When it comes to using intermittent fasting for weight loss as a tool, Knowledge is the power and in this case, being aware of why these things do or don’t happen can be the key to finding the right changes to make to your lifestyle, and sticking to them as well!
From Terry Crews to Beyonce, and even to Benedict Cumberbatch, it seems like every other famous name has promoted at least some form of this concept, which makes you have to wonder what all the hype is about.
Before we deep dive into the ways in which fasting does and doesn’t work specifically in terms of weight loss results, we first have to take a moment to get a grasp on understanding what it is, how to do it in general, and then walk through some of the various forms of fasting, so that you can have an idea of whether or not any of it sounds right for you!
What is Intermittent Fasting (IF)?
In broad terms, it gives a name to the process of cyclically eating and fasting during set windows of time over the course of a larger predetermined period of time.
A much easier way to think of it is to realize that we all sort of subscribe to this way of eating already, since most of our usual schedules have us awake and capable of consuming food over the course of a day, and asleep and not eating over the course of a night.
When you’re sleeping through the night (and not getting up for a midnight snack), you’re already theoretically experiencing a period fasting every twenty-four hours, the days of which we have organized into the larger period of time called a week.
So technically, if you maintain your recommended eight hours of sleep every night (and don’t sleep walk around your kitchen without knowing it), you’ve already proven yourself successful at a less-intensive form of intermittent fasting. Congratulations!
Why should I try Intermittent Fasting?
The purpose of this periodic fasting is primarily to mimic the effects of a typical low-calorie diet, just over a longer and more sustainable period of time.
So instead of waking up every day and limiting yourself to a certain number of precious calories, you’d simply be limiting the times during which you’d be allowed to eat at all.
IF helps you to skip out on some of those extra calories while also giving your body intermittent periods of time where it doesn’t have to digest anything, which leaves it more time to prepare and complete other bodily functions.
We’ll get more into the benefits of this process and who it’s best for later, but if you’ve ever attempted a calorie-cutting diet and just felt like it wasn’t for you, be sure to keep reading!
Intermittent Fasting Schedule
Adhering to a true Intermittent Fasting schedule can be as simple as extending your nightly fast when you wake up until noon-time during the day, and then strategically timing your last meal (or any kind of food intake) before bed.
Basically, intermittent fasting requires you to designate a daily window of time during which you eat all of your food (or take in all of your calories) for the day and then making absolutely sure that during your fasting period, you take in zero calories.
The overall goal is not necessarily to restrict total calorie intake in general – as is a prime factor in many other popular weight loss plans, instead it emphasizes to restrict the amount of time during which you can consume calories, and then allow your body a sizable amount of time to break them down for energy.
Doing this forces your body to utilize the stored fats in the reserves for energy.
It might sound tricky at first, but like the example given above about skipping breakfast to continue your nightly fasting period, the process can be fairly simple to establish within your daily routine.
You’re already probably doing a good chunk of the fasting while you’re sleeping, all you need to do is simply extend the fasting period until noon.
Having said that fasting does not mean to dehydrate yourself, make sure you drink plenty of water during the fasting days.
Correct way of doing Intermittent Fasting
There are two most popular methods of fasting which is widely followed and accepted by health experts too.
Time restricted Feeding and Whole Day Fasting
Each of these also come with their own variations, the most popular one is Time-Restricted Feeding (TRM) which I already described above i.e. daily fasting and eating periods.
The other one is Whole-Day Fasting (WDF), which is a much more intensive regimen.
TRM is, as mentioned, simply allowing your body set windows during which you eat and don’t eat, and the ratio of those two windows is up to you, as long as they remain the same every day.
For example, the 16:8 method would have you fasting for sixteen hours a day and eating during only eight of them, and those periods would typically need to fall at the same time every day.
More realistically, adhering to the 16:8 method would look something like this:
- You finish out your eating period for the day by fully consuming your last snack or meal, as well as any other calorie-containing beverages, by 7pm on a Monday.
- You go to bed, wake up on Tuesday, and aren’t permitted to have any calories until 11am, at which point you can eat freely throughout the day, right up until that 7pm cut off Tuesday night.
- Wash, rinse, repeat. If you’re already thinking you’d be able to manage that schedule, then you’d be able to have success with the 16:8 method of TRM intermittent fasting. Other popular time ratios of TRM include the 12:12 method, in which you would both fast and eat for 12 hours each day, and the 23:1 method, which is a much more intensive method where you’d fast for 23 hours a day, and have one giant super-meal over the course of an hour.
Whole-Day Fasting can be a slightly more daunting idea than the TRF form of fasting, but also comes with its own set of variations to help you manage your diet effectively.
Alternate Day Fasting
The second method is Alternate Day Fasting.
Alternate-Day Fasting (ADF) is one in which your TRF ratio is just 24:24 – eat whenever you want to for 24 hours, and then fast for 24 hours. The 5:2 WDF method is another popular one, during which you eat completely normally during five of your days throughout the week, and then fast for two of them – and the beauty of this is that they can be whichever two you choose.
With Whole-Day Fasting, it’s also important to know that you can attempt either the ADF or the 5:2 method in their organic forms – meaning you actually completely fast during the appropriate periods – or in their modified forms, which means that you are permitted a small amount of caloric consumption (typically 500-600) during your fasting days.
And even beyond the basic methods that we’ve already talked about, there are a number of other varieties and alterations to the concept of intermittent fasting that people have adapted and made their own.
Again, it all comes back to knowing your body and what works for it! There really is no scientific evidence to support the fact that any one of these methods works any better than the others – for once, the amount of variety you have to choose from comes from the fact that you are supposed to make this weight-loss method your own, rather than force yourself to stick to a strict schedule that somebody else designed.
And just like with any other weight loss plan, if you decide by the end of your research that you’d like to give fasting a go, remember that you don’t have to jump right into it, even if you choose to implement one of the more intensive methods into your daily routine.
Whatever you go with, be sure to listen to your body and give it time to adapt to the changes you make, since again, you’re more likely to stick to them that way.
So, now that we have a solid idea about what intermittent fasting is, and the basics on how to get started with it – we need to know if it really works, right? As we move through the pros and cons of intermittent fasting in the next section, it’s still very important to keep in mind how unique your body is, and to consider how each of these factors applies specifically to you before jumping right in.
Why Intermittent Fasting Works?
Since part of the purpose of intermittent fasting is to give your body a periodic break from its digestive duties, your fasting periods will serve as an opportunity for your body to catch up on a bunch of other functions that it normally restricts or misses altogether when it has to be ready to digest food whenever you eat it.
When you’re not asking it to break down food to give you energy for sustained periods of time, your body begins to alter metabolic chemicals and hormones in your body to make the fat it has previously stored more accessible – since it has to get the energy for its basic functions from somewhere.
And when your body is preparing to dig into some of that stored fat, you’re not only fasting knowing that you’re helping your body actively cut back on the weight you don’t want – but you’re actually experiencing the benefits from all of those physiological changes your body is making as well.
The changes in insulin and hormone levels, as well as a number of other natural chemicals in your body, that occur when you don’t eat can have a positive impact on a number of bodily functions necessary for survival, including sleep, heart rate, blood pressure, and immune system functions.
Many successful fasters have reported that after maintaining their schedules for a notable period of time, they generally feel happier and healthier, due to the fact that their bodies seem to have become more efficient.
The upside to choosing Intermittent Fasting over other forms of calorie restriction is that it is, for most people, a sustainable method – which means that the positive effects are sustainable for your body as well.
With most other low-calorie diets, you’re require to consistently consume a reduced amount of calories in an effort to trick your body into digging into those fat reserves for energy.
The problem with a sustained low-calorie diet, however, is then two-fold: not only does your body not get a break from digestion duties and gain the chance to work on other aspects of itself, but it’s a lot smarter and adaptable than you think it is in terms of making long-term alterations to compensate for long-term changes you apply to it.
That’s why other calorie restriction diets may seem to help with weight loss for a time, but can lead to a plateau in weight for many others.
Your body gets smart and sees that the change you’ve made is sticking around, and adjusts its duties to most effectively store and handle what you put into it in return.
But with intermittent Fasting, those periods of complete fasting are just long enough and alternated with your eating schedule which is good enough to prevent your body from completely adapting its fat burning process.
Similarly, since the purpose of IF is to mimic the effects of a general calorie-restriction diet in a sustainable way, it’s much easier to face and adapt to the changes needed when attempting this diet than, say, just choosing to maybe cut out one type of food, or lose a quarter of your calories every day.
The rhythmic periods of eating and fasting during IF are just enough to keep you sustained while you get used to feeling hungry or skipping a habitual meal or treat, instead of forcing you to give up anything altogether.
Remember that this diet is very malleable, in that it has several forms to choose from and adapt to your specific lifestyle – there’s almost nothing for you to even feel guilty about, because there’s hardly anything you can screw up about it.
Likewise, the periods of fasting can make your feeding windows that much more exciting – and therefore make you much more mindful while you consume your meals or snacks, which can play a key role in changing your relationship with food in general.
Where Intermittent Fasting Fails
The main issue I have with the concept of Intermittent Fasting is that there really are no rules regarding what you should eat – or even how much.
This is the untold part of the process that’s really on you to be in control of.
If you “rebound eat” on your feeding days by eating more than is calorically necessary for your body, then you’re sort of defeating the purpose of your fasting times by replacing the calories sacrificed during those periods.
Secondly, if you fill up your feeding days with junk food, because you’re just worried about the caloric intake, then you’re still likely to lose weight in the long run, but you aren’t doing much to healthily assist your body in the process.
And even if you plan it all out and feel like you’re eating the right stuff, in the right amounts, and at the right times, you still have to stick around with your plan for at least two weeks (and in some cases up to a month) before some of the negative side effects, like acid reflux when you do eat, low blood sugar, fatigue, headaches, mood swings, dizziness, and nausea, start to kick in.
This is a big reason why Intermittent Fasting has one of the higher dropout rates when compared to other calorie-restriction diets – it sound easier to do, but seems to have a much more intense trial period before the results that keep you going can happen.
Another big reason for that dropout rate has a lot to do with being able to conveniently pair your eating and fasting periods well enough with your every day schedule.
I’ve talked a lot already about how much variety there is for you to choose from with this plan and how you can make it your own, which is still true! But it’s also true that some schedules out there will have a really hard time lining up with any Intermittent Fasting schedule, whether that be because of work, family, religion, or social life.
There are rigorous jobs out there that only allow food at certain times, and combinations of schedules that keep us so busy sometimes we feel like we’re barely able to sleep – at which point, trying to maintain a fasting schedule might just feel like another source of stress.
And even if you don’t have a busy daily life, are you going to be able to say no when your best friends want a late night Friday dinner together, and your last meal for the night had to be at 7pm?
Finally, and as with any other major change to the diet or exercise you apply to your body, you do have to make sure it’s right for you before you begin.
Going for substantial periods of time without food is not a good idea for people dealing with a number of different conditions, including pregnancy and diabetes, and is not a viable weight loss program for anyone who has to take prescribed medication with food or is experiencing a natural physical growth period, such as children and adolescents.
And if you currently or have ever suffered from any type of eating disorder, Intermittent Fasting is not a good choice for you. If you’re excited to give it a try but just aren’t sure how it might work for you, feel free to talk to your doctor or local dietitian about your personal situation before beginning.
So… does intermittent fasting really work?
My answer is that it really depends on the person who’s committing to it. The trend is too young to have conjured any hard scientific evidence yet, but there are definitely people out there who have chosen a plan, stuck adamantly to it, gotten amazing weight loss results, and felt amazingly better.
But as with any other diet or weight loss plan you’ve ever heard of, there are also people out there who have tried their hardest with IF and have nothing to show for it, which is very likely because they may have been doing it incorrectly, since the concept in general is so malleable and relaxed.
It can help with weight loss and overall health if you balance this plan with an intake of healthy and properly portioned foods – but I know that in the corporate fast-food capital of the world, not everyone is currently prepared to start doing that every day.
So, it’s really up to you to decide – will IF work for you? Please feel free to express your views at the comment box below.
Jennifer is the beauty and brains behind ! She loves eating healthy and trying new recipes.The self-proclaimed Zumba Queen has a passion for beauty products and loves reading new books. She’s always down for a DIY project!