Everything You Need to Know about Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting focuses on the timing of meals, and not the foods that your meals can and cannot consist of. A typical pattern is six to eight hours feasting with the remaining hours fasting. Read on to learn more.
Fasting has been practiced for religious and spiritual reasons for thousands of years. However, intermittent fasting is now sought out for weight and fat loss. Other health claims include increased muscle mass and the reduction of cardiovascular disease. Can an abstinence of food really live up to its appeals? Read on to learn everything you need to know about intermittent fasting.
What exactly is intermittent fasting?
Unlike dieting, intermittent fasting is actually an eating pattern. Intermittent fasting focuses on the timing of meals, and not the foods that your meals can and cannot consist of. A typical pattern is six to eight hours feasting with the remaining hours fasting. With such a large window of fasting, meals can become skipped. Breakfast, said to be the most important meal of the day, is often the meal that gets missed. Other intermittent fasting schedules miss all daily meals entirely, while fasting for 24 hours a couple times a week, or every other day. It's also important to note that not all intermittent fasting is done for diet and nutrition. For example, people celebrating in religious holidays such as Ramadan also fast in this manner.
Benefits and Supporting Evidence
Regardless of the intermittent fasting schedule, there are several claims of benefits for the eating plan. Like any diet or new weight loss regimen, seeking out the research is important. Looking at several diets in this category, most sound too good to be true, and in fact, most of them are. Conclusive, supportive data can help save time and money and decrease the chance of feeling let down. Scientific data and results of intermittent fasting are discussed further.
Weight and Fat Loss
Losing weight is one of the biggest reasons for following any sort of eating plan or schedule. Even though weight loss is achieved with a calorie deficit, intermittent fasting does not promote calorie restriction. However, a reduction in calories can run parallel with such a short window of feasting. Even though evidence does show weight loss and fat oxidation, feelings of hunger did not decrease. Constant feelings of hunger could ultimately lead to overeating and a positive calorie balance.
Increased Muscle Mass
Intermittent fasting has been claimed to increase muscle mass. A large component to gaining muscle is diet composition and meal timing. The body needs fuel to power through workouts and needs refueled after. Although muscle mass does not profoundly increase while intermittent fasting, research has shown there was no difference between a balanced diet and participating in a fasting diet. However, the athletes still maintained their energy intake and scheduled workouts and feasting periods during their non-fasting time window.
Decreased Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
Cardiovascular disease is often a comorbidity in overweight and obese individuals. With weight loss occurring in some individuals, a decrease in cardiovascular disease sounds convincing. The research remains unclear, thus making the conclusions a little hazy. However, some research has indicated a better heart health and lower "bad" cholesterol levels in those who fast. Conversely, one research study conducted on mice found the muscles of the heart thickened over six months of intermittent fasting.
Hunger Hormone Stabilization
Ghrelin and leptin notoriously help to control appetite and food intake. Before meals, ghrelin increases and forms an appetite. Leptin helps create satiety during meal consumption and creates feelings of fullness. Although the research is inconclusive, the claim is that the body learns how to handle the delay in the hunger response initiated by ghrelin.
Choosing to Intermittent Fast
Although further research should be conducted, the intermittent fasting benefits sound none-the-less compelling. However, there are alternative routes to achieving weight loss and a healthy lifestyle. Devoting time to not eating can be a social stressor with work dinners and family holidays. Individuals with diabetes and hypoglycemia need to remain consistent with carbohydrates and following an intermittent fasting schedule can lead to serious health risks. Exercising while fasted can also lead to plummeted energy. Ultimately, pursuing intermittent fasting is up to the individual and can be decided after identifying the pros and cons and seeking out what lifestyle works best for you.
Simmons A. The scientific evidence surrounding intermittent fasting. EAS Academy. Available at: http://easacademy.org/trainer-resources/article/intermittent-fasting
Hensrud D. Is it true that occasionally following a fasting diet can reduce my risk of heart disease? Mayo Clinic. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/expert-answers/fasting-diet/faq-20058334
Heilbronn LK, Smith SR, Martin CK, et al. Alternate-day fasting in nonobse subjects: effects on body weight, body composition, and energy metabolism. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Jan;81(1):69-73.