Intermittent fasting is a pattern of eating. Since some people falsely believe it’s a diet, we need to get that clear. Consequently, you won’t be changing what you eat. The idea is to modify your eating schedule. Why? This is where the similarity with dieting comes in. Because it may help you lose weight if you practice intermittent fasting correctly. In this article, we are going to talk about why this pattern of eating may be just the thing you need to start shedding those extra pounds.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
This dieting pattern is a conscious decision to skip a few meals in order to lose weight. As you may imagine, intermittent fasting is quite controversial. Skipping meals? But isn’t that starvation? Not quite so.
You are probably familiar with concepts such as no-fat, low-carb, high-protein, raw veggies, cabbage soup, and six small meals diets. These are usually marketed as the best ways to lose extra fat safe and fast. But they don’t come without their fair share of skeptics either. Nonetheless, you don’t hear all that much about fasting. But maybe we should.
Intermittent fasting does not impose the foods you should eat, but rather when you do it. As a matter of fact, humans have been fasting throughout our whole evolution. There are various reasons attached to this. Either because the food was unavailable, but also because fasting is part of major religions. We see it in Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, and many others.
So we’re not talking about starvation. Our bodies have clearly evolved to be able to maintain their functions without too much food for extended periods of time. So it’s safe to say that fasting might be a more “natural diet” than others. And the reason is simple. You won’t deprive your body of certain nutrients that restrictive diets cut off.
Hunger may be an issue at first, but your body will get used to this new eating schedule. And you can always drink water, unsweetened coffee and tea, as well as other non-caloric beverages. Hydration will help with satiation during those hours when you can’t eat anything. As you can see, it’s not all about “No” and “Don’t” with this form of fasting.
Any Physiological and Psychological Effects?
When we’re on a normal diet, our bodies use insulin to bring glucose into our cells to produce energy. When we’re fasting, food is absent. As a result, the level of blood glucose experiences a drop. Additionally, this decreases the insulin release as well. This process leads to increased fatty acid oxidation. If you can’t get your head around what we’ve just said, let’s put it simply. As the levels of glucose and insulin decrease, your body could use the extra fat as fuel. Sounds like a benefit to us, don’t you think?
The same happens when we work out in this state. When doing physical activity in a fasted state, we don’t have a supply of glucose and glycogen from which our body can pull from. Consequently, it has to adapt and pull from the fat stored in our cells. This, of course, leads to weight loss. Furthermore, glycogen is depleted during fasting and during training in this state. This further increases insulin sensitivity. So any meal you take immediately after your workout will be stored more as muscle than as fat. This may or may not happen to you. Others have observed the exact opposite phenomenon. We’ll speak of this just below.
While increased fat burn sounds great, it may not be so neat for everyone. Gym rats might lose some muscle mass. This is due to the fact that even short-term fasting can increase the rate of protein breakdown. However, you are allowed to take supplements when fasting, so don’t ditch it yet.
We must point out that there isn’t too much scientific information about intermittent fasting and its effect on people with a normal weight.
Let’s move on to those who are practicing a sport but are also curious to try intermittent fasting. Research has shown that this eating pattern may have slightly negative effects on athletes. More often, we are only talking about higher levels of fatigue during physical activity. This does not necessarily mean that your performance will suffer consequences. Athletes too can turn to non-caloric supplements to boost their energy levels.
But what about my emotional status? This a rather sensitive subject. Some say that intermittent fasting leads to binge eating. Others, however, state that combined with endurance exercises, fasting can actually decrease emotional eating. Yet it may be due to the many benefits of physical activity. Nonetheless, various other factors influence binge eating, not only diet.
Why Try Intermittent Fasting?
Fasting can go beyond weight loss. There are many health and lifestyle benefits associated with it. Some of the main advantages include:
Promotes caloric restriction
As all of us know, caloric restriction goes a long way when speaking of weight loss. When we fast, it’s easier to eat fewer calories. Our bodies are practically given the chance to shed the extra fat simply by eating fewer calories. You won’t be giving up the foods you love, an issue with most of the diets out there.
You save time
Either way you look at it, preparing food can consume a large part of your free time. It’s not only the preparing process but also the time spent packing and actually chewing the food.
It may save money
Fasting means eating less. Consequently, it should also benefit your finances. Rather than shopping for six small meals or three normal meals, you will be preparing two meals. Fewer plates also means less water and detergent consumed.
Encourages metabolic regulation
Fasting improves the function of the genes that are responsible for longevity and offers protection against diseases such as cancer. Caloric restriction may steer us clear of diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s as well.
Improves heart health
Fasting may also reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugar, inflammatory markers, and insulin resistance. As you may already know, these are all things we must watch out for to prevent heart disease.
Popular Intermittent Fasting Methods
1. Eat Stop Eat
This method is not for everyone, that’s for sure. Here, you will be fasting for 24 hours once or twice a week. Although you can’t eat solid foods, you can still drink liquids. But we’re talking calorie-free beverages. You can drink water, unsweetened tea or coffee, and whatever zero calorie drinks you may find.
After a whole full day, you can go back to eating normally. If your goal is to lose weight, then do incorporate regular workouts in this routine.
2. The Warrior
This eating schedule is about fasting for 20 hours every day and eating one large meal in the evening or when your time’s up. The good thing about this method is that you are still allowed to eat throughout the day if you need to. But let’s be clear – we’re talking raw fruits or vegetables, a healthy snack, or fresh juice.
Of course, if you can go that long without eating, it would be best not to cheat. After all, you still get that big meal at the end of the day. Eating at night has also been found to help our bodies produce hormones and burn the extra fat during the daytime.
This method is recommended for gym-goers who don’t want to lose their body mass. If you’re a woman, you should fast for 14 hours each day. If you’re a man, fast for 16 hours each day. During this period, you are not allowed to consume solid foods, but you can drink a few beverages. Apart from water, you can still have a cup of black coffee, a diet soda, unsweetened herbal tea, and other similar drinks.
Many people who practice this method prefer to fast through the night. Some start eating a few hours after waking up. What we like about Leangains is that it’s more flexible than other forms of intermittent fasting. You can adapt it to your lifestyle way easier, which will not interfere with your social obligations all that much.
What you eat depends on when you work out. Carbs are important on the days you work out. On rest days, you should also include foods rich in good fat. As for protein sources, include them every day.
Side Effects of Fasting
It’s not all fun and games. As with any diet or eating pattern, there are still a few side effects you must be aware of:
- Hunger. This is obviously the main disadvantage of fasting.
- Weakness. Due to the fact that you will go several hours without eating a thing, you will feel weak. This may be temporary, as the body can adapt to a new meal pattern.
- Interference with medications. Any major change in your diet might interfere with certain medications so do discuss this with your doctor.
- Low blood pressure. Caloric restriction is not advised if you suffer from low blood pressure. Talk this over with your doctor and try to figure out a solution.
Intermittent fasting can be ideal for some individuals, while other may find it hard to follow. Find out which group you are part of. Nonetheless, before trying a new diet or eating schedule, consult with a physician. If you are suffering from a medical condition, you will probably have to choose a more suitable diet. But for those who can fast, it can be a powerful weight loss tool.