Intermittent fasting is a method that has recently come into the public eye due to its proposed ability to reduce body fat while maintaining lean muscle mass, with relative ease.
Intermittent fasting is an interesting approach which revolves around extended periods of fasting, yet these would typically be unacceptable in the fitness world. However, thousands of people and researchers alike all agree that intermittent fasting is not only effective, but also arguably the easiest dieting method around.
In this article, I’ll breakdown some key points that may indicate that intermittent fasting is right for you.
Intermittent Fasting Defined
Intermittent Fasting (IF), otherwise known as time-restricted feeding, is a style of dieting that incorporates extended periods of fasting, followed by a shortened or restricted period of eating.
Typically, practitioners of this diet fast anywhere from 12 to 18 hours but there have been reports of many people fasting for upwards of 24 hours.
Intermittent fasting only recently came into the public eye but has already been proven to be quite effective for reducing body fat, while, surprisingly, helping to improve lean mass at the same time.
Additionally, this style of fasting and feeding has been a source of scientific research, as many believe that the fasting period may help reduce the likelihood of ailments like cancer (1, 2).
Typical styles of IF include:
- 12 Hours Fasting / 12 Hours Feeding
- 16 Hours Fasting / 8 Hours Feeding (most popular)
- 20 Hours Fasting / 4 Hours Feeding
- Alternate Day Fasting (24 hours fasting /24 hours feeding).
All fasting durations have their own benefit and lend themselves quite well to individual adjustments. It’s suggested that, if considering this style of eating, you start with a fairly short duration of fasting around 12 hours and increase as needed.
Fasting Can Inadvertently Reduce Calories
The main reason that many people turn to intermittent fasting is not due to some magical fat loss property but rather that this style of eating allows for an inadvertent and relatively easy reduction of calories.
Consider for a moment how you normally eat throughout the day. Chances are you eat upwards of 4 meals per day of varying amounts of calories. Then, with intermittent fasting, try placing all of the food you normally eat into 2-3 larger meals rather than 4-6 normal sized ones.
As a result of the shortened eating window, consuming the same amount of calories as you normally would, becomes almost impossible, simply because you’ll be too full to do so.
However, do keep in mind that this almost unnoticed reduction of calories could also actually be a bad thing if your primary goal is to put on muscle mass, since you may accidentally consume too few calories to maintain muscle mass.
If you’re interested in losing weight with almost no effort, intermittent fasting might be the dieting style that you’re looking for.
Fasting Can Help A Busy Schedule
One of my favorite reasons for using intermittent fasting is that it caters for a busy schedule.
In the past, in order to get in great shape, everyone thought that eating 5-7 small meals was necessary to keep the metabolism revving. Fortunately for us all, we now understand that eating small meals throughout the day just isn’t necessary.
With fasting, it’s no issue if you need to work through the morning with few or even no breaks since you’ll be doing that anyways with a fasting approach. The days of having to change your schedule around your eating become a thing of the past.
If you find that you have a busy schedule with little opportunity to eat, you may want to consider adopting a fasting style of eating.
Fasting Can Help Reduce Hunger
Getting hungry while dieting is easily the number one reason that people fail when attempting to diet. Ironically, fasting may actually help to reduce hunger, making weight loss even easier.
One of the main drivers of hunger is the hormone known as ghrelin. This hormone is actually secreted by cells in the stomach that release the hormone into circulation according to when you normally eat (3).
As an evolutionary mechanism, this hormone essentially causes you to become hungry and search for food. Once you eat, the hormone subsides.
Interestingly, when you become acclimated to a schedule of fasting, these cells will also become acclimated. As a result of spending long periods of time without eating, these cells won’t release ghrelin, which means you don’t get hungry. Truth be told, it’s quite amazing that avoiding food would be a potential answer to eliminating hunger (3).
If you find that hunger is a primary reason that your diet isn’t working, you may want to consider using a fasting diet approach.
Fasting Can Help You Feel Fuller At Night
Building from the last point, intermittent fasting is actually quite beneficial for providing food when you’re likely the most hungry while avoiding food when you aren’t.
For example, during the work day, you’ll be quite busy, meaning you have little time to think about eating food. However, when you come home with less to do than during the working day, thoughts revolve around food and hunger can begin to creep in. Unfortunately, boredom is not exactly a dieter’s friend.
With fasting, you’ll be consuming larger amounts of food per meal. Additionally, much of this food will be placed later on in the day, allowing you to get your fill during the times when hunger can be your worst enemy.
If you find yourself becoming hungry and overeating later on at night, you may want to consider using fasting to shift your calorie intake to times of the day when you are most hungry.
Intermittent Fasting Optimizes Nutrient Timing
Lastly, intermittent fasting is a great tool for utilizing nutrient timing. Nutrient timing is a style of eating where you eat food based on when you exercise, for example, saving carbohydrates until after your workout/exercise session.
The reason for using this method is that, after exercise, your muscle becomes more receptive to the nutrients you consume. Essentially, by exercising, you ensure that most of the nutrients you consume get shuttled towards muscle, rather than stored as body fat.
While total calorie intake is the most important aspect of changing your body composition, nutrient timing, by means of intermittent fasting, can provide an extra measure to ensure your body composition changes.
Is Intermittent Fasting Right For You?
Intermittent fasting is a dieting style built around the idea of using extended periods of fasting, followed by shortened periods of eating.
Overall, this dieting style lends itself to people with busy schedules who either do not have time or cannot be bothered to eat 8 meals a day, and also helps alleviate hunger pangs. This is all without mentioning that often times, using this method of dieting results in a reduction of calories, potentially leading to weight loss.
If you’re interested in losing weight with ease, it might be time to check out Intermittent Fasting and give it a try yourself.
- Safdie, F. M., Dorff, T., Quinn, D., Fontana, L., Wei, M., Lee, C., … & Longo, V. D. (2009). Fasting and cancer treatment in humans: A case series report. Aging (Albany NY), 1(12), 988.
- Lee, C., Raffaghello, L., Brandhorst, S., Safdie, F. M., Bianchi, G., Martin-Montalvo, A., … & Emionite, L. (2012). Fasting cycles retard growth of tumors and sensitize a range of cancer cell types to chemotherapy. Science translational medicine, 4(124), 124ra27-124ra27.
- LeSauter, J., Hoque, N., Weintraub, M., Pfaff, D. W., & Silver, R. (2009). Stomach ghrelin-secreting cells as food-entrainable circadian clocks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106(32), 13582-13587.