Benefits of Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss

fasting-monksThere are many different diets and plans that are popular for weight loss.

One that has recently been getting a lot of attention and I am personally using is called intermittent fasting

When you fast for short periods of time, it helps you to cut down the total calories you eat in a day.

And as an added bonus, it helps optimize the way some hormones work to signal your body for fat storage.

You can read about 6 Ways to do Intermittent Fasting, but the three most popular ones are:

  1. The 16/8 Method: Skip your breakfast throughout the week and eat only during an 8-hour feeding window, like from 12 noon to 8 pm.
  2. Eat-Stop-Eat: Do your fast once (or twice) every week for a 24-hour period. An example would be not eating from dinner one day until dinner the next day.
  3. The 5:2 Diet: Eat just 500-600 calories for two days of the week, but eat regularly the other 5 days.

With any of these methods, it is important that you don’t compensate by overeating during the non-fasting periods.

Adhering to sensible calorie consumption during the non-fasting periods will lead to a reduction in your total caloric intake, which will allow you to lose weight and fat around your belly (2, 3).

How Intermittent Fasting Influences Your Hormones for Fat Storage

fat storage hormones
Body fat is actually the result of how the body stores energy (calories).

When you haven’t had anything to eat for awhile, the body makes several hormonal adjustments so  the energy it’s already stored as fat is more  readily available.

Below are some of the things that happen to your metabolism when you are undergoing a fast:

  • Insulin: Insulin goes up when we digest food. When we fast, insulin in the body falls sharply. Fat burning is made easier with low levels of insulin.
  • Human growth hormone (HGH): Levels of growth hormone shoot up in the body during a period of fasting. This increase can be by as much as  5 x higher.  Growth hormone helps you to lose fat while also gaining muscle, along with other positive benefits (5, 6).Growth hormone  can aid fat loss and muscle gain, among other things (7, 8, 9).
  • Norepinephrine (noradrenaline): Your nervous system delivers norepinephrine to your fat cells. This makes them break down your body fat into free fatty acids that can then be burned for energy(10, 11).

Incredibly, despite what you may have heard  from proponents of the traditional 5-6 meal diet, short-term fasting appears to actually stimulate fat burning.

Of note, two studies have shown that fasting for about 48 hours or so boosts metabolism up to 14%(12, 13). However, fasting periods that are longer can suppress metabolism (14).

Short term fasting can be an excellent tool – it induces many changes including reduced insulin, more growth hormone and increased metabolism

Intermittent Fasting Helps You Reduce Your Calorie Intake

reducing-calorie-intake

The primary reason that intermittent fasting assists with weight loss is that it helps you to consume fewer calories.

While calorie counting is normally not necessary with intermittent fasting, it is true that the weight loss is mostly due to the overall decrease in calorie intake.

Each of the protocols involves missing meals during the fasting periods. Unless you offset this deficit by eating a lot more during the eating periods, you will be taking in less calories.

According to this recent study, intermittent fasting can lead to an astounding amount of weight loss. In this 24 week long study, it was shown to reduce body weight up to 8% (2).

When looking at the actual rates of weight loss, people dropped about 0.55 pounds per week using intermittent fasting, but dropped up to 1.65 pounds per week using alternate-day fasting (2).

Participants lost up to 7% of their total waist circumference, which clearly shows that they lost fat around their belly.

These are fairly dramatic results that prove intermittent fasting can be very effective for weight loss.

More than just weight loss, the rewards of intermittent fasting are are also numerous positives for metabolic health such as lowered blood pressure.

These benefits may even include the prevention of chronic disease and a increase lifespan
(15, 16).

Bottom Line: Intermittent fasting is a simple way to restrict the amount of calories that many people find is easier to follow. Studies indicate that it can help you shed weight and belly fat.

How Intermittent Fasting can help you retain muscle mass

ripped girl
A nasty side effect of crash dieting is often a significant loss of muscle mass(17).

It is interesting that studies indicate less muscle loss from weight loss with Intermittent Fasting as opposed to other methods (18).

Another study showed a standard calorie restriction diet resulted in 25% of the weight loss to be muscle, vs only 10% of weight loss of those using intermittent fasting(18).

A third study had participants eat the same number of calories as usual, but have them all in a huge dinner and nothing else. Surprisingly, they lost body fat and increased muscle mass as well as many other positive changes in total health. (19).

Research indicates that Intermittent Fasting may result in less muscle loss for each pound of fat loss, as compared to non fasting diet plans

It is easier to eat healthy meals with Intermittent Fasting diet

healthy foods

For many people, the simplicity of meal planning is a huge benefit with Intermittent Fasting.

For example, with the 16/8 plan, you only have to plan 2 meals instead of 3 So there is less preparation, and you are more flexible when and where you have to be.

With the 5:2 plan, you only need to plan 500 calories for 2 days. the other 5 days you eat your normal diet, without having to plan for reduced calories.

No matter how well a diet works on paper, REAL people have to stick to it, and the simpler it is, the more likely you will be able to.

Intermittent Fasting is often much simpler than other diets, so is easier to stick to.

Final Thoughts

When it’s all said and done, intermittent fasting can be a helpful tool for weight loss.

In addition to making it easier to lose pounds, it often results in less loss of muscle mass and other improvements in body chemistry.

Its not for everyone, but many people are finding it beneficial. You can read more about Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting here.