Losing weight and getting leaner by eating six meals a day might soon become outdated, scientists say. Scientific research has piled up increasing amount of evidence showing how intermittent fasting can speed up the process of fat burning.
The US have become a nation known as incessant eaters and snackers unfortunately. If you wish to lose weight and add years to your life, you might want to keep a distance from the kitchen more often.
Intermittent fasting is defined as a cycle of interchanging periods of decreased calorie intake and normal food consumption. It is a pattern which scientists say dates back to our ancestral food habits in a time when food was not always readily available. It is in stark contrast to most modern diets’ daily calorie intake, where dieters’ goal is to reduce their daily energy intake, hoping it will rid them of their “bulges”.
An increasing number of researchers are saying that the intermittent fasting method is a sure-fire way for people to shred the excess fat. A study published in 2015 in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that intermittent fasting gives a safe rate weight loss of 0.5 to 1.65 lbs/week, along with decreasing the overall body fat percentage.
In another similar study, at Baylor University (Waco, Texas) found that fasting on alternating days of 3 to 12 weeks in duration, decreased both bodyweight and body fat. In a newer immune cells study, fasting from dusk till dawn shows health benefits apart from just losing weight.
And it is possible that the results can have a long lasting effect. Namely, scientists in Australia found that 8 weeks of intermittent fasting could not only stimulate the loss of fat but it could also stave off the accumulation of fat in the upcoming 44 weeks, even when the subjects were given a total freedom to their food choices.
Researchers say this might have something to do with the fact that intermittent fasting has an impact on the hunger hormones and gives you the awareness of what a real physical hunger is.
And the good news keep on coming. Research has shown that intermittent fasting has a greater adherence rate by dieters than most other diets and maintains the muscle mass a lot better. There have also been indications that period of intermittent fasting can improve your heart health by lowering the cholesterol, triglycerides, inflammation and blood pressure.
Some studies say it might also increase the production of a gene connected to one’s longevity and help improve your brain’s function as you get older. Reducing inflammation and the oxidative stress may be the reason why intermittent fasting sharpens your mind.
So far, we’ve concluded it benefits the muscles, overall health and brain gray matter. But how does intermittent fasting shred the fat off of you? It seems that this stems from the improved insulin sensitivity within your body.
As your cells become more sensitized to insulin, the blood sugar regulating hormone, the body starts processing food more efficiently, thus having a lesser risk of storing fat even when eating more calories during the non-fasting periods. These very benefits have been the strongest reason that intermittent fasting has gained a reputation as an enemy to diabetes.
Intermittent fasting also instructs the body to give priority to fat burning for needed energy during periods of carbohydrate stores shortage. And because this situation can preserve the already existing muscle, there is no drop in fat-burning metabolism that is commonly found in low-calorie diets, which can at the same time cause a drop in the body’s muscle mass.
Research has also shown that most people who have tried intermittent fasting do not overeat when the non-fasting days come around, which actually creates a better overall calorie deficit. Imagine how much time you could be saving, with less meal planning and food preparation in your schedule. It’s a win-win situation.
Here are five tips on how you can apply intermittent fasting to your life:
One popular plan is to eat normally five days a week, let’s say Monday to Friday, and then decrease the calorie intake to about 25% of your typical cheat or feast day, around 500 to 800 calories on the remaining two days, Saturday and Sunday. This would save you from the agony of not eating anything on fasting days and makes the entire diet much more sustainable in the long term.
Another plan suggests that you go without eating anything for one or two 24-hour periods each week, regardless of which days you choose. A mini-fast method could be used if you want to ease into intermittent fasting, where you can only eat within an 8-hour period then fast for 16 hours in between, or simply fasting in the evenings by skipping dinner or eating in smaller amounts.
Consume quality calories
If your routine consists of simply eating less on certain days, make those calories count by coming from satiating foods that are also nutrient-dense, such as whole grains, vegetables, fiber-rich legumes, fish etc, meaning foods that have lots of nutrients relative to the calorie number they provide.
You should also be drinking a lot of liquid, mostly water, in order to stay hydrated when you’re not consuming water-containing foods.
The thing to remember is that you will only strip off fat if you do not “abuse”, so to speak, you non-fasting periods to binge. Your new “normal diet” should be filled with whole foods, not junk food. However, intermittent fasting can be more forgiving than other diets, so no need to worry too much about the amount of calories you are consuming.
Patience is a virtue
Intermittent fasting is a process which your body can take a couple of weeks to adapt to. So, for any side effects that might come into play, such as uncontrollable hunger, brain fog, mood swings or bouts of low energy, keep in mind that these will decrease as time passes.
Fasting days will not be an excuse not to push yourself in the gym. On the contrary, research shows that short fasting periods might not get in the way of performance, and exercise itself can kill the appetite temporarily. But, common sense should prevail. If you’re getting a bit light-headed, you might want to reschedule the squat session for some other day.