Intermittent fasting for Weight Loss?
Intermittent fasting is an ancient system of withdrawing from food for a while, which can bring a range of health benefits that go way beyond weight loss. Centuries ago people used to fast regularly, not to lose weight thou, it was mostly due to it being harder to come by food, and every led a more physically active life. Being overweight was, therefore, a much less common problem, so people fasted for short or longer periods as a way to cleanse their bodies, either for spiritual purposes or as the best treatment they knew for a range of ailments. Others fasted as a way to aid concentration, boost clear thinking and improve memory. In recent times, people have got into the habit of eating too much and too often, which is beginning to show it impacts on overall long-term health.
Recent Research – Intermittent Fasting
In the last few years, there has been lots of research into fasting, and the evidence is stacking up to show that it will help with weight loss and provide further health and lifestyle benefits, such as;
- Give you more energy throughout the day
- Improve sleep patterns
- Boost concentration and memory
- Calm inflammation in the gut and ease bloating
- Make skin clearer and brighter
- Reverse type 2 diabetes
- Reduce levels of bad cholesterol in the blood
The science is complicated, but this brief explanation of how it enables you to lose weight may get you thinking about intermittent fasting as an option for you.
The Science of Intermittent Fasting
When we eat, people tend to consume more food (fuel) than needed immediately, therefore it is stored in your Liver as glycogen for later. This is kept accessible and is really easy for the body to convert back to energy, therefore it is the first port of call for energy. However the body’s ability to store glycogen is limited so, if you eat more on top of a fill liver of glycogen, your metabolic system will then store the next batch of the energy as fat in your adipose tissue, which can hold unlimited amounts of energy – The body can call on this when it needs to, but it is harder work.
If you have another meal or snack before your body has used all the glycogen in the liver, it will replenish its stores of glycogen and continue to use that first, meaning that you don’t use up any fat stores and, over time, you get heavier. Intermittent fasting gives your body the pause it needs to start ‘burning off’ fat deposits so that you can begin to lose weight and burn the fat that is stored around your middle in adipose tissue.
How do you Intermittently Fast?
There are lots of different ways to start intermittent fasting – you have probably heard of the 5:2 diet, where you eat normally for five days each week but consume just 500 calories on each of the remaining two days. There are lots of other options, including one in which you fast on most days each week but make sure you eat only within an eight-hour timeslot each day, 8-16. This means that each fast day, you have a period of 16 hours without food, and consume all your food within an 8-hour window. This encourages your body to start burning its fat stores for energy. The best element of this approach is that you will be in bed asleep for most of those 16 hours, so it needn’t be as harsh as it sounds.
Is Intermittent fasting right for you?
Most of my clients that are struggling to lose weight often have a complicated relationship with food which has led to some health problems, as a Functional Medicine Practitioner, it’s my role to help them understand what the body needs to work to an optimal level and function efficiently every day. Commonly thou, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution so it’s important to look at all the options, as for some people intermittent fasting can be helpful.
I’d be the first to admit that intermittent fasting isn’t for everyone. However, it’s something to think about, and I’d love to help you decide whether it’s right for you and what kind of intermittent fasting might be right to kickstart your weight loss and address any health issues. But remember, Intermittent Fasting is not a good idea for you if:
- You are underweight – for an adult, a Body Mass Index (BMI) under 18.5 means you are underweight
- You are under 18 years old
- You are pregnant or breastfeeding
- You are taking certain medication
Personally, my aim is to have a break overnight of 16 hours from dinner to breakfast a few times per week to empty my liver of glycogen, as this helps to maintain my weight and lose a few pounds after the weekends or holidays. Any further fasting impacts my blood sugars too much as with most things it all about balance and personal nutrition approach.
Therefore, if you are considering Intermittent fasting I would first assess your current blood sugar balance and start to reduce the frequency and the quantity of how you eat in each sitting, secondly decide which way to fast is best for you, light days or long periods of times overnight without food. Finally, consider the health benefits and is Intermittent fasting right for you, as most importantly you will still need to eat what is right for you when you do eat regardless to the timings of the day.