With the millions of fad diets out there, how can you possibly decide the best way to lose weight? With the rise of intermittent fasting, a new question is intriguing dieters: “What if you could simply change WHEN you eat, not WHAT you eat, to lose weight and boost your overall health at the same time?”
This is the idea behind intermittent fasting and science is backing it up. Keep reading to learn more and see if intermittent fasting is right for you.
Before we dive in, we need to talk about what intermittent fasting is and what it isn’t…
First of all, it is not starving yourself. We use the word “starving” pretty loosely in everyday conversation, but you can’t actually starve in 8, 12, 16, or even 24 hrs. So, there will be no “starving” with intermittent fasting.
Think about it this way… a bear eats all spring, summer and fall to build up his fat reserves before he goes into hibernation. During the winter months, his body feeds off of his fat stores. Intermittent fasting, like the popular keto diet, trains your body to tap into your own body’s fat stores for energy.
We each fast every single day. The hours when you sleep are a “fast” where your body is not getting a continuous supply of food energy. That is why the word “breakfast” is when you literally break your fast each morning.
Now imagine extending that nightly fast just a few hours more. Could you postpone breakfast until 10am … or even wait to eat until noon? If the answer is “yes,” then intermittent fasting may work well for you.
There are many types of intermittent fasting including: alternate day fasting, 5:2 fasting, or the window approach. We find that the window approach is a great way to start. To do this, pick a time or “window” each day when you plan to do all your eating.
If you are doing a “16/8” window you would plan to eat all of your food within 8 hours and then fast the other 16 hours. To use our earlier example, you might postpone breakfast until noon and then plan to finish snacks and dinner by 8pm each night. Easy!
This lifestyle is flexible, so if a 16/8 “window” of 10am-6pm works better, you can adjust the time however you like. If you want to take things up a notch, try an 18/6 or 20/4 window approach. Pick a time that fits your lifestyle and individual needs. Some people have better results with a shorter window, while others lose with an easy 8 hour eating window.
Alternate day fasting is another system, which may sound a little more intense, but it’s very doable. You will eat normally for one day and then fast through the second day and return to eating normally on day three. If you are very active and need some calories to make it through day two, some people will have a small 500 calorie meal. You may find that you’d prefer to just fast the whole way through those days and ignore the 500 calorie meal. Many people find once they start eating, it triggers their appetite and they want more.
There are other IF protocols out there, but the two above options are great ways to start that will still have you seeing results.
I’m sure you are thinking – “But I’ll be too hungry if I postpone my meals!” Yes, it may take a few days or weeks to get used to this new eating pattern. During this time, you will be retraining your body to burn fat for energy instead of the glucose from constant eating throughout the day.
During your fast, you can drink water, black coffee and plain tea. Stay away from creamer, sweeteners, diet sodas or anything that will make your body think it is going to be fed. A proper fast will keep your insulin levels way down so your body can switch to a fat burning mode.
During your eating window, it is up to you what foods you’d like to eat. This lifestyle can easily be combined with any sort of eating preferences including a regular American diet, Paleo, Keto, Veganism, etc. Many people find they start to prefer higher quality and healthier foods during their eating window. After all, if you’re just going to eat during a short timespan each day, that food better be delicious and satisfying!
Now that we know what intermittent fasting is, let’s look at all of the great benefits you can reap. When you fast you are allowing your body to re-set and take care of a lot of the processes that it doesn’t do when it is busy breaking down food.
Increased Fat Burning – As we already hinted, fat burning is a great benefit for intermittent fasting. Your body burns the food that you put into your body first and foremost. When you fast, your body then burns your stored fat.
Autophagy – When it comes to fasting, one of the main benefits is the stimulation of autophagy. This is essentially your body’s way of “cleaning house” and getting rid of the cells that are damaged, old or just shouldn’t be there.
While still in the early stages, there is promising evidence that increased autophagy can help reduce the risk of progression of diseases such as cancer. Fasting as an autophagy stimulator is also shown to help reverse type II diabetes along with weight loss.
Increased Energy – While it may seem counter-intuitive, fasting can increase your energy. When you are eating, your body gives you energy from the carbohydrates in the food. This causes rises and falls in your blood sugar and your energy. When you are fasting, your body uses your stored fat for energy. This is a slow, sustained process that provides you with steady, sustained energy.
Mental Clarity – Your brain experiences the same ups and down as your body when you are eating…and after. This means that the sustained energy you receive from stored fat will help you maintain clearer thinking and increased productivity, without the inevitable crash.
Other Health Benefits – The list of benefits associated with intermittent fasting is long, but impressive. Animal studies have shown that intermittent fasting can lead to a longer life, delay the onset of Alzheimer’s, increase heart health and prevent premature aging. Many of these ideas are in the early stages, but the results so far are very promising.
A new study, published in Science News, showed just how effective intermittent fasting can be. Researchers at the University of Adelaide showed that obese women lost more weight and improved their health by fasting intermittently while following a controlled diet.
As Dr. Amy Hutchison, lead author of the study says, “Continuously restricting their diet is the main way women try to tackle their weight. Unfortunately, studies have shown that long-term adherence to a restricted diet is very challenging for people to follow.”
They monitored 88 women over ten weeks, all of whom were overweight or obese and between the ages of 35 and 70. Patients were divided between those that only restricted their diet, those that only fasted, and those that fasted and restricted their food.
The women who fasted followed the alternate day fasting system that we discussed above, and after ten weeks the results were clear. “By adhering to a strict pattern of intermittent fasting and dieting, obese women have achieved significant weight loss and improvements in their health, such as decreased markers for heart disease,” reports Dr. Hutchinson.
Whether you are trying to lose significant weight, drop those last stubborn pounds, or simply boost your overall health and energy, intermittent fasting is a system that provides extensive benefits.
As with all lifestyle changes, listen to your body and be safe. Also, remember to stick with it, nothing is going to provide overnight results, but don’t give up. Intermittent fasting is a great way to live a longer, healthier life and the results will speak for themselves.
The Obesity Code Book by Dr. Jason Fung
Intensive Dietary Management Website led by Dr. Jason Fung
The Fast 5 Book by Dr. Burt Herring
Delay, Don’t Deny Book by Gin Stephens
Role of autophagy in cancer prevention: Hsin-Yi Chen and Eileen White; 2012
https://idmprogram.com Intensive Dietary Management
10 Evidence-Based Health Benefits for Intermittent Fasting: Kris Gunnars BSc; 2016
Intermittent Fasting Could Improve Obese Women’s Health: University of Adelaide; 2019