Do you roll your eyes everytime you hear about the new “in” diet? If you’ve fallen prey to any of the silly fad diets of the past decade, any skeptism is understandable. When you hear or read about intermittent fasting you may want to dismiss it as another useless fad diet, but it’s not.
Intermittent fasting shouldn’t even be considered a diet, because calorie restriction isn’t a requirement. It’s more of a calorie management, and meal structure, philosophy that’s been analyzed and supported by clinical studies.
Does intermittent fasting work for fat loss? Here’s what you should know.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent Fasting (IF) is the practice of utilizing short term fasting periods to efficiently burn body fat. You separate your daily calorie consumption into eating and non-eating time periods.
A typical schedule would be to consume all your daily calories between 10am and 6pm (8 hours of eating), then fast for the subsequent 16 hours until your next eating period begins the following day.
During the 16 hour fast you enter a fasted state, which is considered optimal for efficiently burning body fat instead of other energy sources.
Why Intermittent Fasting Works
So what’s the big deal, right? Why is intermittent fasting the new buzz phrase when it comes to fat loss? Short term fasting lasting 12-16 hours influences many of the hormones that control or influence body fat storage.
Insulin plays a prominent role in fat storage and blood sugar management. When your insulin is elevated, you’re more likely to store body fat. Insulin isn’t evil, and it plays an essential role in many functions, but elevated insulin does cause problems when you’re trying to lose weight.
Controlled short term fasts are able to dramatically lower your insulin levels in ways most diets can’t. Every time you eat protein or carbohydrates, it influences your insulin levels. The best way to truly normalize your insulin is to stop eating.
One of the primary concerns with most calorie restrictive diets is the loss of muscle mass. Under certain conditions your body may need to break down protein to use for energy. Studies have found the loss of muscle mass to be diminished during periods of short-term fasting because of increased levels of growth hormone secretion.
When you reach the 12-13 hour mark of a fast, your body begins to increase growth hormone secretion which helps preserve lean muscle mass.
The preservation of lean body mass has a direct influence on your resting metabolic rate (RMR). Your metabolic rate determines how the calories you consume are utilized. A higher RMR requires more calories to maintain your body’s most basic functions, which can result in fewer excess calories stored as body fat.
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If you ask anyone who’s been on an IF diet for a prolonged period of time, they’ll tell you it’s not hard at all. You get used to the schedule, and it becomes routine.
If you ask anyone who is just trying to lose a few pounds, and isn’t a fitness enthusiast, if going 16 hours without food is hard they’ll look at you like you’ve lost your mind.
The deeper water of intermittent fasting is incredibly challenging. Some people choose to fast for 20 hours everyday. Others struggle to go a solid eight hours without food.
So is it hard? It depends on your current relationship with food. If you’re significantly overweight, and struggle to follow a healthy balanced diet – intermittent fasting will be challenging.
One of the best aspects of intermittent fasting, is there aren’t a ton of concrete rules. You don’t have to fast for 16 hours, that’s just a highly efficient fasting duration for optimal fat loss.
You can still reap many benefits from IF if you start out with a daily 12 hour fast, then progress to longer duration as your body adapts to the new routine.
When followed with a high degree of discipline, meaning no calories consumed during the fasted state, it’s considered one of the more effective methods for fat loss.
During your fast, your growth hormone elevates, and helps preserve lean muscle mass. The spike in growth hormone doesn’t translate to building new muscle, but it has been proven to provide a protective element that reduces breaking down protein during periods of extended calorie restriction.
On most diets, you’re going to lose weight which will include body fat, and unfortunately, a significant amount of muscle mass. On intermittent fasting much of the weight you lose will be in the form of body fat, as your hormones influenced by the fast help preserve your lean muscle mass.