With our society’s obsession with fad diets and quick fixes it can be difficult to identify what truly is (and what isn’t) a healthy dieting option. One of these recent trendy diets that has been gaining popularity is intermittent fasting. However this new diet is is gaining momentum because of its numerous health benefits. Intermittent fasting is a diet structure that involves cycles of fasting and eating. Though it may sound unconventional it has been proven numerous of times to be one of the most effective diets for weight loss and metabolic health.
What are the in’s and outs of intermittent fasting?
As mentioned prior, intermittent fasting is a diet that consists of cycling between eating and fasting. This type of diet doesn’t solely focus on what foods to eat, but rather when you should eat them.
The most popular form of intermittent fasting is the 16/8 method. This method involves fasting for 16 hours everyday and eating within an 8 hour window. And though the idea of not eating for 16 hours may sound daunting, it is actually something that humans do naturally. Every night we fall asleep our body fasts, whether that is for 8 hours, more or less, we go through an extended period of time without eating. Intermittent fasting follows this method but only extends the fasting for longer than a typical night’s sleep. This can be achieved by skipping breakfast and eating the first meal midday, or skipping dinner. During your allocated 8 hour eating window (you can even push it to 4 hours as time goes on) you both feast on your and fill your body with the day’s worth of nutrients and vitamins.
Another popular form of intermittent fasting is the eat-stop-eat method. This method involves a full 24 hour fast once or twice a week – a nice rule of thumb would be to refrain from eating anything from dinner one day, until dinner the next day. So you can eat your three meals a day, and then choose one or two days out of your week where you skip breakfast and lunch and then another where you skip lunch and dinner.
Lastly there is the 5:2 diet, which involves eating 500-600 calories only two days out of the week.
Throughout the fasting periods, you are allowed to drink water, coffee, tea and other non-caloric beverages, and in some cases you can even allow small amounts of low calorie foods, however the bulk of your nutrition has to be consumed within the window reserved strictly for eating.
Why it works
Initially this may sound sound contradictory, as going a whole day without eating sound quite unhealthy. However, fasting is a natural human trait and can have numerous nutritional benefits for your fat loss and overall health.
By cutting out an entire meal each day, you are consuming less calories per week. However there is much more to it than just fewer calories. When you eat a meal, your body spends a few hours breaking down that food so it can be used as energy. After a nice meal your body’s energy stores are readily available to easily to burn calories that can be used as energy. This is especially true when you consume sugars and carbs (that eventually turn into fat). However, during the fasting period when your body needs energy it is going to pull from the already stored energy from your ‘feast’ period, thus leading to fat loss.
The same applies when you workout in the fasting state, without a recent influx of energy from food, your body is forced to adapt and pull from the only source of energy available, which are the fat cells.
Over time this technique helps teach your body to use the food it consumes more efficiently, and your body can learn to burn fat as fuel because you depriving it of new calories. This can lead to massive fat loss and muscle building, as your body will utilise its energy more efficiently. This being said, during your feasting period it is essential that you fuel your body with all the necessary dietary needs and fill up on a full days worth of healthy foods, still giving your body all that it needs to function properly but in a shorter time frame.
Intermittent fasting can seem daunting at first, and may take a while for your body to adjust, but at the end of the day is one of the most effective diets for fat loss and can help you achieve your fitness goals faster than ever!