A Little Fasting Goes A Long Way
Weve found that IF isnt necessarily faster or better than conventional calorie restriction. More surprising, weve found that a little fasting may offer more benefits than a lot of fasting .
In fact, when John Berardi, PhD , and Krista Scott-Dixon, PhD , pushed too far with fasting, they got less healthy.
What Does Research On Intermittent Fasting Show
One of the top reasons people adopt a new diet is to lose weight, and some believe intermittent fasting may help with this. A systematic review and meta-analysis in 2018 examined whether different forms of intermittent fasting results in weight loss. The research included six studies ranging in duration from three to 12 months. Four of these studies included continuous energy restriction as a comparator intervention, meaning that study participants ate fewer calories throughout the day than they usually would. Two studies included a no-treatment control intervention, meaning that the control group didnt change their eating habits at all. In total, the effects of intermittent fasting on body weight were assessed on 400 overweight and obese individuals. The researchers concluded that intermittent energy restriction was more effective than no treatment for weight loss. There was no difference in weight loss between intermittent energy restriction and continuous energy restriction. These results are based on a small number of studies, and more studies are needed to confirm the effect of intermittent fasting on weight loss.
Should I Eat 6 Small Meals A Day
There are a few main reasons why diet books recommend six small meals:
1) When you eat a meal, your body does have to burn extra calories just to process that meal. So, the theory is that if you eat all day long with small meals, your body is constantly burning extra calories and your metabolism is firing at optimal capacity, right? Well, thats not true.
Whether you eat 2000 calories spread out throughout the day, or 2000 calories in a small window, your body will burn the same number of calories processing the food .
So, the whole keep your metabolism firing at optimum capacity by always eating sounds good in principle, but reality tells a different story.
2) When you eat smaller meals, you might be less likely to overeat during your regular meals. I can definitely see some truth here, especially for people who struggle with portion control or dont know how much food they should be eating.
However, once you educate yourself and take control of your eating, some might find that eating six times a day is very prohibitive and requires a lot of effort. I know I do.
Also, because youre eating six small meals, Id argue that you probably never feel full, and you might be MORE likely to eat extra calories during each snack.
Although grounded in seemingly logical principles, the six meals a day doesnt work for the reason you think it would , and generally only works for people who struggle with portion control .
Thats why we made this:
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Recommended Foods And Tips
While the 16:8 intermittent fasting plan does not specify which foods to eat and avoid, it is beneficial to focus on healthful eating and to limit or avoid junk foods. The consumption of too much unhealthful food may cause weight gain and contribute to disease.
A balanced diet focuses primarily on:
- fruits and vegetables, which can be fresh, frozen, or canned
- whole grains, including quinoa, brown rice, oats, and barley
- lean protein sources, such as poultry, fish, beans, lentils, tofu, nuts, seeds, low fat cottage cheese, and eggs
- healthful fats from fatty fish, olives, olive oil, coconuts, avocados, nuts, and seeds
Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are high in fiber, so they can help keep a person feeling full and satisfied. Healthful fats and proteins can also contribute to satiety.
Beverages can play a role in satiety for those following the 16:8 intermittent fasting diet. Drinking water regularly throughout the day can help reduce calorie intake because people often mistake thirst for hunger.
The 16:8 diet plan permits the consumption of calorie-free drinks such as water and unsweetened tea and coffee during the 16-hour fasting window. It is important to consume fluids regularly to avoid dehydration.
Weight Loss And Fat Loss
Eating during a set period can help people reduce the number of calories that they consume. It may also help boost metabolism.
Research from 2016 reports that men who followed a 16:8 approach for 8 weeks while resistance training showed a decrease in fat mass. The participants maintained their muscle mass throughout.
In contrast, a 2017 study found very little difference in weight loss between participants who practiced intermittent fasting in the form of alternate-day fasting rather than 16:8 fasting and those who reduced their overall calorie intake. The dropout rate was also high among those in the intermittent fasting group.
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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.
The Five Stages Of Intermittent Fasting
. In this state, your body starts to break down and burn fat.
Some of this fat is used by the liver to produce ketone bodies . The two main ketones, acetoacetate and -hydroxybutyrate , serve as an alternative energy source for the cells of your heart, skeletal muscle, and brain, when glucose isnt readily available. Did you know that your brain uses up some 60% of your glucose when your body is in the resting state? During intermittent fasting, ketone bodies generated by your liver partly replace glucose as fuel for your brain as well as other organs. This ketone usage by your brain is one of the reasons that intermittent fasting is often claimed to promote mental clarity and positive mood ketones produce less inflammatory products as they are being metabolized than does glucose, and they can even kick-start production of the brain growth factor BDNF! Ketones have also been shown to reduce cellular damage and cell death in neurons and can also reduce inflammation in other cell types.
As their level in your bloodstream rises, ketones can act as signaling molecules, similar to hormones, to tell your body to ramp up stress-busting pathways that reduce inflammation and repair damaged DNA for example.
Within 24 hours, your cells are increasingly recycling old components and breaking down misfolded proteins linked to Alzheimers and other diseases . This is a process called autophagy.
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So Is Intermittent Fasting As Good As It Sounds
I was very curious about this, so I asked the opinion of metabolic expert Dr. Deborah Wexler, Director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Diabetes Center and associate professor at Harvard Medical School. Here is what she told me. “There is evidence to suggest that the circadian rhythm fasting approach, where meals are restricted to an eight to 10-hour period of the daytime, is effective,” she confirmed, though generally she recommends that people “use an eating approach that works for them and is sustainable to them.”
So, heres the deal. There is some good scientific evidence suggesting that circadian rhythm fasting, when combined with a healthy diet and lifestyle, can be a particularly effective approach to weight loss, especially for people at risk for diabetes.
We Asked Nutritionist Kerry Torrens For Her View
Is it safe?
Much of the emphasis of these diets is on the fasting stage, but in order to be a safe, effective and healthy style of eating, the food consumed during your eating windows needs to be of high nutritional value. Aim to include essential fats from oily fish, nuts and seeds, lean sources of protein, wholegrains and starchy carbs and plenty of fruit and vegetables to supply dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals.
Is it effective for weight loss and is it sustainable?
Studies suggest that when you compare IF with daily calorie restriction it is equally as effective at promoting weight loss in those who are overweight and obese. Results will vary, however, dependent on your individual circumstances and the amount of weight you have to lose. How effective it is in the longer term will depend on your ability to maintain this style of eating going forward. This is because IF is not so much a diet but rather a programme of eating, which means sustaining the weight loss is all down to how well you adapt your eating patterns in the long term.
How do different versions of IF compare?
Who should be more careful when considering fasting?
Please note: if youre considering attempting any form of diet, please consult your GP first to ensure you can do so without risk to health.
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Consider The Intermittent Fasting Plan Right For You:
Some of the popular regimens include:
The 16:8 diet, or time-restricted feeding, where you fast for 16 hours a day, but are free to eat whatever you want in the other eight hours. Experts advise picking an eating window that lets you finish your meals fairly early, such as 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. or earlier, because your body is less efficient at putting sugar away as the day goes by.
Alternate day fasting, which means limiting yourself to 500 calories one day, then eating whatever you want the next, and then repeating that process.
The 5:2 plan, which means incorporating two non-consecutive fast days into your week, then eating normally during the other days.
Here are four tips to keep your plan on track:
What The Studies Show
Intermittent fasting has been shown, in many short-term research studies, that it can help you lose weight, improve your health and potentially protect you from developing certain diseases. And whats most appealing, is that it doesnt restrict you daily, like conversional dieting.
Studies have also shown that intermittent fasting may help prevent or even reverse diabetes. This is because it helps to control and reduce insulin and glucose concentrations in your blood.
However, theres still not enough studies to show how safe intermittent fasting is if you do it for a long time. But in general, most research highlights that its safe in otherwise healthy adults.
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Intermittent Fasting Can Be Hard But Maybe It Doesnt Have To Be
Initial human studies that compared fasting every other day to eating less every day showed that both worked about equally for weight loss, though people struggled with the fasting days. So, I had written off IF as no better or worse than simply eating less, only far more uncomfortable. My advice was to just stick with the sensible, , diet.
New research is suggesting that not all IF approaches are the same, and some are actually very reasonable, effective, and sustainable, especially when combined with a nutritious plant-based diet. So Im prepared to take my lumps on this one .
We have evolved to be in sync with the day/night cycle, i.e., a circadian rhythm. Our metabolism has adapted to daytime food, nighttime sleep. Nighttime eating is well associated with a higher risk of obesity, as well as .
Based on this, researchers from the University of Alabama conducted a study with a small group of obese men with prediabetes. They compared a form of intermittent fasting called “early time-restricted feeding,” where all meals were fit into an early eight-hour period of the day ,or spread out over 12 hours . Both groups maintained their weight but after five weeks, the eight-hours group had dramatically lower insulin levels and significantly improved insulin sensitivity, as well as significantly lower blood pressure. The best part? The eight-hours group also had significantly decreased appetite. They werent starving.
How Do I Manage Hunger
The most important thing to realize is that hunger usually passes like a wave. Many people worry that hunger during intermittent fasting will continue to build until it is intolerable, but this does not normally happen.46 Instead, hunger comes in a wave. If you simply ignore it and drink a cup of tea or coffee, it will often pass.47
During extended fasts, hunger will often increase into the second day. After that, it gradually recedes, and many people report a complete loss of hunger sensation by day 3 or 4.48 Your body is now being powered by fat. In essence, your body is eating its own fat for breakfast, lunch and dinner and therefore is no longer hungry. Learn more
How To Do A 12
The Keto-IF diet involves following the Keto routine during the day, then IF overnight. For instance, on the first day, you can take scrambled eggs capped with avocado slices with black coffee or plain hot tea at 9 a.m., then water or a keto-friendly smoothie all morning. At noon, take lunch. This can include large leafy green salad broccoli and cauliflower topped with two tablespoons of olive oil, vinegar, and 3 ounces of grilled salmon or chicken breast.
You can have macadamia nuts as a snack at 2 p.m., but this is optional. Take dinner at 5 p.m, and this can be cooked wild rice with a chicken leg with skin and two cups of zucchini prepared with olive oil. Note that a KETO IF rich in bacon and butter is different from the one rich in avocado and olive oil.
To do this combination, get approval from your physician and work with a registered dietitian conversant with the Keto-IF diet for perfect ratios.
Its Inappropriate For Many People
The Warrior Diet is not a way of eating that everyone should follow.
This type of intermittent fasting is inappropriate for many people, including:
Some women may be able to fast intermittently without negative effects. However, some may experience unpleasant side effects like insomnia, anxiety, missed periods and reproductive health disturbances.
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The Backstory On Intermittent Fasting
IF as a weight loss approach has been around in various forms for ages, but was highly popularized in 2012 by BBC broadcast journalist Dr. Michael Mosleys TV documentary Eat Fast, Live Longer and book The Fast Diet, followed by journalist Kate Harrisons book The 5:2 Diet based on her own experience, and subsequently by Dr. Jason Fungs 2016 bestseller The Obesity Code. IF generated a steady positive buzz as anecdotes of its effectiveness proliferated.
As a lifestyle-leaning research doctor, I needed to understand the science. The Obesity Code seemed the most evidence-based summary resource, and I loved it. Fung successfully combines plenty of research, his clinical experience, and sensible nutrition advice, and also addresses the socioeconomic forces conspiring to make us fat. He is very clear that we should eat more fruits and veggies, fiber, healthy protein, and fats, and avoid sugar, refined grains, processed foods, and for Gods sake, stop snacking. Check, check, check, I agree. The only part that was still questionable in my mind was the intermittent fasting part.
Is Intermittent Fasting Safe
Some people try intermitting fasting for weight management, and others use the method to address chronic conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, high cholesterol or arthritis. But intermittent fasting isnt for everyone.
Williams stresses that before you try intermittent fasting , you should check in with your primary care practitioner first. Some people should steer clear of trying intermittent fasting:
- Children and teens under age 18.
- Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- People with diabetes or blood sugar problems.
- Those with a history of eating disorders.
But, Williams says, people not in these categories who can do intermittent fasting safely can continue the regimen indefinitely. It can be a lifestyle change, she says, and one with benefits.
Keep in mind that intermittent fasting may have different effects on different people. Talk to your doctor if you start experiencing unusual anxiety, headaches, nausea or other symptoms after you start intermittent fasting.
What Kind Of Coffee Breaks A Fast
Water is naturally the only drink that is free of any amount of calorie. However, if you feel like brewing a cup of coffee in the morning, you will not be breaking your fast if you stick to black coffee and natural tea without adding sugar, sweeteners, dietary products like milk whether skimmed or whole. Adding any of these could end your fast .
Although most coffees are naturally calorie-free, make sure you dont go overboard so that you wont tease your appetite. The reason for this increase in appetite is attributed to the caffeine content of the coffee.
If you feel the need to add some taste and flavour to your coffee when you are fasting, then certain flavoured spices will give you results because they have zero energy content. You can spice your coffee with powdered cinnamon and sweeteners.