Fasting diets are a viable option for people who want to lose weight. Especially those who do not want to count calories. Or those who find other methods challenging and fatiguing. And intermittent fasting for weight loss is one of the commonest weight loss strategies.
But first, let me talk about the chronic diseases that are linked to our diet. This will help you understand why fasting diets are important.
The battle of diet linked chronic diseases
Obesity, overweight, diabetes and the metabolic syndrome are plagues of the modern world. As their prevalence continues to rise daily. They terrorise the a big portion of the world population. And this make the modern world look like a curse to the human race.
The biggest problem in the world is overeating. And this is fueled by eating unhealthy foods. The unhealthy foods are usually calorie dense refined carbohydrate sources. Yes! I mean those breakfast, cereals,sugar sweetened beverages and confectioneries. The sweet foods that we all love so much. Well it is human nature that people love sweet and fatty foods. But, lack of control around these foods is dangerous. As it will leave you with a load of health problems. Some of which will be your partner for life!
Overeating and unhealthy eating fuel the development of chronic diseases. Overeating leads to metabolic disorders and conditions. And these lead to prolonged health problems and death.
Strategies are being developed to combat these health problems. And intermittent fasting has been proven to be effective for weight loss.
However, intermittent fasting is just the tip of the iceberg. Because it can do so much more! In this article allow me to enlighten you on intermittent fasting for weight loss.
Also read: 13 Healthy eating habits for your family
But first, how did we come to intermittent fasting for weight loss.
How did we come to intermittent fasting for weight loss?
The number of obese and overweight people is increasing rapidly. It started as a problem for developed nations. But now it has become a problem for everyone! Because even developing nations have joined the death race of chronic diseases. With millions being diagnosed and dying every year.
And as the rates of chronic diseases increase, the deaths also increase. So, it is important to focus on dietary interventions to facilitate weight loss. Which significantly lowers some of the disease risks.
Note: The biggest problem with being overweight or obese is that the conditions do not come alone. Most of the time if you are overweight you have more than 3 other diseases! Most probably, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, kidney problems, cardiovascular problems, metabolic syndrome etc.
So, taking this into account, losing excess weight is very important.
The most common dietary intervention is calorific restriction. Calorie restriction is commonly known as dieting. However, adherence to this program is not easy. Most people give up due to prolonged hunger. And those who do not give up usually regain the lost weight. So there is a recent interest in fasting as a weight loss strategy. Most of us are already used to religious fasting. And intermittent fasting is easier than religious fasting.
Also read: Why is weight loss slow?
You may be wondering, is intermittent fasting good for weight loss? Can I do it? How does it work? Well, wonder no more for the answer is at hand!
But first, what is intermittent fasting?
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern. And in this pattern, you go for an extended period with limited energy/food intake. The fasting periods are followed by intervening periods of normal food intake. And this occurs on a regular basis. You may also choose not to eat at all during fasting days/periods. Or you can restrict to certain diets e.g zero-calorie diets. The aim is to limit calorific intake.
There are several forms of intermittent fasting you can try.
Types of intermittent fasting
Alternate day fasting is the most common type of intermittent fasting. It involves alternating between fasting days and non fasting days. Which means in one week, you chose your fasting days. And on the remaining days you eat food normally. For example, you can alternate between 3 days of normal eating and 1 day of fasting. This means each 4th day is a fasting day.
Time-restricted feeding is another type of intermittent fasting. The fasting method involves restricting the consumption of food to a few hours of the day. For example, restricting eating to a 6 hour period each day. Then you would fasting on the remaining 18 hours. These 18 hours usually cover the evening period. In one study, people would restrict eating to between 1 pm and 8 pm.
Meal skipping involves skipping some of your regular meals to extend the fasting period. This enables you to extend the fasting period. For example skipping lunch and supper, eating only breakfast. This method is however useless if you love snacking. As the efforts of skipping the meal will be worthless. Because the key here is to compel the body to burn fat. The key is also to shade excess weight. And this can only work if you create a calorie deficit by skipping that meal. But if you snack a lot, you have just changed the source of calories. And thats not fasting!
Reduced meal frequency:
It is almost similar to meal skipping. Except that you are reducing the frequency of your meals. For example, if you are used to eating 8 meals a day you reduce that to 2 or 3.
Key note on meal skipping and reduced meal frequency. The key factor about this method is maintaining the portion size. If you reduce the meal frequency or skip the meal, you have to maintain your normal portions why. Because if you fast with these methods and change portion size, it won’t work. Imagine, skipping a meal and then eat double portions on meal time. It simply doesn’t work. So with the method portion control is key. And also minimise intake of refined foods.
Intermittent energy restriction involves eating low-calorie meals throughout the day. Total energy intake should be between 0 and 25%. And you have to alternate days of low calorie intake and days of normal food intake. An example is the popular 5:2 diet. In which you restrict energy intake for 2 separate days of the week. And on the remaining 5 days, you eat normally. Energy intake on fasting days must be below 30%.
As you can see there are many intermittent fasting methods you can try. I believe I may have left out some. However, the key here goes back to healthy eating habits.
So, the most important thing is choosing what works for you. Something that doesn’t interfere with your lifestyle. And something that doesn’t undo days of hardwork.
Is intermittent fasting worth the weight loss hype?
Can you lose weight with intermittent fasting?
So, this is the question that you may want to be answered. And maybe the real reason you are still reading this article. I will try to give you the best answer.
So, can you lose weight with intermittent fasting? The answer is a very big yes!
Here is what research evidence says:
Committing to an intermittent fasting program will help you lose weight. Several studies show that weight loss is possible. You can lose between 0.8-13% of body weight. Also, intermittent fasting reduces your BMI and waist circumference. Excellent, right? Yes! So if you are interested in reducing waist size, this can work for you.
Also, intermittent fasting produces better results if your energy intake is less than 30%. And this is on fasting days. This low energy diet stimulates the use of fat stores as a metabolic fuel. And this means most of the weight you lose comes from body fat stores. Now, this is an excellent development. Because it increases your fat-free mass and your lean body mass. All this reduces disease risks associated with high body fat!
Intermittent fasting can ensure weight loss on its own. But the best results come by combining it with an exercise regime. This becomes a powerful weight loss combo. And research shows a doubling of weight loss with the combo. So its good to exercise and fast for the best weight loss results. So, how can you do it? Is it possible?
Yes of cause, it’s very possible! Why? Because you have to chose what’s works best for you. Let’s say you exercise on non-fasting days or periods. You then continue to burn fat on non-fasting days!
So what’s the key takeaway on intermittent fasting for weight loss?
Well, the rate of weight loss all depends on you. How you adhere to your fasting program is very important. Because it determines your consistency. And consistency is the key to better results. It also depends on your body composition and genetics. It’s possible that you may starve yourself and it still fail to lose weight.
You should also understand this:
If you endure intermittent fasting for longer, you can adapt. As a result, your post meal fullness and satiety levels increase. This will prevent you from overeating. And reduce the excess calories stored in your body. Now, this is very important. Because the excess calories are responsible for weight gain.
So, intermittent fasting has many beneficial effects on weight loss. It modifies your body composition by burning fat. Which is awesome!
So, how does intermittent fasting work?
The concept behind intermittent fasting is as follows:
After fasting, you must not compensate for the food or energy you should have eaten. For example, eating bigger portions because you had a long night fast. Doing this just will make you achieve zero results. So, make this a very important rule. Because if you don’t, you will reverse all the gains of your fasting days/periods. Therefore, you need to be strict with your eating. You must not overeat/compensate on non-fasting days.
I like one thing about intermittent fasting. Because with it, you don’t need to restrict your calories every day. This means you can eat normally on non-fasting days. You will get results as long you don’t compensate for energy intake or overeat!
Compensatory behaviours will result in a lack of weight loss progress. It’s like walking 20 km a day, only to walk 25 backwards tomorrow. You will never get where you are going.
Hunger pangs may be a problem. However, they have a lower intensity than those of dieting. Because on some days or during some hours you eat normally.
My advice is that you minimise eating calorie-dense refined foods. These foods can make a small meal a big calorie bank. And they have low satiety. As a result, they also fuel overeating. And these foods can give you more calories without satiating you. Meaning you will always have excess calories in the body. Therefore it’s good to avoid processed foods.
Another good thing about intermittent fasting is that your body can adapt to your fasting periods. Therefore, it helps you withstand these hunger pangs.
So, is intermittent fasting worth the try for weight loss?
Well, that’s up to you. Are you willing to take that step. I think intermittent fasting is phenomenal. Because its benefits are much more than weight loss.
So in conclusion let me just say that intermittent fasting is a good weight loss strategy. However, through my research, I have discovered that alternate-day fasting is the best. It is the one with the most studies. So, if you choose to do intermittent fasting for weight loss, try it first.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting works by creating a calorie deficit in the body. This ensures that the body resorts to it’s energy stores for metabolic energy. During the fasting period, energy is obtained from the body’s stores. And this results in weight loss. Provided that the energy stores are not fully replenished during eating periods.
It all depends on your goals and what works for you. Intermittent fasting can be used as a weight management strategy for long term. The longer the period of the fasting regime the better the results. You can always stop or reduce frequency when you meet your weight loss goals.
The most important thing with intermittent fasting is watching your energy intake. Especially, during fasting periods. Energy intake must be less than 30% during fasting periods. However the intake of processed foods, sweetened foods and fatty foods should be checked during non fasting periods. Because these foods are energy dense so they can undo all weight loss progress. My advice, more non starchy vegetables, whole cereals, and healthy food.
It depends on many factors but you should start seeing results between 2 to 4 weeks. Sometimes results can be delayed as the body adapts to the energy deficit by building fat stores. So, it takes time for the body to respond to intermittent fasting.
You can moderately drink but just on non fasting days. Some recommend red wine and hard spirits and healthier booze options.
Intermittent fasting can help you lose anything between 0-14% of your body weight. However, how much you lose in a month depends on several factors. These including fasting regime, adherence to fasting regime, body fat type etc. Others suggest you can lose between 0-6 kg in a month.
Alternate day fasting is one of the best forms of intermittent fasting. The popular 5:2 diet involves fasting on 2 different days of the week and eating normally on the remaining 5 days. Intermittent energy restriction is also one of the best. The popular 16:8 diet allows normal food intake within a period of 8 hours in each day. The remaining 16 hours are for fasting. And they usually cover the night period.
You may gain weight due to a natural adaption to starvation by the body. When there is an energy deficit the body responds by building fat stores during non fasting periods. This is a natural response to starvation. So, this may lead to weight gain. Also overeating, calorie dense foods and using the wrong intermittent fasting method can cause weight gain.