One of the world’s most popular health and fitness trends is intermittent fasting (IF). It helps people lose weight, improve their health, and simplify their lives. Research shows that intermittent fasting can have a powerful impact on the body and brain and may even help you live longer.
Here’s your ultimate guide to intermittent fasting.
What Is Intermittent Fasting (IF)?
Intermittent fasting (IF) is an eating pattern that cycles between periods of fasting and eating. There are no specific foods listed, but it does specify when to eat the food. As such, it isn’t a diet in the conventional sense but more accurately describes an eating pattern. Common intermittent fasting methods involve daily 16-hour fasts or fasting for 24 hours, twice per week.
Evolution has created humans capable of functioning for extended periods without food. Fasting from time to time is more natural than eating 3–4 meals (or more) each day. Fasting is also often done for religious or spiritual reasons, including in Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Buddhism.
Intermittent Fasting Methods
Intermittent fasting can be done in several different ways – all of which involve dividing the day or week into eating and fasting periods. It’s usual to eat very little or nothing at all during the fasting periods.
These are the most popular methods:
- The 16/8 method: Also called the Leangains protocol – it involves skipping breakfast and restricting your daily eating period to 8 hours, such as 1–9 p.m. Then you fast for 16 hours in between.
- Eat-Stop-Eat: This involves fasting for 24 hours, once or twice a week, for example by not eating from dinner one day until dinner the next day.
- The 5:2 diet: With this method, you consume only 500–600 calories on two nonconsecutive days of the week, but eat normally the other 5 days.
These methods will cause weight loss if you reduce your calorie intake without compensating by eating much more during meals.
The 16/8 method is considered to be the most simple, sustainable, and easiest to follow by most people. It’s also the most popular.
A Very Powerful Weight Loss Tool
Intermittent fasting is most commonly used to lose weight. Fasting can automatically reduce calorie intake by reducing the number of meals you consume each day. Additionally, intermittent fasting alters hormone levels in order to promote weight loss.
Furthermore, it reduces insulin levels and increases growth hormone levels as well as increasing norepinephrine (noradrenaline), which burns fat. Because of these changes in hormones, short-term fasting may increase your metabolic rate by 3.6–14%.
Intermittent fasting helps you burn more calories while eating fewer calories, resulting in weight loss on both sides of the calorie equation. Studies show intermittent fasting can be a very effective weight loss method.
Study results show that this eating pattern can lead to a weight loss of 3 – 8% over a period of three to 24 weeks, which is substantial compared to most weight loss studies. According to the same study, people also lost 4–7% of their waist circumference, indicating a significant loss of harmful belly fat that builds up around your organs and causes disease. Another study has shown that intermittent fasting actually reduces muscle loss compared to continuous calorie restriction.
It’s important to note that intermittent fasting works because it helps you consume fewer calories overall. Binge-eating and consuming massive quantities during your eating period can prevent you from losing any weight.