If you haven't met someone who's into intermittent fasting (IF), that's likely to change pretty soon. As one of the biggest diet trends in 2018, people who swear by IF say it has helped them lose weight and accelerate fat loss, gain muscle, and feel healthier overall. Although the idea behind this controversial eating plan isn't exactly a new one—it was used in the early 1900s to treat disorders such as diabetes and epilepsy—it's been gaining traction with dieters today with new intermittent fasting methods such as The Fast Diet (aka the 5:2 program) and the 16:8 method. But what is intermittent fasting exactly—and how can you use it to help you lose weight?
To restore balance or to lose weight, we simply need to increase the amount of time we burn food energy. That’s intermittent fasting. In essence, fasting allows the body to use its stored energy. After all, that’s what it is there for. The important thing to understand is that there is nothing wrong with that. That is how our bodies are designed. That’s what dogs, cat, lions and bears do. That’s what humans do.
At first I questioned, “Is this truly God's call for me?” Forty days was a long time to go without solid food. But with each passing day, His call grew stronger and more clear. Finally, I was convinced. God was calling me to fast, and He would not make such a call without a specific reason or purpose. With this conviction, I entered my fast with excitement and expectancy mounting in my heart, praying, “Lord, what do you want me to do?”
3 days in a 16:8 ration – my body loves it. I don’t feel famished and look forward to my 8 hrs of eating window. I keep calories in check with a healthy balanced diet. My exercise begins after my last hour of fasting, I eat a few fruits (mango and raspberries) and an avocado (topped with a homemade crushed walnut dressing) and I’m good to lift weights and run. My body feels light and healthy. Amazing solution to any fitness junky.
You’re consuming less food and thus spending less money. Rather than overeating to put on 1 pound of muscle and 4 pounds of fat in a week or two, you’re aiming to eat exactly enough to put on 1 pound of muscle without adding much fat on top of it. Yeah, it’s a delicate balance, but there’s far less swing involved. You are just slowly, steadily, and consistently building muscle and strength over many months.
Thank you very much for the great article. As a Muslim, we are encouraged to fast two days a week (Monday and Thursday)! It is not a must, just preferred. We fast from sunrise to sunset. No food or drink is allowed during this period (no water). As you mentioned a true fast can be a mental and physical cleansing time. From a personal experience, fasting is really great. I strongly believe it has many benefits on the mind and body as well if done correctly.
On my fasting days, I would wake up, have coffee, and start my day without any food. This would continue until about 5:30 p.m., when I would prepare a dinner that didn’t vary from my regular dinner in terms of either what or how much I ate. So, my fasting dinner would be something normal for me, like stir-fry, pasta, soup, sandwich, sushi, etc. This dinner looked like any other and occurred at the usual time. This made it simpler — I was just resuming eating with no special fanfare.
The fasting periods were often called ‘cleanses’, ‘detoxifications’, or ‘purifications’, but the idea is the same – to abstain from eating food for a certain period of time for health reasons. People imagined that this period of abstinence from food would clear their bodies’ systems of toxins and rejuvenate them. They were more correct than they knew.
Carbs are only problematic when eaten excessively, beyond what your body requires. As long as you are eating low calories then carb intake will make very little difference in respect to fat loss. In other words, two diets of equal calories with varying levels of carb intake will result in the same level of fat loss. If you are still unsure then you can read this brilliant article by Lyle McDonald, Low Carbohydrate Diets Have No Metabolic Advantage. In addition, carbs in the main meal serve very important functions such as increasing leptin (improved satiety and metabolic rate), refilling depleted muscle glycogen stores and triggering the release of serotonin which will improve your quality of sleep and make you feel good.
Researchers have demonstrated that fasting counteracts a variety of ailments including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and even diminishing cognition but these findings were based on studies of rats and other laboratory animals where the researcher controlled the animal’s fast. Even if fasting was as beneficial for humans as it is for rats and mice, the reality is that most of us don’t like to be hungry and there’s no researcher to enforce the fast.
When I started intermittent fasting, I spent a lot of time thinking about how I wasn’t eating. I would think about how hungry I was, and then, when it came time to break my fast, I would eat more than a regular dinner, thinking I deserved it after having fasted all day. This is how people fail at intermittent fasting. It took me about two weeks to figure it out.
Improves cholesterol: Intermittent fasting diets impact cholesterol by decreasing your levels of LDL and VLDL cholesterols (the bad stuff). While improving your cholesterol won’t directly lead to weight loss, overweight and obese people are more likely to have dangerously high LDL and VLDL cholesterol, and the cardiovascular risk that comes with it.
The main benefit of intermittent fasting is weight loss—fat loss, specifically. “Insulin increases when you eat, and when insulin is high, you cannot burn fat. When you fast, insulin falls, which allows your body to access its stores of food (i.e., body fat) for energy,” explains Jason Fung, M.D., a Toronto-based nephrologist and author of The Complete Guide to Fasting.
I asked him what happened after he stopped fasting. He laughed and said, "I am still very clear on these things, but there's also a time after I end fasting that the whole world seems more vivid and more colorful than ever before. I can distinguish tastes again. The sky seems bluer than before. The air seems crisper in the mountains. All of my senses seem to be heightened toward what is God's creation-which is always good- and what is man's invention-which very often has an element of evil to it."
Fasting is to be done with the object of seeking to know God in a deeper experience (Isaiah 58:1; Zechariah 7:5). Fasting relates to a time of confession (Psalms 69:10). Fasting can be a time of seeking a deeper prayer experience and drawing near to God in prevailing prayer (Ezra 8:23; Joel 2:12). The early church often fasted in seeking God's will for leadership in the local church (Acts 13:2). When the early church wanted to know the mind of God, there was a time of prayer and fasting.
Where diets complicate life, fasting simplifies. Where diets are expensive, intermittent fasting is free. Where diets can take time, fasting saves time. Where diets are limited, fasting is available anywhere. Where diets have variable efficacy, fasting has unquestioned efficacy. There is no more powerful method for lowering insulin and decreasing body weight.
If you’re eating processed foods and potato chips, it’s unlikely you’ll reap the benefits of fasting. If that’s you, I encourage you to examine your diet before trying a fast. But if you practice fasting and stick to a mostly whole food diet, rich in fruits, veggies, lean proteins, healthy fats and raw dairy, you will see changes — and those occasional splurges on chocolate or cheese won’t have as big of an impact as they might if you were on a calorie-restrictive diet.