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.
Eating all your meals in an 8-hour window (say, eating between noon and 8PM, and fasting the other 16 hours a day) causes significant weight loss without counting calories. While this type of intermittent fasting causes weight loss no matter what people eat, research shows that people who do it in a healthy manner lose twice as much weight (7% vs. 3% of their body weight) as those who fast while still eating junk. So it’s still important to follow a high-performance diet like the Bulletproof Diet while you fast.
So here’s the deal. There is some good scientific evidence suggesting that circadian rhythm fasting, when combined with a healthy diet and lifestyle, can be a particularly effective approach to weight loss, especially for people at risk for diabetes. (However, people with advanced diabetes or who are on medications for diabetes, people with a history of eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia, and pregnant or breastfeeding women should not attempt intermittent fasting unless under the close supervision of a physician who can monitor them.)
According to a study published in Translational Research in 2014, intermittent fasting can reduce your weight by 3 to 8 percent over three to 24 weeks. A systematic review published in Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology in 2015 confirmed these results by reporting that, on average, participants following a fasting diet lost between 7 and 11 pounds in 10 weeks.
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.)
Of course, most people use IF with another weight-loss plan. For instance, you might decide to eat 1,200 calories a day to lose weight. You may find it much easier to spread out 1,200 calories within two meals and two snacks than in three meals and three snacks. If you’ve struggled with weight loss because your diet either didn’t work or was simply too hard to stick to, you might try intermittent fasting for quicker results.
In fact, the authors of this book said that they had patients who only changed their eating habits with this twelve- to sixteen-hour “fruit” fast each day. They did not follow the diet’s other rules or count calories, and they still lost weight and got healthier. This strategy might have simply worked because the dieters replaced junk food with whole foods. In any case, people found this dietary change effective and easy to make. Traditionalists won’t call this fasting; however, it’s important to know that you may have options if you absolutely can’t abstain from food for several hours at a time.
I don’t recommend that you go straight for a 1-2 day fast, but begin by restricting yourself to certain eating windows. Typically people restrict themselves to the hours of 5pm – 11pm. People often refer to their fasting windows by numbers: 19/5 or 21/3, for example, means 19 hours of fasting and 5 hours eating or 21 hours fasting and 3 hours eating, respectively.
Pros: While 24 hours may seem like a long time to go without food, the good news is that this program is flexible. You don’t have to go all-or-nothing at the beginning. Go as long as you can without food the first day and gradually increase fasting phase over time to help your body adjust. Pilon suggests starting the fast when you are busy, and on a day where you have no eating obligations (like a work lunch or happy hour).
As with any diet, you’ll get the best results if you’re consistent. At the same time, you can certainly give yourself a break from this kind of eating schedule on special occasions. You should experiment to figure out which kind of intermittent fasting works the best for you. Lots of people ease themselves into IF with the 12-12 plan, and then they progress to 16-8. After that, you should try to stick to that plan as much as possible.
You’re consuming less food and thus spending less money. Rather than overeating to put on 1 pound of muscle and 4 pounds of fat in a week or two, you’re aiming to eat exactly enough to put on 1 pound of muscle without adding much fat on top of it. Yeah, it’s a delicate balance, but there’s far less swing involved. You are just slowly, steadily, and consistently building muscle and strength over many months.