An intermittent fast is a brief fast where, for 12–16 hours or more, you don’t eat anything except water (a few exceptions apply). And while that may sound incredibly difficult to achieve, you might already be fasting without knowing it if you eat dinner at, say, 7 p.m. and break your fast in the morning between 7—10 a.m. — and if you only have water and black coffee or tea between.
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.
If you're worried you’ll be starving while fasting, you’ll be pleasantly surprised! Intermittent fasting decreases your hunger hormone ghrelin, which in turn can increase dopamine levels in the brain. (Just another example of the gut-brain axis at work.) Fasting can also help free people from emotional eating and kill cravings by transitioning your metabolism from unstable sugar-burning to steady fat-burning.
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.
Yes, by cutting out an entire meal each day, you are consuming fewer calories per week – even if your two meals per day are slightly bigger than before. Overall, you’re still consuming fewer calories per day. This is highlighted in a recent JAMA study[b] in which both calorie restricted dieters and intermittent fasters lost similar amounts of weight over a year period.