As we know, there are many ways to lose weight, and some are more effective than others. One weight loss approach that has become popular over the last few years is intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting is a pattern of eating that utilizes regular periods of fasting. By fasting regularly for short periods, it helps you eat fewer daily calories, which may result in weight loss over time.
In addition to weight loss, intermittent fasting could help to reduce risk factors for certain health conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol, and cardiovascular disease. Sign us up, right, ladies?!
So, what is intermittent fasting and how does it work?
Most diets focus on what you can and can’t eat; intermittent fasting is about when you eat. If you’re on an intermittent fasting diet, you only eat during certain times.
There are several different approaches to intermittent fasting, but they all work similarly, based on regular periods that you eat or fast. It works because after hours without food, your body has exhausted its sugar stores and starts burning fat instead; this is called metabolic switching.
Which intermittent fasting plan is right for you?
With a few different methods for intermittent fasting, and they can all be effective, it’s essential to choose the one that works best for you. The most popular methods are:
- the 16:8
- the 5:2
- the Warrior Diet
- Eat Stop Eat
- alternate-day fasting (ADF)
To help you choose the approach that will fit your lifestyle, let’s break down each popular intermittent fasting approach.
The 16:8 method
This is one of the most popular styles of fasting for weight loss. Basically, you fast for 16 hours a day, and you eat during a window of eight hours. This method is more flexible than other approaches to intermittent fasting because you can choose your eight-hour window.
So, you can choose the best eight-hour time slot to suit you. Some people skip breakfast and fast between midday and 8 pm, and others avoid eating late and eat from 9 am-5 pm instead.
Ensure that you eat a balanced diet during your eight-hour window to maximize the potential health benefits of intermittent fasting.
While this method is popular due to its flexibility, some may struggle to fast for 16 hours.
The 5:2 method
The 5:2 method became very popular a few years ago, and it’s another straightforward approach to fasting. Five days a week, you eat normally, without restrictions and then two days a week, you restrict your intake to a quarter of your daily calorie allowance.
For example, you’d eat 2,000 calories a day, five days a week and then two days a week, you’d consume just 500 calories.
Research has found that the 5:2 diet is just as effective as continuous calorie restriction for weight loss, plus other studies have shown that the 5:2 can help prevent metabolic diseases like heart disease and diabetes.
Similar to the 16:8 method, the 5:2 provides flexibility as you get to choose which days you fast. However, while it can be effective, 5:2 isn’t for everyone.
Eat Stop Eat
Eat Stop Eat, popularized by Brad Pilon, is an unconventional approach to intermittent fasting which involves one or two non-consecutive days of fasting a week. You eat normally during the rest of the week, although it’s recommended to eat a well-rounded diet.
Fasting for 24 hours requires a lot of willpower, and more research into the Eat Stop Eat method is needed to determine its weight loss properties and health benefits.
A pretty self-explanatory method, alternate-day fasting has an easy-to-remember structure! On this diet, you fast every other day. Some people modify this strategy to limit their calorie intake to 500 calories on fasting days instead.
Alternate-day fasting has been found to be just as effective for weight loss as following a calorie-restricted diet.
The Warrior Diet
Following the eating patterns of ancient warriors, the Warrior Diet was created in 2001 by Ori Hofmekler. It’s a bit more extreme than the 16:8 method but less restrictive than the Eat Stop Eat approach.
It consists of eating very little for 20 hours a day and then eating as much as you want and need for a four-hour window at night. During the 20 hours, you’re encouraged to eat small amounts of dairy products, hard-boiled eggs, raw fruit and veggies, and non-calorie fluids. Then during the four-hour window, you can eat anything essentially, but it’s recommended that you stick to unprocessed, healthy, and organic foods.
More research is needed on the Warrior Diet to understand its weight loss benefits fully.
What can you eat whilst intermittent fasting?
You should stick to water and zero-calorie drinks such as black coffee and tea during your fasting periods. And then, during your eating periods, you should eat normally, but eating normally doesn’t mean going crazy and eating whatever you like; you should still be eating healthy and balanced meals.
How does intermittent fasting affect your hormones?
While intermittent fasting may help you lose weight, it can also affect your hormones. When you fast, your body makes changes to access its energy stores.
Metabolic changes that occur when you fast:
Insulin – Your insulin levels increase when you eat, and when you fast, they decrease dramatically. When you have lower insulin levels, it helps you burn fat.
Norepinephrine (noradrenaline) – Your nervous system sends norepinephrine to your fat cells; this causes them to break down body fat into fatty acids that can be burned for energy.
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Is intermittent fasting safe?
Whether you’re trying to lose weight or manage chronic conditions, intermittent fasting isn’t for everyone. And before you change your lifestyle and diet completely, you should check in with your doctor first.
Also Read: What does caffeine do to your body?
Intermittent fasting isn’t suitable for some people, including:
- Children under 18
- Pregnant women or those who are breastfeeding
- People with diabetes or blood sugar conditions
- Those with a history of eating disorders
Does intermittent fasting help you to maintain muscle mass?
Typically, when you’re dieting, your body loses muscle along with fat. However, some studies have shown that intermittent fasting may be beneficial for losing body fat whilst maintaining muscle mass.
However, the study does have some limitations, so take these results with a pinch of salt.
How to make intermittent fasting work for you
If you want to try intermittent fasting, there are a few things that you may want to keep in mind:
- Eat healthily – even though you’re fasting, the food that you eat is still important.
- Calories – try to eat normally during your non-fasting periods, you’re not trying to make up for fasting.
- Consistency – just like any diet, you need to stick to it for an extended period.
- Patience – we all want things to work immediately, but it can take your body some time to adjust to intermittent fasting.
- Exercise – many intermittent fasting methods recommend exercise, in particular strength training.
What are the benefits of intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting isn’t for everyone, but it can be highly beneficial for some people. For example:
- Simplicity – For many, it’s straightforward to follow because of the set periods for eating and fasting.
- Memory and brain function – Studies discovered that intermittent fasting boosts working memory in animals and verbal memory in adult humans.
- Cardiovascular health – Intermittent fasting improved blood pressure and resting heart rates as well as other heart-related measurements.
- Physical activity – young men who fasted for 16 hours showed fat loss while maintaining muscle mass. Mice who were fed on alternate days showed better endurance when running.
- Preventing health conditions – In animal studies, intermittent fasting prevented obesity. And in six brief studies, obese adult humans lost weight through intermittent fasting.
- Tissue health – In animals, intermittent fasting reduces tissue damage in surgery and improves results.
But remember, the best diet and lifestyle choice is one that you can stick to in the long run, so if intermittent fasting makes it easier for you to eat healthily, it will have long term benefits.
We hope this low down on intermittent fasting has given you everything you need to know and can help you decide whether it could be right for you!
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