Intermittent fasting (IF) is a popular health trend that involves cycles of eating and abstaining from food. Unlike many fad diet trends, however, research backs up intermittent fasts as a way to improve weight loss and speed up your metabolism. Here’s how it works and how it can actually improve your overall well-being.
How an Intermittent Fast Diet Works
IF does not focus on what you should eat but when you should eat your meals. There are many ways to fast by determining when during the day or week you should eat or skip a meal. The most popular method is called the 16/8 fast and it involves skipping breakfast, eating a first meal around noon, and skipping meals until 8 pm. The diet may even involve fast days which involve eating no food at all or alternating days with fast days that involve eating just 500 to 800 calories.
An intermittent fast diet is an alternative to calorie restriction, which is a life-long lifestyle with a goal of consuming up to 25% fewer calories than your body requires to push your body into hormesis, a response to stress believed to make the body more resilient.
During fast periods, you do not eat any food or drink any beverages with calories. Coffee, tea, and water are allowed. There are some intermittent fast diets that do allow a bit of low-calorie foods like fresh vegetables during a fast period, however.
Fasting can have numerous health benefits. When you fast, your insulin and blood sugar levels are significantly reduced while your production of human growth hormone (HGH) increases. Some research even indicates a fast diet can help you live a longer life and offer protection against diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and some forms of cancer.
IF Dieting and Weight Loss
For many people, the main draw of this approach to dieting is its weight loss benefits. While an intermittent fast diet can be effective, it’s not without drawbacks. At first, you may find yourself very hungry for hours on end, but your body will adjust.
Surprisingly, while you could in theory compensate for fast days by eating much more on regular days, studies show that most people don’t do this. On average, people tend to eat 10-22% extra on feast days but still take in about 28% less calories over an entire week with this approach.
An intermittent fast diet can definitely be effective if you’re trying to lose weight with an average of 7-11 pounds of weight loss over 10 weeks. Just keep in mind you can get similar weight loss results with regular dieting. Hunger pangs, fat loss, and lean muscle loss all seems to be about the same with IF compared with a conventional diet.
Of course, IF has more to offer than just weight loss. If you are interested in other potential benefits like anti-aging or potentially reducing your risk of disease, IF may still have something to offer. The bottom line is that IF does really work as long as you’re willing to stick with it, make sacrifices, and not expect miracles.