Intermittent fasting or time restricted eating is a period of time restricting yourself from consuming any calories. This style of eating has been on the rise in the past few years. Many people are learning the benefits of intermittent fasting, and trying it out. Intermittent fasting (IF) is a style of eating that dates back to our ancestral days. If you think about it, people back in the day didn’t have access to grocery stores or a fridge in their home. People had to hunt and gather their meals. So, basically they would be fasting until they found food, which could be a few hours or even a few days.
Luckily, in today’s society we have the convenience of grocery stores and stored goods. However, this makes it easy for people to overeat and gain weight. That is why intermittent fasting is so popular. The most popular intermittent fasting schedule is a 16 hour fasting window. Commonly referred to as 16:8. Some people will start with a 14 hour fasting window, and progress up to 16 hours over time. Whereas, others will complete full day or multiple day water fasts. It really depends on your personal preference and dedication. Although, all intermittent fasting regimens yield great benefits. A common question I get asked is if intermittent fasting is a good way to lose weight. This article is going to be explaining how intermittent fasting works, the benefits to intermittent fasting, and if intermittent fasting can actually help you lose weight.
Can Intermittent Fasting Help You Lose Weight?
Yes, intermittent fasting can help you lose weight, and actually is extremely effective at ramping up metabolism and burning fat. Intermittent fasting is one of the best ways to lose weight, and this is due to the effects it has on fat burning and our metabolism. Research shows that fasting activates certain fat burning genes within the body. In technical terms, these genes encode certain uncoupling proteins and enzymes that increase fat burning. Meaning, you will burn more calories and fat while at rest. So, even without exercising intermittent fasting can help you lose weight.
However, it is still beneficial to exercise. I highly recommending exercising along with intermittent fasting. This will accelerate your fat loss. Intermittent fasting is an extremely effective way of eating to burn fat and ramp up metabolism. Your metabolism will even stay ramped up throughout the day after you break your fast. This is because the genes that intermittent fasting activates will stay activated for quite some time, even after eating. So, your increased metabolism will continue through the day, turning you into a fat burning machine. Although, it is still important to stay consistent with a healthy diet and exercise regimen.
Other Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting
There are numerous health benefits of intermittent fasting beyond just weight loss. Other benefits of intermittent fasting include improved insulin sensitivity, autophagy, gut rest, improved cholesterol, improved blood sugar levels, and reduced inflammation in the body. In fact, there was a study that found intermittent fasting to increase HDL or good cholesterol, while lowering LDL or bad cholesterol.
The improvements with insulin sensitivity and blood sugar levels makes intermittent fasting a popular way of eating among diabetics. Researchers and medical practitioners are now starting to incorporate intermittent fasting with patients due to these health benefits, and in some cases intermittent fasting can even reverse type 2 diabetes. The benefits of fasting are endless, and it really is a powerful way of eating.
Which Intermittent Fasting Schedule Is Best for Fat Loss?
There are various intermittent fasting schedules such as 14:10, 16:8, 18:6, 20:4, and 24 hour fasts. There are even multiple day water fasts. However, the most popular intermittent fasting schedule is 16:8. The majority of people stick with around a 15-18 hour fast. There are pros and cons to each fasting schedule, and it all depends on personal preference and willingness.
Essentially, the longer the fast the more fat loss you will achieve. However, there are some disadvantages of a longer fast. The longer the fast, the more you risk losing hard earned muscle mass. Which is not what you want. You want to burn fat while preserving your muscle mass. However, too short of a fast will not be as effective for weight loss purposes. So, it is best to pick a fasting schedule somewhere in-between. I recommend the 16:8 or 18:6 fasting schedule for the best fat loss results while preserving your muscle mass.
Will Fasted Cardio Help You Lose Weight?
Fasted cardio is very popular, especially for those interested in fat loss. If your main goal is fat loss, I highly recommend incorporating fasted cardio into your routine. Pairing cardio along with intermittent fasting will accelerate your fat loss. However, you do not need to do fasted cardio every single day, even just a few days a week would be very beneficial. Popular choices for fasted cardio are the elliptical, treadmill, stationary bike, or even a jog or light run outside.
Fasted cardio has been shown to induce higher fat loss compared to cardio performed in a fed state. This is because your body will use your body-fat to fuel your workout. So, if you are not fasted your body will use your last meal for fuel. However, if you are fasted then your body has no choice but to use body-fat for its fuel source. For this reason, fasted cardio makes an excellent choice to lose weight. I recommend performing low to moderate intensity exercise while fasting. A brisk walk or incline walk would be perfect for your fasted cardio.
What Should I Drink While Intermittent Fasting?
A common question among those who are new to intermittent fasting is “what can I drink while fasting?” I have written numerous articles discussing acceptable beverages while fasting, because this is super important. You do not want to be accidentally breaking your fast without knowing. You need to stick with acceptable beverages in your fasting window. The last thing you want is to have a drink ruining your fast and weight loss goals.
The best drink to consume while fasting is plain old H2O. Water will help you stay hydrated, lose weight, and prevent you from breaking your fast. However, there are a few other acceptable beverages while fasting. Another really popular option is sparkling water. Sparkling water is popular among those who fast due to the carbonation within sparkling water. The carbonation can actually help blunt hunger cravings and suppress your appetite. Check out my article on the 10 best sparkling waters for fasting. Another popular beverage to consume while fasting is black coffee or tea. The caffeine within coffee can help ramp up metabolism and increase the fat burning effects of fasting. Make sure to stick with plain black coffee, because sugar and cream will break your fast.
What Should I Eat After Intermittent Fasting?
Before beginning intermittent fasting it is important to know what you are going to eat to break your fast. Although, you can eat anything to break your fast. Some foods make better options than others. Research shows that breaking your fast with a low carb high protein meal, can actually continue the fat burning and increased metabolism effects of fasting. So if your main goal is weight loss, you should break your fast with a high protein low carb meal.
I recommend breaking your fast with a good quality protein source like lean meats, nuts, seeds, or a protein shake. If you are short on time, then a protein shake would be a great option. It is best to eat high quality whole food sources throughout the day after fasting. You want to replenish your body with the nutrients it needs following a long fast. Also, high quality whole foods will be most beneficial for weight loss purposes. Check out my complete article on the best foods to break your fast here.
Other Tips To Lose Weight
Lastly, I want to provide you with some helpful tips to lose weight. You need to make sure you are eating properly to lose weight. Even though intermittent fasting is very good at burning fat and increasing metabolism, you still need to be in a caloric restriction. Meaning, you cannot eat whatever you want in large quantities and expect to lose weight, even if you are fasting. You need to maintain a caloric restriction during your feeding window. So it is important to eat healthy foods and monitor your calories after breaking your fast. To lose weight, you want to be in about a 250-500 calorie deficit. Which equates to losing about .5lb-1lb a week.
Before monitoring your calories, it is best to figure out your basal metabolic rate or BMR. I recommend using a free BMR calculator to find out the amount of calories your body burns in a day. The calculator allows you to enter your height, weight, age, and activity level. This will get a pretty accurate BMR result, and that number is the amount of calories you burn in a day. To lose weight, subtract about 250-500 off that number. This will allow you to lose about .5lb-1lb a week. If you follow this calorie limit along with intermittent fasting, you will see amazing weight loss results. It is easy and effective. Just monitor your calorie limit throughout the day, and stay consistent.
There are many things to consider when beginning intermittent fasting. However, fasting has numerous health benefits, and is extremely effective for weight loss. If losing weight is your main goal, then you should try intermittent fasting. I recommend starting slow, and it is important to listen to your body. You could always start with a 12 or 14 hour fast, and then progress towards a 16 hour fast once your body gets used to it.
Remember to stay hydrated while fasting, and drink plenty of water. This will prevent you from getting dehydrated, and can even help with weight loss. Also, make sure to stick with acceptable beverages while fasting. You do not want to be consuming a drink that will break your fast. Acceptable beverages include water, sparkling water, black coffee, and plain tea. Sparkling water actually makes a great choice while fasting due to the carbonation, which can help blunt your hunger cravings. Remember to consult your physician if you are uncertain if fasting is right for you.
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- Malinowski B, Zalewska K, Węsierska A, et al. Intermittent Fasting in Cardiovascular Disorders-An Overview. Nutrients. 2019;11(3):673. Published 2019 Mar 20. doi:10.3390/nu11030673
- Vieira, A. F., Costa, R. R., Macedo, R. C. O., Coconcelli, L., & Kruel, L. F. M. (2016). Effects of aerobic exercise performed in fasted v. fed state on fat and carbohydrate metabolism in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The British Journal of Nutrition, 116(7), 1153–1164. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0007114516003160