When you first start fasting things can be quite daunting. Most people in Western society eat up to 15 hours a day. Intermittent fasting typically restricts your eating window between 8–10 hours so there will be an adjustment.
But the benefits of fasting outweigh the cons.
These benefits include:
- Steady weight and body fat loss
- Reduced risk of metabolic syndrome which is a combination of conditions like obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and abnormal cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
- Increased sensitivity to insulin which reduces the risk of diabetes
- Better overall energy and focus (after an adjustment period)
- Reduced inflammation in the body which helps prevent disease
A recent study looked at participants that practiced eating only between the hours of 8 am-6 pm. This is type of fasting is more commonly called time-restricted eating (TRE). TRE is a form of fasting that allows you to eat breakfast and have a wider eating window.
Most people who practice intermittent fasting skip breakfast but this isn't necessary to see great results.
In the study the researchers:
- Tracked the overweight participants for 3 months.
- Each day they logged their meal timing, hydration levels, and sleep.
- They weren't put on any diet but they still saw an almost 10% reduction of caloric intake from the restricted eating window.
- The researchers also saw a 3% reduction of weight in the participants and a 4% reduction in visceral abdominal fat.
This goes to show that you don't need to fast for long periods of time to see improvement in your health.
Focus on getting into the habit of fasting before committing to longer fasts
You may think that longer fasts equal faster weight and body fat loss. But this isn't necessarily true.
If you're new to fasting and start OMAD (one meal a day) you’ll most likely be overwhelmed with hunger and frustration.
This can lead to binge eating situations and possible failure in maintaining a fasting regime.
It’s best to start with TRE (like I mentioned) or the 16:8 way of fasting which was popularized by fitness guru Martin Berkhan.
This type of fasting allows you to lose weight while gaining lean muscle mass (Leangains).
One of the reasons why 16:8 is so effective is that it allows the body to stay in fat-burning mode longer each day.
When you wake and eat immediately you stop the body from burning fat for energy. The body will always burn its glucose stores first before switching to fat.
Over time you’ll see a progression of weight loss if you have a healthy diet and good exercise routine while following 16:8.
Your fasting time should vary throughout the week
Fasting doesn’t have to be the same amount of time each day. Switch things up so you won’t get burned out.
In the beginning, it’s best that you don’t fast every day. This will help with long-term compliance.
Practice 16:8 or TRE 4–5 times a week. This way you can take weekends off and not worry about awkward social situations with friends.
You also allow your body to become fat-adapted. The more you fast the more your body will get used to burning fat for energy.
This is especially true if you follow a lower-carb diet but any good diet will do.
When you periodically take breaks you cycle in more calories temporarily which can help in maintaining a fast metabolism.
The last thing you want is to go overboard with fasting.
If you feel or see:
- Constant hunger
- Chronic fatigue and low mood
- Hair loss
- Infrequent periods
- Loss of muscle tone
Then it’s time to take a break from fasting and have a few days of re-fueling. This won’t jeopardize and progress you’ve made.
Instead, it will help you maintain your success long term.
Fast between 14–16 hours a day with an 8–10-hour eating window. Extended fasts in the first year or so may derail your efforts.
As you get used to fasting you’ll naturally want to lengthen the time but by then you and your body will be well prepared.