Intermittent fasting seems to be another rising health trend and one that is said to promote weight loss and simplicity—if done appropriately. It is not a diet, but rather a pattern of eating. It involves alternating between periods of fasting and eating. There are no stipulations on what you can or can't eat, unlike some of the diets we reviewed a few weeks ago, but rather on when you can eat.
What is Intermittent Fasting
As I stated above, intermittent fasting involves periods of eating and periods of fasting. There are several popular methods of intermittent fasting.
1. 16/8 Method:
This method involves only eating for 8 hours out of the day and then fasting for the following 16 hours. Most people will fast from 9 PM to 1 PM and eat from 1 to 9 PM. However you can make up your own schedule as you prefer.
This method involves fasting for 24 hours straight and doing this one or two times a week.
3. The 5:2 Diet:
This method involves eating normally for 5 days out of the week and significantly limiting your caloric intake (500 to 600 calories a day) the other 2 days of the week.
4. Alternate Day Fasting:
This method involves fasting every other day. This could mean completely not eating or restricting yourself to 500 or so calories a day on the days you are fasting. On your "off" days, you will eat normally.
5. Warrior Diet:
This method involves fasting during the day but eating a large meal at night throughout a 4 hour period.
6. Spontaneous Meal Skipping:
This method doesn't really have a rhythm to it unlike the other methods—hence why it is called "spontaneous". Instead, this method involves skipping meals when you are not hungry and eating when you are.
How Intermittent Fasting Aids in Weight Loss
As you may have guessed, intermittent fasting can help individuals lose weight because, well, you are eating fewer meals and ideally, consuming fewer calories. However, it is important to note that weight loss will not follow if you binge eat all the calories you "lost" during the fasting period. Weight loss will only happen if you are eating a diet that is primarily filled with nutrient dense foods.
Yet, aside from eating fewer meals, intermittent fasting aids in weight loss as a result of releasing several fat burning hormones.
Norepinephrine is a stress hormone that is involved in your fight or flight mechanism and tells your body to release fatty acids. Levels of norepinephrine increase as a result of fasting. When there is more norepinephrine, there is more fat available to burn; thus weight loss.
Intermittent fasting has been proven to lower insulin levels. When insulin is elevated for long periods of time, it can be harder to lose weight as this hormone promotes fat storage and stops your body from breaking down fat. Thus, lower insulin levels makes fat more easily accessible to be broken down.
Other Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
1. It makes eating and meal planning easier
It goes without saying that by eating fewer meals, you are simplifying your eating schedule. Intermittent fasting takes out the added stress when thinking about what to buy at the grocery store and when to cook.
2. It can be cheaper
Let's just say intermittent fasting will have your wallet thanking you. When you are eating fewer times during the day (or not at all) you are likely buying less food—therefore you will save money.
3. It may be easier than dieting
We all know that dieting is hard and despite how motivated we feel when we begin the diet, we will likely fall off the wagon two weeks in. Similarly, a lot of diets have a large grey area as to what is allowed and what isn't. By completely cutting out food all together for designated periods during the day, you are simplifying your dietary patterns.
4. It can lead to an improvement in health
As I mentioned above, intermittent fasting will lead to lower insulin levels. This can reduce insulin resistance and help you better manage your diabetes or reduce your risk of developing diabetes. Similarly, intermittent fasting is also said to decrease your risk of heart disease or a heart attack by lowering your blood pressure and cholesterol.
Intermittent fasting is becoming a popular method of losing weight as a result of its simplicity and health benefits. Aside from losing weight, intermittent fasting is said to improve your overall health. This pattern of eating will take time to get used to, but when done appropriately, individuals can have positive outcomes.
Despite all of the benefits, there is one lingering questions: Do we recommend this method of eating for our bariatric patients? In our next blog post, I will dive into the downsides of intermittent fasting and whether or not we believe intermittent fasting for our patients is beneficial. Stay tuned!