Intermittent Fasting – The Secret To Quick And Easy Fat Loss?
Intermittent fasting is a type of diet that has been floating around the fitness industry for the past few years. Rather than being a diet that dictates what you can and can’t eat, it simply revolves around when you can and can’t eat. The diet basically involves eating your calories in set times during the day and then fasting for a set period of time. The most common intermittent fasting patterns involve a 16 hour fast and an 8 hour eating window every day, so for example you can only eat between the hours of 11 a.m. and p.m., or a 24 hour fast once or twice a week.
The idea behind intermittent fasting is that your body can enter a “fasted state” which means that it will burn stubborn fat that is apparently inaccessible during the “fed state”. The body enters this fasted state after 12 hours of not eating, and during a fast the only things that can be consumed are lots of water and very low calorie drinks such as coffee or diet cola.
There is certainly evidence out there that suggests that intermittent fasting has its benefits. Many people share their success stories regarding weight loss and overall health after years of following an intermittent fasting diet. More scientific evidence has been provided from animal studies; one study for example found that intermittent fasting has beneficial effects on glucose regulation (Anson et al, 2003) which is something that is widely linked to regulation of fat storage/loss. Other research suggests that the diet can even have beneficial effects on brain functioning, for example Bronwen, Mattson and Maudsley (2006) found that intermittent fasting protects neurons against factors that usually negatively affect them during ageing.
So here we have a diet plan that is backed up by lots of success stories and scientific evidence, why would you even hesitate to give it a go? Well, it’s worth considering the fact that there are many similar scientific studies which report the same kind of benefits regarding health and weight loss from simple caloric restriction, which basically means eating a few less calories without having to starve yourself for a set amount of time throughout the day. This brings us to the argument that perhaps intermittent fasting simply leads to a reduced calorie intake, due to not having enough time to eat as much as we would throughout a 24 hour day. Perhaps the success stories regarding weight loss are simply due to consuming less food throughout the day and being in a caloric deficit, rather than entering this “fasted state”.
Amongst all the praise and support intermittent fasting has received from trainers, scientists and fitness fanatics alike, it is important to consider the downsides to committing to this lifestyle. For me personally, the biggest problem is fitting the diet program around your average day, particularly around your social calendar. Say an old friend calls and asks if you want to meet up for lunch on a day when you have your 24 hour fast planned, it may be very hard for them to understand that you have to politely decline because you plan on locking yourself in the house and avoiding food all day. I remember when I followed an intermittent fasting plan I had to suffer through a six hour shift on my feet without eating anything in order to reach the 16 hour fasting time, needless to say it drastically effected my performance at work, which didn’t go unnoticed.
Similarly, some people may find that having to train fasted has a huge effect on their workouts. It is always good to remember how important your training sessions are when you are trying to lose fat in order to ensure you spare as much muscle mass as possible. If your training sessions are poor because you are training after consuming little or no calories, this may lead to losing an increased amount of muscle which you have already worked hard to gain. Another negative side effect I personally came across from my experience with intermittent fasting was that I could not sleep on an empty stomach, and the lack of sleep in particular meant my training sessions were no where near as productive as usual; not to mention the effects lack of sleep has on weight loss.
One final thing to consider is that fasting for long periods of time can very easily lead to binges, which can often result in bingeing disorders. When your body has been without food for that 16-24 hour period, especially if you feel particularly hungry during the fast, when you eventually allow yourself to eat again your brain will automatically be telling you to consume everything in sight. You must have very strong willpower to stick to your caloric intake during the feeding hours, and if you think you may struggle to resist the urge to binge then maybe intermittent fasting is not for you.
So there you have the basic pros and cons of intermittent fasting. From my experience, I think it’s a great diet plan to follow for people who struggle to resist the urge to snack throughout the day and tend to eat over their daily caloric allowance. Giving yourself a set time to eat your calories may mean that you stick to a cut more effectively, however it is important to always consider whether or not a diet really suits your lifestyle, and whether you have the willpower to ensure your overall diet and training regime don’t take a huge hit.
Anson, R. M. et al. 'Intermittent Fasting Dissociates Beneficial Effects Of Dietary Restriction On Glucose Metabolism And Neuronal Resistance To Injury From Calorie Intake'. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 100.10 (2003): 6216-6220. Web. 17 June 2015.
Jamesclear.com,. 'The Beginner's Guide To Intermittent Fasting'. N.p., 2015. Web. 17 June 2015.
Martin, Bronwen, Mark P. Mattson, and Stuart Maudsley. 'Caloric Restriction And Intermittent Fasting: Two Potential Diets For Successful Brain Aging'. Ageing Research Reviews 5.3 (2006): 332-353. Web. 17 June 2015.
This post was brought to you by GN Academy member Georgina Stanway. If you’d like to find out more about the GN Academy or apply to join then you can do so here.