Intermittent Fasting and How it Can Work For You
Are you looking to take your fitness and nutrition results into over-drive??
Fasting for 16 to 24 hours can help you burn fat and maintain muscle, and comes with minimal downsides. Sound too good to be true? Find out for yourself.
SKIPPING MEALS TO save calories is a sure-fire way to tank your metabolism and sabotage weight loss. Condense those food-free time periods to set intervals, however, and watch the fat melt away.
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting really just means a period of eating followed by a period of not eating, repeated over time.
There are three types of intermittent fasting: whole-day fasting (5-6 feed days, 1-2 nonconsecutive fast days, repeated every week), alternate-day fasting (1 feed day, 1 fast day, repeated), and time-restricted feeding (4-8 feed hours, 16-20 feed hours, repeated daily).
All three types offer the same fat-burning benefits of intermittent fasting. The real differences are just in how long you’re fasting and what you’re allowed to eat during the fast. On both whole-day fasting and alternate-day fasting, for example, you consume 500 calories per fast day to spark fat loss but maintain muscle. During time-restricted feeding, however, you’re consuming zero calories during your fast period (water and tea, for example, are allowed). In all types, you’re free to go hog-wild during the feeding window—though, obviously, all nutritionists would recommend you ditch the junk and stick to healthy fare.
Its important to note that during a typical “feed day”, most people don’t usually binge that much. In fact, most report they can only eat about 10% more coming off a fast than they normally would—their body just won’t let them overeat. That’s why an increasing number of studies show that intermittent fasting may work just as well as limiting your calorie intake when it comes to weight loss.
Now, intermittent fasting isn’t magical—your calories still count. It’s just an alternate way to reach that same calorie restriction. With traditional calorie restriction, you’re following a normal, healthy eating pattern but eating less at each meal. With intermittent fasting, you’re eating roughly the same number of reduced calories, just in a confined time frame. You’re just giving yourself different parameters to live within.
What’s the payoff of intermittent fasting?
The main benefit of intermittent fasting is weight loss—fat loss, specifically. Insulin increases when you eat, and when insulin is high, you cannot burn fat. When you fast, insulin falls, which allows your body to access its stores of food (i.e., body fat) for energy.
One advantage of intermittent fasting: helping you retain muscle mass. When people lose weight, typically 75% is fat loss and 25% is muscle mass. But with fasting, the ratio actually changes so that 90% of weight loss is fat and 10% is muscle.
And because you retain this muscle, your metabolism won’t drop the way it might with calorie-restricted weight loss. In fact, fasting actually boosts your metabolism. There’s a misconception that your metabolic rate will decrease if you’re not eating. If you’re fasting, your body views it as a mild stress, so research actually that shows your resting metabolism is actually higher after an overnight fast, and 16-24 hours is the window in which you see the largest increase in fat burn.
Additionally, alternate-day fasting and whole-day fasting have been shown to not only reduce body fat but also total cholesterol and triglycerides in both overweight and normal-weight people. Because intermittent fasting can stabilize insulin levels—if you don’t eat, your blood sugar will come down—there’s reason to believe it could be a good diet for people with Type 2 diabetes.
Intermittent fasting: What’s the catch?
There are no real downsides to intermittent fasting. It’s quite safe in terms of how it affects your health and biomarkers.
The biggest drawback is irritability—the first five fast days on alternate-day fasting and whole-day fasting are difficult for many people. Irritability subsides after the first week or so, though, after which people actually say they have a boost of energy on their fast day.
What if you sneak a few beers with the boys during a fast window? The only real risk of cheating on your time frames is the same as cheating on any diet—you won’t lose weight as quickly as if you had stuck to it perfectly.
Who should try it?
It’s important to remember intermittent fasting is an eating plan, not a diet. People certainly use it as a short-term plan to lean up but the majority of researchers prefer to think of it as a lifestyle you’d continue indefinitely as an alternate feeding plan.
Ultimately, if you’re trying to lose fat or maintain a low body-fat percentage, the most important question is whether intermittent fasting is an easier day-to-day eating strategy than counting calories or focusing on macros.
2018 01 24