Let’s start with an overview for those who aren’t familiar with this form of dieting. Intermittent fasting entails cycling between periods of fasting and eating. This cycle allows individuals to consume fewer calories and lose weight.
In this article, we will take a closer look at what intermittent fasting entails. Plus, we will explore how benefits those who are obese or overweight.
THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF INTERMITTENT FASTING DIETS
When it comes to following an intermittent fasting-based diet, there is no such thing as a one size fits all approach. Those who are interested in this time-tested approach to dieting can choose 1 of 3 methods, including
The 5:2 diet – This method entails consuming no more than 600 calories two days out of the week. For the remaining days, you would return to consuming your normal number of calories.
The 16:8 diet – This method entails giving yourself an 8-hour window to consume food and then fasting for the rest of the day. And not surprisingly, it is a favorite amongst dieters who choose intermittent-based fasting to lose weight.
The eat-stop-eat diet– Unlike the 16:8 diet, the eat-stop-eat method is the least popular when it comes to intermittent-based fasting as it entails going 24 hours once or twice per week without eating anything at all.
In addition to taking in fewer calories, going long periods without eating forces the body to use fat for energy, both of which helps contribute to significant weight loss. Of course, there is a caveat in that you can’t overeat to compensate for those times when you were fasting.
INTERMITTENT-BASED FASTING AND HORMONES
To further understand how intermittent-based fasting contributes to weight loss, we should also take a look at how the diet affects hormone levels in the body. Along with triggering the body to tap into fat stores for energy, fasting also improves insulin resistance, which enables the body to burn fat even without exercise. However, the impact on hormones does not end there as fasting also leads to an uptick in HGH (human growth hormone).
According to a study published by the National Institute of Health, HGH, which helps contribute to fat loss and muscle gain, increases 5-fold while fasting. Also, during an intermittent fast, norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter and stress hormone, signals cells to break down body fat, which can be used for energy. All in all, short-term fasting is scientifically proven to increase fat burning, which, in turn, makes it easier to shed unwanted pounds.
What’s more, the same study published by the National Institute of Health found that short-term, intermittent-based fasting can boost metabolism by as much as 14 percent. However, researchers and scientists involved in the study also noted that fasting for more than 48 hours may have the opposite effect in that it may cause one’s metabolism to slow down. With that, intermittent-based fasting is an effective way to lose weight, but you don’t want to go overboard.
HOW CONSUMING FEWER CALORIES CAN HELP YOU LOSE WEIGHT
Most medical professionals and personal trainers agree that to lose weight, you must burn more calories than you consume. While the combination of diet and exercise can help facilitate this goal, it can also be done with diet alone. That’s especially true if you’re following an intermittent-based fasting diet.
To further put this into context, in a 2014 study published by ScienceDirect, study participants following an intermittent, calorie-restricted diet were able to lose 3 to 8 percent of their body weight within 3 to 24 weeks, averaging about 0.55 pounds lost per week.
The results were even more impressive amongst study participants following the eat-stop-eat variation of intermittent fasting, which entailed eating every other day as opposed to daily. According to the study, this group lost roughly 1.65 pounds per week. And the impressive results did not end there as both groups were able to reduce their waist size by 4 to 7 percent, signifying a significant lost in abdominal fat, which, coincidentally, is the leading cause of cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
FASTING FOR OVERALL BETTER HEALTH
While many people gravitate toward intermittent-based fasting as a way to slim down, several studies show that the benefits extend well beyond weight loss. Fasting has been linked to better metabolic health and has been shown to reduce the likelihood of developing chronic diseases, some of which include diabetes, heart disease, and multiple sclerosis. And unlike other diets, an intermittent fasting diet is easy to follow as there is no calorie counting involved. Instead, you decide on when and how long you are willing to fast and then stick to that commitment. To say that the benefits that come with an intermittent-based fasting diet are impressive would be a gross understatement.
HOW FASTING HELPS YOU MAINTAIN MUSCLE
One of the most frustrating parts of losing weight is losing muscle in the process. Unlike other diets, fasting can help you hold on to more muscle. After all, the more muscle you have, the more calories you can burn. And the more calories you burn, the more weight you can lose. That said, intermittent-based fasting and long-term calorie restriction diets are both effective when it comes to losing weight; however, fasting results in less loss of muscle. In short, those who choose to lose weight by fasting can retain as much as 25 percent of their muscle mass. Long-term calorie-restriction, on the other hand, would result in about a 10 percent retention.
FASTING TO STABILIZE BLOOD GLUCOSE LEVELS
For those with type 2 diabetes, fasting not only helps you achieve a healthy weight but also helps stabilize blood glucose levels, which can minimize the risk of complications from diabetes. Some of these complications can include
- Kidney damage
- Nerve damage
- Severe foot infections
- Skin infections
- Hearing problems
Also worth noting, it is not uncommon for these complications to give way to severe bouts of depression. Science links type 2 diabetes to obesity. Thus, most physicians and dietitians encourage individuals to control their weight. Not surprisingly, most will look for a diet that is not overly complicated. After all, they already have a lot to remember with taking insulin and avoiding high glycemic foods. The easier a diet is to follow, the more likely they are to stick to it. Fortunately, this is what an intermittent fasting diet offers.
The impact that fasting has on hormones is what makes it beneficial for those with dangerously high blood glucose levels. Fasting prompts the pituitary gland to increase HGH production, which, in turn, helps stabilize blood glucose levels.
Beyond that, fasting also leads to an increase in leptin. That’s a hormone the body’s fat cells produce to decrease appetite. In many cases, once an individual gets their weight under control, they not only become less reliant on insulin but also less prone to complications from diabetes.
In a study published in Medical News Today, study participants with diabetes that fasted for a minimum of 24 hours were able to lower their fasting blood glucose levels and HbA1c. Even more impressive, study participants were able to lose between 10 to 18 percent of their body fat. And, they lowered their high blood pressure.
All in all, the study proved that fasting alters nervous system activity and prompts several significant hormone changes. All those factors serve to help individuals lose weight. These findings are impressive. However, scientists caution that they require more research to evaluate the long-term effects that fasting has on the body.
BOTTOM LINE ON INTERMITTENT FASTING AND WELLNESS
All in all, intermittent fasting is a great way to lose weight and better your overall health. That said, it is still important to make smart food choices as doing so will lead to even better results. As with any diet, however, it is always a good idea to speak with a physician or dietician first. They can confirm that a fasting diet is right for you. Also, note if you’re experiencing any ill-effects as a result of being on the calorie-restricted diet. Then, schedule an appointment with your physician as soon as possible.