Intermittent fasting is a way of eating that involves cycling between times of eating and times of fasting. It is a widely popular health trend for those seeking to lose weight quickly and keep it off.
But, it’s not for everyone as most of us are not used to going without food for long periods of time.
There are several different intermittent fasting weight loss methods, depending on your lifestyle and goals. There are potential benefits to using intermittent fasting for weight loss, but it can be hard to sustain not eating for extended periods.
It’s also not necessary to fast to lose weight. You can achieve the same weight loss results by eating 3 meals a day as long as you stay in a calorie deficit and eat satisfying high protein, high fiber foods.
In this guide, you’ll learn how intermittent fasting works, the potential benefits and side effects, and alternatives to fasting that are more sustainable.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
If you’ve asked yourself, What is intermittent fasting? you’re one of the thousands exploring this new trend. Intermittent fasting is a way of eating that alternates between eating “windows” and fasting ‘windows’. Eating windows refers to the window of time you’re allowed to eat while fasting windows refer to the time you don’t eat.
The amount of time you’re required to fast can range anywhere from 8-24 hours. You do not have to track calories or macros with intermittent fasting, which is appealing to some people.
Fasting has been common practice for centuries in many cultures. However, that practice was out of necessity, dating back to hunter-gatherer times when the food supply was scarce.
Types Of Intermittent Fasting
There are various types of intermittent fasting methods such as the Daily Approach, 5:2 approach, Eat Stop Eat and the Warrior Diet.
The daily approach, also known as the “16/8” method, is one of the most popular intermittent fasting methods and the easiest to adopt.
It involves fasting for 16 hours and eating for 8 hours every day. The timing of your 8-hour window can vary depending on your schedule and preference. The following is an example of types of windows when intermittent fasting weight loss dieters eat.
- 8 a.m. - 4 p.m.
- 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
- 12 p.m. - 8 p.m
If you are wondering how to do intermittent fasting for weight loss in the best way, eat 1, 2, or 3 meals within this window of eating. While more research is still needed, it’s probably best to do an earlier eating window, if you can, for the best health outcomes.
The 5:2 approach involves eating whatever you want for 5 days out of the week and sticking to a 500-calorie diet 2 days a week. You should note that 500 calories a day is extremely restrictive, and it’s possible doing this can put you at risk of overeating the next day.
Also, although you can eat whatever you want on the 5 days of eating, that doesn’t mean you should be eating fatty processed foods. If you eat heavily processed foods on your five days, the benefits of intermittent fasting for weight loss will be mitigated.
Eat Stop Eat
The Eat Stop Eat schedule is similar to the 5:2 approach in that you can eat what you want 5 days a week. However, you need to completely fast on the other 2 days of the week. If you want to know what is intermittent fasting for weight loss - the hardcore version - this is it.
For 2 days a week, you will have to fast and that can be a shock to the body as it is a drastic change. A more balanced approach would be to eat a filling, lower-calorie diet on all days of the week.
The Warrior Diet is the most restrictive of all intermittent fasting methods. It involves fasting for 20 hours each day and then eating as much as you want for 4 hours.
Most health experts don’t recommend this method, as it is overly strict and difficult to maintain.
What Are The Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting?
There are several benefits to intermittent fasting related to weight, muscle mass, and overall health.
Reduces Calories & Simplifies Eating
Being on an intermittent fasting schedule can reduce calories by default, as you have a shorter window of time to eat. However, that’s as long as you’re not overeating during your eating window, which is hard not to do after just going through a time of prolonged restriction.
Intermittent fasting can simplify eating, as it puts you on a routine. However, while it appears more simple, it’s not as easy as it seems to go without food for extended periods.
Helps Maintain Muscle Mass
Research shows that those who use intermittent fasting for weight loss maintain their muscle as they lose weight if they engage in weight training. Maintaining muscle mass is important, as it supports a faster metabolism and can help you break through a weight loss plateau.
Weight training also increases your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE), which makes it easier to stay in a calorie deficit.
Working with a fitness coach to guide you on a weight training regimen can help you maximize your muscle gains as you lose weight.
Reduces Insulin Resistance
Intermittent fasting can also reduce insulin resistance, which lessens diabetes risk. This means it may improve blood sugar levels, similar to what a low glycemic index diet intends to do.
Protects Heart Health
Intermittent fasting may also protect against heart disease, possibly by reducing inflammation, blood pressure, and cholesterol. More human studies are needed to confirm this, but animal studies thus far look promising.
Intermittent fasting may reduce inflammation in the body. Lowering inflammation can delay the aging process and reduce the risk of several chronic diseases.
What To Eat While Intermittent Fasting
There are no hard fast rules on what to eat with intermittent fasting. However, to stay full it’s prudent to focus on filling foods like those high in protein and fiber such as lean chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, fruits, and vegetables.
These types of foods can help you fly through your fasting periods with less hunger. Plus, eating more of them on any diet has been linked to greater weight loss.
Eat At A Calorie Deficit
It’s important to stay in a calorie deficit during your eating windows. This simply means you have to burn more calories than you are consuming.
You can determine the number of calories you need to create a calorie deficit by first determining your basal metabolic rate (BMR). A health coach can also determine this number for you and help guide you on the right foods to eat so you’re not left feeling hungry.
Drink Non-Caloric Beverages During Fast
During fasting times, you are allowed to drink water, lemon water, and unsweetened black tea and coffee.
How To Fast Safely
If you want to try intermittent fasting, it’s vital to do it safely by taking a few important steps.
Consult Your Doctor
Always consult with your doctor before trying intermittent fasting, or any new diet for that matter to see if it’s right for you. They can guide you in the right direction and see if there are any safety concerns or contraindications.
Side Effects Of Intermittent Fasting
There are a few side effects of intermittent fasting to look out for, especially in the early weeks.
Some people may experience fatigue and weakness during the first days to weeks of intermittent fasting. This is because fasting may cause low blood sugar as the body adjusts to it.
There are healthier alternatives to fasting without side effects. Fitmate’s diet plans involve a daily supply of high fiber, high protein foods that make it easy to stick to your calorie budget.
Many people suffer from brain fog while intermittent fasting, which can cause a lack of focus and a “cloudy” feeling. The body gets used to eating at certain times of the day and then when it is deprived of food during those times, it tends to not function well.
This is not an ideal way to eat, as you are essentially ignoring your body’s natural hunger signals and are not feeling your best.
How To Start Intermittent Fasting
If you’re still curious about intermittent fasting, here are a few tips on how to do intermittent fasting for weight loss to ease the transition.
Use An App To Schedule Fasting
Using an app or timer to schedule your fasts can make your new eating schedule easier to remember. You can use a Fasting app such as Window or Zero to set reminders on when to eat and when to fast.
Find Your Preferred Eating Window
It’s best to start with the least restrictive fasting schedule in the beginning, so it’s easier to adjust to. It’s also important to select the ideal time for your eating window based on your schedule and the typical times you like to eat.
For example, starting with a 16/8 schedule where you eat from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. and fast for the remainder of the time.
Work With A Health Coach
It’s essential to work with a health coach when starting intermittent fasting for weight loss or any other new diet. A coach can provide support and accountability, and ensure you are on an eating plan that fills you up and is sustainable for long-term weight loss.
When it comes down to it, it’s not necessary to fast to lose weight. For many people, this simply doesn’t work because it can lead to cravings and binging during eating windows.
The best diet for weight loss is one that brings you lasting energy and is filled with satisfying foods that curb cravings. This is the exact approach that Fitmate’s diet plan takes to make losing weight easy.
To find your best diet and get support in your weight loss journey, take our Fitmate quiz to be matched with a coach to help you meet your goals.