Today, the most popular ways to lose weight are by changing your diet and by strength training. Almost everyone who’s attempted to lose weight has tried at least one of these two methods. However, the fact that these two are the most popular does not make them the ONLY methods to lose weight.
One other very effective and also very popular way to burn fat is by intermittent fasting (also called IF). This article will explain what IF is, how it works, and the various methods it can help you lose weight.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent Fasting (IF) is an eating pattern that cycles between periods of eating and fasting. It involves short-term fasts, followed by periods of eating, and short fasts again. Intermittent fasting focuses on WHEN you eat as opposed to WHAT you eat IF is not a diet in the conventional sense of the word. It is more accurately described as we defined it earlier – an eating pattern.
Now before you get alarmed, note that fasting has always been a part of human cultures. Eating three or (four) times daily is a relatively new concept. For much of human history, food was simply not abundant enough to guarantee regular meals. So, people fasted in one way or another. Intermittent fasting takes these irregular and unplanned modes of fasting and molds them into structured, deliberate fasting periods for weight loss.
Different Methods of Intermittent Fasting
There are different ways to do intermittent fasting, although they have the same principle. Some of the most recognized methods are:
- The 16:8 Method
Also known as the lean gains method, this is the most common intermittent fasting plan. It involves fasting for 16 hours a day and restricting all your eating to the 8-hour window you have left. Unlike most fast diets, it isn’t restrictive and allows leeway to choose your windows. So, you could choose to fast from 12:00 am to 04:00 pm and eat from 04:00 pm to 11:59 pm. You could also choose to eat only from 06:00 am to 02:00 pm, and fast from 02:pm to 06:00 am the next day.
- The 5:2 Diet Method
Another IF plan is the 5:2 diet. Unlike the 16:8 plan, which tracks food intake with hours, this plan uses days to restrict eating patterns.
Here, you eat normally for any five days a week and have restrictions on two non-consecutive days of the week. On your days of eating, you restrict your calorie intake to a quarter of what you take on normal days. So, if you consume within 2000 – 2400 calories daily, you’d eat around only 500 – 600 calories on fasting days.
Be wary, though. Limiting your caloric intake to just 500 calories isn’t as easy as it sounds. You may falter on your first few tries. However, once you get accustomed to it, it becomes very easy to do.
- Eat Stop Eat
This is a slight modification of the 5:2 method popularized by Brad Pilon. Here you fast completely for 24 hours, once or twice a week, and eat normally for the other five days.
Bear in mind, though, that this isn’t a license to eat crap on your days of eating. You should always eat healthily regardless of the day of the week it is.
Once again, this method may also take some time to get used to as fasting for 24 hours isn’t a walk in the park.
- Alternate-Day Fasting (ADF)
As the name implies, you alternate your fasting days with your eating days with this method. One day on, one day off. Nothing too complex. Some experts tweak this by suggesting you consume at least 500 calories on your fasting days. However, that depends on your personal choice.
Also, with ADF, it doesn’t matter the particular day of the week you choose to fast. It again depends on your personal choice.
- The Warrior Diet
We also have the Warrior Diet, which Ori Hofmekler created in 2001.
This method is based on the eating patterns of ancient warriors is a modification of the 16:8 method. You eat very little for 20 hours a day, and then for the remaining four hours, you eat as much as you like.
How Intermittent Fasting Helps You Lose Weight
Although IF isn’t about controlling your calorie intake, it achieves this result. This is because the limited eating windows make it almost impossible to overeat and consume excess calories. And even with the plans with five eating days, the fasting days ensure the extra calories are burned as fuel. IF also helps with weight loss in the following ways.
- Insulin reduction
Intermittent fasting reduces levels of insulin in your body. Therefore, it makes it easier to use and burn stored fat.
- Lowering of blood sugar
- It increases HGH
Intermittent fasting also increases the levels of the human growth hormone. This helps your body use fat efficiently and build muscle.
Are There Any Side Effects of Intermittent Fasting?
On a normal day, intermittent fasting has no potentially harmful side effects. Our bodies are more equipped to handle hunger than we think. That said, certain people should not start intermittent fasting without the recommendation of a healthcare professional. They are:
- Breastfeeding women
- Pregnant women,
- People trying to conceive,
- People with diabetes,
- People with difficulty in regulating sugar,
- People with low blood pressure
- People on medication
- Underweight people,
- People with eating disorders.
- Children under 18
As you can see, the health benefits of intermittent fasting are numerous. Apart from aiding weight loss, it also improves your general state of health. It is very important, however, that you note two things. One is that, even though intermittent fasting isn’t about regulating calories, you should still strive to eat healthily. Eating unhealthy foods on your eating days would eventually undo all your hard work. Eat healthy whole foods rich in proteins, carbohydrates, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals.
The second is that not everyone can do intermittent fasting. There are people with special considerations that are unable to safely do intermittent fasting. So, if you belong to this group, seek the advice of a healthcare professional before starting intermittent fasting.