There are lots of different dieting methods that people use, but one that has become more popular over recent years is intermittent fasting. Because it is newer, many don’t know what it is or how to do it, but the biggest question is if intermittent fasting even helps you lose weight.
Intermittent fasting has been shown to help reduce weight by 0.8% to 13% in short studies lasting 2 to 26 weeks. There have yet to be solid studies on the effects of intermittent fasting over long periods, but it has been found to help those with type 2 diabetes improve glycemic control.
So, you now know that intermittent fasting has been found to help reduce weight and also provide other benefits, but there is a lot to intermittent fasting. Throughout the rest of the article, I will teach you everything you need to know about intermittent fasting, and how to do it so you can start dropping unwanted weight.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is a type of diet that takes a unique stance on how to help you lose weight. While most diets focus on what you eat and the amount of calories, intermittent fasting focuses more on when you are eating. There are a few different ways to approach intermittent fasting, which I will cover later, but through intermittent fasting, you limit how much you end up eating.
Through intermittent fasting, you are consuming fewer calories, and while not directly part of the diet, it is strongly recommended that you are exercising while intermittent fasting as well. Along with helping lose weight, fewer calories and more exercise can help reduce the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other illnesses.
Intermittent fasting is an attempt to replicate how our ancestors ate when they were still nomadic and hunter/ gatherers. Back then they would often have long spaces between meals as it was difficult to get food.
How to Intermittent Fast
There are 3 different approaches to how you can intermittent fast. All of the methods have been shown to help you lose weight, along with the many other benefits of intermittent fasting.
With all of the fasting options, when you are eating meals you should make sure to have them be extremely balanced. This guide from Harvard is the best example of how your plate should look when you do have meals. You want to limit yourself to normal meal sizes when you do eat as if you overeat, you negate any benefits that intermittent fasting does provide.
Alternate-day fasting works by alternating days where you can eat normally and days where you only eat one meal. Typically this single-meal day will provide just 25% of the calories you need. An example of how this would work would be by having just one meal on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday while eating normally every other day.
Whole-day fasting works by completely fasting for the whole day, or, if unable to do that fasting under 25% of the daily calories needed. You should do this only 2 days a week as it has been found that a 5:2 ratio of fasting to eating normally is the most healthy method. An example of this would be to fast for the whole of Tuesday and Friday while eating normally the other days.
The last approach to intermittent fasting, and the most popular, is to designate a time frame every day that you plan to fast, and a time when you are allowed to eat. An example of this would be to allow meals to be eaten between 8 am and 3 pm, but you fast for the rest of the day.
Pros and Cons of Intermittent Fasting
As much of the research is still new about intermittent fasting, there isn’t a large amount of information on all of the benefits and negatives that come with intermittent fasting, but there have been plenty of short-term studies.
Plenty of studies have already found that when you start intermittent fasting you lose weight. In a study by Harvard the typical weight loss while intermittent fasting was about 7-11 pounds over a span of 10 weeks.
When comparing groups that had performed intermittent fasting to a group that hadn’t, it was found:
- No significant differences in weight loss, weight regain, or body composition
- No significant differences in blood pressure, heart rate, fasting glucose, and fasting insulin
So, for the most part, intermittent fasting provides plenty of benefits without placing too much risk on your health, but it doesn’t mean that there are no pitfalls or cons that come with intermittent fasting.
Those who require food every few hours in order to stay healthy should not start intermittent fasting as it will put you at risk of more health problems than it will solve. These people who should avoid intermittent fasting include:
- Eating disorders that involve unhealthy self-restriction (anorexia or bulimia nervosa)
- Use of medications that require food intake
- Active growth stage, such as in adolescents
- Pregnancy, breastfeeding
What Can You Eat While Intermittent Fasting?
So, while you are fasting you aren’t allowed to eat or drink anything right? No, rather you are allowed to drink zero-calorie beverages like water, black coffee, or tea, though water is the best option for your body. As mentioned earlier, when you do eat, you need to make sure that you are eating balanced, healthy meals.
One of the reasons that many researchers have liked and recommended intermittent fasting is that there isn’t any limitation on what you can eat. Most other diets give you exactly what you should eat, but with intermittent fasting, you are able to eat whatever you want, leaving every type of food open to you to enjoy.
If you are looking for an example of what you should eat while intermittent fasting, the Mediterranean diet is one that many researchers recommend as it provides everything that you might need in a balanced amount. Along with this, any leafy greens, healthy fats, lean protein and complex, unrefined carbohydrates such as whole grains are all healthy options to include.