Intermittent Fasting Can Help Weight Loss
IF makes intuitive sense. The food we eat is broken down by enzymes in our gut and eventually ends up as molecules in our bloodstream. Carbohydrates, particularly sugars and refined grains , are quickly broken down into sugar, which our cells use for energy. If our cells dont use it all, we store it in our fat cells as, well, fat. But sugar can only enter our cells with insulin, a hormone made in the pancreas. Insulin brings sugar into the fat cells and keeps it there.
Between meals, as long as we dont snack, our insulin levels will go down and our fat cells can then release their stored sugar, to be used as energy. We lose weight if we let our insulin levels go down. The entire idea of IF is to allow the insulin levels to go down far enough and for long enough that we burn off our fat.
Could Help Promote Balance In Other Areas Beyond Food
When we think of intermittent fasting we immediately think of food, since that is what we are limiting. But could we benefit from taking a break from other things in our life?
The basic concept of fasting is to abstain from something for a specific period of time, so what other things could we fast besides food?
Television, social media, and video games to name a few may all be things we could use a break from that may positively impact our health and well-being.
At the end of the day, consciously choosing to reduce or shift our habits can help us create health and wellness goals based on our values and beliefs.
Tips To Make Intermittent Fasting Easier
1. Drink Plenty of Water
Squeeze a little lemon or lime juice into your water to help get rid of any cravings you experience. You can also drink coffee, tea, or other calorie-free beverages. After a few weeks, you will find that intermittent fasting keeps you from craving sugar entirely.
2. Take in Caffeine in the Morning and Early Afternoon
The caffeine in coffee and tea may actually make intermittent fasting weight loss a little easier since its good for curbing your appetite. Be careful not to overindulge, as this may lead to you feeling a little too wired. I also recommend these natural energy boosting tips to keep you going during the day.
3. Avoid Artificially Flavored Drinks
One type of calorie-free drink that should be avoided are diet sodas and other beverages that use artificial sweeteners like Splenda and Sweet & Low. Studies show that the can actually stimulate your appetite like a drink that contains sugar and causes you to overeat.
4. Dont Gorge at Your First Meal
The first meal after your fast should be the amount of food you typically eat. Binging will only make you feel awful and diminish the benefits you get from the fast.
To avoid this, try creating meal plans, at least for the first few weeks. This will help you get into the rhythm of eating regularly portioned meals during your eating window.
5. Minimize Processed Carbohydrates and Sugars
You can find some carb sources that will aid your weight loss journey here.
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Skip Breakfast Or Skip Dinner
- Research has shown that skipping one’s dinner is more effortless and healthier. Having an early dinner or heavy evening snacks can pause your hunger cravings during the night.
- During IF, even if the food is the same and the only difference is the time of food intake, there can be a difference in the effects of intermittent fasting, in particular on oxidation of lipids and carbohydrates as well as their storage.
- Despite similar energy intake and expenditure, there is a difference in carbohydrate and lipid metabolism between the two regimens .
- Taking a snack in the evening/ or late dinner favours the oxidation of carbohydrates to the detriment of lipids. Indeed, taking a snack in the evening would help maintain glycogen stocks in the liver, causing a reduction in the need for lipid oxidation during night fasting.
- Ultimately, such a meal pattern where having a meal at dinner results in more excellent fat storage and weight gain, despite the expected benefits of fasting.
During intermittent fasting, there is a risk of “cheating” by eating more before and after the fast and reducing physical activity, which could negate the benefits of fasting and decrease the chances of weight loss.
The Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting For Men
Intermittent fasting is a pattern of eating where a person cycles between eating and fasting.
There are different variations of intermittent fasting.
Some people may only do it a couple of times a week, while others do it every day or every other day.
The research is clear that intermittent fasting is beneficial for both men and women.
Here are just a few of the benefits of intermittent fasting:
Why Is It Better To Exercise In The Morning
We all know that including exercises in your life is good, but we don’t really know why it’s better to do it in the morning.
Exercising on an empty stomach has been shown to have several benefits:
- After a night, you are running out of your glycogen stores, which forces your body to pull energy from stored fat.
- Your body’s fat burning processes are controlled by the sympathetic nervous system which is activated by exercise and by lack of food. This system is also âonâ in the morning to wake you up, which makes the fat burning process even more efficient.
- Being in a fasted state with the sympathetic nervous system âonâ makes you alert, which helps you to be more focused when you are working out, which increases the quality of your training.
- Exercising in a fasted state triggers human growth hormone production, which is in charge of muscle gain, fat loss, speed of recovery and metabolism .
May Be Beneficial For Heart Health
Heart disease is currently the worlds biggest killer .
Its known that various health markers are associated with either an increased or decreased risk of heart disease.
Intermittent fasting has been shown to improve numerous different risk factors, including:
- blood sugar levels
The effects of fasting on heart health need to be studied more in-depth in humans before recommendations can be made.
Studies show that intermittent fasting can improve numerous risk factors for heart disease, such as blood pressure, cholesterol levels, triglycerides, and inflammatory markers.
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Intermittent Fasting And Morning Workout Tips
When you start, measuring your progress as described above, and following these tips, you should feel stronger and more athletic, not weaker.
Follow Rule #1: Eat enough
Many people on IF plans lose weight because its harder to overeat in a shorter time window. But, under-eating is just as problematic, especially if you are trying to maximize your results from a workout plan.
Track your calories and make sure youre eating enough. We share how to calculate and track your calories in our 30-Day Weight Loss Challenge.
Follow Rule #2: Hydrate like crazy
Just because youre not eating, doesnt mean youre not drinking water. Do not let fasting cause dehydration. Start your day with a big glass of water and carry a full water bottle with you as a reminder.
Drink at least one half of your body weight in ounces. For example, an individual who weighs 200 pounds should drink at least 100 ounces or three full Nalgene bottles.
If you want to keep it really simple and avoid math, just try drinking a gallon of water a day and see how you feel.
Ease into it and optimize
Be patient during your transition. Youll likely find that on moderate to high-intensity workout days you want to eat right after.
If you cant resist the hunger, have a banana and peanut butter. If it doesnt get easier, move your workouts closer to the start of your eating window.
You be the judge
May Extend Your Lifespan Helping You Live Longer
One of the most exciting applications of intermittent fasting may be its ability to extend lifespan.
Studies in rodents have shown that intermittent fasting extends lifespan in a similar way as continuous calorie restriction .
Intermittent fasting has also been shown to increase the lifespans of fruit flies 30443-3.pdf” rel=”nofollow”> 43 ).
In some of these studies, the effects were quite dramatic. In an older study, rats that were fasted every other day lived 83% longer than rats who werent fasted .
In a 2017 study, mice that were fasted every other day saw their lifespans increase by around 13% .
Daily fasting was also shown to improve the overall health of male mice. It helped delay the onset of conditions such as fatty liver disease and hepatocellular carcinoma, which are both common in aging mice 30512-6″ rel=”nofollow”> 46 ).
Although this is far from being determined in humans, intermittent fasting has become very popular among the anti-aging crowd.
Given the known benefits for metabolism and all sorts of health markers, it makes sense that intermittent fasting could help you live a longer and healthier life.
What Do The Strongest Studies Say
So how do you properly study the effect of eating breakfast on weight? Youd want to conduct a randomized controlled trial evenly dividing participants into breakfast vs. no-breakfast groups, and then measure specific outcomes, like daily calorie intake and weight. RCTs are experiments where you can control for confounding variables, and thus feel more confident about drawing conclusions.
Researchers from Melbourne, Australia looked at a number of RCTs on breakfast and weight and/or total daily energy intake, and pooled the results. They found 13 studies in all that met their criteria: they had to define breakfast content and timing, and had to have been conducted in high-income countries .
- Seven studies looked at the effects of breakfast on weight change, and after an average study length of seven weeks, participants who ate breakfast gained 1.2 pounds compared to those who didnt. This was true for both normal and overweight people.
- Ten studies looked at the effects of breakfast on total daily calorie intake, and after an average study length of two weeks, participants who ate breakfast consumed 260 calories more than those who didnt. These results help debunk the notion that skipping breakfast will cause people to binge later. While plenty of studies suggest that eating close to bedtime is associated with obesity, this has nothing to do with breakfast.
Intermittent Fasting The Best For Weight Loss
Ive been a personal trainer and nutrition coach since the mid-2000s and intermittent fasting is without a doubt the most effective diet for weight loss and slowing aging . Its also very simple to follow since youll just be restricting the times youre allowed to eat.
With intermittent fasting your body doesnt have any calories coming in. This allows your body to feed off your fat stores as an energy source . Since youre restricting your feeding hours youll instantly be cutting down on how many calories youre eating . Lowering your caloric intake does play a significant role in how much weight youre able to lose .
Finally, your body will release fat-burning hormones such as human growth hormone . This helps to preserve lean muscle mass which is needed to get a toned and slim physique . But dont worry about getting big bulky muscle mass from fasting.
But a lot of the weight youll lose with intermittent fasting depends on how much you have to lose in the first place. If you only have 10 pounds or so to lose then the results will be lesser if only doing it for a short time. But if you have more than 30 pounds to lose then your results will be much more.
You can expect to lose the most weight in the beginning few months and then itll start to slow down from there. And if youre trying to break through a weight-loss plateau then fasting for longer hours can get you there too .
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Figure Out A Meal Plan
A person interested in losing or gaining weight may find it helpful to plan what they are going to eat during the day or week.
Meal planning does not need to be overly restrictive. It considers calorie intake and incorporating proper nutrients into the diet. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the MyPlatePlan, which focuses on showing a person food group targets for each day.
Meal planning offers many benefits, such as helping a person stick to their calorie count and ensuring they have the necessary ingredients on hand for recipes, quick meals, and snacks. As a potential bonus, meal planning could save money if it helps people waste less food.
Not all calories are the same. Although these fasting methods do not limit the number of calories a person consumes during eating periods, it is essential to consider the nutritional value of the food.
In general, a person should aim to consume nutrient-dense foods, or foods with a
- 2018 review of studies , calorie restriction and intermittent fasting can help the body activate a healing process called autophagy, which essentially means that the body digests or recycles old or damaged cell components.
Fasting dates back to ancient humans, who often went hours or days between meals because obtaining food was difficult. The human body adapted to this style of eating, allowing extended periods to pass between food intake times.
Research also suggests that fasting has a variety of other benefits.
Could Help Lower Cholesterol
Your cholesterol might also improve after intermittent fasting when consuming a healthy diet during your non-fasting periods.
Better lipid profiles have been found after intermittent fasting including lower overall cholesterol, lower LDL , and lower triglyceride levels in healthy and overweight populations .
The majority of studies investigating intermittent fastings effects on cholesterol have focused on those fasting for Ramadan, so intermittent fasting may be an effective dietary method to improve your cholesterol, but further studies are needed to explore the differences in short-term vs long-term metabolic changes associated with fasting. .
If youre concerned about high cholesterol try adopting healthy lifestyle habits like incorporating exercise and a diet low in saturated and trans fats, and rich in high fiber foods.
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Getting Started With Intermittent Fasting: Next Steps
Intermittent fasting can potentially have some very positive benefits for somebody trying to lose weight or gain lean body mass.
Men and women will tend to have different results, just like each individual person will have different results. The ONLY way to find out is through a conversation with your doctor and self-experimentation.
There are multiple ways to do an Intermittent Fasting Plan:
- Fast and feast regularly: Fast for a certain number of hours, then consume all calories within a certain number of hours.
- Eat normally, then fast 1-2x a week: Consume your normal meals every day, then pick one or two days a week where you fast for 24 hours. Eat your last meal Sunday night, and then dont eat again until dinner the following day.
- Fast occasionally: probably the easiest method for the person who wants to do the least amount of work. Simply skip a meal whenever its convenient. On the road? Skip breakfast. Busy day at work? Skip lunch. Eat poorly all day Saturday? Make your first meal of the day dinner on Sunday.
After that, get started! Take photos, step on the scale, and track your progress for the next month.
See how your body responds.
See how your physique changes. See how your workouts change.
And then decide if its something you want to keep doing!
4 years later, I have no plans on going back to eating breakfast. Sorry General Mills and Dr. Kellogg!
If youre worried about all of this stuff, or arent sure when to eat and stop eating, try out our new app!
Pros Of Intermittent Fasting
Researchers have already linked numerous health benefits with intermittent fasting and continue to examine them.
Plus, for some people, intermittent fasting fits well into their model of a healthy and sustainable long-term diet.
If youre wondering if intermittent fasting could be right for you, here are a few benefits that might pique your interest.
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I Would Move Away From Intermittent Fasting For Fat Loss And If You Want To Adopt It Think About The Health Benefits Rachel Clarkson
Someone who has a high-carb diet might never move beyond the catabolic state as they will always have a reserve supply of glycogen. However, someone with a low-carb diet and who regularly exercises might move through it very quickly . I would move away from intermittent fasting for fat loss, and if you want to adopt it think about the health benefits, says Clarkson.
How to fast
To fast you have to downregulate the feeling of hunger, says Clarkson. Hunger is felt when ghrelin, a hormone released from our stomach, triggers the production of two other hormones, called NPY and AgRP, in the hypothalamus.
While these three hormones generate feelings of hunger, there are a multitude more that suppress it. Sometimes called the satiety hormones, one of the key ones is leptin which is released from fat cells to suppress the production of ghrelin basically telling the body “there is fat here that you can burn”.
Ghrelin is sometimes called the short-term hunger response because it is released when the stomach is empty and there is less pressure on the stomach wall. It can be overridden to a certain extent by drinking water. Leptin meanwhile works over the long term.
* William Park is a senior journalist at BBC Future and is on Twitter.
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