Most of us have contemplated going on a diet. When we find a diet that appeals to us, it seems as if it will be a breeze to do. But when we get into the nitty gritty of it, it becomes tough. For example, I stay on a low–carb diet almost all the time. But if I think about going on a low–fat diet, it looks easy. I think about bagels, whole wheat bread and jelly, mashed potatoes, corn, bananas by the dozen, etc. — all of which sound appealing. But were I to embark on such a low–fat diet I would soon tire of it and wish I could have meat and eggs. So a diet is easy in contemplation, but not so easy in the long–term execution.
Every diet plan that has ever produced results is, at its heart, a strategy for lowering calorie intake. All-fat, no-fat, reduced-carbs, gluten-free, paleo… they may all take different approaches to weight loss, but they all have the same result. By limiting food intake, or even just limiting food options, these diets reduce our calorie consumption. And when calorie intake drops below calorie burn, that’s when we start to drop the pounds.
Intermittent fasting (intermittent energy restriction or intermittent calorie restriction) is an umbrella term for various eating diet plans that cycle between a period of fasting and non-fasting over a defined period. Intermittent fasting is under preliminary research to assess if it can produce weight loss comparable to long-term calorie restriction.
Islam is the only major religion that engages in a fasting practice reflective of intermittent fasting in terms of both food consumption and diet consistency. The duration of the Ramadan fast is between 28 and 30 days, depending on the year, and consists of not eating or drinking from sunrise until sunset. During the holiday, Muslims eat twice per day: once in the morning before dawn and once in the evening after dusk. A meta-analysis on the health of Muslims during Ramadan shows significant weight loss during the fasting period of up to 1.51 kilograms (3.3 lb), but this weight was regained within about two weeks of Ramadan ending. The analysis concluded that "Ramadan provides an opportunity to lose weight, but structured and consistent lifestyle modifications are necessary to achieve lasting weight loss." Negative effects of Ramadan fasting include increased risk of hypoglycemia in diabetics as well as inadequate levels of certain nutrients.
There are many different variations of intermittent fasting as well. Dr. Dom D’Agostino, the well-known ketogenic diet researcher, suggests doing a longer intermittent fast for 3 days, 3 times a year. This means not eating for 3 days, and eating normally until the next fast. Daily intermittent fasts are recommended as well. He says that it is ideal to have one to two meals after fasting for most of the day to reap the benefits of intermittent fasting every day.
Your body contains proteins and other structures that constantly become dysfunctional or die. This isn't a bad thing; it's a necessary process for optimal health. However, if these dead tissues aren't cleared out from the body, they can cause cell death, contribute to poor cell and organ function and even become cancerous. Enter a process called autophagy.
This is probably a good time to mention that while I have practiced intermittent fasting consistently for the last year, I'm not fanatical about my diet. I work on building healthy habits that guide my behavior 90% of the time, so that I can do whatever I feel like during the other 10%. If I come over to your house to watch the football game and we order pizza at 11pm, guess what? I don't care that it's outside my feeding period, I'm eating it.
There were [no statistical] differences between the low- and high- [meal frequency] groups for adiposity indices, appetite measurements or gut peptides (peptide YY and ghrelin) either before or after the intervention. We conclude that increasing meal frequency does not promote greater body weight loss under the conditions described in the present study.