Intermittent fasting has quickly become a trendy method of losing weight. Almost everybody seems to swear by it, and chances are you have friends or family members already practicing it.
While it’s not an entirely new weight loss regimen, many gray areas still exist. For instance, who can or can’t practice intermittent fasting? How fast can you lose weight with IF? And what happens once you have achieved your goals and wish to stop following the diet?
Read on for answers to these and other frequently asked questions about intermittent fasting.
- What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is a diet that emphasizes the timing of your meals. It’s different from other types of diets that restrict certain food groups.
Intermittent fasting involves eating normally within a specific time frame and fasting (or lowering your calorie intake significantly) the remaining time of the day. For instance, if you are doing intermittent fasting 20/4, you fast for 20 hours, then eat “whatever you want” within a 4-hour window.
- How does Intermittent Fasting Work?
Intermittent fasting is based on the fact that the body starts tapping its fat stores when it runs out of readily available energy. The food we eat supplies our bodies with potential energy in three forms: carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.
The body breaks down carbs like sugar into glucose for immediate use or storage as glycogen in the liver and muscles. The body starts burning fat after depleting its glucose and glycogen stores. When fasting, your body starts burning fat 12 hours after your last meal and escalates after 16 hours.
Intermittent fasting works in three ways:
- Prolonging the time between your meals so the body depletes its glucose and glycogen stores.
- Increasing your metabolic rate.
- Lowering your calorie intake or helping you avoid taking too many calories
- What is Intermittent Fasting Used for?
Most people practice intermittent fasting to lose weight. Current research suggests intermittent fasting may help reduce body weight and fat mass among overweight and obese individuals. Generally speaking, IF helps reduce weight by reducing calorie intake and increasing your metabolic rate. But multiple studies show you can achieve the same results using a continuous low-calorie diet.
Other evidence-based benefits of intermittent fasting include lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes, reducing inflammation, lowering blood pressure, and boosting brain function.
- Is Intermittent Fasting Safe?
A growing number of clinical studies suggest that intermittent fasting may be safe and effective for most people. But most of the available studies are of short duration, so we are still in the dark regarding the long-term effects of intermittent fasting.
Although safe, not everyone should practice intermittent fasting. Some people who should consider other options include pregnant or breastfeeding women, people with a high risk for eating disorders, individuals with type 1 diabetes, and anyone under 18 years.
Also, there are several negative side effects of intermittent fasting to beware of, including;
- Hunger and cravings
- Lightheadedness and headaches
- Mood changes
- Sleep problems
- Bad breath
- What are the Different Types of Intermittent Fasting?
The major advantage of intermittent fasting over other diets is its different ways of approaching it. There are different types of intermittent fasting with varying intensity levels, strengths, and drawbacks. This means there’s an intermittent fasting method to suit different people’s unique needs and lifestyles.
These are the most common forms of intermittent fasting today:
- The 16/8 method- this is the most popular method of intermittent fasting. You compact your 2-3 meals into an eight-hour time frame and fast for 16 hours.
- The 5:2 diet- you eat as you normally would for five days of the week and limit your calorie intake to 500/600 calories on the remaining two days. The two “fasting” days should be non-consecutive.
- OMAD- one meal a day is an extreme type of intermittent fasting where you fast for 23 hours straight and then eat a large meal within a one-hour window.
- Alternate Day Fasting- a high-intensity form of intermittent fasting that entails a 36-hour fast followed by a 12-hour fasting period.
- 12-hour or overnight fasting- a beginner-friendly method of intermittent fasting where you simply fast for 12 hours. A good example here is finishing dinner at 7 PM and then breaking your fast at 7 AM the following day.
- How Should a Beginner Start Intermittent Fasting?
How you begin intermittent fasting greatly determines your ability to stick to the end. Start by defining the big reason why you want to do intermittent fasting.
Most people do it to cut some pounds and lower their risk for weight-related health problems. Others use IF to support their gut health or boost their energy levels. Identifying your goals helps a lot when determining an effective intermittent fasting method.
Choosing a plan that aligns with your schedule and lifestyle is crucial. Ask yourself, “Can I maintain this eating pattern every day, forever?”
- How Fast Can You Lose Weight with Intermittent Fasting?
How fast you start seeing a change in your body will depend on the intermittent fasting method you are practicing, your weight, and your lifestyle. Most people report losing around four pounds in one week with OMAD. You can’t expect to lose that much weight with a low-intensity IF method like overnight fasting.
On the other hand, obese people will generally lose weight faster in the first few weeks. On top of that, people who combine intermittent fasting with regular workouts will see results faster than those who fast only. That’s because training on an empty stomach helps you burn 20% more fat.
- How do I Keep Weight Off after Intermittent Fasting?
Let’s assume you have been doing intermittent fasting for weight loss and have finally reached your goal weight. What next? Everybody fears that the lost weight will creep back as soon as they relax their strict eating rules.
True. There are numerous stories of people who gained weight after intermittent fasting. But gaining back the lost weight will happen once you return to your old eating habits regardless of the diet.
If you want to stop intermittent fasting without gaining weight;
- Pack your diet with whole foods.
- Plan to eat your last meal of the day before the sun goes down.
- Stop eating 2-3 hours before bedtime.
- Aim to have at least 12 hours between dinner and breakfast (the following morning).