The chances are you have heard of intermittent fasting, but perhaps remain a little confused as to what it is exactly, whether it will help with your weight loss and what other benefits you may experience.
It's worth taking a moment to reflect on the fact that we all possess this natural curiosity and perhaps even FOMO (fear of missing out) at times, none more so than with topics relating to health and fitness. New trends arrive all the time and it’s natural to be curious and question, is that a better way of doing it, would that be better for me. That curiosity can stimulate growth and progression in nutrition knowledge and even health on some occasions, but at the same time it can also result in stagnation of progress and loss of focus if you are constantly jumping from one method to another.
We have discussed this before, but all diets work in exactly the same way. Any successful diet that produces significant weight loss will, at its core, have a sustained energy deficit. That energy deficit will produce weight loss, fat loss and likely improve health over time. The method you chose to create that energy deficit can vary significantly, low carbohydrate, keto, low fat, vegan or heck even a juice diet. All of these methods as outlined below work by creating and maintaining an energy deficit, which one works best really depends and we discuss and present the optimal diet within our coaching course in the app.
Low carb: Eat less carbohydrate > Energy deficit > Weight loss
Keto: Eat no carbohydrate > Energy deficit > Weight loss
Low fat: Eat less fat > Energy deficit > Weight loss
Vegan: Eat only plants > Energy deficit > Weight loss
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is another possible method that you could utilize to create an energy deficit. Intermittent fasting is essentially a strategy that promotes extended fasting and a small feeding window, the typical method involves a 16 hour fasting period and an 8 hour feeding window. That could mean consuming breakfast at 11 AM, lunch at 2 PM, a small snack at 5 PM and the evening meal just before 7 PM, at which point the 16 hour fast begins again until 11 AM the following day. Truth be told, we should actually refer to this as Time Restricted Eating, as fasting typically refers to the avoidance of food for longer periods.
Will it help me lose weight?
Theoretically, restricting the eating window will reduce the opportunity to consume calories and in turn produce weight loss via an energy deficit. Although science does not necessarily support that notion. Unfortunately, when compared with a traditional calorie restricted diet where people consume the same amount of calories with no time restrictions weight loss is pretty much the same as if they were to follow the intermittent fasting method.
What are the other benefits?
There are purported health benefits to fasting, via a process called autophagy. Autophagy is basically the body’s way of naturally removing old and unnecessary cells, and other waste products, preventing cancerous cells from developing and reducing the risk of other serious diseases. Autophagy is an ongoing process that is upregulated when we fast and restrict calories, so any energy restricted diet will heighten autophagy and offer the same health benefits. That is why calorie restriction is widely recommended to offset many of the issues associated with aging.
Intermittent fasting or time restricted eating diets are also associated with reduced inflammation and markers of metabolic syndrome, improved blood glucose, triglycerides and cholesterol and reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. Although again, it's difficult to determine whether these benefits come from fasting per se, or simply from losing weight. My hunch is that weight loss drives many of these improved health markers. That said, fasting can certainly improve the gut microbiome, digestion and general gut health, an interesting consideration for anyone with stomach related issues.
How could I implement intermittent fasting into my daily life?
If you would like to trial intermittent fasting then all you really need to do is delay breakfast a little. So instead of waking up and eating breakfast immediately, wait for a few hours, drink water, tea or coffee (with no sugar or milk of course) and get on with your normal life in the fasted state then at around 11 AM eat breakfast.
Normal eating pattern
7pm: Evening Meal
Intermittent fasting eating pattern
6.30pm: Evening Meal
If you are combining the Reverse Health program with intermittent fasting then you may be tempted to just simply skip a meal. This is a bad idea and will increase the risk of nutrient deficiencies, slow metabolic rate, increase hunger and generally hinder your progress. As tempting as it may be, do not just skip a meal, make sure that you consume all the meals set out in your plan as this is the optimal way to look after your health, while also losing weight, for long term, sustained success.
Having to adjust your lifestyle to suit the rules of a diet is a sure fire way to fail. So only adopt intermittent fasting if it suits you, your lifestyle and personal preferences. If you are a big fan of breakfast and traditional breakfast recipes (eg. pancakes, oatmeal etc.) or regularly go out to breakfast with friends or family then this probably is not the one for you. But if you tend to be more sociable in the evenings, meeting family and friends for evening meals etc. then perhaps this is worthy of consideration. Do not sacrifice your lifestyle to fit the needs of the diet, make the diet suit the needs of your lifestyle for long term, sustained success.
At Reverse Health we are not necessarily fond of rules and regulations when it comes to dieting, quite the contrary actually, we actively promote food freedom with an emphasis on enjoyable whole foods and a simple 3C philosophy. That being said, if intermittent fasting suits your lifestyle then there is no harm in using it. But be mindful that weight loss and health benefits are likely no better than a traditional calorie restricted weight loss diet, as outlined in the app.