What is Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting is pattern of eating and not considered a diet. Diet involves changing food and what you eat whereas intermittent fasting means changing the pattern of your eating.
This basically means the time in which you eat will become significantly different than before. There isn’t a worry about learning new food recipes and buying new ingredients that you never heard of.
Why is Intermittent Fasting Becoming So Popular
Intermittent fasting has a small following but a very strong following. It is constantly growing more and more each day. It is now slowly becoming more accepted among the fitness industry.
Why has its popularity grown so rapidly? Is it because is it just another fitness trend and more and more people are just looking to jump onto the waggon?
The concept of fasting for a certain period of time and losing fat quickly is a remarkable one. It has helped many lose fat, the simplicity behind it has sparked plenty of interest.
Intermittent fasting has been very successful for thousands around the world. It isn’t for everyone but it has done wonders for those that it has helped. One of the biggest factors that has make it famous is its simplicity. Diet plans require major behavioural changes or adjustments but intermittent fasting only requires you to adjust the time of when you eat.
The Science Behind Intermittent Fasting
The idea of intermittent fasting has bought a lot of attention towards anyone into fitness and anyone serious about fat loss.
The science behind it makes a lot of sense, but to truly understand one needs to understand a little about the body and how it burns and lose fat.
The body basically has 2 states, the fed state and the fasted state:
- Fed state. The fed state happens when the body is digesting and storing food.
- Fasted state. This is when the body is not processing any food.
Insulin plays a vital role in fat loss and gaining wait. Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas after eating a meal. If it’s high you will put on fat and if it’s low then you have the opportunity to lose fat. In the fed state insulin will be much higher because it would have been released after you’ve eaten. Within this state it becomes extremely difficult to lose fat.
Burning fat happens more in the fasted state as your body isn’t busy digesting. In the fasted state it gives your body the opportunity to burn inaccessible fat that was once stored before.
If you spend too much time eating or consuming large meals then your body spends too much time in the fed state. This means gaining more fat and weight.
The entire notion of intermittent fasting is about one spending more time in the fasted state to burn fat. Fasting or not eating for duration of time will allow your body to be in the fasted state and burn fat.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
- Body fat loss
- Improved metal focus and concentration
- Increased energy
- Improved fat burning
Does Intermittent Fasting Work?
Plain and simple intermittent fasting does work, however the question remaining is will it work for you?
What happens if you’re just the average Joe looking to lose fat?
You don’t have to be particularly active as intermittent fasting will help almost any one lose fat. The most important thing about it is eating relatively clean meaning you don’t rely solely on junk food. Eating clean doesn’t just mean eating only food such as lean meats, quinoa and quark. It’s all about fresh ingredients and cooking them. So avoid eating prepared packed microwave foods also.
Some people have reported that fasting has helped them lose additional fat in stubborn areas of the body. You know, the love handles, gut, triceps (bingo wings) and thighs etc.
Who is Intermittent Fasting For?
Anyone looking to lose fat
If you want to lose fat but you are not keen on any fancy diets then intermittent fasting can help you lose fat. If you are somewhat on the large scale then with this method of fasting you are likely to see results almost instantly.
There is tremendous amount of discipline involved but it is easier to do than follow a diet.
Bodybuilders looking to cut and get quick results
The key to intermittent fasting for bodybuilders is getting quick results. So losing fat quickly is what intermittent fasting will do. On the other hand the biggest issue is muscle loss. By losing fat rapidly you will also lose a lot of muscle mass fast. This defeats the purpose of a bodybuilder and is horrific news for hard gainers.
Intermittent fasting allows bodybuilders to lose fat quickly. So if diet preparations was poor weeks before a show then intermittent fasting may help bodybuilders lose fat quicker.
People Who Should Not Intermittent Fast
This is a guideline and strongly recommended advice for those who are among this population not to try and intermittent fast.
Busy parents to children
If you are a parent and especially to young children then intermittent fasting is not wise for you. During fasting you have to deal with hunger pangs and for some tiredness. It can be quite mentally exhausting and caring for young children requires 100% focus.
People in stressful situations – moving homes, new job, divorce etc.
If your current situation is potentially stressful do not intermittent fast. Why would you want to pile further stress to your life. For example if you are starting a new job, moving homes or planning your wedding or getting married. When your situation allows your mind to be worry free then start your alternate fasting regime.
People whom lack will power
Intermittent fasting does require a strong level of will power and dedication. You have to control your temptation not to eat and break your fast. Of course some alternative fasting regimes require more discipline due to longer fast.
You are probably aware that bodybuilders have been mentioned twice for and against intermittent fasting.
This is because bodybuilder’s can lose fat quickly but at a price of their hard earned muscle. This then defeats the purpose of bodybuilding. So intermittent fasting must be used appropriately for bodybuilders to reap the benefits.
How To Implement Intermittent Fasting?
There are numerous ways to fast for fat loss. Fasting has been practiced for since the beginning of history. Fasting is practiced by Muslims each year during Ramadan which signifies purification of the soul and preparation to receive atonement of sins.
When it comes to losing fat one cannot just fast when you please. There has to be some sort of structure and rules to lose fat optimally during fasting.
Ways to fast
24 Hours Fast
This involves fasting for a 24 hour period thus meaning you fast from dinner to dinner the next day. So in practice that means no eating breakfast and lunch the next day. It importance is eating once a day so it doesn’t have to be dinner, you can fast from breakfast to breakfast the next day or lunch. A 24 hour fasting period is the rule for this and it is usually done twice or three times a week at most.
36 Hour Fast
Similar to the 24 Hour Fast but the different is you eat once every 36 hours. So in practice you eat dinner on day 1 and fast completely on day 2 and then on day 3 eat breakfast. It’s great for those tempted to binge eat after a fasting for shorter periods. Fasting for this long means you are not as hungry and you don’t over eat and destroy everything you have worked so hard for.
This is one of most popular ways to intermittent fast as it requires little eating pattern adjustments. It involves fasting for 16 hours and then eating all your meals within 8 hours. How does this look in practice? Your 8 hour window of eating commences from 12:00 pm to 8:00 pm.
This means eating 2 to 3 meals within this time frame until 12:00 pm the next day. 16 hours fast and 8 hour time frame to eat is quite generous for most people thinking of fasting.
The 5:2 fasting plan is probably the most popular among all. This involves eating normally for 5 days and the then fasting for 2 days. However it isn’t as bad as it sounds as for the 2 fasting days you can eat up to 500/600 calories (500 kcals women/600 kcals men) each day.
Above I have highlighted and described the most popular ways to implement intermittent fasting into a routine. However bear in mind these provide a great backbone for intermittent fasting but do not let it limit you. Create any necessary adjustments that suit your needs as long as it aids you to lose fat.
My favourite and what I found to work best for most people are the 16:8 and the 5:2 fasting plans. 16:8 is great if you are a beginner looking to start.
The Cons of Intermittent Fasting
This is a strange section as intermittent fast on a whole works magnificently for fat loss. On the contrary where there are advantages, there are a couple of disadvantages. These disadvantages will either break or make intermittent fasting for you.
Short term – low energy
Any sort of fasting will initially decrease your energy levels as your body was used to eating more frequently. You might find you likely to feel tired and lack concentration. This state is only temporary until your body adjusts then you will feel more energised than ever before.
Not right for majority of population
On the whole intermittent fasting helps you lose fat, but on the flip side as mentioned prior it should only be used for people currently eating clean. This basically eliminates more than 75 percent of the population. This then suggest that 3 out of 4 of us cannot intermittent fast due to poor diets.
Most people wanting to lose fat are where they are due to poor diets so intermittent fasting is completely useless to those people.
Fasting and muscle do not go together. Any type of fasting regardless of any time manipulation on meal timing does nothing for muscle retention. If one wants to maintain muscle one needs to constantly eat to feed the muscles into maintenance and growth.
Fasting will make you lose more muscle than regular dieting as the change in the body is too drastic. Fat loss diets allow you to slowly eat less and less calories, meaning you will lose minimal muscle mass.
No more cheat meals
Intermittent fasting means that you cannot have cheat meals; so sorry folks but no more McDonalds ever again. I preach a lot about healthy eating yet cheat meals are something I highly recommend.
In an ideal world we would never eat certain foods (takeaways), but life itself isn’t ideal. Cheat meals allow one to keep one’s sanity by the enjoyment of food while keeping on diet track. People tend to give up healthy eating plans and diets due to major diet changes. If you do love eating fast foods and other cheat type meals then the best fat loss diets accommodate this.
Intermittent fasting does not allow room for cheat meals and this is because when you fast you need to replenish your bodies energy supply with wholesome healthy foods. Empty calories from McDonalds will not cut it and spike your insulin and actually make you put on weight.
Study Supporting Intermittent Fasting for Fat Loss and Muscle Retention
There have been some studies that suggests that lean muscle mass can be maintained through intermittent fasting. The issue with these studies are they usually involve subjects that are obese, which questions the validity of the findings. However I have done some digging around.
Moro, T et al. a study done very recently found that intermittent fasting can reduce fat mass and maintains muscle mass in people who take part in resistance training or weight lifting. Without going into too much detail the study tested the 16:8 approach to fasting. So subjects ate all their meals in an 8 hour window and fasted 16 hours where as the second group had a normal diet.
Study suggest that intermittent fasting can reduce fat mass and even maintain muscle mass in people who take part in resistance training or weight lifting.
So depending on how you fast will play a huge role on muscle retention. In regards to muscle loss and fasting, more studies need to be conducted in order verify the bigger picture. Nearly all studies done today are all focused on fat loss. There still isn’t enough concrete evidence supporting muscle maintenance and loss during intermittent fasting.
Final Conclusion Intermittent Fasting and Losing Fat
Intermittent fasting I believe deserves the hype that it is getting. It’s great and really does enable you to lose fat quickly. In comparison to fat loss diets you will find that muscle loss is going to be slightly more apparent in intermittent fasting.
This is because maintaining muscle mass requires constant fuel to the muscles where fasting does not allow this. One way to prevent this is drinking water with amino acids which will prevent muscle breakdown.
Muscle loss is inevitable for both intermittent fasting and fat loss diets. The fact is when it comes to losing fat you are bound to lose some muscle even with the best diets. If muscle isn’t a priority then don’t worry as intermittent fasting is one of the best ways to lose fat quickly and effectively.
There isn’t really any solid studies proving the time it takes for the body to start breaking down muscle. However health specialist claim that most people tend to start losing muscle mass after 1 to 2 days (24 to 48 hours) of not eating.
My biggest advice
In terms of fasting for fat loss is concerned, I would suggest using the 16:8 fast to lose fat and preserve muscle. The 5:2 fast is also another useful method which works really well for fat loss purposes only.
In regards to losing fat as a the whole, I would prescribe something that you can always do forever. So I preach on healthy eating habits that will last a life time.
This includes eating healthier foods with reasonable portion size throughout the day with lower intake of calories. Manipulating your calories and dropping them slightly each week will enable fat loss and minimal loss of muscle.
We are all different in height, race, tolerant and intolerant to different foods and we burn calories at different speeds. Therefore diet plans are subjective to individuality. That is a job for a good personal trainer, nutritionist or dietician to help you gather this information. Intermittent fasting will make you lose fat without the nutritious headaches, but for muscle preservation and fat loss requires a smart diet plan.
For long term knowledge on the subject of losing fat optimally I recommend reading my how to lose belly fat. This will provide you with the truth about fat loss and give you a good foundation of knowledge.
Moro, T et al. (2016 Oct 13). Effects of eight weeks of time-restricted feeding (16/8) on basal metabolism, maximal strength, body composition, inflammation, and cardiovascular risk factors in resistance-trained males. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27737674 (PubMed)
Harvie, M. N et al. (2011). The effects of intermittent or continuous energy restriction on weight loss and metabolic disease risk markers: a randomized trial in young overweight women.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20921964 (PubMed)