Intermittent Fasting: Is It Right For You
U-M dietitian Sue Ryskamp weighs in on intermittent fasting benefits, who it works best for and how to get started
Weight loss can be difficult, but could intermittent fasting help? This eating pattern, which features cycles of fasting and eating, is making headlines as research confirms its not only what you eat, but when you eat, that matters in the struggle to lose weight.
During intermittent fasting, individuals use specific periods of eating typically within an eight-to-10 hour window to lose weight, says Michigan Medicine dietitian Sue Ryskamp, who sees patients at U-Ms Frankel Cardiovascular Center.
The premise behind intermittent fasting is relatively simple, she says: When our insulin levels go down far enough and for long enough, as they do during a fasting period, were able burn off fat.
Insulin levels drop when a person is not consuming food. During a period of fasting, decreasing insulin levels cause cells to release stored glucose as energy. Repeating this process regularly, as with intermittent fasting, leads to weight loss. In addition, this type of fasting often results in the consumption of fewer calories overall, which contributes to weight loss, Ryskamp says.
A Harvard research study also reveals how intermittent fasting may slow the aging process through weight loss, lower blood pressure and reduced cholesterol.
How To Lose Weight By Fasting
Heres how to lose weight by fasting, including tips for seeing safe success and some of the most popular fasting methods
If youre unsure how to lose weight by fasting, our science-backed guide will cover some of the most popular fasting methods and outline some good practices for fasting weight loss. As science continues to hunt for the fastest, simplest, and safest way to lose weight, one method that has gathered increased popularity in recent years is fasting.
It is important to note that if you have any medical conditions that you think may affect your fasting, you should consult a medical professional or nutritionist before you start a fasting diet.
A balanced approach to weight loss that incorporates both exercise and diet is key too. This means making sure you’re eating healthily when you’re not fasting and engaging in workouts you enjoy. To find the right exercise for you, see our tried and tested guide to the best exercise machines to lose weight and our handy how-to guide for the best exercises for weight loss.
The Utter Simplicity Of Intermittent Fasting
Most of us eat throughout the day, starting with breakfast when we wake up and perhaps ending with a dessert or snack after dinner. If you have breakfast at 7 a.m. and a final snack at 8 p.m., you’re consuming food for 13 hours that’s your current “eating window.” The idea behind IF is simply to shorten that window — not necessarily to eat less , but to eat less often.
For example, most experts agree that you can start to experience IF benefits with an eight-hour eating window, meaning a 16-hour fast. So you could have lunch at noon and still finish your snack by 8 p.m. That’s it. If you can stick to that, it may be enough to produce results.
But, wait: Isn’t that just skipping breakfast? And haven’t we heard for years that skipping breakfast actually leads to weight gain? Yes and yes. However, IF requires a “clean” fast to be effective , and once you get accustomed to it, your appetite should correct so that you no longer overeat once your window opens.
Here’s what I love about this: It costs nothing. It requires nothing. You don’t have to buy books or gear or supplements or meals. You just adapt yourself to a slightly different way of eating and that’s it. The simplicity — and affordability — of IF is what drew me to it.
Read more:How to do intermittent fasting safely
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But What If I Get Hangry
Hunger is normal during a fast, especially when you first start fasting. However, if you keep a set fasting schedule daily, youll probably find that you begin to not even feel hungry until near the end of your typical fasting window. You might also begin to relate to your hunger differently, recognizing true hunger from cravings.
But dont worry even on fasting days you get to eat some calories! Clinical trials of intermittent fasting typically involve having people eat up to 500 calories on fasting days of 24 hours. There are still scientifically validated benefits of having regular 500-calorie fasting days.
If you ever feel very hungry, hangry, irritable or light-headed during a fast, try the following:
Walking On Treadmill While Intermittent Fasting
When I cant get outside for a walk for whatever reason, I use the treadmill as a backup plan. Treadmill walking is extremely boring to me, so I usually put the incline on the highest setting to reach my calorie-burning goal faster.
Walking on an incline of just two percent could burn more calories than walking or running on a level surface .
Whats even more amazing is that walking at 3 mph on an incline between 16 and 18 percent could help you burn 70 percent more fat than running at a zero incline .
The main reason incline walking is so effective is because it forces your legs and heart to work harder .
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How To Begin 16 8 Fasting
For people that get hungry first thing in the morning, this 16 8 Fasting schedule may be a bit tough to embrace. My suggestion is to push back the morning window by 30 minutes every day or two until youre comfortable waiting until 12pm to begin your 8 hour eating window.
You can also consider drinking water, coffee and other drinks that have no calories. This does help reduce the feelings of hunger and make it a little easier to transition.
A Study Out Of China Finds No Weight
Cheesy Egg & amp Bell Pepper Tacos with Chipotle Sour Cream from Blue Apron. Research still suggests that breakfast matters.
Do we really know what we think we know about eating and dieting?
Nutrition researchers are pondering whether breakfast really is the most important meal of the day and if time-restricted eating actually leads to weight loss.
Key questions include how many meals a day one really needs and whether restricting food intake to certain hours can lead to weight loss.
The latter is an appetizing idea and one thats gained attention since a mouse study of time-restricted eating and a few small human studies suggested eating only in a six to eight hours window helps with losing weight.
But a year-long study detailed this week in the New England Journal of Medicine found those who rigorously restricted eating times didnt shed more pounds than those who ate when they wanted as long as calorie intake was roughly the same.
For a year, researchers from Southern Medical University in Guangzhou, China, tracked two randomly assigned groups of people who each consumed the same number of calories a day 1,200 to 1,500 for women and 1,500 to 1,800 calories for men. One group ate when they felt like it, while the other group ate only between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Both groups kept food diaries and photographed everything they ate.
I was a devotee, he said. This was a hard thing to accept.
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Prolonged Fasting For 3
This involves going with no calories for 3-5 days. These types of fasts are usually done under medical supervision. All studies of prolonged fasting allow up to 500 calories during fasting days. These calories should come from low-protein, low-carb foods. This usually means vegetable juices and vegetable soup, averaging a total calorie intake of 200250 kcal and 2535 g of carbohydrates per day. Our CEO does quarterly 5-day modified fasts in which he eats 2 cups of mixed greens with olive oil and a handful of almonds for a total of 250 calories.
Do not attempt a multi-day fast with water only. All clinical trials of multi-day fasts involve at least minimal calorie and micronutrient intake.
Intermittent Fasting For Weight Loss
Social channels are filled with reports of significant weight loss using intermittent fasting. Studies show efficacy, too, but the reported weight loss is frequently much smaller.
One difficulty with assessing the scientific support for intermittent fasting for weight loss involves comparing different fasting protocols. For instance, some studies evaluate time-restricted eating with daily fasting windows ranging from 14 to 20 hours. Others investigate alternate-day fasting, while others focus on severe caloric restriction to mimic fasting physiology.
Another issue is factoring in the baseline diet followed by study subjects. Are many of them eating a high-carb standard Western diet? Or are they eating a low-carb, high-protein diet? The difference may matter as those eating low carb and/or high protein may find fasting easier, and thereby stick with it longer to see greater healthy weight loss benefits.
Despite the discrepancies, most fasting interventions show benefits for weight loss.
One meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials looking at time-restricted eating found an average weight loss of 4.4 pounds in up to 12 months.2 While the absolute weight loss may not be much, thats still pretty impressive considering that participants didnt change what they ate. They only changed when they ate.
So its safe to say that intermittent fasting has the potential to help people lose a little weight.
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Safety And Side Effects
Despite the long list of possible health benefits associated with fasting, it may not be right for everyone.
If you suffer from diabetes or low blood sugar, fasting can lead to spikes and crashes in your blood sugar levels, which could be dangerous.
Its best to talk to your doctor first if you have any underlying health conditions or are planning to fast for more than 24 hours.
Additionally, fasting is not generally recommended without medical supervision for older adults, adolescents or people who are underweight.
Additionally, if fasting for longer periods, try to minimize intense physical activity and get plenty of rest.
Summary When fasting, be sure to stay hydrated, eat nutrient-dense foods and get plenty of rest. Its best to consult with your doctor before fasting if you have any underlying health conditions or are planning to fast for more than 24 hours.
Breakfast Can Maintain Glucose Levels
According to researchers, eating a breakfast that includes whole grains is an excellent strategy for preventing type 2 diabetes and improving metabolic wellness.
Meanwhile, another study compared young men who ate breakfast and those who skip breakfast across 6 consecutive days. They found that people who skip breakfast have an increased glycemic response, which can lead to weight gain.
Similar studies found skipping breakfast caused a spike in blood glucose and a greater body mass index , which may be associated with obesity.
Body Mass Index is a dated, biased measure that doesnt account for several factors, such as body composition, ethnicity, race, gender, and age.
Despite being a flawed measure, BMI is widely used today in the medical community because it is an inexpensive and quick method for analyzing potential health status and outcomes.
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The Best Part About Intermittent Fasting
No food is “off limits” with IF, you can eat whatever you want during your window.
Gin Stephens is the author of Delay, Don’t Deny: Living an Intermittent Fasting Lifestyle. Those first three words of the book are the key to what makes this WOE worthwhile: You’re not denying yourself anything, you’re merely delaying it. You don’t have to give up, say, pizza because of the carbs or ice cream because of the sugar. You just have to wait until your window opens then you can eat what you want to eat. No, not the entire pizza or a whole pint of ice cream you still have to be reasonable. But there are no exclusions. And that’s incredibly liberating.
Think about nearly every other diet in history: Atkins, South Beach, paleo, keto. They all require you to either cut out certain things entirely or eat an excess of something else . The reason these diets typically fail is they’re not sustainable.
Stephens is fond of this saying: “‘Diets are easy in contemplation and hard in execution. Fasting is hard in contemplation but easy in execution.’ I absolutely love that quote, because it’s so true,” she says. “We’ve all started a new diet and we’re all in. Then, as the days go by, the diet gets harder and harder to stick to. Intermittent fasting is the exact opposite. Instead of getting harder and harder, it gets easier and easier.”
When Is It Better To Exercise
The majority of us prefer to skip breakfast when doing intermittent fasting because we need to get ready for work or university, we need to take kids to school, we need to take shower, put makeup on, make our hairstyle or just simply want to sleep a bit longer.
But morning is also the best time to exercise, not only because it will provide you with a lot of energy for the rest of your day, but it has special physiological reasons which will convince you to have your workout in the first part of the day.
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What Breakfasts Amplify The Results
While a pre-breakfast walk increases fat burn no matter what, experts say the right post-walk meal will enhance results. The secret: Choose protein over carbs. Research shows this keeps blood sugar low and slows your shift to sugar burning. It also helps build more metabolism-boosting muscle. Below are meal ideas to get you started. As always, get your doctors permission to begin any new weight-loss regimen.
CHOCOLATE MILK BOWL: Blitz 3 4 cup nut milk, 2 scoops unsweetened protein powder, 13 cup almonds, 2 tablespoons cocoa, stevia and ice to taste. Garnish with low-sugar fruit.
BREAKFAST SALAD: Top a big salad with eggs , a little nitrate-free breakfast meat, and a drizzle of olive-oil vinaigrette or your favorite no-sugar-added dressing.
PROTEIN TOAST: Toast low-carb bread and spread with cottage cheese add low-carb toppings like berries or sliced veggies and smoked salmon.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine, Womans World.
Some General Safety Tips
- Drink water when you are thirsty.
- Adjust your caloric intake during your feeding windows so that you consume enough calories to meet your energy needs according to your weight goals.
- If you feel faint, dizzy or nauseous, we recommend breaking your fast early and speaking with your primary care physician. You may have symptoms of low blood sugar or another issue.
- Talk to your physician before upping your fasting window beyond 18 hours per day.
- Break your fast with low glycemic index foods, such as lean protein and healthy fats like avocados
- Never do fasts longer than 2 days by yourself. Always tell someone, a family member or friend and keep them updated on how you are feeling as you progress.
- During fasts longer than 2 days, watch for signs of electrolyte imbalance: muscle spasms, weakness, blood pressure changes, irregular heartbeat, numbness and confusion.
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How To Lose Weight By Fasting: What You Need To Know
Fasting is a practice that has been around for thousands of years and is defined as the abstinence from food for a set period of time. Whilst there is a whole range of fasting methods, the best-known and most researched method for weight loss is intermittent fasting, which is an eating pattern that involves cycling between periods of non-eating and eating.
One of the reasons that intermittent fasting has been shown to work for weight loss is because of the overall reduction in calorie consumption that results from extended fasting periods.
Studies have shown intermittent fasting can yield impressive weight loss results. In a review study published in the journal Translational Research , researchers found that intermittent fasting was able to result in a 1.65 pound per week rate of weight loss, whilst another recent meta study , reviewing 27 intermittent fasting programs, found participants had a weight loss of 0.8% to 13.0% baseline weight without any serious side effects. They also found that where participants followed the intermittent fasting for longer than 4 weeks, waist circumference decreased by 1.1 inches/3 cm to 3.1 inches/8 cm.
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