INTERMITTENT FASTING FOR WEIGHT LOSS: DOES IT REALLY WORK?
It is impossible that you are into fitness and weight loss and haven’t heard about Intermittent Fasting (IF for short). This is because IF has in the past couple of years gained worldwide popularity as an evidence-based method for weight loss.
IF is now one of the world’s most popular health and fitness trends, and it is helping people to lose weight and improve their quality of life in a simple, uncomplicated way.
By definition, IF is a diet and eating pattern that cycles between periods of eating and periods of totally abstaining from food. This kind of diet plan is different from all the other diet methods and is in a world of its own because it doesn’t place an embargo on any food or any category of food. Rather, it places a restriction on when you eat. It is not as concerned about what you eat as by when you eat it.
Because of this significant difference from other diet plans, some people do not regard it as a diet in the traditional sense but more or less an eating pattern. The foundation upon which IF stands is quite simple; humans have been going without food for extended periods of time, and often emerge at the end of the fast slimmer.
The popular IF methods
There are several different methods of implementing intermittent fasting but all of them involve splitting one day or one week into eating and fasting periods and eating nothing or next to nothing during these fasting periods.
You can choose to follow any of these IF methods:
The 16/8 method: This involves skipping breakfast and restricting the daily eating period to 8 hours, with the remaining 16 hours in between dedicated to fasting.
The Eat-Stop-Eat method: This involves fasting for 24 hours straight one or two times a week. For example, you eat dinner Tuesday night, skip breakfast and lunch on Wednesday and then eat dinner Wednesday night.
The 5:2 diet: This is where you consume only 500–600 calories on two non-consecutive days of the week, but eat normally the other 5 days.
Does it work?
Intermittent fasting has been found to be very successful for losing weight. It has been shown to cause weight loss ranging from between three to eight percent over a period of 3–24 weeks. This is a huge body percentage weight loss ratio when it is put side by side of other weight loss diets. It has actually been proven to be one of the most effective methods to lose belly fat, which is about the most stubborn of weights to lose.
But how exactly does it work?
IF works to help you lose weight in a couple of ways.
The basic reason that IF works for weight loss is that it forces you to eat fewer calories. When you don’t eat at all, you consume no calories at all, so this is the reason why IF seems to be very effective. The dieter however has to be careful not to overcompensate by eating much more during the eating periods. If you eat normally during your eating periods like you would if you were not on an IF diet, you will no doubt lose weight.
Intermittent fasting does more than cause less muscle loss than standard calorie restrictive diets. It has also been found to increase metabolic rate by as much as 3.6–14 per cent in the short term. This means that the body learns to be more effective in burning off the calories that it does ingest and utilizes them more as energy rather than converting them to fat for storage in the body’s cells. Hence, better weight loss.
One of the ways IF is very effective is that it is a very convenient way to restrict calories without consciously counting them or without deliberately trying to eat less. While there may be a few exceptions, we are of the opinion that there is nobody alive that enjoys counting calories. People count calories because it must be counted and then restricted if they are to lose weight. IF is very attractive because you don’t have to count calories to lose weight.
Other benefits of an IF diet/lifestyle
Other benefits of intermittent fasting include the reduction of markers of inflammation, blood triglycerides, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar levels. It has also been linked to improved insulin sensitivity, increased levels of human growth hormone (HGH), improved cellular repair, as well as altered gene expressions.
A discouraging side effect of most kinds of diet is the tendency of the body to burn muscle just as much as it burns fat, so that the dieter experiences muscle loss on top of fat loss. A recent study however suggests that people who embark on IF have a better chance of holding on to their muscle while losing body fat. This is incredibly good news for the one who wants to lose weight but does not want to go flabby in the process.
Recent studies also suggest that it may help new brain cells grow, protect against Alzheimer’s disease lengthen lifespan, and cut the risk of cancer significantly.
Not suitable for everyone
Intermittent fasting is not suitable for everyone, particularly breastfeeding moms, pregnant women, children, teenagers, and people already suffering from malnourishment or who are underweight or nutrient deficient.
Persons suffering from occasional drops in blood sugar levels are also not advised to try intermittent fasting.
Some studies also suggest that intermittent may temporarily stop menstrual periods in some women, and it is definitely a no-no for women who have fertility issues or who are trying to conceive.
People suffering from diabetes, or who have problems with blood sugar regulation, take medications for a medical condition, or who have a history of eating disorders are not advised to do intermittent fasting.