Intermittent Fasting (IF) has become a buzz phrase around weight loss and health and there are many mis-conceptions about what it actually is.
So I’m going to break it down for you: It is a way of managing your weight but rather than what you eat it, is about when you eat.
Namely you have an eating window of typically between 4 to 8 hours when you can eat. The popular method is called 16/8 when you fast (that’s not eat anything for 16 hours).
For a lot of this time you are asleep anyway so, say you don’t eat after 8pm in the evening, you then start eating again at 12 midday the next day. You can then eat between 12 midday and 8pm and so on for the rest of the week.
If you are doing 16/8 properly you will only consume black coffee and water during your fasting period.
This is because if you consume anything that has calories in it, it’s considered as breaking your fast and therefore you will not get the benefits of lowering your insulin and increasing growth hormone levels, that intermittent fasting brings.
There are other types of intermittent fasting which will give you a shorter eating window so you could fast for 20 hours and eat for 4 hours.
Or you can do alternate day fasting, where you fast for 24 hours. The easiest one to do if you are new to it, is the 16/8 protocol.
Does IF work?
There have been various studies carried out about IF, which are inconclusive. Some showing that fasting works and some that show it doesn’t.
In one study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, non-obese subjects (8 men and 8 women) fasted every other day for 22 days and they lost 2.5 +/- 0.5% of their initial body weight and 4 +/- 1% of their fat mass: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15640462/
In another study published July 1, 2017, in JAMA Internal Medicine, 100 overweight people were assigned to one of three eating plans: restricting daily calorie intake by the same amount every day (similar to a traditional diet plan), fasting on alternate days, and continuing with normal eating habits.
At the end of the 12-month study, both diet groups had lost weight compared with the normal eaters. However, the fasters didn’t fare any better than the conventional calorie cutters.
There are some studies that have shown that intermittent fasting may not benefit women because Alternate day fasting may adversely affect glucose tolerance in nonobese women but not in nonobese men. Click the link to read the study here
In terms of women over 40 some experts say ( eg Thomas DeLauer) that women shouldn’t fast every day because it puts too much stress on a hormone called ‘Kisspeptin’ which is more important for women than men. Thomas recommends women should fast every other day.
I followed the intermittent fasting 16/8 method for a period of 18 months. In addition some days I fasted for around 20 to 22 hours. I did drop some body fat and weight during that time and also gained some weight when my calorie levels went up.
I should point out that intermittent fasting caused me to overeat when it was time to eat and I had been fasting for a long time. This is not the case for everyone but I found it did make me prone to binge eating.
So now I prefer to stick to a plan where my meals are evenly spread throughout the day. You can download a copy of a similar meal plan here
I believe it is a great way to control your calories, but for me it wasn’t a magic pill where fat would just strip away like you hear of. I have lost even more body fat since stopping Intermittent Fasting and following a four to six meal a day plan.
With this in mind, I have developed a FREE nutrition guide and meal plan for women over the age of 40 which will help you lose around 5 inches of body fat in 90 days.
I would highly recommend that you include High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) with Intermittent Fasting as this will help you burn fat and give you the added benefit of increasing your metabolism. You can read more about the benefits of HIIT here.
Intermittent Fasting Benefits
There are some great benefits to intermittent fasting:
- It’s easy to fit into your lifestyle as you are not eating as often so you don’t need to carry around food with you if you are on calorie restriction
- It’s is easy to implement and very straight forward
- Breakfast is not the most important meal of the day and you can skip it
- You will reduce your food bill as you’re not eating as often
- You will naturally eat less and consume fewer calories as you have a smaller ‘eating window’ to eat your food
- There are claims made to health benefits
- People say they have more mental focus during their fasting period
- You may find you have reduced cravings
Intermittent Fasting Disadvantages
- The evidence that it supports weight loss is inconclusive
- You may struggle and be hungry during periods of fasting
- You might binge when it is finally time to eat (I sometimes did this)
- It is not a magic formula where you can eat what you like during the ‘eating window’ – you will still need to watch your calories if your goal is to lose weight
In conclusion, if you feel that Intermittent Fasting would fit your lifestyle, then try it. Some people don’t eat breakfast anyway so this would suit you, if that’s you.
It’s not a magic formula or pill. Calories in, versus calories out is more important. If you would like to learn more about how you can effectively lose weight without dieting you can read my blog 15 ways to lose weight without diet or exercise here
Intermittent fasting can naturally control your calorie intake so you may experience weight loss and save yourself some money as you will buy less food.
But the most important thing to do if you want to lose weight is calories in versus calories (energy) out and having a healthy whole food balanced diet. You can’t actually eat anything you like and just expect to lose weight with Intermittent Fasting.
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