Struggling to Lose Weight? Intermittent Fasting Could Be For You!
What is Intermittent Fasting?
If you haven’t heard of this popular health trend yet – have you been living under a rock?! It is not your conventional diet as it focuses on eating during a predetermined feeding window, so is better described as an eating pattern rather than a diet. Studies have shown that intermittent fasting (IF) is a way to control weight, prevent or reverse certain illnesses, or simplify your lifestyle.
Switching between fasting and eating may be cumbersome at first, but when your body gets used to the new schedule (which can take 2-4 weeks) it will get easier and you may even see results quite quickly. Fasting is also drummed into our evolution as humans can go lengths at a time without food – our bodies have reserves of glycogen that we utilise when we do not eat.
It is also recommended that we don’t overfeed or constantly feed our bodies every few hours, so as not to hinder our insulin productivity. Who knew that when you eat is just as important as what you ate?
There are multiple fasting methods, but the most favoured is the 16:8 approach. This is where you fast for 16 hours and eat during an 8-hour window. Many people pursue this method because they find they can incorporate it into their daily routine. Other methods include:
- 5:2 – perhaps for more seasoned fasters as this requires eating normally for 5 days and restricting yourself to one 500-600 calorie meal twice weekly.
- Meal-skipping – a flexible approach as it only requires skipping meals when you’re not hungry, making it suitable for beginners.
- 24 hour fast – otherwise known as the eat-stop-eat method. This is when fasters don’t eat food from breakfast to breakfast or dinner to dinner.
- OMAD – is the One Meal A Day craze. For people who can eat one very large meal a day and fast for usually 20-24 hours until their next meal.
- Alternate day fasting – relies on fasting every other day. People on this routine either eat no solid food or less than 500 calories on fasting days and eat their typical amount of food on feeding days.
Keep in mind that although some of these methods may result in weight loss, it may be difficult to maintain in the long term.
What Can I Drink During My Fasting Window?
Quite simply, not much. The best options are water and herbal teas as they have next to no calories. However, black coffee or black coffee with a splash of almond milk are also exceptions. As a general rule of thumb, you should be fine as long as you consume less than 1g of carbs or protein or less than 50 calories during the fasting period. Black coffee can be super beneficial during this window as caffeine can suppress appetite and promote fat burning.
Some people also consume water with some sort of added acidity in the morning, like apple cider vinegar (ACV) water or lemon water. A glass or two of lemon water during an intermittent fast claims to help burn fat and reduce hunger whilst ACV controls blood sugar levels.
This next one is for meat-eaters only, and that is bone broth. Bone broth is made by simmering animal bones and connective tissues to make a nutrient and collagen rich mixture. It can provide you with essential electrolytes that get depleted throughout the day, especially with exercise. To ensure proper hydration and bodily function while fasting, make sure you get your electrolytes.
The Science Behind Fasting
Fasting has tremendous effects on a cellular level, and as mentioned before can aid in managing and even reversing illnesses, like pre-diabetes. A particular hormone that comes into play is the human growth hormone (HGH). Fasting increases levels of this hormone which helps to drive fat loss and muscle gain. Another biohack of fasting is that it lowers insulin levels which makes it easier to access stored body fat.
When fasted, your body goes through autophagy which is the body’s way of renewing itself on a cellular level. ‘Auto’ means self and ‘phagy’ means eat – so it literally means ‘self-eating’ in the sense that this process is ridding us of damaged cells and regenerating new ones. So autophagy essentially counteracts the negative effect of ageing and can improve known biomarkers of longevity.
Intermittent Fasting Benefits
IF presents a myriad of health benefits
- Weight loss. The caloric restriction, regular feeding times and metabolic recovery that fasting permits, all lead to eventual weight loss. A well-balanced diet on top of IF is sure to prove further weight loss.
- Insulin sensitivity. Studies have shown that fasting is linked to a reduction in insulin levels.
- Inflammation. Fasting may be the best way to manage diseases associated with inflammation such as Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, asthma and more.
- Heart health. IF improves blood pressure, ‘bad’ cholesterol, insulin resistance and other inflammatory markers that can cause heart problems.
- Cognitive health. Time-controlled feeding also assists in boosting brain health as it increases memory and can help clear brain fog. This is because fasting may stimulate the regeneration of nerve-cells.
Even though IF seems like a miracle biohack for losing weight and long-lasting health, it doesn’t mean it is for everyone. If you have medical conditions, are underweight or have an eating disorder it is advisable to check with a health professional first. Individuals that suffer with the following should also use caution and check with a professional first:
- Problems with blood sugar regulation.
- Low blood pressure.
- Take prescribed medications.
- Have kidney stones.
Pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid IF, and there are actually separate guidelines on fasting for women. This is to minimise any adverse effects to their menstrual cycle.
IF can also cause some discomfort, especially at the beginning, so if you aren’t willing to undergo the possible effects then maybe this lifestyle is not for you. Side effects include: hunger, fatigue, insomnia and nausea.
Chrono dieting is difficult to start but provides extreme health benefits in the long run. However, it’s useful to note that time-restricted feeding alone won’t change your life. The type of diet you consume also plays a part. Calorie (and carbohydrate) load, macro and micronutrients, and physical activity are also vital in achieving and sustaining better health.
There are various methods if you want to experiment before committing to one meal schedule. And for anymore information we can answer any further questions in the comments*.