Intermittent Fasting

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fastingIntermittent fasting is becoming increasingly popular as an effective way to burn fat and increase metabolism.

It also appears to have other amazing beneficial properties helpful not only for weight loss but general health.

Note that intermittent fasting is NOT about abstaining from food for multiple days or weeks, which is what some people imagine when they hear the word “fasting.”

In intermittent fasting, also called “IF”, you alternate between a period of fasting and a period of eating. The fasting period is usually anywhere between 16 hours to 24 hours.

For example, a recent book on losing weight with intermittent fasting called “The 8-Hour Diet” recommends that you fast for 16 hours and eat within the next 8 hours. For example, this could mean eating only between 11AM and 7PM.

The main idea behind intermittent fasting is shifting the time you eat, and not necessarily eating less or eating differently. Apparently just eating within a shorter window of time is enough to burn more fat and increase metabolism, among other things.

Many people report success in weight loss and/or weight maintenance with intermittent fasting, and the science behind intermittent fasting has been supported by multiple studies.

In another popular book called “The FastDiet: Lose Weight, Stay Healthy, and Live Longer with the Simple Secret of Intermittent Fasting,” author Dr. Mosley suggests another method of intermittent fasting, which is to eat normally for 5 days and fast for the remaining 2 days. In reality you can actually eat during the 2 fasting days, but only 500-600 calories per day.

Dr. Mosley himself lost 19 pounds of fat through this method in a period of two and a half months. According to Dr. Mosley, intermittent fasting is NOT about starvation, but eating similarly to our ancestors who survived in a feast and famine environment. They feasted when they had food and fasted or ate very little during famine periods. According to Dr. Mosley, our bodies have adapted to that kind of environment, and that is why intermittent fasting is effective.

Here is a video summary of the Fast Diet by Dr. Mosley:

 

How Does Intermittent Fasting Work For Weight Loss?

Allows your body to use stored fat

Intermittent fasting makes it easier for your body to use stored fat for energy. It takes some time for your body to start using stored fat for energy, since it first uses glucose in the blood, then goes for glycogen which is stored glucose. The fasting time allows your body to eventually use stored fat for energy.

Turns your body into a fat-burning machine

Intermittent Fasting - Burn FatAfter incorporating intermittent fasting for a while, your body starts to more efficiently burn fat for energy. So instead of feeling ravenous after not eating for 6-8 hours, which is typically the time it takes to use up your glycogen stores, your body will simply use stored fat for energy. As a result, you will be feeling less hungry.

Less hunger and less caloric consumption

Many people report reduced hunger levels by incorporating intermittent fasting, which leads to less consumption of calories. As your body becomes more efficient at burning fat, your cravings for sugar and bad carbs should diminish, as you body will not need them for instant energy anymore.

Also with intermittent fasting that restricts the time frame during which you eat (such as the 8-hour diet), it becomes harder to over-eat during a relatively small time window.

Mental satisfaction

Intermittent Fasting - Enjoying FoodBoth the 8-Hour Diet and the Fast Diet methods above allow you to eat whatever you like during the non-fasting periods. This is one of the most popular aspects of intermittent fasting, which is that you can still enjoy your desserts, alcohol and your social life.

Since your favorite foods are not restricted, this type of intermittent fasting may provide mental satisfaction, allowing you to continue as long as you need.

However as noted below, for health reasons, it is strongly recommended that you choose mainly healthy foods for your meals.

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

The interesting thing about intermittent fasting is that it is said to have other amazing health benefits besides weight loss. The benefits of intermittent fasting, including those relating to weight loss, include the following:

  • Effective for weight loss 
  • Great for weight maintenance 
  • Easy to incorporate 
  • Can continue long-term as part of a life-style 
  • Improves learning and memory 
  • Improves mood, helps with anxiety 
  • Normalizes insulin sensitivity 
  • Help you live longer 
  • Promotes human growth hormone production 
  • May improve brain health, including helping delay Alzheimer’s 

How Can I Start Intermittent Fasting to Lose Weight?

Skip or Delay Breakfast

Probably the easiest way to start intermittent fasting is to skip or delay breakfast. For example, you can finish your dinner at 8PM, and have the next meal the following day at noon, which equates to 16 hours of fasting.

In the beginning, simply delaying breakfast as long as you can is a good way to start. You can work on eating breakfast later and later, until you can essentially skip breakfast, or combine breakfast and lunch.

Initially it will be very difficult since your body has gotten used to eating breakfast, and has not yet gotten good at burning fat. You will feel very hungry and maybe even dizzy. Having a healthy snack on hand may be helpful during the initial days.

After a while, you should feel little or no hunger. It is a great feeling to know that you are burning fat during those morning hours!

Tips for Incorporating Intermittent Fasting

If you are consuming a normal amount of calories, simply shifting the time you eat may be enough for you to lose weight. For this reason, many people state that it does not feel like a diet. Also if you have hit a plateau in your weight loss, although you are consuming reasonable calories, intermittent fasting may work.

Note that in the beginning you may feel very hungry. As you continue, your hunger should disappear as your body gets more efficient at burning fat. Try drinking lots of water and non-caffeinated herbal teas. If that does not help, try some caffeine (green tea is recommended). Also eating a small amount of healthy snacks is ok in the beginning as you get used to intermittent fasting.

While intermittent fasting is a powerful tool, it is not a magic bullet that allows you to consume tons of bad foods and still lose weight. If you consume tons of calories from McDonald’s and other junk foods during the non-fasting period, you will most likely still gain weight.

More importantly, from a health perspective, ideally you should eat mainly healthy foods, restricting fast foods and processed foods. Enjoy your favorite foods but use common sense.

Again, intermittent fasting allows your body to burn MORE fat (not ALL the fat) by shifting your eating times. It is up to you how you want to take advantage of it. Depending on your diet and activity level, it may mean you will lose weight, maintain weight or not gain as much.

Intermittent fasting tips:

  • Check with a doctor if you have a health condition including diabetes
  • Mainly eat healthy foods
  • Do not eat right before sleep
  • Drink lots of water

Resources
The FastDiet: Lose Weight, Stay Healthy, and Live Longer with the Simple Secret of Intermittent Fasting
The 8-Hour Diet: Watch the Pounds Disappear without Watching What You Eat!

References
BBC News (instant video)
Dr. Mercola
Business Insider

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