Are you a serial dieter? Have you tried the 21-day Fix, the Whole30, Atkins, South Beach, a Ketogenic diet, even Paleo? Are you still struggling with weight loss? Well, the latest craze could be your simplest diet yet – Intermittent Fasting (IF). Countless doctors and health experts are hanging their hat on Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss. But what is it? How does it work? What do you need to do? Is it for everyone? I have to admit – it piqued my interest, especially as I am still sitting with an additional 10 pounds around my mid-section after Kian was born. Truth. I am willing to try anything once.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent Fasting is not a diet. It is an eating pattern where one cycles eating and not eating for long periods of time. In fact, the eating pattern doesn’t dictate what you should eat or what you shouldn’t eat, it just dictates when you eat. And when you reflect on history, humans have been fasting for a long time, primarily because food wasn’t available in supermarkets or at Starbucks. If you couldn’t hunt or gather it, you didn’t eat. And in fact, those humans could go days without eating.
Methods of Intermittent Fasting
The 3 most popular forms of Intermittent Fasting include the following:
- The 16/8 Method – An individual fasts for 16 hours a day. He then breaks his fast from Noon to 7pm, where he would consume his entire intake for the day in 8 hours.
- The Eat-Stop-Eat Method – This involves fasting for 24 hours – once or twice a week.
- The 5:2 Method – One nonconsecutive days of the week, restrict the daily intake of calories to 500-600 calories for the day. Revert to normal eating on other days.
Suprisingly, the 16/8 method is the most popular, and surprisingly, the simplest to implement. However, weight loss is possible with any of the above plans.
Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
There are countless health benefits for Intermittent Fasting, making it increasingly popular, even with physicians.
- Weight Loss – Without restricting calories, IF provides weight loss, specifically around the mid-section. Studies have shown that this eating pattern can provide a 3-8% weight loss, with some study subjects showing a 4-7% reduction in their waist circumference. This can be significant for many, as belly fat is linked to metabolic syndrome and diabetes.
- Insulin Resistance – Interestingly, diabetics can truly benefit from IF. IF has been shown lower blood sugar by 3-6% and fasting insulin levels by 20-31%.
- Inflammation – Inflammation has been shown to further many chronic diseases, and intermittent fasting has been demonstrated to reduce inflammation.
- Heart Health – IF has been shown to reduce LDL, triglycerides, inflammatory markers, insulin resistance and blood sugar. All of these are significant risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
- Cancer – While the studies have only been demonstrated in animals, IF has been shown to prevent cancer.
- Brain Health – IF releases a brain hormone called BDNF, causing an increase in the growth of brain cells. It may also stave off Alzheimer’s Disease.
- Anti-aging – While it can’t be correlated to humans, IF has been shown to extend lifespan as much as 36-83% in rats.
Who Should Avoid Intermittent Fasting
- Those who are underweight
- Those who have had a history of eating disorders – Anyone who has had a history of an eating disorder should consult with a healthcare professional before considering IF.
- Children – Clearly children should not consider IF.
- Women – There is some information that indicates that women may not benefit from IF as much as men. It may worsen insulin sensitivity, affect menstrual cycles, may cause amenorrhea, or even infertility.
How to Start Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss
If after reading all of this, you’re interested in Intermittent Fasting and you want to try it, here’s the best way to start. You should consult with your physician or health care professional before starting any fitness or exercise program
The 16/8 method is definitely the easiest way to start. When you think about it, you may have actually done it before. Think about the last time you slept in, waiting to eat until lunch and then didn’t eat after dinner. You basically completed the 16/8 method. Try it, see how it goes for a few days. Take note of how you feel. Remember that most diets and lifestyles are best evaluated with a study of 1 subject. Run your own study and see what happens. The biggest side effect is hunger, which is no surprise. If you start to feel good during the fast, keep it up.
And please share your experiences….the more I read, the more I am intrigued. But the jury is still out on IF for women, so I am going to hold off for now. I am going to stick with eating whole foods, staying away from processed foods, reduce my sugar intake, my dairy intake, and exercise regularly. Oh, and track my intake and workouts. Hmmm…I think there’s an app for that??!!