Trying to lose weight is frustrating when all the popular diets are telling you to drastically change your eating habits and avoid all normal foods.
Whether you just want to get a little more in shape or plan to lose a significant amount of weight, intermittent fasting can be a great solution. This dieting method lets you eat all your favorite foods while significantly reducing your caloric intake.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Before getting into all the science, it is helpful to have a concise definition of what we mean when discussing intermittent fasting. At its most basic level, intermittent fasting is just cycling between periods where you eat and periods where you fast.
There are all sorts of ways to do intermittent fasting. Some people aim to fast for 16 hours daily and only eat during an 8 hour window while others fast for longer periods.
This method goes against the common weight loss tip of having several small meals daily but many find that it works better for their needs.
Does Intermittent Fasting Really Work?
Of course it is important to be informed about any diet before you give it a shot. You’ll be happy to hear that science does back up the idea of it being effective. A 2005 study that monitored subjects doing intermittent fasting for almost a month found that people lost 4 percent of their initial fat mass (1).
2009 research backed up that theory and found that intermittent fasting was effective whether a person was obese or just slightly overweight (2). Subjects reported that they did not feel hungry and found the diet easy to stick to.
Why Intermittent Fasting Works
The whole theory behind intermittent fasting is that humans normally have a limit of how much food they can eat in a single sitting, regardless of how long it’s been since they had a meal. Early humans often went long periods without eating, so this method is entirely natural for the human body.
Eating one big meal at the end of the day may contain less calories than if you had three moderate sized meals. This lets you eat a big hearty meal like you desire without going over your caloric limits.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
This type of dieting may do more than just help you shed the pounds. The human body functions differently during fasting because it is preparing for a potential food shortage, and these alterations can have very positive results.
Intermittent fasting is associated with these great benefits:
- Improve the body’s ability to metabolize sugar by increasing insulin sensitivity (3).
- Decrease risks for neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s (4).
- Lengthen your lifespan and diminish the effects of aging (5).
- Stabilize cholesterol and blood pressure levels, resulting in better heart health (6)
Learn About Fasting Intervals
Here are some of the most popular fasting/eating cycles:
- Single Meal Skip: This just has you avoiding one meal each day.
- The 16/8 Method: Each day you only eat during an eight hour period.
- Warrior Diet: You only eat a single big meal each night.
- The 5:2 Diet: This has you eating normally five days a week and dropping to 500 calories twice a week.
- Eat-Stop-Eat: You go an entire day without eating anything at all each week.
- Potato Hack: You eat nothing but salted, boiled or baked potatoes. Similar to the Fasting Mimicking diet, this is not technically a fast. It allows you to eat a little while providing the benefits of fasting. Users report losing 0.5 to 1 pounds a day.
How to Decide When You Fast
There are quite a few different styles of fasting to pick from, so just choose the one that works best for your lifestyle. Many people prefer the 16/8 because they can just skip breakfast, have a small lunch at noon, and eat dinner before 8 PM to stick to the diet.
Others like the more intense eat-stop-eat method that lets them eat normally most days of the week. In general, any method can be safe as long as you can time your fasts so that they do not happen when you are trying to workout
Tips for Fasting Safely
First of all, Dr. Edward Group recommends that type 1 diabetics, hypoglycemics, those with eating disorders, people who are ill, people with health problems, or those under the age of 18 avoid fasting for more than eight hours(7).
As long as you are decently healthy overall, fasting can be safe. The only things to worry about are dehydration and electrolyte deficiencies. People need to make sure they get enough water during fasts and add sugar-free electrolytes to their beverages during longer fasts.
While fasting, avoid strenuous physical activities that could overexhaust you.
How to Overcome Hunger During Fasting Times
When you first start out, it can take time to adjust. Many people recommend starting with a shorter faster period and gradually working your way up to a longer period.
When you do feel hungry, sipping a warm beverage like tea or coffee can greatly help. It is also useful to make sure you eat high fiber foods during your eating period.
Keep in mind that intense hunger is only temporary. 2016 research found that people who tried intermittent fasting usually reported feeling hungry in the morning, but sensations of hunger faded throughout the day (8).
What to Consume While You Fast
While fasting, you can still drink a lot of beverages. Avoid anything with calories, sugar, or artificial sweeteners, but feel free to drink herbal tea, green tea, black tea, coffee, or water. You can also still take any supplements you usually take, like multivitamins or fish oil capsules.
Take all medications normally, but be sure to talk to your doctor if you have medications that are supposed to be taken with food.
What to Eat After You Fast
What you eat when you aren’t fasting greatly affects the outcome. Avoid binging unnaturally on high calorie foods. Instead, just eat what you normally would if you were not fasting.
Many people break their fast with a lighter meal like a salad or a yogurt. Then, after a small waiting period, they move on to eating a bigger meal. This helps to prevent binges.
Of course you’ll get the best results by eating plenty of fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean meat, and fish, but it is alright to treat yourself to unhealthier options every now and then.
Should You Eventually Stop Intermittent Fasting?
You might worry that when you stop, you’ll gain back all the pounds. However, Dr. Joy Dubost explains that the much dreaded fear of entering starvation mode and not burning calories normally anymore isn’t really an issue for people just doing regular intermittent fasting.
This means that you can stop intermittent fasting whenever you are happy with the results.
Keep in mind that research shows there are no downsides to long term intermittent fasting though (10), so you can keep using it as long as it works for you!
Scott Fanello writes for Eternaloak.com to help men and women build the body of their dreams. He lost 25 lbs in 4 months by fasting and counting calories. Then he put on 10 pounds of muscle lifting less than 30 minutes a week. Do the same and grab yourFree Checklist To Restart Fat Burning Through Fasting.