Level of Difficulty: Hard
Intermittent Fasting is one of the most popular trends in the fitness community right now. IF started to gain momentum over the past few years as a way to quickly lose weight without doing a ton of exercising. Done right, this can be an effective way to lose weight in a relatively short period of time; depending on your current weight and fitness level. However, it takes planning, meal timing, and solid dedication to be effective.
Like most of my other medical information, I researched studies from the National Library of Medicine for the latest information. One of the most popular studies performed on intermittent fasting was conducted on a large group of male and female, obese and non-obese participants. This study was a controlled group study performed under the supervision of nurses and clinicians. They found the following results:
· Weight Loss and Waist Circumference Reduction
· Lower BMI
· Lower Systolic and Diastolic Blood Pressure
However, these positives were for short-term fasters. Long-term effects of fasting found that there were more negative effects than positive. Some of the negative ones include:
· Higher Resting Blood Pressure
· Poor Cognitive Functions
· Mood Swings
· Poor Sleep
· Muscle Cramps
· Lower Feeling of Well-Being
These problems could be from the long-term lack of consistent nutrition flowing through the body, which can cause metabolic and hormonal problems.
Intermittent Fasting can affect four main points of the body’s system:
· Weight Loss
· Cardiovascular System
The reason why people lose weight with intermittent fasting is because of two main reasons: calorie reduction and hormone change. When intermittent fasting, one of the most important parts of the method is to focus on reducing calories and glycogen. This is similar to most keto diets, which is lowering your carbs or removing them completely to get into ketosis. By doing this, you will force the body to use other sources as energy. Since muscle is normally the last source, the body will use stored body fat as its main source. This will ultimately make you lose weight in a short period of time. In intermittent fasting plans, you don’t necessarily need to reduce carbs, but you do need to reduce calories, which should come naturally if you portion out your meals.
Intermittent fasting has a large effect on your hormonal structure, which can help in reducing weight. It can also help in releasing Growth Hormone in the body, which can aid in losing weight. Growth Hormone helps to preserve muscle and makes you stronger, which is an advantage since long-term fasting can cause muscle loss.
For people with diabetes, fasting can help them by going through the fasting process which reduces insulin levels. This also helps to keep the insulin levels from spiking too much. Also, the goal of fasting is to drop weight, which when done correctly, will help diabetics in the long-run.
A molecular function called Autophagy also can help diabetics and non-diabetics. This function basically means old bad cells are washed away which reduces the number of toxic cells in the body. It’s been said that during the fasting phase, Autophagy is at its highest, which is why some like to stay in the fasted phase as long as possible.
Some studies suggest Autophagy is good for people who have lower than normal immune systems, and people who are prone to sickness since it will help them with infections.
Some people use intermittent fasting to help with their cardiovascular system. This is done by reducing blood lipids and cholesterol during the fasting phase. During a fast, calories are reduced which should also reduce the number of fats eaten during the week. Bad fats like fast-food, packaged meals, and most deserts contribute to poor cardiovascular health. Also during a fast, glucose is reduced and stays in the liver. Glucose is a main contributor of fat gain and loss as well as reducing lipids in the body. There is an entire scientific process that goes into this, but we can just say that since glycogen is reduced during fasting, cholesterol is also reduced. This is because ketones will be used as a main energy source, which helps to take the bad fats and basically transforms them into a form of energy. This doesn’t mean all bad cholesterol will be removed. If you ate nothing but bacon, you profile will be through the roof, but limiting high fat foods during intermittent fasting has been proven to help our cardiovascular system, as long as fats and carbs are reduced. Long-term effects have not been studied.
Intermittent Fasting Methods
There are a few methods that you can do to get into a fasting state:
The 16/8 Method
The 5:2 Diet
Eat Stop Eat
The 16/8 Method:
This is the most common fasting method. This involves you eating only during an 8-hour window. Also known as the Leangains method, this plan is the most used since it is the easiest to stick to. A typical schedule would be:
· Wake at 8am
· Wait until 12pm to eat
· Eat moderate size meals throughout the next 8-hours from 12pm until 8pm
· Don’t eat again until 12pm the next day.
The purpose of the Leangains method is to get all of your meals completed in a rather short span of time. Some people prefer to eat smaller meals throughout the day. Others like two or three big meals. It pretty much depends on your appetite (while fasting you should have one!). Many people do fasted cardio in the morning while using this method. This helps to burn out the excess glycogen in your system, which aids in getting you into ketosis.
Another common tip is that if you find it difficult fasting for 16-hours, have a small snack, such as a hand full of peanuts or a small amount of Greek yogurt when you first wake up. Keep the calories low <100. Your feeding time will be soon 😊. Also, try to limit this as the goal is to make it to your feeding time.
The 5:2 Diet
This is also known as alternate date fasting. You will essentially eat on non-consecutive dates or fast for two days in a week. These aren’t total fasts like the other options. With the 5:2 method, you will eat an average of 500 calories for the entire day. This can be done by picking days that you usually do not have much activity or non-workout days. This will ensure you will maximize your workouts. The 5:2 schedule can look like:
· Monday – Eat
· Tuesday – Fast Only Eat 550 calories
· Wednesday – Eat
· Thursday – Eat
· Friday – Eat
· Saturday – Fast Only Eat 500 calories
· Sunday – Eat
This choice isn’t as popular as the 16/8, and there aren’t any long-term studies performed. However, this seems to be an easy choice for people who find the other methods difficult since it’s not as stringent, and you can have some food every day.
Eat Stop Eat
The Eat Stop Eat method is very common and is usually the go to fasting routine for long-term fasters. This method was developed by Brad Pilon, a fitness enthusiast and exercise/nutrition researcher. The basic principle of this method is to eat normally for 5 days, then eat nothing for two days. That’s right, NOTHING! For a complete 24 hours, you will not intake any calories. All you can have is water, teas, coffee, or zero calorie drinks. An EAE schedule will look like this:
· Monday – Eat Normal
· Tuesday - Eat Normal Until a Chosen Time (ex. 8pm dinner will be the last meal)
· Wednesday – No Food At All Until 24 Hours After Your Last Meal (8pm)
· Thursday – Eat Normal
· Friday – Eat Normal (ex. 8pm dinner then no food for 24 hours)
· Saturday – No Food All Day Until 8pm
· Sunday – Eat Normal
This method should be used by people who have the ability to not eat for pretty much the whole day. If you are an intermediate or advanced faster, this might be the best choice for you.
Since it will be difficult getting in workouts every day, some people prefer to have 3 full-body workouts a week. Ideally these should be on the days when you eat your meals. If you workout the day after, you may feel too hungry because of all the calories burned out, which may cause a fall off the fasting wagon. I’ve found 3 times a week, medium intensity to be a good medium. You will still get decent workouts in, and you shouldn’t be too tired to workout. If you are going to lift, it might be difficult gaining muscle and strength. Most people use IF to lose weight, which it can do.
Intermittent Fasting is good idea to try if you haven’t done it before. Everyone reacts differently, and you may find that it’s a great program for you. If you are going to try it, try and keep it short-term since long-term effects haven’t been studied.
Let us know how it worked for you by commenting below!