If you’re struggling to lose weight or stick to a diet, intermittent fasting may be a good solution for you. It’s also a great option for anyone who lives a busy lifestyle and can’t find the time to prepare and eat many small meals per day.
This comprehensive guide will teach you the essentials of how to lose weight with intermittent fasting, as well as give you the rundown on some of the most popular intermittent fasting diets out there today:
What is intermittent fasting?
There is one thing you need to understand about intermittent fasting straight away. And that is this: it’s not really a diet system. With intermittent fasting, you become mindful of when you should eat, not what you should eat.
Intermittent fasting is simply a pattern of eating. Depending on your approach, it’s only a matter of dividing your day into an eating window and a non-eating window. You get to eat two meals during your eating window. Since you’re not restricted with what you eat, you can chow down as you typically do.
During your non-eating window, however, you avoid taking in food. Your food intake during your non-eating window is limited to water, sugar-free tea, sugar-free coffee, and other non-caloric drinks.
Because you only change when you should eat, intermittent fasting is seen as a more relaxed way of losing weight. You have no food restrictions to follow.
You can pretty much eat what you want as long as you stick to your daily caloric requirements. It’s up to you when you want to schedule your eating and non-eating windows.
If you have an activity involving eating falling within your non-eating window, you don’t have to get stressed about it. You can go ahead and eat. Just return to your fasting schedule as soon as you can.
One very important reminder, though: fasting doesn’t mean you are eating less food per day. You are simply taking your daily required food intake and eating it during a specific time frame. Here’s a great video that further explains the concept of fasting vs. eating less:
How does intermittent fasting help weight loss?
To understand how intermittent fasting works, you have to take a look at how the body stores energy from food. Essentially, the body exists in two states: the fed state, and the fasting state.
As its name suggests, the fed state happens when you have just eaten. Your body increases its insulin levels to process the food you just ate. Insulin transforms excess energy from food into glycogen. Glycogen gets stored in the liver, to be used as needed.
However, storing glycogen in the liver has an expiry date. Once it reaches that expiry date, the liver turns its stored glycogen into fat. That fat gets stored elsewhere in the body. The fat becomes unwanted weight.
On the other hand, the reverse happens when the body goes into the fasting state. Your body isn’t eating anything, so your insulin levels go down.
Your falling insulin levels signals the brain to begin burning off the glycogen stored in the liver. Once the liver is out of glycogen, the body starts transforming your stored fat into usable energy.
As you can see, intermittent fasting triggers the body’s natural ability to lose weight. Losing weight through intermittent fasting takes time. But it is completely natural and safe.
At this point, you may be asking yourself: Isn’t intermittent fasting just a fancy term for starving yourself? Starvation is not the same as intermittent fasting. That’s because starvation is not a choice. Your body starves when it has used up its stored energy and you have nothing to eat to replenish it.
Fasting, on the other hand, is a conscious choice. It is a way of controlling your hunger. It is a way of forcing your body to stop hoarding fat. You can break your fast any time.
Want to find out more? Check out this article for a more in-depth look at how intermittent fasting helps you lose weight.
Intermittent fasting has many other surprising benefits
Practicing intermittent fasting can yield many benefits. The most obvious one is a lighter and leaner physique. Weight loss and fat burn are not the only advantages you will get from adopting this eating pattern.
1. Rebalance your horomones
For one, your body will experience a rebalancing of your hormones. Your insulin levels will go down and give your body easier access to stored fat. You will also go through a surge of your human growth hormone (hGH) levels. hGH is responsible for building up muscle and burning through stored fat.
2. Increase mental clarity and awareness
Intermittent fasting can also increase brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that affects the brain. Increased BDNF helps improve mental clarity and awareness. It also leads to growth of new brain cells and improved memory retention. Additionally, it prevents the onset of degenerative brain diseases like Alzheimer’s.
3. Cellular cleaning and regeneration
Another benefit is cellular cleansing and regeneration. When you fast, you coax your cells to start a process called autophagy. In autophagy, your cells digest and eliminate old protein molecules. Autophagy also leads to increased weight loss. This cellular cleansing and regeneration may also have a part in the claim that intermittent fasting can extend life.
4. Fight diabetes, cancer, inflammation, and heart disease
Intermittent fasting is also supposed to improve your overall health. Because it allows the body to process sugar more efficiently, it can lead to reversal of type-2 diabetes. There are also studies suggesting that fasting can prevent cancer, reduce inflammation, and improve heart health.
5. Take the stress out of dieting
Also, intermittent fasting is designed to take the stress out of dieting. There are really no rules when it comes to fasting. You only stop eating for an entire period within the day. There are no restrictions as to what you should eat. Though healthy eating is always advisable, you can actually eat whatever you want during your eating window.
6. Simplify your diet
Lastly, because you reduce the number of meals you make throughout the day, fasting simplifies your diet as well. You no longer need to revolve your life around meal planning and preparation as much as you used to. You also develop a deeper sensitivity and appreciation for how your food tastes.
There are many different types of intermittent fasting
One great thing about intermittent fasting is there are many different ways to approach it. You can test these approaches and follow the one that suits you best.
Among the many intermittent fasting methods out there, these are the most popular:
The 16:8 Method
Also known as the LeanGains Protocol, the 16:8 Method is by far the most popular. That’s because it’s the simplest to follow.
Developed by fitness consultant Martin Berkhan, the 16:8 Method calls for you to have your meals within an eight-hour window. Then you fast for the remaining 16 hours in the day.
What makes this method easy is you can include your sleep times in the 16-hour no-eating window. You can adjust your eight-hour eating window to whichever time you find most convenient.
For example, let’s say you typically eat lunch and dinner with friends and family. Then you should schedule your eating window at 12 PM to 8 PM.
Want to learn more about this diet? Check out our comprehensive Leangains Protocol review and beginner’s guide.
The 5:2 Diet (FastDiet)
The 5:2 Diet is developed by British journalist and physician Michael Mosley. Also known as the FastDiet, the 5:2 Diet requires you to fast for two days every week. These days need to be non-consecutive.
You eat normally during the five days of the week. But on your fast days, you shave off your calorie intake. If you’re a woman, you should eat only 500 calories on your fast days. If you’re a man, your limit is 600 calories.
The FastDiet method is a good introduction to intermittent fasting. It will break your mindset about hunger.
It will also condition your body for longer fasting periods. This method is also more suitable if you’re trying to build up muscle rather than lose weight.
Want to learn more about this diet? Check out our comprehensive 5:2 Diet review and beginner’s guide.
Alternate Day Fasting
The alternate day fasting is also known as the UpDayDownDay Diet, a system developed by Dr. James Johnson.
As its name suggests, alternate day fasting means you get to fast every other day. You do this either by skipping meals altogether for 24 hours or limiting your calorie intake to 500 calories.
While this approach is popular, it is an extreme form of intermittent fasting. Beginners are not advised to take this approach.
If you’re a beginner and you jump right into this method, it can backfire on you spectacularly later. You’re going to be so hungry you’d end up binge-eating after a few days. You can try this approach once you have fully conditioned your body to fasting.
Eat Stop Eat Method
The Eat-Stop-Eat method is an easier version of the alternate day fasting. With this method, you don’t fast every other day.
Instead, you limit your 24-hour fasting to only two days a week. You get to eat as you normally would on the days you’re not on your fast.
This intermittent fasting method is developed by fitness guru Brad Pilon. While this is an easier approach than fasting on alternate days, it’s still pretty hardcore.
You have to have a body fully conditioned to fasting to last not eating for 24 hours.
Want to learn more about this diet? Check out our comprehensive Eat Stop Eat diet review and beginner’s guide.
The Warrior Diet
A diet system popularized by fitness expert Ori Hofmekler, the Warrior Diet combines the paleo diet with intermittent fasting. In this system, you get to graze on raw fruits and vegetables throughout the day. And then, in the evening, you get to eat one huge meal.
The Warrior Diet is appealing in that it is not a complete fast altogether.
However, it has a strict set of rules of what you must eat and at what specific time you should eat. This diet and fasting system will work best if you have the self-discipline to carry it through.
Want to learn more about this diet? Check out our comprehensive Warrior Diet review and beginner’s guide.
Intermittent fasting is not for everyone
Intermittent fasting may do a lot of good in losing weight and revving up your body’s health and well-being. However, it’s not for everyone. There are conditions in which engaging in intermittent fasting may put your health in danger.
If you’re a woman, intermittent fasting may not be as effective for you. There are studies showing that fasting worsens rather than improves insulin sensitivity in women.
Fasting is also not advisable for women who are trying to conceive or already pregnant, or are breastfeeding. You’ll need the extra calories and nutrients to sustain the growth of your child.
Additionally, if you’re diabetic or have trouble controlling your blood sugar, you need to consult your doctor first before fasting.
The same applies if you have low blood pressure or a heart ailment, or have a history of eating disorders. Fasting may trigger symptoms of your condition if you do it without your doctor’s approval and supervision.
How to start an intermittent fasting diet
So you’re interested in intermittent fasting and you don’t have medical conditions to prevent you from trying it. How do you get started?
- Ease into it. Many people jump into fasting without preparing their body first. That’s a risky move to take. It could trigger medical problems you may not be aware you have. Instead of jumping right into fasting, you should get into it gradually. You can start by cutting back on your food intake for a few days. And then, you can ease into a gentler fasting approach like the LeanGains Protocol. Once you’ve conditioned your body to fasting, you can try longer fasting periods.
- Schedule your fasting around your convenience. There’s no rule as to when you should eat or not eat. It’s entirely up to you. So just make it a rule to go fasting whenever it’s convenient for you. Let’s say you’re obligated to go on lunch meetings and to dinners with friends and family. In that case, schedule your eating window around those times. Just fast outside those hours.
- Learn to manage your hunger. When you go fasting for the first time, you’re likely to experience headaches. You’re also going to be irritable and listless. When this starts happening, just let it pass. Don’t take it as a sign that you should give up fasting. Instead, take it as a sign that your body is beginning to condition itself to not eating at certain times. When your hunger threatens to overcome you, keep your mind busy to distract yourself. If you can’t take it anymore, drink water, tea or coffee. Make sure that your drinks are sugar-free.
- Listen to your body. Intermittent fasting is not a no-pain no-gain diet system. You need to listen to your body all the time and check how you’re doing. If you’ve begun to feel pain or general unpleasantness while fasting, you should stop right away. Return to eating regularly and see your doctor if you have to. The beauty of intermittent fasting is you can go back to it whenever you’re ready.
- Don’t expect an immediate change in your weight. Intermittent fasting is not a magic weight loss pill. Your scale is not going to shift a week after you’ve started fasting. Fasting will create changes in your body, for sure, but it will take time to happen. Be patient and just keep doing it.
Intermittent fasting is not a diet fad, but an eating pattern. It promises to help you lose weight and be as healthy as you can be. If there aren’t any problems stopping you, why don’t you try it out?