Intermittent fasting is a popular method of dieting and claims to give great results. A lot of websites claim that intermittent fasting is healthy and that it makes you burn fat at a faster rate.
Is all of this true, though?
This article will be discussing the ins and outs of intermittent fasting, in order to determine whether it is really as effective as its practitioners claim it to be.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting (IF) is a diet during which you will either eat or exclude specific foods. It is not about what you eat, but about when you eat.
This diet doesn’t require you to eat 5-6 times per day like you would with a ‘regular’ meal plan. You are constantly alternating eating periods with fasting periods.
During the fasting periods, you are still allowed to have water, tea or coffee, as these products do not contain any calories. It is important that you don’t consume any calorie rich products during fasting. Other products that you can’t take during fasting, are calorie free drinks.
Time Restricted Feeding is by far the most used method of intermittent fasting. You have set periods in which you can eat anything you like. Outside of those eating periods, you are not allowed to have any food. For example: you can eat during 8 hours of the day, which leaves a fasting period of 16 hours. You can experiment with these time windows.
Other methods of intermittent fasting that are often used are the following:
- Alternate Day Fasting
This allows for several possibilities. Fasting for 24 hours, eating for 24 hours is one of them. Another option would be to fast for 36 hours to then have an eating window of 12 hours.
- Whole Day Fasting
You will not eat for an entire day, for example 2 out of 7 days. You are allowed to eat during the other 5 days. Make sure to spread your fasting periods over the course of a week.
Faster Weight Loss Through Intermittent Fasting?
Losing weight requires you to consume fewer calories than your body uses. In other words, a negative energy balance causes weight loss. Periodically fasting can therefore cause both weight loss and gain. It all depends on your intake.
Whether you lose weight with intermittent fasting all depends on your mindset, as it requires a lot of dedication. You will have to turn down a lot of temptations every day. This hunger feeling often leads to the wrong choices in food. In conclusion, intermittent fasting is not for everyone.
Research has shown that there is near to no difference between intermittent fasting or a calorie restricting diet. In conclusion, you will not lose weight faster than you would with a ‘normal’ diet.
Intermittent fasting gives you fewer eating windows. In conclusion, it becomes very easy to not ingest as many calories. This is a double-edged sword though. The small eating windows that are presented, require you to consume a lot of food in a short period, which can be difficult.
In short: intermittent fasting only works if you have a strong will.
More Muscle Mass Through Intermittent Fasting?
As far as studies have shown, intermittent fasting is not the best way to put on muscle mass. Currently, it is advised to consume 20-40 grams of protein every 3-4 hours. Supposedly, this would lead to optimal protein synthesis, which in turn nourishes your body as effective as possible. Intermittent fasting will not allow for this to happen.
One of the latest studies shows that there is not much difference in body composition between people that follow a regular diet and people that follow intermittent fasting.
Yet another study states that intermittent fasting might have negative effects with regard to strength performance. In conclusion, it is recommended to monitor your performance. If it drops, you may want to switch over to a regular, yet strict food plan.
Is Fasting Healthy?
A lot of animal studies point out that fasting may indeed be healthy. However, it is good to keep in mind that we as people are not the same as animals. In conclusion, there is not enough proof to back up the claim that intermittent fasting provides health advantages over normal diets.
In conclusion, it is still a matter of speculation with regard to possible health benefits of intermittent fasting.
Would you like to know if intermittent fasting is for you? Read through the pros and cons to get the full picture.
Pros of Intermittent Fasting
- You can save time by not having to eat all day.
- To some, periodically fasting may be a good way to lose weight
- It builds willpower.
Cons of Intermittent Fasting
- It takes dedication.
- Might be hard in certain social situations during which it’s expected that you eat.
- It might affect your workout performance.
- Intermittent fasting is not for everyone and there are a few cases in which you should not be following an intermittent fasting diet.
When Should You Not Fast?
- If you suffer from diabetes type 1 or 2
- When you are pregnancy
- Being underweight
- If you are under 18
- If you’ve suffered from eating disorders in the past
Most of these side effects can be countered by drinking enough water throughout your fasting periods.
How to Get Started
Intermittent fasting brings three big obstacles to the table, which require your attention. These are: the principle of fasting, planning your meals and social obstacles.
Of all three obstacles, fasting might be the easiest as you get used to it pretty quickly. After a few days to a couple of weeks, you will be used to your fasting pattern. This will express itself in less ‘need’ to eat during your fasting periods.
It helps if you drink enough, as it keeps your stomach full. To some people, brushing their teeth helps to control their feelings of hunger.
Planning Your Meals
This obstacle might be a bit harder to overcome, especially if you are very busy during your everyday life. This requires you to think and work ahead. Preparing your meals in advance is highly recommended. This will save you a lot of time!
This last obstacle often is one of the main reasons that people quit their intermittent fasting routine. If you are committed, you have an eating window during which you can eat what you want.
Let’s say that this window lasts from 3 pm to 9 pm, and your friends invite you to come over at 10 pm. You accept, but upon arrival, everyone is drinking an ice-cold glass of beer. You will be the one that has to stay sober while the rest is just letting go of their boundaries.
Be prepared for comments like “there’s no harm in having just one bite, don’t be a party pooper!”. Be strong. They will get used to it.
Finally, there is one bonus obstacle that was mentioned earlier: the possibility of a decrease in performance. This can differ from person to person. It is important to note that strength loss may just be the result of your calorie restriction.
Creating an Eating Window
Time Restricted Feeding is by far the most used method of intermittent fasting. It is quite simple and not too extreme. Listed below are the steps that should be taken in order to start.
- Choose the duration of your eating window. If you are just starting, pick an eating window of 8 hours. You can gradually shorten this if you so choose. A window of 4-6 hours is a bit more extreme and taxing both mentally and physically.
- Choose the time of your eating window, for example: 1 pm to 9 pm. In this case, you will have 8 hours per day in which you can eat. Since you cannot eat after 9 pm, you will probably not go to bed on an empty stomach, which is ideal. The times that you pick all depend on your occupation.
- Decide when you are going to work out. You can train during a fasting period. Moreover, you can start training after a small pre-workout meal, as long as it is eaten during your eating window.
- It is recommended to eat before and after your workout. This way, you will retain your energy. Try to figure this step out carefully.
- Don’t just do one day of intermittent fasting. If you are willing to give it a go, try it for at least 1-2 weeks. Both body and mind need a while to adjust to your new habits.
Up until this moment, there are no studies that prove an advantage if you choose intermittent fasting over a regular diet. The best diet is one that you can maintain on the long run. Intermittent fasting will not cause you to lose weight at a faster rate, nor will it give better muscle building results.
Nonetheless, if you have a lot of willpower, you can give it a try. Intermittent fasting is not for the faint of heart. It really requires hard work and dedication to implement it successful.
Please, consider leaving your thoughts in the comment section below!