It’s been a hot topic the last couple years, from celebrities to your neighbor, probably someone you know, or you, have tried intermittent fasting. It's also all over the news, your trainer may have even recommended it, but you're always left with... What exactly is it?
Let's answer those questions
Intermittent fasting is time restricted eating. This means you'vee limited the time you’re allowed to eat throughout the day to encourage your body to be in a fasting state. For many people, this is either 10/14, 12/12 or 16/8, meaning, they fast for 16 hours and have an 8 hour window where they are "allowed" to eat.
What is a fasting state? Usually, this is when we are sleeping or having lower energy output. During a fast, the body reduces its overall calorie burn to conserve energy and repair. Our bodies naturally go into a fasting state while sleeping or when we haven't eaten in a while.
The thought with intermittent fasting, which a planned and prolonged fast, is at it encourages the body to use the fat stores for fuel during this time to aid in weight loss. This means, your body is still needing an energy source at all times in order for us to be alive and well, without eating, we have to dig into our energy stores, like muscle mass and fat mass, to keep up going.
Initially, it was thought that the fasting periods made the body better utilize the bodies energy stores, resulting in a better weight loss and fat loss.
However, there are been studies coming out recently that question the benefit of intermittent fasting. A study out of the UK, published in 2021, cites findings that intermittent fasting is no more effective for fat loss and weight loss than a generally calorie reduced diet. The researchers found that intermittent fasting does not increase the rate or amount of fat stores released and used for energy.
This means, it’s not the magic of time restricted eating, it’s the reduction in overall intake that has been helping people lose weight. Which is the way weight loss happens, through a reduction in intake not through time restricted eating. Our bodies can't tell time, our cells don't know when the clock strikes 12 so the idea that stopping eating at a certain time will stop weight gain, does not make sense.
The side effects and benefits that are commonly reported with intermittent fasting, like lower blood sugar levels, reduced cholesterol and blood pressure, are side effects of a healthy weight loss not of time restricted eating. Eating balanced meals, exercising and reducing sodium and saturated fats intake causes weight loss, not time.
It can feel exciting to try something like IF, but, getting back to the basics of your nutrition and understanding that nourishing you and your body and being in a calorie deficit may be easier to maintain than time restricted eating.
What are your thoughts? Have you tried Intermittent Fasting before? What was your result?