Intermittent fasting 101: What is it and will it help me lose weight?

Is intermittent fasting another new diet fad, or does it have some merit for weight loss?

Nutrition trends are everywhere! Especially when it comes to weight loss. Some have merit, and some do not. Recently more and more of my patients are enquiring about Intermittent Fasting and its merits regarding weight loss.

If you want to know my thoughts on one of the hottest trends now, intermittent fasting, then keep reading.

I'm going to talk about the different ways to do intermittent fasting, what the research says on its effectiveness for weight loss, as well as things to consider before attempting intermittent fasting.

I also have a fabulous and super-easy recipe for you to get started!

Intermittent fasting 101: What is it and will it help me lose weight?

In a nutshell, intermittent fasting is just that: fasting intermittently.

It's limiting calorie intake during certain hours/day or days/week. It's more of an eating pattern than a diet. It limits when to eat, and not so much what to eat. That is part of its appeal to people who don’t want to count calories or use their food log to track everything.

Some would say that it's a more natural way to eat because humans evolved without refrigerators, drive-throughs, or 24-hour convenience stores. We now have access to food (including junk food) all day long, so eating several meals per day plus snacks may be less natural than fasting from time to time.

The most common types of intermittent fasting which include:

Alternate-Day Fasting: This entails eating only every other day. On fasting days, some eat no food at all, and others eat a very small amount, typically around 500 calories. On non-fasting calorie days, eat normally (but healthfully!)

The Warrior Diet: This diet involves eating only fruits and vegetables during the day and then eating one large meal at night.

MY FAVORITE - 16/8 Fasting (also often referred to as Time-Restricted Feeding): For this method, you fast for 16 hours every day and limit your eating to eight hours. Most often, this simply involves not eating anything after dinner and skipping breakfast the next morning.

Eat-Stop-Eat: Practice the “Eat Stop Eat” method by picking one or two days out of the week in which you fast for 24 hours, then eat nothing from dinner one day until dinner the next day. On the other days, you should have normal calorie days. This one is also GREAT to do on occasion. Some people (myself included) will just sip on bone broth for 24-48 hours to give your cells, digestion and insulin a break!

5:2 Diet: For five days of the week, you eat normally. For the remaining two fast days, you should restrict your caloric intake to between 500–600 calories.

Is intermittent fasting effective for weight loss?

On a personal note- a while ago I did some very comprehensive genetic testing (more on that in an upcoming newsletter- but let me just drop a hint and say that the results are nothing short of life-changing). My testing revealed that genetically, I am the perfect candidate for Intermittent Fasting. So, for several months I followed the 16/8 form of fasting. I felt amazing….endless energy, zero brain fog, great digestion. All in all, I found the benefits amazing and knew this is how I should be eating for long term. Over the few months, I began to lose more and more weight - a bonus for many but on my frame, I did not have much to lose. So, after a few months, I had to add in more calories BUT I can personally attest to the weight loss benefits of Intermittent Fasting. Since then I have guided many patients through different fasting regimes, and they have ALL lost weight using different forms!

Intermittent fasting is helpful with weight loss not only because the overall calories consumed are less but also because it supercharges the metabolic rate! Fasting also fasting helps to stabilize blood sugar levels, reduce inflammation and keep your heart healthy.

One of the major intermittent fasting benefits is its ability to rev up fat burning and help the pounds disappear. In fact, many people prefer intermittent fasting to traditional diets because it doesn’t require measuring and tracking foods.

During Intermittent Fasting your body is forced to use up fat stores as fuel. When you eat, your body uses glucose (sugar) as its primary source of energy and stores the  leftovers as glycogen in your muscles and liver.
When you don’t give your body a steady stream of glucose, it begins breaking down the glycogen to use as fuel. After the glycogen has been depleted, your body seeks out alternative sources of energy, such as fat cells, which it then breaks down to help power your body, thus the weight loss benefits.

Lots of people say they have success with it. But what do the studies say?

According to one review study, intermittent fasting helped people to lose 3-8% of their weight over 3-24 weeks.  In this study, people also lost 4-7% of their waist circumference (i.e., belly fat).

Another study of 100 people with obesity showed that after a year, the people who fasted on alternate days lost more weight than people who didn’t change their eating pattern. But, (and here’s where it’s interesting) they didn’t lose any more weight than those on a calorie restricted diet. Out of the people who were to follow the intermittent fasting protocol, 38% of them dropped out.

Consistency is one of the keys to weight loss success. Making changes that become a lifestyle rather than something that you do for a couple of weeks is how lasting results will occur.

Before you consider intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting is not for everyone. People who are underweight or have eating disorders shouldn’t fast. Neither should women who are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or are breastfeeding. Anyone with reactive hypoglycemia or severe adrenal fatigue should also avoid fasting.

Certain medical conditions can be worsened with longer periods of fasting. Also, people taking certain medications can be prone to side effects with intermittent fasting as well.

One of the reasons people drop out of the intermittent fasting eating pattern is that it’s hard to stick with the fasting part. They eat more than the allowed (low-level of) calories when they’re supposed to be fasting. And when they finish fasting, they may overindulge due to the reaction of the appetite hormones and hunger drive while fasting. None of these will help with weight loss.

Also, the hours and days of fasting can be very difficult. So, having strong social support will be key to those intermittent periods of fasting. Sticking to a (healthy, nutrient-dense) weight loss diet is the key to success, and intermittent fasting can be difficult for many people to stick with.

Intermittent fasting is a weight loss trend that seems to work for some people. It can help to lose weight and reduce belly fat, but it isn't safe for everyone.

For the best chance of long-term weight loss success, finding a diet, you can stick with is key.

What about you - Have you or someone you know tried intermittent fasting? What were the results? Send me an email and let me know.

You can read more about Intermittent Fasting here »