Everyone is talking about intermittent as the new way to lose weight and get fitter. But it’s actually nothing new nor is it particularly technical. All it means is going for relatively long periods of time without eating.
There is a growing amount of evidence to show that intermittent fasting can help you lose fat and improve overall health.
What is the most effective way to fast intermittently?
If you think it sounds too difficult, consider the fact we all do it for a number of hours every single day – when we’re asleep. The time since your final meal of the day and your first meal the following day is a period of fasting. People who decide to follow intermittent fasting for weight loss simply extend this period of fasting.
While it really is this simple, the usual experts are busy developing various protocols for the ‘best’ way to do it. There are plenty of plans you can follow, including the 5:2 diet when you fast for two days out of seven, or the 16:8 plan, where you fast for 16 hours out of every 24.
They are all slightly different, but all amount to the same thing – expanding the period of time where you’re not eating.
Fasting could help us live longer
While fasting isn’t a new concept, the clinical research showing distinct benefits is new. Data shows that when fasting is done properly, it could help us to live longer, maintain steady blood sugar. It can also reduce the risk of heart attacks, manage weight and help us gain lean mass. The study of the tangible benefits of intermittent fasting are in their infancy, but there is no doubt that much of the data appears promising.
It certainly seems to work for some people, but it’s important to understand it’s not for everyone. It’s also important to understand that you must also change the things you eat, as well as how often you eat. For example, intermittent fasting while sticking to fast food when you do eat, will not help you. This is not about randomly deciding to skip meals and continuing to eat your favourite foods. There may not be a single correct way to do intermittent fasting, but you should follow some kind of regulated protocol to get the benefits.
Some people inevitably find it too inconvenient, and for others there are some health risks that make it a poor option. Here are some loose guidelines for people considering whether to try intermittent fasting. Before you make any major change to your diet, you should always visit your doctor.
Intermittent fasting is good for:
- People who have dieted before and are used to calorie counting.
- Experience and regular exercisers.
- Single people who don’t have children.
- People with a very supportive partner.
- People who have a job that allows them to slow their performance while adjusting.
Intermittent fasting is more difficult but can work for:
- People who are married with children.
- People with client facing or performance heavy jobs.
- Athletes or competitive sports people
Some research shows that fasting can cause problems for women, including changes to periods, anxiety levels and poor sleep. This is because it affects and can deregulate vital hormones. However, that’s not to say that women shouldn’t try it.
Intermittent fasting is not suitable for:
- Pregnant women.
- People with history of eating disorders.
- People who are very stressed.
- People who struggle to sleep
- People new to exercise and diets.
In short, intermittent fasting is not a ‘magic bullet’. Nor is it a ‘one size fits all’ approach to fat loss and energy gain. If intermittent fasting doesn’t suit you, then practising good nutrition is always the best way to improve your health and your weight.
About Surya Gabriel Iacono
Surya Iacono is a fitness and wellness expert and blogger based in London, UK. Surya’s fitness blogs are aimed at keen gym-goers and exercise fans already well into their journey and looking for tips, tricks and ideas to take it to the next level.