Are you wondering if you can lose weight with intermittent fasting? Find out what science has to say about it and learn all about intermittent fasting.
Religious fasting has been a part of certain cultures for hundreds and thousands of years (1). It is supposed to help people on their spiritual journey by teaching them restraint, patience, and humbleness. It is also believed to have a cleansing effect on your body and mind.
Recently, fasting has also become a go-to option for many people looking to lead a healthy lifestyle and boost longevity. It seems like it could be great for weight loss, but what does science have to say about it?
Can fasting help you lose weight? Also, does it have any additional health benefits?
Read on to find out.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is a type of restricted eating where you don’t focus on what you are consuming, but rather when you are doing it. There is typically an 8-hour window where you eat everything you normally would, and then you fast for the remaining 16 hours. Keep in mind that there are different types of intermittent fasting, and not every one follows this pattern.
The whole idea behind this concept is that our ancestors weren’t able to eat all the time, so having a specific eating window should be natural to us. It should help us align feeding time with our circadian rhythm, balance hormone production, which could play an important role in decreasing the risks of developing chronic conditions.
“Most people are putting something caloric in their mouths essentially every minute they’re up, and we know that from an evolutionary perspective, this is not how humans or animals are geared to eat,” said Dr. Mark Mattson, a renowned neuroscientist, and intermittent fasting researcher.
It seems that what we eat is not the only piece of weight loss puzzle. More and more research shows that the timing of our meals is essential as well, and that’s why intermittent fasting could be an excellent option for weight loss.
A great thing about intermittent fasting is its flexibility, making it easy to fit in your everyday schedule. If you must have an early breakfast, start your eating window at 8 am and close it at 4 pm. On the other hand, if you are not used to eating in the morning, have your first meal at noon and don’t eat after 8 pm. It’s totally up to you!
Different Types of Intermittent Fasting
There are several different intermittent fasting options, but three most common ones include:
Is Intermittent Fasting Effective for Weight Loss?
Weight loss is the main reason why people want to try intermittent fasting. It’s convenient as it doesn’t rely on the classic weight-loss model, where you watch your calorie intake, and aim for calorie restriction.
Intermittent fasting affects gene expression and hormone production in our bodies, which translates to increased metabolism and fat loss. During the fast, insulin levels drop, decreasing fatty acid production, and increasing fat burning (2).
Fasting activates human growth hormone synthesis (3). Studies show that growth hormone plays an essential role in fat burning. It is vital for reducing body fat, especially visceral fat, and it also stimulates muscle growth (4,5,6).
Fasting stimulates the production of norepinephrine, which could be a potential early signal for metabolism changes in our bodies (7). It stimulates fat burning and increases resting energy expenditure (8).
Research has shown that intermittent fasting for weight loss outcomes is at least as effective as calorie restriction (9). It can have a better potential for targeting belly fat, promoting metabolic health, and it could help keep your energy levels constant throughout the day.
One of the reasons why intermittent fasting is effective for weight loss is lower food intake, which results in eating fewer calories. Many people snack out of boredom, and when that’s off the table because of the fasting periods, they enter a calorie deficit.
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Other Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Besides weight loss, studies have reported other health benefits of intermittent fasting.
“Many things happen during intermittent fasting that can protect organs against chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, age-related neurodegenerative disorders, even inflammatory bowel disease, and many cancers,” says Dr. Mark Mattson.
Intermittent fasting may:
How to Make Sure You Lose Weight With Intermittent Fasting
Just because you decide to try intermittent fasting, it doesn't mean that weight loss is guaranteed. You still need to focus on several things, starting from your diet, trying to be more active, and making sure you follow your plan.
Watch Your Diet
Yes, intermittent fasting is not about calorie intake, but you can't change how your body works. Fasting with food that is highly processed and full of sugars won’t cut it, and you need to focus your diet on whole foods and healthy eating.
You don’t need to watch your calorie intake and write everything down. Just avoid junk food, and try eating more of a Mediterranean style diet proven to have most health benefits. Most importantly, try eating less refined sugars.
Don’t Try to Compensate During Eating Windows
One of the most common mistakes people make is over-eating during the eating period. They try to make it up for the time they won’t be able to eat, and it often leads to eating more calories than they need. Don't eat unless you are hungry, or you'll have problems shedding weight.
Set your weight goals, choose your preferred version of intermittent fasting plan, and stick with them! You’ll need at least a month to see if a particular diet is right for your body. If not, try another one. It takes a little experimenting, but once you find the one that works for you, stick to it.
You’ll only experience weight loss if you face continuous calorie restriction. When you break fasting periods, it will slow down your progress, and it may take longer for you to achieve your weight loss goals.
Exercising Is Important
We all want a shortcut, but if your goal is to lose body fat while gaining muscle mass, you need to get active. If you have decided to change your body composition and build muscle mass, listen to medical advice from experts. Go with fasting, break the cycle of overeating, and add strength training to your life for the best result.
Watch Out for Downsides
Intermittent fasting is a safe and effective diet for most people. However, certain groups should consult with their healthcare provider before trying this weight loss program. This includes pregnant and breastfeeding women, people trying to conceive, people with insulin sensitivity and diabetes, people with low blood pressure, people on medications, underweight individuals, and people with eating disorders.
Choose a diet plan. Focus on eating quality food. For fasting periods, make sure you don’t consume any calories. Be active and be patient.
Not all fasts are the same. Try different methods, and see which one works for you. Once you’ve found the right diet, be consistent.
You have decided to fast, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you will experience weight loss. Make a meal plan focused on a healthy eating pattern, don’t eat too many calories, try to be active, and watch your body weight to make sure you are on the right path.
The Bottom Line
Intermittent fasting is an efficient weight loss method. It has many benefits, including lowering risk factors for heart disease and other chronic conditions, regulating blood sugar levels, reducing LDL cholesterol, stimulating brain health, and improving long-term health goals.
If you are looking to lose extra pounds without extensive calorie counting, and improve your health in the long run, we suggest trying intermittent fasting.