Search the internet for weight loss tips and you’re likely to have come across intermittent fasting. In recent years, this eating plan has become one of the most popular weight loss methods out there.
The question is, what exactly is intermittent fasting, and can it really effectively help you lose weight? Let’s find out.
What is intermittent fasting?
As its name suggests, intermittent fasting involves not eating anything for specific periods within the day. Your day gets divided into two windows: an eating window, and a non-eating window.
You get to eat two to three meals within your eating window. Within your non-eating window, you’re supposed to avoid food altogether.
The only foods you can consume during this period are non-caloric drinks like water, and coffee or tea without sugar.
Intermittent fasting is not a diet. Technically, you can eat whatever you want within your eating window.
There are really no rules with fasting. You just need to decide when you should eat and stick to it as much as you can. The longer you can fast, the better. But it’s still up to you to figure out how long you should fast in a day.
There are three ways by which intermittent fasting can help you lose weight. First, it gives you access to your body’s stored fat. Second, it boosts your metabolism. Third, it brings about the calorie deficit your body needs to shed off the pounds.
Note that there are many types of intermittent fasting diets out there. Each one has its own little variations, such as the types of foods you can eat and how long your fasting period every day should be.
Some intermittent diets don’t even break up your days into fasting periods.
For example, the popular FastDiet formulated by British physician Dr. Michael Mosley, also known as the 5:2 Diet, breaks up your week into five days of normal (but healthy!) eating and two days in which you make a significant decrease in your calorie intake.
On days in which you are fasting, you must limit your calorie intake to 500 calories if you’re female and 600 calories if you’re male. On the five other ‘regular’ days of the week, you can eat as much as you want, though it is still recommended that you eat healthy, of course.
Find out more about this intermittent fasting diet in our in-depth 5:2 Diet review.
Intermittent fasting lets you access and burn off your body’s fat reserves
The human body basically alternates between two physical states: the fed state and the fasting state.
Your body enters the fed state right after eating. In this state, your body elevates its insulin levels to break down the food you ate into glucose.
A good part of that glucose gets absorbed by individual cells directly for energy. The glucose that your body doesn’t get to use is sent to the liver, where it is transformed into glycogen. That glycogen sits on standby in your liver until your body is ready to use it.
But the liver can’t keep its glycogen stores for a long time. As your liver produces new glycogen, the old glycogen is turned into fat and stored elsewhere in your body. This becomes your unwanted weight.
When your body enters the fasting state, two things happen. One is your insulin levels go down. The other is that your body begins producing human growth hormone (hGH). A drop in your insulin levels and a rise in your hGH levels mean one thing. And that is your body gets to access your stored fat.
Without glucose to process for energy, your body runs through the glycogen stored in the liver. One the glycogen runs out, your body begins burning stored fat.
The longer you are in the fasting state, the higher your hGH levels rise. This means the faster and the more intense your body gets to burn off your fat.
Additionally, your body becomes conditioned to use fat before carbohydrates for energy the more often you fast.
Of course, when you first start intermittent fasting, your body won’t be used to it and will need time to adapt. That’s because it has been so used to you typically eating all throughout the day. As a result, you may feel intense bouts of hunger during the first week or so of fasting.
Don’t worry about this, as it is simply your body reacting and adapting to your new eating schedule. But if you are still concerned about the relationship between intermittent fasting and hunger, here’s a good video that explains it very well:
Intermittent fasting boosts metabolism
Insulin and HGH are not the only hormones affected by intermittent fasting. Fasting also boosts nor-adrenaline production. Nor-adrenaline, also known as norepinephrine, is a hormone of action. This hormone keeps the brain alert and able to cope with sudden stress or danger.
Diet gurus previously believed that long periods of not eating can trigger a metabolic shutdown. A metabolic shutdown leads the body to hoard fat and gain more weight. In intermittent fasting, however, the opposite happens.
Instead of slowing it down, the increased production of nor-adrenaline speeds up metabolism. The high nor-adrenaline levels push the body to burn through its fat stores more quickly.
The purpose is so the body can stay alert, energized, and able to cope with difficult situations. As a side benefit, your body becomes leaner and more efficient at converting food into energy.
Intermittent fasting will help you lose weight if you eat healthy
One of the many benefits of intermittent fasting is you don’t have to think too hard about what you should eat. There are no rules as to what you should eat, so you can eat whatever you want.
But if you want to make the most out of your fast, you should make it a point to eat healthy most of the time. Think of your body as a big freezer full of junk food and processed food.
The point of going on a fast is to clean out that freezer and get rid of all that junk. What’s the use of fasting when you’re only going to fill up your body with junk food again?
So, as much as possible, you should try to eat healthy during your eating window. Load up on foods rich in nutrients that will help speed up your metabolism even more.
Take advantage of your elevated levels of hGC by eating protein. This will help you a lot as you build up your muscles and sculpt your leaner physique.
Intermittent fasting can help create the calorie deficit necessary for weight loss
In order to lose weight, you need to create a calorie deficit in your body. This means the amount of calories you eat should be less than the amount of calories you burn daily. The calorie deficit forces your body to use up the food energy stored in your body.
Creating the calorie deficit you need to lose weight is much easier with intermittent fasting. You don’t have to get stressed out counting your calories. You don’t even need to watch what you strictly. As long as you consume food only within your eating window, you’ll be fine.
When you start intermittent fasting, you put your body on a calorie deficit without any effort. Because you’re fasting, you tend to skip a meal, usually breakfast. And then you eat your lunch, snacks, and dinner as you normally would when you’re not fasting.
Without really thinking about it, you’ve already consumed fewer calories than the amount you normally eat every day, simply because you’ve shortened the period of time when you do eat regularly, and lengthened the period of time when you don’t eat anything at all (the fasting period).
Intermittent fasting takes away the stress of a typical diet
Let’s face it. Most people fail at dieting. That’s because most diets out there require people to follow their rules strictly and to give up their favorite foods.
For a lot of us, giving up our favorite foods is tough enough as it is. Having to follow diet rules can put you under a lot of pressure and stress. So is it any wonder that most people give up dieting altogether?
Intermittent fasting, as mentioned earlier, is not a diet. It’s an eating pattern. At its most basic, the only rule you need to follow is to eat only during your eating window.
But even that rule can be bent from time to time. If you have to eat outside your eating window, then you don’t have to feel stressed about it. Just jump right back to fasting the next day.
Of course, it’s not easy to get into the habit of not eating for 16 hours a day. Your hunger pangs will bother you. The headaches can feel unbearable.
But once you get into the groove, you won’t feel the hunger or the headaches so keenly anymore. Not having to eat anything for long periods of time won’t ever stress you out again.
Give intermittent fasting a try if you are looking to lose weight
Intermittent fasting can help you lose weight. It basically changes your body’s chemistry so you’ll have more access to your stored fat and burn it for energy. Going on a fast to lose weight is also a lot less stressful than going on a diet.
Want to give intermittent fasting a try today? Check out our comprehensive guide on how to start an intermittent fasting diet. Map out your eating plan, start implementing it in your daily routine, and let us know how it goes!