When I hear the word ‘fasting,’ it reminds me of fasting for religious reasons or for medical procedures. So, when I learned Intermittent Fasting had become a popular weight loss method, it really got me curious. The more I thought about it, the more I realized:
Fasting to lose weight actually makes sense!
I mean, not eating for extended periods of time should help with weight loss, right? However, I still wasn’t sure what Intermittent Fasting was and how it could affect my body. As it turns out, it has many health benefits apart from weight loss. To learn more, let me walk you through the basics.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is basically a timed eating plan where you cycle between periods of eating and not eating. It doesn’t really limit what foods you eat, but rather when you should eat.
NOTE: we still recommend avoiding processed food and unhealthy snacks!
During a fasting period, you’re not allowed to consume anything. However, you can hydrate with water and drink other non-caloric beverages like green tea or black coffee.
To clarify, intermittent fasting to lose weight does not mean you’re not going to eat at all. Instead, it’s more about scheduling cycles when you won’t eat and only eating two meals per day, which helps reduce your calorie intake by 500 to 700 calories per day.
Fasting has been practiced for centuries, whether for religious rituals or simply because of the unavailability of food. Since it’s an age old practice, scientists believe our bodies can handle Intermittent Fasting because it mirrors our ancestor’s eating patterns when they didn’t always have food to eat.
How does Intermittent Fasting work?
There are many different intermittent fasting methods out there. What’s important is to stick to a method that’s easiest to adapt into your lifestyle. To give you an idea, here are three variations of intermittent fasting:
- Time-restricted feeding – fasting for 16-20 hours, eating for 4-8 hours (repeated daily)
- Alternate-day fasting – fasting for 1 day, eating for 1 day (repeated)
- Whole-day fasting – fasting for 1-2 non-consecutive days, eating for 5-6 days (repeated weekly)
The 16/8 Intermittent Fasting Schedule
A popular method of Intermittent fasting is known as the 16/8 method, which is a version of time-restricted feeding. It can be done by skipping breakfast, having your first meal around noon and your last meal at 8:00pm. When you follow this eating schedule, you’re fasting for 16 hours a day and eating within an 8-hour window time.
Here’s a great example schedule of 16/8 Intermittent Fasting from jamesclear.com
Weekly Intermittent Fasting Schedule
Weekly intermittent fasting is one of the simplest ways for people to get started with fasting. This schedule has you fasting for a 24-hour period. At first, this sounds like a long time – I know! But, if you schedule your fast correctly (see below), you can use your natural sleep cycle in the fast cycle, so you actually never go a full day without eating.
Alternate Day Intermittent Fasting Schedule
Alternate day intermittent fasting is the most intense fasting schedule. As the name implies, this is a schedule where you fast for 24 hours then eat for 24 hours. However, again, using your natural sleep cycles to buffer some of the fast cycle, you never actually go a full day without eating anything. Check out the schedule below.
One of the best ways to incorporate fasting into your life is through nutritionally-supported fasting. With this you fast for 24 to 48 hours… BUT, you have drinks and small snacks, on the hour, that help you through the fast.
Isagenix has one of the best nutritionally-supported fast programs available. The Isagenix Cleanse for Life product is a fast that provides cellular level cleansing. Every hour you either have a Cleanse drink, a half of an apple or pear, or two of their Isagenix Snacks. These nutritionally-balanced Snacks help curb your appetite, during your fast.
It’s not unusual to lose 5 pounds (or more) during a 2-day Isagenix Cleanse! Plus, the antioxidants nourish your body, while the fast helps rev up your metabolism and detoxify your body!
You can do a nutritionally-supported fast one day per week, or do a 2-day fast every other week.
How does Intermittent Fasting help with weight loss?
To put it simply, when you eat, insulin in your blood increases. High insulin levels mean your body cannot burn stored fat for energy, so the fat remains in your body. However, once you start fasting, insulin in your blood drops. Low insulin signals your body to burn stored fat for energy, which eventually leads to weight loss.
When you don’t eat for extended periods of time, your body will burn stored fat.
When it comes to eating, though Intermittent Fasting has no specific food restrictions, keep in mind it’s not a free pass to eat too much. If you still consume too many calories, for your activity level, you won’t lose weight.
Aside from helping with weight loss, Intermittent Fasting has other benefits such as:
- Lower Cholesterol Levels – Studies showed a 25 percent decrease in cholesterol after participants did eight weeks of alternate-day fasting.
- Normalized Blood Sugar Levels – Periodic fasting has been shown to help lower insulin and blood sugar levels in diabetics.
- Increased Growth Hormones – Fasting stimulates the production of growth hormones, which is crucial for the maintenance of lean muscle mass.
- Improved Concentration – Contrary to popular belief, brain function doesn’t decrease when a person experiences hunger. In fact, your senses are heightened when you’re fasting. There are studies that also show fasting can sharpen mental activity.
What should I expect when I try it?
Intermittent fasting has side-effects when you’re starting out. One of the biggest drawbacks people experience is irritability. Let’s face it. Some of us get more cranky and hangry (hungry and angry!) when we don’t eat for a few hours. However, people who are used to Intermittent Fasting also say they tend not to eat as much when they go back to their eating cycles.
Apart from affecting your mood and appetite, you may experience these side-effects:
- Headaches – Common during the first few days of fasting, it’s associated with the transition from a high-salt diet to a low salt diet. This symptom eventually goes away.
- Dizziness – Feeling dizzy is also associated with low-salt intake. It can also mean you’re dehydrated, so make sure to drink lots of water!
- Muscle cramps – Getting muscle cramps may mean you have low magnesium levels, which is commonly experienced by diabetics. Special care must be taken if you’re diabetic, so consult your doctor if you experience cramps while fasting.
- Heartburn – Eating large meals usually causes heartburn. When you’re starting, you might be eating a lot after your fast. Try to eat normally on your next meal to avoid heartburn.
- Constipation – Constipation is normal when you’re new to fasting. To relieve it, you can eat high-fiber fruits and veggies.
Now you know the low-down on Intermittent Fasting. It’s a proven weight loss method that helps you burn body fat efficiently when you don’t eat for extended periods of time.
Have you tried Intermittent Fasting? If so, what were your experiences? If not, which Intermittent Fasting schedule do you think would fit best for your life? Tell us in the comments below!
If you’re interested in trying intermittent fasting, don’t forget to consult your doctor first.