If you’re into health and fitness, chances are you’ve heard of intermittent fasting (IF). Often touted as a healthy way to lose weight, intermittent fasting actually offers a whole range of health benefits for your body and mind. Not only can intermittent fasting help you lose weight (and keep it off), it can also help improve important health biomarkers like fasting blood glucose and triglyceride levels, provide anti-aging benefits, and even help fight neurodegenerative diseases. However, while IF is a good diet for most people, it’s not for everyone, and it really depends on your general health, as well as the style of IF you choose to follow. So, should you try it? Well first, let’s get into the nitty gritty of what intermittent fasting is all about.
Intermittent fasting explained
Did you know you’re already practicing intermittent fasting every day? At its core, intermittent fasting is essentially a break between eating meals. That’s actually where the name breakfast comes from, because the fast between your final meal of one day, and your first meal the next day, is the biggest fast your body does each 24 hours. Breakfast = break the fast! However, intermittent fasting takes that natural fast one step further by intentionally lengthening that period of fasting – anywhere from 12 to 24 hours.
How long you fast depends on your body, and your gender (men’s bodies can typically cope with a longer fast). The Lean Gains fast is one of the more common fasts coming in at 16 hours. Essentially, if you start your first meal of the day at 9am, you would need to have your last meal by 4pm to get that 16 hour window of fasting in. It doesn’t matter when you start or stop, just as long as you fast for 16 consecutive hours, followed by eating during an 8-hour period. The Warrior Diet is another albeit more extreme approach – a 20-hour fast coupled with a 4-hour window for eating.
Will intermittent fasting help you lose weight?
While there are plenty of other health benefits to intermittent fasting, perhaps the most common reason people try this lifestyle is to lose fat. If that’s your goal, then yes, intermittent fasting will help most people lose weight. By limiting the window of time you have to eat during the day, it’s much harder to overeat, and you’ll also be eating fewer calories than you burn throughout the day. Of course it’s possible to still overeat and gain weight when intermittent fasting, but that’s the same with any diet or eating approach – you still need to be mindful of the calories you consume.
Your IF schedule will depend on personal preference. You might choose to start early in the day, eating breakfast and lunch and then skipping dinner. Or, perhaps you’ll do the opposite by skipping breakfast and starting your day with lunch. The great thing about IF is no matter what schedule you choose and providing you’re not overeating, you’ll be putting your body into an energy deficit, which is when we start to burn fat for fuel and lose weight.
It’s important to remember, however, that IF works differently for different people. Some people’s bodies are just naturally better at coping with fasting – and respond better to fasting – than others.
Studies show intermittent fasting not only helps with weight loss, but it can slow down aging, control blood sugar, improve your mental sharpness, reduce chronic disease risks and decrease hunger. Not to mention IF also helps give your digestive system a break and improve your gut health. It has been shown to reduce something called postprandial endotoxemia, which has been found to increase the risk for obesity and insulin resistance. Therefore, fasting can in some cases lower that risk. The most vital thing to remember before you try intermittent fasting is it’s not for everyone and it’s highly important to consult your doctor before trying any new dieting protocol.