What is Intermittent Fasting and How Does It Work?

Published: 3rd August 2020

Unlike many weight-loss programmes and diets, intermittent fasting doesn’t restrict the amount or type of food you eat. The only thing that matters is what time you eat. 

Some people claim that it can be a quick and safe way to lose some weight, whilst others think its unsustainable and ineffective, but what does intermittent fasting really involve? 

Intermittent fasting is basically a cycle of eating and fasting throughout the week, with mealtime being limited to only a few hours of the day. Typically, there’s a 16/8 ratio, with 16 hours of fasting and then an eight-hour eating period. Sounds easy, but it can be much easier said than done. Some people choose to fast for 24 hours at once a couple of times a week which should have the same results  

Most people practice intermittent fasting with the intention of speeding up their weight-loss, but it has been linked to other health benefits over the years as well, such as improved blood sugar and lower cholesterol.  

But, how does it work for weight-loss? 

In theory, restricting the window of time for eating during the day should result in a lower calorie intake, which will naturally help with weight-loss. However, that doesn’t work if you over-indulge on unhealthy food within that window. A balanced diet consists of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats such as fish, nuts and avocados. You should also take extra care to keep hydrated throughout the day, and not become dehydrated if you choose to fast for long periods of time. 

Fasting can also increase the norepinephrine levels in your body, which is the hormone that boosts metabolism, meaning that you should burn more calories during the day. This in turn should reduce the levels of insulin, which should also speed up the burning of fat.   

Combining fasting with the keto diet, a low carb diet that aims to change the way the body processes fat for fuel, can help you achieve ketosis much faster. Ketosis is the metabolic state in which fats provide most fuel for the body, so achieving it faster will maximise the results of the diet. Fasting may also help you hold onto muscle mass whilst dieting!  

There are however a few down sides to fasting in this extreme kind of way, and it can work better for some than others. For example, anyone with diabetes or similar health conditions should really avoid this kind of diet as it could cause serious problems. Women in particular can experience abnormalities with their menstrual cycles, and even decreased fertility. 

There are many more common sideeffects that may inhibit you in your day-to-day activities, with fatigue and tiredness having a huge effect on most people that try to do this diet, often causing them to finish it much earlier than planned.  

Other studies have found that there is in fact very little difference in weight loss between those that do intermittent fasting and those that don’t, with the dropout rate being fairly high in the participants that were fasting. 

So, if you’re thinking of trying to fast, make sure that you listen to what your body is telling you, stay hydrated and stop if you feel light-headed, ill and like you need to get some nourishment. If you have any more questions about intermittent fasting, we advise that you speak to your doctor or Bodyline nurse.

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