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Intermittent fasting isn't a regimen built around limiting calories (although it's likely that your calorie intake will be restricted naturally since you're going a period of time without eating), but it can promote weight loss in a big way. Fasting gives your metabolism an overhaul. It works on the same principles as a ketogenic diet. By restricting food (and carbohydrates), you'll switch your body from burning glucose for energy to burning stored body fat.
Finally, note that fasting to induce ketosis can also trigger a set of symptoms often known as the “keto flu.” Fasting ketosis symptoms may include decreased energy levels, increased cravings, digestive issues, muscle aches and dizziness. These symptoms can last between a few days to a few weeks when starting the ketogenic diet, but they typically subside once your body enters ketosis and begins to adapt.
To make “down” days easier to stick to, Johnson recommends opting for meal replacement shakes. They’re fortified with essential nutrients and you can sip them throughout the day rather than split into small meals. However, meal replacement shakes should only be used during the first two weeks of the diet — after that, you should start eating real food on “down” days. The next day, eat like normal. Rinse and repeat! (Note: If working out is part of your routine, you may find it harder to hit the gym on the lower calorie days. It may be smart to keep any workouts on these days on the tamer side, or save sweat sessions for your normal calorie days.)
Cons: Even though it’s nice to eat a few snacks rather than go without any food for 20-plus hours, the guidelines for what you need to eat (and when) can be hard to follow long-term. The strict schedule and meal plan may also interfere with social gatherings. Additionally, eating one main meal at night — while following strict guidelines of what to eat, and in what order — can be tough. It’s especially hard for those who prefer not to eat large meals late in the day.
For example, in the graphic below you would eat dinner on Monday night and then not eat again until Tuesday evening. On Wednesday, however, you would eat all day and then start the 24–hour fasting cycle again after dinner on Wednesday evening. This allows you to get long fast periods on a consistent basis while also eating at least one meal every day of the week.
People fast for so many reasons; some fast because they're trying to lose weight while others fast to improve medical conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure. The science behind intermittent fasting has slowly been piling up, too, with research showing that participants of intermittent fasting experience a reduction in weight and inflammation and improvement in insulin sensitivities.
Listen to your body during workouts. If you get light headed, make sure you are consuming enough water. If you notice a significant drop in performance, make sure you are eating enough calories (especially fats and protein) during your feasting window. And if you feel severely “off,” pause your workout. Give yourself permission to EASE into intermittent fasting and fasted workouts. This is especially true if you are an endurance athlete.
Of course, fasting — regardless of the method — isn’t for everyone. If you have any medical conditions or special dietary requirements, it’s smart to consult a doctor before giving intermittent fasting a shot. Anyone who tries it should also plan to be highly self-aware while fasting. If it’s not agreeing with you, or if you need to eat a little something to hold you over, that’s just fine. It takes our bodies time to adjust, and some require more than others. Keep in mind that hormones can make it harder for women to follow a fasting plan than for men. “Be cautious at first, and start slowly [with a shorter fast],” Shanks recommends. If it doesn’t make you feel better, try something different, or accept the fact that maybe fasting isn’t for you.
Intermittent fasting is a technique that involves restricting your food intake to a certain time window each day and then fasting for a specific period. There are several different fasting methods, with many variations that can fit nearly any personal preference or routine. A few of the most common types of intermittent fasting include alternate day fasting, 16/8 fasting and the 5:2 diet, each of which varies based on the amount of time you spend fasting during the week.
The thing is that if you want to slim down and get rid of excess pounds, then the fasted state is really the best way to do it. If you keep taking food into your body, insulin levels will remain high, and you will keep burning glucose for fuel instead of burning fat. Of course, to remain in the fasted state, you need to not be in the fed state, and that can be a problem. Starving yourself all of the time isn’t enjoyable, and it’s not healthy. To be blunt about it, your body needs nutrients, it just doesn’t need them all day, every day.
IF makes intuitive sense. The food we eat is broken down by enzymes in our gut and eventually ends up as molecules in our bloodstream. Carbohydrates, particularly sugars and refined grains (think white flours and rice), are quickly broken down into sugar, which our cells use for energy. If our cells don’t use it all, we store it in our fat cells as, well, fat. But sugar can only enter our cells with insulin, a hormone made in the pancreas. Insulin brings sugar into the fat cells and keeps it there.
That said, I have heard that women may find a wider window of eating to be more favorable when doing daily intermittent fasting. While men will typically fast for 16 hours and then eat for 8 hours, women may find better results by eating for 10 hours and fasting for 14 hours. The best advice I can give anyone, not just women, is to experiment and see what works best for you. Your body will give you signals. Follow what your body responds favorably to.
Another perk? There are no “forbidden foods,” and no counting calories, weighing food or restricting your diet, which makes it a bit easier to follow. That said, this isn’t a free-for-all. “You still have to eat like a grown-up,” Pilon says. It’s all about moderation: You can still eat whatever you want, but maybe not as much of it. (A slice of birthday cake is OK, he says, but the whole cake isn’t.)
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.
Some people believe that IF has worked for them simply because the limited eating window naturally helps them reduce the amount of calories they consume. For instance, instead of eating three meals and two snacks, they might find that they only have time for two meals and one snack. They become more mindful about the kinds of food they consume and tend to stay way from processed carbs, unhealthy fat, and empty calories.
Yes — you read that correctly — 24 hours of intermittent fasting without any resistance training and these subjects were able to preserve more muscle mass than the subjects that ate fewer calories every day without fasting at all. This finding contradicts our common sense, but when we dig deeper into autophagy we can find the mechanism behind this result.
Every study seems to support cognitive and health benefits for IF. Studies are coming out showing it may help stave off heart disease and it’s even been shown to halt or possibly reverse brain-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s. If in doubt, check out Jason Fung’s youtube videos along with a couple of youtube researchers who do wonderful analytics, an American who lives in Japan who goes by, “Things I’ve Learned” and Thomas DeLauer’s IF material. I’ve been doing IF myself for a few months now and I feel better, more energy, better sleep, and controlled weight.
Before you start your IF plan, it's important to talk with a professional to make sure it's right for you. Women should be especially cautious as there are some mixed opinions on whether or not certain fasting protocols are healthy for female hormone balance. In addition, if you have adrenal fatigue or gut health issues you'll want to proceed with caution. If you have a history of disordered eating, you'll probably want to avoid fasting altogether..
Fill your plate with plenty of healthy fats, such as coconut oil, avocados, olive oil, ghee and grass-fed butter as well as moderate amounts of protein foods like grass-fed meat, free-range poultry, fatty fish and eggs. Non-starchy vegetables, fresh herbs, nuts, seeds and healthy beverages like water, bone broth and green tea can all be enjoyed as well.
Fast for 16 hours of the day, and allow yourself a single eight-hour window for eating. This may be a good option for most beginners, because it represents the most subtle change from the standard three-meals-per-day lifestyle. As approximately eight of those fasting hours should be spent getting a good night’s sleep, that leaves only eight hours where participants need to be consciously avoiding food. For many, allowing themselves to eat normally from noon until 8pm gives them a stable meal schedule while also staying in a fasted state for the majority of the time.
Eat one large meal per day, cutting out all other meals and snacks. For those who aren’t interested in checking clocks and calendars, this is probably the easiest option. This is also a good choice for busy individuals who have a lot going on during the day. Just skip breakfast and lunch and have a large dinner that will carry you over through until bedtime.
IF as a weight loss approach has been around in various forms for ages, but was highly popularized in 2012 by BBC broadcast journalist Dr. Michael Mosley’s TV documentary Eat Fast, Live Longer and book The Fast Diet, followed by journalist Kate Harrison’s book The 5:2 Diet based on her own experience, and subsequently by Dr. Jason Fung’s 2016 bestseller The Obesity Code. IF generated a steady positive buzz as anecdotes of its effectiveness proliferated.