From Hugh Jackman to JLo, intermittent fasting seems to be the way to earn that incredible body glamorized on screen. Although dieting may not get you nominated for a Grammy or give you Wolverine-like super powers, let’s take a look at what can be gained from intermittent fasting!
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
By definition, fasting means the complete avoidance of food. However, intermittent fasting means that you will still eat – just at a later time than you normally would. There are many different ways to fast. Intermittent fasting programs may have calorie limits, but these limits may not necessarily be required. For example, many modified intermittent fasting programs allow one meal during a “fasting day” that makes up 25% of your calorie needs. Intermittent fasting diets can fall into three groups. One group is alternate-day fasting. This diet has you alternate between days you can eat what you want and days you are supposed to fast. Second, there is whole day fasting. During whole day fasting you fast 1 to 2 days per week. On the other days you can eat anything anytime. Lastly, there is time restricted eating. Time restricted eating involves a routine where you only have a certain number of hours to fast and a certain number of hours to eat daily.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting may be an effective way to reduce daily calorie intake. Other potential benefits include weight loss, lower body fat, lower total cholesterol and resistance to age-related diseases. Other studies have shown that intermittent fasting may be just as effective as watching what you eat and reducing your daily calories. Researchers have discovered that one reason short-term intermittent fasting may work is because your body increases its reliance on fat for energy. This has been shown especially within the first 24 hours of fasting and seems to peak between 18 and 24 hours of fasting. Also, it has been shown to increase resting metabolic rate (a.k.a. BMR, basal metabolic rate).
Is Intermittent Fasting Right For Me?
There are a few things to think about when considering intermittent fasting to help you lose weight. Researchers are discovering that very-low calorie diets do not have better long-term weight loss results than less extreme diets. However, if you find it difficult to monitor your calories in the first place, intermittent fasting may be a reasonable way to restrict calories for weight loss. This is especially the case since most people tend to reduce the amount they eat when they have only 1 meal per day. During that one meal, they tend to feel fuller sooner.
Although some intermittent fasting diets may be more difficult – having you fast for 20 hours and only allowing time to eat for 4 hours – there are other versions that may be easier to follow. For example, a 16 hour fast followed by an 8 hour eating window is very similar to those of us that regularly skip breakfast and dinner.
Practicing a diet that encourages starvation does pose the following risks:
- Possible increase in fat above initial levels, especially upon weight regain after weight loss
- Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
- Muscle loss
There hasn’t been adequate research done on time-restricted eating to compare it to regular dieting, nor do scientists know enough about the effects of intermittent fasting on exercise performance. Given that muscle loss is a risk, as a bodybuilding athlete, it may not be an optimal way of maintaining lean body mass and making strength gains while lowering fat mass. If you decide to incorporate intermittent fasting into your lifestyle, please consult your doctor.
Tinsley, G. M., & La Bounty, P. M. (2015). Effects of intermittent fasting on body composition and clinical health markers in humans. Nutrition Reviews, 73(10), 661–74. http://doi.org/10.1093/nutrit/nuv041
Written by Monika Broemmer, contributing author to Sexy-Strong, LLC. Monika received her BA from Northwestern University and is working towards her M.S. in Nutrition for Wellness in San Diego, CA. As a qualified nutrition expert and an experienced certified personal trainer, she is the creator and author of her own blog, Fuel My Life: An Evidence-Based Nutrition Blog.