Fasting has been a dieting strategy for decades, and a common spiritual practice for even longer. In terms of dieting, there has been little consensus as to whether calorie restriction is helpful or switches your body into fat-saving survival mode. In recent years, however, a new diet-minded fasting technique has become more popular: intermittent fasting. Read on to find out if it works, and how it works.
If you’re not in the know, intermittent fasting (IF) involves strategically planning for periods where you do not consume any food other than low-calorie liquids (water and black coffee, for example).
There are many proposed ways of structuring this diet. Some people eat all of their meals within a six-hour period each day, and do not eat during the remaining 18 hours. Others choose two full days per week to not eat anything, and others still may opt to occasionally go 36 hours without food.
So, Does It Work?
IF diets go against pretty much all of the nutritional advice that most of us have heard in the past few years, namely that more, smaller meals throughout the day are better than packing all of your food consumption into a few hours. The studies are preliminary, and as there are so many variations on the IF diet, it’s hard to say exactly what works and what doesn’t.
That said, a number of studies have indicated that IF diets may not just help adherents lose weight, they may also promote longer, healthier lifespans in general.
The Physiological Process
One of the ways that intermittent fasting might be able to help you shed pounds is through improving your body’s relationship to insulin. A main cause of weight gain and, in extreme cases, diabetes, is insulin resistance, where your body becomes less able to process sugar.
A recent study in mice showed that the subjects who ate a fat-laden diet for eight hours and then ate nothing for the rest of the day did not show weight gain or high insulin levels, unlike their non-fasting counterparts.
Essentially, the body is more sensitive to insulin after a window of about 8 hours of not eating. In the past, this has been cited as a reason why breakfast should be your largest, most carbohydrate-rich meal of the day – your body will be able to handle the impact in the morning better than later on, when you’ve already been eating all day.
That 8-hour window, however, isn’t reliant on sleep. Rather, it comes from not eating for eight hours! So by fasting (especially in the morning, according to some IF proponents) you can essentially boost those periods of time where your body is most sensitive to insulin.
Right for You?
Like any radical diet change, intermittent fasting can be hard to stick to, resulting in rapid weight loss and gain if you find yourself falling off the wagon, or if you have a tendency to overeat after fast periods. It may also not provide enough calories for people who are athletes or have a very active lifestyle.
However, IF diets are very promising in terms of weight loss and overall health, so consider checking out some of the links in this post for advice on how to get started if it appeals to you.
Have you tried intermittent fasting? Do you have results or suggestions to share with our readers?