Have you been checking the latest buzz about intermittent fasting, and wondering what it’s all about, and does it really work? I mean, how much weight can you really lose with intermittent fasting?
While most health gurus swear by the traditional three big meals, a recent publication in the Nutrition Journal, discussed the benefits of Intermittent Fasting for obese women; to sum up the study, the women lost weight and decreased their risk of Cardio Vascular Disease.
Outcomes and goals can differ between individuals regarding weight loss, muscle mass, and health status.
Before proceeding any further, it is imperative to note that Intermittent Fasting does not equal starvation!
What is Intermittent Fasting?
By definition, Intermittent fasting is the practice of alternating intervals of fasting within an eating period.
Does that mean it’s safe to skip breakfast?
This is one of the first questions raised when bringing up the topic of intermittent fasting. While the literature agrees on the importance of breakfast for weight control, the forgotten rationale behind it is the higher intake at breakfast, the less often one would snack. Therefore, fewer calories would be consumed overall.
The beauty of intermittent fasting is that you don’t have to worry about which meal to skip since intermittent fasting works in the following way:
Let me start by saying that intermittent fasting doesn’t change the quality of your food, it only has to do with when you eat.
A simple way to understand the intermittent fasting pattern is by skipping breakfast and eating your meals between Noon to 8 pm and then fast again for 16 hours.
Different types of Intermittent Fasting
As described above, it involves abstaining from food from anywhere between 12 to 20 hours and then eating during your allowed window. Restricting your food intake for an extended period will definitely lead to weight loss.
If you thought fasting for 12 to 16 hours is difficult, this method suggests that you fast for 24 hours (1-3 times a week). Say you had your last meal at 8 pm on Friday, then you simply fast until Saturday at 8 pm.
The main drawback for many is that a 24 hour fast seems difficult to adapt to; especially those with low blood sugar.
The 20-hour Fast/The Warrior Diet
Creator of the “Warrior Diet,” Ori Hofmeklerand, stated: “Unlike other diets that require counting calories, points, or other adherence to strict controls, the Warrior diet is based on the premise that the human body is programmed to control its own feeding. The one rule regarding feeding is one meal per day, ideally 2 hours before bed.”
It allows for a 4-hour feeding period per day, inspired by old day warriors, who certainly didn’t have the time for six frequent meals per day.
The 16/8 Intermittent Fast
The most recommended regimen and the easiest to follow is the 16/8 intermittent fasting method:
Here, the fasting period is 16 hours, and during the 8-hour eating window, it is recommended to consume three meals. The 16/8 method is best suited for individuals who work out, since it tackles the hormonal functioning of the human body, and tweaks it for optimal results.
A 16/8 fast promotes exercising in a fasted state and then breaking the fast as your post-workout meal. Even if you don’t work out, the easiest way to achieve this is by having your last meal 4 hours before bed, then sleeping for 8 hours, and eating 4 hours after waking up.
Since fasting affects the hormonal system, it also has different endocrine effects on men and women.
Intermittent Fasting for Women
It may be more difficult for women to get results from intermittent fasting since the physiological approach is a little tricky.
You’re probably thinking: What’s the reason? The truth is, women’s hormones are extremely sensitive to starvation. Once hunger cues are sent to the brain, it will increase the body’s production of hunger hormones. It’s a natural defense mechanism to protect a potential offspring (even when not pregnant). In this case, binge eating is a possible end-result to any rushed fasting program.
But what happens when fasting is done long-term? A peer-reviewed paper published in the Public Library of Science has shown that prolonged fasting periods can lead to a high risk of Nutritional Infertility among women. A neuropeptide known as Kisspeptin was identified as a culprit to nutritional infertility. Kisspeptin has also been associated with obesity and metabolic disorders.
For this reason, women need to gradually get into an intermittent fasting routine to avoid wreaking havoc in their hormones. The best solution is fasting on nonconsecutive days, or what’s known as gentle fasting.
Start with a 12 to 16 hour fast on three nonconsecutive days a week. During those fasting days, don’t use the eating window as an excuse to munch on all sorts of unhealthy foods. The key point is to keep consuming healthy and clean foods.
Start adding an extra fasting day after a few weeks until you feel that your body is coping well with the new approach.
Warning signs to look for during these later stages are:
- Depressed mood
- Irregular periods
Anytime you feel that these symptoms are creeping up, go back to the gentle fasting or simply reduce your fast to 12 hours only.
Intermittent Fasting for Men
We are aware that men and women will respond differently to hormonal fluctuations; hormones are definitely altered by fasting. Truth be told, men will respond faster to intermittent fasting (even the most extreme variants of it) and experience fewer side effects.
After finishing your meal, you are in the fed state, and your blood sugar is high. Insulin is produced, and your body is counting completely on sugar for energy for the next couple of hours post-eating. As time goes by and the nutrients from the meal are absorbed, there’s a shift towards fat usage as a source of energy. With men eating three meals a day, this stage is usually halted by the consumption of their next meal. But while on IF, the body will sense an energy deficit and release its stress hormones.
These stress hormones will activate a hormone sensitive lipase (HSL), an enzyme that facilitates the movement of fat out of its storage for energy purposes.
This is the reason why intermittent fasting, once done properly, can help tremendously with fat loss with men who are struggling to get rid of that stubborn fat.
Intermittent Fasting Success Stories
Sally, a 34-year-old stay at home mom, had trouble losing her baby weight for a year. After doing her research online, she decided to carefully give the 16/8 fasting method a try:
“Intermittent Fasting worked like a charm!
At the beginning stages, I have to admit, I thought it was counter-productive and almost gave up since it made me binge frequently due to the limited timeframe I had, so I would shove all the food I can have!
After a while, as my body adapted to the fasting, I changed my approach and became a “mindful eater”, when I’m full I just stop. Another difficult part to master was waiting until the end of my fasting period. It’s easy to cheat and say that one hour won’t make a difference, but discipline was essential if I wanted to see a result, that’s what I kept telling myself.
Now, to be honest, that didn’t stop all the binging episodes, but I am proud of my progress so far! “
Tips for Fasting
At first glance, you might be worried about the term ‘fasting,’ by confusing it with ‘starvation’!
Here are a few tips to make your fasting experience a bit easier:
TIP #1: Consume a high-protein food before starting the fast period
Not all foods are equal in terms of satisfying hunger. A survey by the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior found people who consumed a high protein meal had a longer satiety throughout the day. So make sure to include a lean source of protein right before starting the fasting period.
TIP #2: Fast Overnight
Who said that fasting only works when you’re awake? If you’re like me and prefer to start your fast before bedtime, remember that a cup of milk might be the best choice. This is a high protein source (see TIP #1) and an excellent sleeping aid. Tryptophan, an amino acid found in milk is linked to better sleep quality. This is an excellent tip for women trying the gentle fast, since it will be easy to hit that 12-hour fast target if you’ve been sleeping for 8 already.
TIP #3 Consume more liquids during the day
Most people confuse thirst with hunger, which is another reason to get those 8 cups of water per day. If you’re going to be fasting, I recommend drinking more water to keep that stomach filled and trick your brain into thinking it’s full. Calorie-free drinks such as herbal tea or coffee (without sugar of course) are still allowed. After all, the purpose is to consume 0 calories while not following a religious fast.
Tip #4: Clean eating after the fast
I understand the temptation for junk food is high after 16 hours of fasting. Don’t fall into this basic trap. This is your brain tricking you into consuming lots of sugar and fatty food. By the time you are at the eating window, your body is waiting for any nutrient you might offer– so think wisely of what are you going to eat. Remember that it’s not only about calories, but we have to get some good quality vitamins, minerals, and nutrients too.
Intermittent Fasting Weight-Loss Plan
Alright, so all of the above was so convincing that you’re ready to give intermittent fasting a try. After completing your fasting period, you find yourself in a dilemma – you don’t want to attack your fridge and eat whatever is in sight, but at the same time, you have no idea how to proceed.
Luckily, you can revert to these 2-day fasting plans and use them as an example to create your own intermittent fasting eating regimen:
These food plans assume you have an 8-hour eating window, the less time you have, the more you need to combine your meals.
|1 whole egg + 2 egg whites beaten||14||0||6||110|
|1 potato + sliced onion||3||35||0||152|
|1 Tbsp shredded cheddar cheese||4||0||5||61|
|30g Ham 96% free fat||5||1||1||33|
|1 tablespoon vegetable oil||0||0||15||135|
|1 cup of fresh orange juice||1||26||0||108|
|30g Dried soy beans||11||9||5||125|
|1/4 cup of fresh avocado||2||3||5||58|
|Meal 2 (beef filet with red pepper crust)||Protein||Carb||Fat||Calorie|
|240g beef fillet steak||68||0||16||416|
|1 cup of mashed potato||4||35||8||228|
|1 cup Veggies (Red pepper + onion)||2||1||5||57|
|15g Honey mustard||0||5||0||20|
|1 cup Spicy crab salad||16||29||6||234|
Grand total: 1737 Calorie
|1 cup of low-fat milk||8||12||4||110|
|1 packet of Instant Oatmeal||4||19||2||100|
|10g of dried raising||0.5||7||0||30|
|Scrambled eggs (2 egg whites + 1 whole egg)||14||0||7||105|
|Sauteed Veggies (Carrots, Red/green bell pepper)||1||6||0||28|
|1 serving brown pita bread||3||3||7||82|
|1 cup yogurt||14||19||7||195|
|5 medium strawberries||0||5||0||20|
|1 mini whole wheat bagel||6||25||1||133|
|1 Tablespoon peanut butter unsalted||4||3||8||94|
|Fruit jam 1 Tablespoon||0||13||0||52|
|180g of Roast turkey breast||51||0||6||258|
|150g mashed potato||3||25||6||157|
|1 cup Green salad + 1 TBSP Olive oil||1||5||15||159|
|1 Tbsp Balsamic vinaigrette||0||1||3||31|
|1 cup of fresh orange juice||1||26||0||108|
Grand total: 1575 CalorieDOWNLOAD PDF
Some tips to follow for picking your foods:
- Avoid packaged foods with high trans fats (check the food label)
- Prepare healthy snacks (boiled eggs, chopped veggies, nuts, and trail mixes) to avoid resorting to baked goods and sweets.
- Pick quality fats for cooking, although organic might cost a little extra, the health benefits are worth it.
- Consume fish, at least, two to three times per week.
- Replace eggs with organic or free range eggs, these are another source of omega 3 fatty acids.
Is Intermittent Fasting Safe?
Intermittent fasting methods are used by millions of people (maybe hundreds of millions if we include religious fasting too), yielding a variety of results between individuals. Although it’s very popular, I would recommend it only for those of you who are confident in committing to a long term eating plan, basically a lifestyle. Intermittent fasting is not a magical solution but simply a shortcut to the hustle and bustle of keeping track of every meal and its content.
While fasting is relatively safe for almost everybody, there are a few considerations. Your body requires vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients on a daily basis for optimal performance. Any deficit can lead to certain symptoms like fatigue, dizziness, constipation, and dehydration.
Don’t follow intermittent fasting without consulting with your doctor if you have diabetes, as it can lead to dangerous fluctuations in blood sugar.
Remember that if you’re sticking to bad eating habits, intermittent fasting won’t do much for you in terms of weight loss. I can’t say whether intermittent fasting will work for you or not, but I believe that trying it for a week to gauge your body’s response is always a safe bet with minimal risks. Whether male or female, start with gentle fasting and switch it up, there are hundreds of possible methods or solutions, so keep working towards that dream goal of yours.
*We are not physicians. Please consult with your doctor if you believe you feel it’s needed.