While the fad of crash diets has been doing rounds, another technique has sustained its place for years in weight loss management – intermittent fasting. In intermittent fasting, you do not eat for a certain period and go back to your regular diet, every now and then.
Compared to other techniques, intermittent fasting is believed to be a reliable method for weight loss. Here’s why:
How Does Intermittent Fasting Cause Weight Loss?
Fasting every now and then can be as effective as calorie-restricted diets and sometimes, more! Studies have shown that intermittent fasting can help lose weight in as little as 3–24 weeks.1 And fasting is easy to follow, gets rid of a great chunk of fat in very little time, and preserves the remaining body mass.2
Intermittent fasting does all of this by regulating hormones, which play a major role in metabolism. Consequently, these hormones are important in weight regulation. They influence your appetite and how much of fat your body burns or stores. By fasting, you can keep these hormones in control.
1. By Lowering The Insulin Levels
Insulin helps your body regulate body fat. A high insulin level is common in people suffering from type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and even cancer. This hormone has a say in when your body stores fat and when it breaks the fat down.
When your insulin levels increase, the body stops processing fat and it gets harder to lose weight.
Intermittent fasting helps here by lowering insulin levels as effectively as calorie-oriented diets.
2. By Increasing The Human Growth Hormone
The higher the level of the human growth hormone (HGH), the higher your chances of fat loss.3 Intermittent fasting increases HGH levels, which burn fat while preserving muscle mass. This effect is as much as five-fold in men.4 However, take note that it might not be so pronounced in women.
3. By Elevating Norepinephrine Levels
Norepinephrine is the stress hormone that gets triggered in a flight or flight response. Among other things, the hormone tells when your body’s fat cells should release fatty acids. The higher the hormone’s levels, the more fat there is for the body to burn.
When you fast intermittently, you increase the amount of norepinephrine in the bloodstream, thereby letting the body burn more fat.
Does Fasting Really Improve Your Metabolism?
It’s a popular belief that fasting will lower your metabolism and thus ruin any chance of retaining the ideal weight you want. This might also affect your health in other ways. So are you right to worry about fasting?
Metabolism And Long-Term Fasting/Dieting
When you diet for a long duration, your body gets into a state of starvation and lowers the metabolic rate to save energy.
Talk to anyone who’s been trying to lose weight or who’ve lost weight but are trying to maintain it. Metabolism is something they all have a love and hate relationship with. Most people who’ve lost weight drastically find it hard to maintain the reduced weight, because of the metabolism and loss of muscle mass.
Lowered metabolism is a sure sign in long-term fasting. So does it apply to intermittent fasting as well?
Short-Term Fasting Does Not Lower Metabolism
As opposed to long-term diets, fasting for short periods will actually increase your metabolism according to studies.5 There are 2 possible reasons for this:
- Fasting increases norepinephrine levels, which, as explained, encourages your body to burn fat. This might even remedy the damage done to metabolism with long-term calorie restriction.
- It burns fat but is believed to retain the muscle mass. This mass burns calories even at rest, causing further weight loss.
Some studies have shown that certain types of intermittent fasting do not reduce metabolism. It is also said to preserve muscle mass much better than calorie diets. However, there are contradictory studies and more research is required.
How To Fast Intermittently?
Intermittent fasting is nothing but alternating between fasting and eating every few days. You don’t do this on a whim but according to a set plan. Here are 3 of the many ways you could go about it:
- 5:2 technique: This is a restricted diet. You eat about 600 calories, 2 nonconsecutive days of the week. You follow your regular diet on the other days of the week.
- Eat-Fast-Eat: Here, you fast a whole day, once or twice a week. You can skip meals from breakfast to breakfast and in some similar way.
- 16/8 technique: Here, you skip breakfast and eat every day only during a set 8 hours (let’s say, 1 pm to 9 pm). You fast for 16 hours till you reach the next period of eating.
Choose the type of fasting that best suits your body type and has no adverse effects on your health. It’s best to consult your doctor or dietician before taking this particular journey.
|↑1||Barnosky, Adrienne R., Kristin K. Hoddy, Terry G. Unterman, and Krista A. Varady. “Intermittent fasting vs daily calorie restriction for type 2 diabetes prevention: a review of human findings.” Translational Research 164, no. 4 (2014): 302-311.|
|↑2||Alhamdan, B. A., A. Garcia‐Alvarez, A. H. Alzahrnai, J. Karanxha, D. R. Stretchberry, K. J. Contrera, A. F. Utria, and L. J. Cheskin. “Alternate‐day versus daily energy restriction diets: which is more effective for weight loss? A systematic review and meta‐analysis.” Obesity science & practice 2, no. 3 (2016): 293-302.|
|↑3||Rasmussen, Michael Højby. “Obesity, growth hormone and weight loss.” Molecular and cellular endocrinology 316, no. 2 (2010): 147-153.|
|↑4||Hartman, Mark L., Johannes D. Veldhuis, Michael L. Johnson, Mary M. Lee, K. G. Alberti, Eugene Samojlik, and Michael O. Thorner. “Augmented growth hormone (GH) secretory burst frequency and amplitude mediate enhanced GH secretion during a two-day fast in normal men.” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 74, no. 4 (1992): 757-765.|
|↑5||Webber, J., and I. A. Macdonald. “The cardiovascular, metabolic and hormonal changes accompanying acute starvation in men and women.” British journal of nutrition 71, no. 03 (1994): 437-447.|