Intermittent fasting is currently one of the world’s most popular health and weight loss trends. It is actually not a diet rather an eating pattern consisting of a small portion of your day spent eating with a larger portion of your day spent fasting.
We here at Plato Weight Management receive numerous questions daily about intermittent fasting, such as what happens when we fast, how Intermittent Fasting aids weight loss and what a common Intermittent Fasting routine looks like?
Therefore, in today’s blog post, we will be answering all of your questions regarding the eating pattern!
- What happens when we fast
- Intermittent fasting and weight loss
- Intermittent fasting plan example
- The 5:2 diet
- Intermittent fasting precautions
What happens when we fast
Before we begin, please consult your doctor before trying intermittent fasting if you have a medical condition.
So what exactly happens to our bodies physiologically when we fast?
Well, fasting lowers insulin levels, increases growth hormone levels and increases the release of the fat-burning hormone Norepinephrine. In addition, it promotes cellular repair and gene expression.
Now, as we are always hearing about the advantages of lowering insulin levels for weight loss, Let’s look at why?
When we eat, carbohydrates from our food are broken down in our bodies to glucose (or sugar).
Our bloodstream then absorbs that glucose and, as a result, raises our blood sugar levels. Consequently, this increase in blood sugar tells our pancreas to create and distribute insulin into our bloodstream.
Insulin then attaches to our cells and acts as a sort of key to unlock them in order to allow the sugar to enter. This, guys, is basically how our bodies convert glucose into usable energy.
Now conversely, if our bloodstream contains more sugar than our bodies need to function, insulin will signal to us to store the excess glucose from our bloodstream to our fat cells. That way, it allows us to have an energy source to use when our blood sugar levels run low between meals or while we sleep, for instance.
So what this means is, is that by lowering insulin levels via intermittent fasting, our bodies will have a lower ability to store fat with a higher potential to use fat stores for energy.
If you would like to read our blog about the pros and cons of Intermittent Fasting, please follow the link here.
Intermittent fasting and weight loss
Now regarding weight loss, intermittent fasting’s reduced period allocated for eating by itself already provides a higher potential to stay within a caloric deficit.
That said, it is very important to make sure we are filling up on protein and fibre, for example, during that period to evade intense hunger as a result of the fasting, so we do not end up binge eating the following eating window.
This is relevant because binge eating can create a caloric surplus for you, nullifying the previous days’ negative energy balance. In other words, guys, only eating within a short time frame throughout the day is not a free pass to consume unlimited calories, especially if you are just starting intermittent fasting and are unaccustomed to your body’s hunger cues.
In addition, we also need to make sure we are incorporating nutrient-rich foods containing the important vitamins and minerals necessary for us to stay healthy.
So what does the research say on intermittent fasting’s potential impact on weight loss?
Well in a systematic review of intermittent fasting in 2018 by Ganesan et al., it was reported that intermittent fasting was indeed effective for short-term weight loss.
However, it was advised by the authors of the study, that trials with long-term follow-up periods are needed to follow the maintenance of weight loss from the diet.
In contrast, another article suggests that intermittent fasting may be no more effective than other diets that restrict calories on a regular basis.
A meta-analysis conducted in 2018 by Cioffi et al. found that comparable results toward weight reduction were achieved between intermittent fasting and traditional diets.
Additionally, the authors also indicated that longer trials are needed to draw definitive conclusions.
Thus, although Intermittent fasting can be a weight-loss tool that may help in the short term, there’s minimal evidence of long-term success from it, and a lot of the weight loss and health benefits can already be obtained by a traditional diet alone.
By following the “everything in moderation” rule alternatively, we can maintain a sensible energy intake and stay within the calorie deficit needed to shed the fat.
That being said, if you wish to undertake intermittent fasting to lose weight for the immediate future, have taken into account the pros and cons regarding health concerns which we have covered in another lesson and gotten the go-ahead from a doctor, how may you do it?
Well, several methods of this eating pattern exist. Each may be beneficial but deciding which one is most suitable depends on the individual.
Intermittent fasting plan example
We’ll first talk about the most utilized method, which provides an eating period alongside a fasting period each day.
This method is a progressive one that starts small and increases intensity every few weeks.
Before we start, we need to make sure that we are in a caloric deficit each day when we do any method of intermittent fasting guys.
Again, just because you’re doing intermittent fasting does not mean that you can just eat anything that you want, as you still need to be in a caloric deficit to lose body fat!
It’s very important to primarily eat healthy foods during your eating window. This method won’t work if you eat lots of junk food or an excessive number of calories.
And yes, water and coffee are indeed allowed during the fasting periods.
So let’s look at level one, which is five meals per day.
Now, these five meals consist of breakfast, then a snack, lunch, then another snack and dinner.
There is no fasting for this level as it’s just for your body to adapt to lower meal frequency.
Moreover, after one week of level 1, we can move to level two, consisting of 3 meals per day, including breakfast, lunch and dinner. and again, there is no fasting required for this level either, it’s just adapting your body to even lower meal frequency.
Now, after two weeks of this, then you can move to level 3.
Be aware that for levels 3 and 4, I recommend counting your calories to ensure we do not restrict them too much to maintain optimal health as the periods for eating can already be very limiting for calorie intake.
So we need to be mindful regarding underconsumption of calories in addition to overconsumption guys.
A good target to aim for is 500 calories below your maintenance caloric intake which our lesson “understanding nutrition labels for weight loss” explains how to calculate.
So level 3 is three meals with 16 hours of fasting.
Now, we still have breakfast, lunch and dinner, but the only difference between level 3 and level 2 is that for level 3, breakfast, lunch and dinner need to be eaten within 8 hours.
Regarding this level, it’s perfectly fine to stop here to achieve the benefits of intermittent fasting but for those who want to further decrease body fat and who are comfortable at level 3, feel free to try level 4 after four weeks.
And what is level 4?
Well, it is two meals within four hours coupled with 20 hours of fasting, so you may choose to have breakfast and lunch, for example, or lunch and dinner.
Now of course, I realise that level 4 is very intensive and that’s actually the reason we highlighted this method of intermittent fasting because it makes your body adapt to the intensity over a few weeks, so it could be easier, but again guys, if level 4 is too difficult, there is no problem with staying on level 3 because level 3 does everything that we want to do.
If you would like to read our blog about the Vegan Diet, please follow the link here.
The 5:2 diet
Furthermore, an alternative method of intermittent fasting is the 5:2 diet.
This involves eating normally five days of the week while restricting your calorie intake to 600 for two days of the week.
For example, you might normally eat every day of the week except Mondays and Thursdays. For those two days, you would eat two small meals of 300 calories each.
Intermittent fasting precautions
Now what is also very important to consider is that Intermittent fasting is not for everyone. It is not recommended for people with diabetes, hormonal imbalances, the elderly, in addition to pregnant and breastfeeding women.
Moreover, people with eating disorders, alongside underweight people with a BMI under 18.5, are also not recommended to use intermittent fasting.
Side effects may also present as a consequence of the fasting, such as difficulty sleeping, constipation and grumpiness. Again highlighting the importance of consulting a doctor prior to starting intermittent fasting.
If you would like to read our blog about why we get food comas if food gives us energy, please follow the link here.
To conclude, intermittent fasting may indeed be beneficial for weight loss short term.
Also, because one of the main obstacles of continuously losing weight is the work involved in planning and cooking healthy meals, intermittent fasting may simplify things as you won’t need to cook and clean nearly as often.
However, our opinion is that it is not an effective approach for long-term weight loss as it is not sustainable for the reasons noted.
It may be beneficial for health in certain instances, but again the research is still in its infancy, so it could be harmful to other areas of health that we are currently unaware of.
Before undertaking any new diet, we strongly advise you to consult your doctor first, especially Intermittent Fasting.
If you are interested in undertaking one of our evidence-based and results-backed Plato Weight Management programs, please make sure to check what program may be suitable for you at this link or contact us here!
You can find out what some of our previous clients had to say about the program on our success stories page!
Cioffi, I., Evangelista, A., Ponzo, V., Ciccone, G., Soldati, L., Santarpia, L., Contaldo, F., Pasanisi, F., Ghigo, E., & Bo, S. (2018). Intermittent versus continuous energy restriction on weight loss and cardiometabolic outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Journal of Translational Medicine, 16(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12967-018-1748-4
Ganesan, K., Habboush, Y., & Sultan, S. (2018). Intermittent Fasting: The Choice for a Healthier Lifestyle. Cureus. https://doi.org/10.7759/cureus.2947
Malinowski, B., Zalewska, K., Węsierska, A., Sokołowska, M. M., Socha, M., Liczner, G., Pawlak-Osińska, K., & Wiciński, M. (2019). Intermittent Fasting in Cardiovascular Disorders-An Overview. Nutrients, 11(3), 673. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11030673