Intermittent fasting (I.F) is a popular way to lose weight and improve your overall well-being. It’s backed by trainers all over the world because it’s highly effective in producing results. There’s a number of benefits associated with intermittent fasting, with one of them being fast weight loss. Here’s all you need to know about IF.
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is a routine where a person stays without food for a large interval. The person then has a set window after the fasting period to eat and fulfill their daily caloric needs. It focuses more on the “when” aspect of eating instead of the “what”.
Do not confuse intermittent fasting with starving yourself. There are many people who starve themselves for fast weight loss but gain it all back eventually. Fasting won’t make you lose muscle nor will it slow down your metabolism. Our bodies are able to survive for long periods of time without food, and the I.F routine takes advantage of this fact.
There are different variations of the fast. However, the most popular one is a 16/8 fast which has 16 hours of fasting and 8 hours of eating. There is a 24-hour fast as well but a lot of people aren’t used to staying without food for that long. The 16/8 fast works for a lot of people, even beginners as it’s not that hard to do.
How is it beneficial?
When you fast, a lot of things happen to your body. You are not eating for a large period, so your body then adjusts its hormone levels to make sure fat reserves are easily accessible for energy. The Human Growth Hormone (HGH) also increases rapidly during fasting periods. This hormone is mainly responsible for muscle gain and fat loss.
When you are in a fasted state, your cells start the repairing process. This is essential for the body as it also eliminates old and dysfunctional cells and proteins from the body. Moreover, insulin levels drop and insulin sensitivity increases. When insulin levels drop, your body can access fat stores much easier.
Why does all of this matter?
All of the stuff above ties directly into weight loss. In order to lose weight, one must stay at a caloric deficit. However, many people find it hard to create that deficit in the first place let alone maintain it. Therefore, intermittent fasting offers a great way to dramatically reduce your calories.
In a 16 hour fast, you won’t be eating anything. Afterward, you’ll have an 8 hour period where you can eat mindfully (no junk food!). Although the only restrictions in this 8 hour period are healthy foods and no overeating beyond your caloric requirements, it’s really hard to do all that in such a short period. That’s why the intermittent fast is so popular because it automatically helps in making you cut calories. It’s hard at first but you eventually gets used to it, after which it’s a matter of consistency for weight loss.
Moreover, as discussed above, your body makes it easier to access fat stores. This is important because when you don’t eat anything for 16 hours, you will without a doubt have no glycogen stores for energy. In the case when you don’t have carbs, your body turns to fat for fuel. Therefore, intermittent fasting not only works to reduce your calories, it effectively burns fat throughout the day as well.
One thing to keep in mind is that you should drink a lot of fluids throughout the fast, staying hydrated is very important. Also, you need to stay true to your fast and not overdo it once you are “allowed” to eat. It doesn’t matter if you’re fasting or not if you start binge eating in your 8-hour window and eat above your daily caloric requirements. In the end, it’s calories in vs calories out, so be mindful of that.
It also teaches you self-restraint
Fasting is not easy. Staying without any form of food for 16 hours or longer is tough. Therefore, when one does discipline themselves eventually, it teaches the person a lot of self-restraint. There always comes a time where you might be out and you see a tempting meal that you know you shouldn’t be eating, but you give in to the craving anyway.
Intermittent fasting helps with dealing with those food cravings and temptations. You get used to not eating food for a large period despite having access to food without restriction. This really helps when going out, especially with friends because sometimes it can be really tempting to break your diet or fast. The self-restraint, patience, and discipline that come with intermittent fasting are really helpful.
Other health benefits
Apart from weight loss, there are several other health benefits associated with intermittent fasting. For example, a study revealed that inflammation was significantly reduced for people following an intermittent fasting regime. Inflammation is the cause of many chronic diseases, and I.F can help reduce it.
Intermittent fasting can also reduce the levels of “bad” cholesterol in your body, blood triglycerides, inflammatory markers, blood sugar and insulin resistance, all of which are factors that contribute to heart disease. It also helps with the function of the brain and growth of new nerve cells. Moreover, a study on rats showed how intermittent fasting helps improve lifespan, meaning I.F has potential anti-aging benefits too.
A sample intermittent fasting plan
There are many plans out there for you to follow. There is no restriction on following the 16/8 plan, you can choose whichever method you like as long as it suits you. This sample plan follows the 16/8 routine because a majority follows it.
The best thing about intermittent fasting is that it’s convenient. There are many diet plans where you’re asked to eat 5-6 small meals a day to keep yourself energized or to keep that metabolism high all day. However, some people are just too busy with their lives to worry about preparing 5-6 meals. Therefore, intermittent fasting helps in making everything much simpler for them.
The reason why it’s simple is that you don’t even need to create a specific plan for your fasting period or follow a strict interval. All you need to do is make a few small lifestyle changes and you’re good to go. For example, you eat your last meal of the day at 9 pm in your normal routine. Now you need to wait 16 hours before your next meal. All you need to do is skip breakfast the next day.
Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day, but skipping it does not lead to any negative effects nor any loss of benefits. If you skip breakfast, then you’ll be able to have your meal at 1 pm. This sounds convenient for many people because a lot of people now skip breakfast. Some people go out of their way to have breakfast just for the sake of having breakfast. Intermittent fasting relieves them of this forced breakfast routine.
Another bonus tip would be to work out before you break your fast. Your glycogen stores are already depleted, your body is relying on fat for fuel. In order to maximize fat burn, work out before you eat and break your fast at the end of the workout. This will maximize fat burn and speed up weight loss by quite a bit. You don’t have to work out before breaking your fast, but it definitely helps.
Overall, intermittent fasting is a great way to lose weight because it’s not only convenient but it brings a host of other health benefits with it. It’s definitely the way to go for many trainers, and you should definitely try it if you haven’t already.