With a plethora of diets and weight loss 'techniques' on the market, it's hard to distinguish which ones work and which ones don't. So, what about intermittent fasting? In this post, I will walk you through what is Intermittent Fasting and what it essentially does to your body.
In a nutshell, intermittent fasting is just that: fasting intermittently.
It's limiting calorie intake during certain hours/day or days/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.
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.
There are lots of variations on this theme. These are the most popular:
- The 16/8 method: involves skipping breakfast and restricting your daily eating period to 8 hours, such as 1–9 p.m. Then, you fast for 16 hours in between.
- Eat-Stop-Eat: involves fasting for 24 hours, once or twice a week, for example, by not eating from dinner one day until dinner the next day.
- The 5:2 diet: with this method, you consume only 500–600 calories on two non-consecutive days of the week but eat normally the other 5 days
Is intermittent fasting effective for weight loss?
Intermittent fasting can help you lose weight because it can help you eat fewer calories and burn more calories.
Lots of people say they have success with it. But what do the studies say?
According to one review study, intermittent fasting helped people lose 3-8% of their weight over 3-24 weeks. In this study, people also lost 4-7% of their waist circumference (i.e., belly fat).
Another study of 100 people with obesity showed that after a year, the people who fasted on alternate days lost more weight than people who didn’t change their eating patterns. But, (and here’s where it’s interesting) they didn’t lose any more weight than those on calorie-restricted diets. Out of the people who were to follow the intermittent fasting protocol, 38% dropped out.
Sticking with a diet is one of the keys to weight loss success. So, if you can’t stay with a weight-loss diet, you’re less likely to lose weight and keep it off.
Before 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.
People drop out of the intermittent fasting eating pattern because it’s hard to stick with the fasting part. They eat more than allowed (low-level of) calories when they’re supposed to be fasting. And when they finish fasting, they may overindulge due to the appetite hormones and hunger drive's reaction. None of these will help with weight loss.
Also, the hours and days of fasting can be challenging. So, having strong social support will be key to those intermittent periods of fasting. Sticking to a (healthy, nutrient-dense) weight loss diet is the key to success, and intermittent fasting can be difficult for many people to stick with.
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.
Finding an eating approach that works for you and is sustainable is the best chance of long-term weight loss success.
What about you - Have you or someone you know tried intermittent fasting? What were the results? Let me know in the comments below.
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