. Imagine a rush of adrenaline and epinephrine that clears your mind and keeps you hyper-focused through your fasting hours. Not only are you are able to work more proficiently, but you don’t have to waste thinking about what you’re going to eat or when you have to leave to pick up food.
BUT – When 1st starting fasting, you may notice your stomach grumbling, headaches or constipation. Some people may initially feel exhausted, lightheaded, or shaky from diminished blood sugar. Many medications can also cause problems on an empty stomach and should be discussed with a physician.

Can everyone do intermittent fasting?

No. Intermittent Fasting is NOT recommended for:

  • One who does not lacks a healthy relationship with food (i.e. eating disorder).
  • One who has difficulty meet their daily caloric needs or is underweight.
  • One who has chronic stress, elevated cortisol or irregular hormones (menopausal women).
  • One who is currently taking prescriptive medication.
  • One who is pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • One who is under the age of 18 years.

It is not something that everyone has to do. This is just another tool in the toolbox that can be useful for some people. Some also believe that it may not be as beneficial for women as men.

Won’t I lose muscle if I do intermittent fasting?

It’s quite the opposite. To make a long story short, Nature designed us to conserve protein and utilize excess fat for fuel during fasting. With the production of Growth Hormone, the availability and utility of fats for fuel increases. We actually preserve muscle mass and bone density. Click here for more information.