We all know that there are a whole plethora of ways to shed those unwanted pounds, and some ways are definitely more effective than others. One that has become increasingly popular in recent years is intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting is a plan of eating that takes advantage of structured periods of fasting. By fasting often and for short periods of time, it can help you to consume fewer calories on a daily basis which over time, may result in weight loss.
As well as losing a few pounds, intermittent fasting can also help reduce risk factors for conditions such as cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol and diabetes. Now, who doesn’t want that, am I right ladies?
How does intermittent fasting work?
So, most diets and healthy lifestyle plans focus on what you should and shouldn’t be eating. However, intermittent fasting is all about when you eat. If you’re following this sort of diet, then you’ll only be eating at particular times.
They do work in a similar way but there are a few ways you can approach this type of diet, based on the periods that you fast and eat. The reason it works is because after hours with no food your body has used up all its sugar and starts to burn fat instead; this is known as metabolic switching.
How do you know which intermittent fasting plan is for you?
With intermittent fasting, there are a few methods and all can be effective. What is most important is that you choose one that works best for you. The most popular ones are:
- The Warrior Diet
- Eat Stop Eat
- The 5:2
- The 16:8
- Alternate-day fasting (ADF)
Let’s take a look into each one of these to work out when one is best for you.
The 16:8 method
For weight loss this is one of the most popular styles of intermittent fasting. The long and short of it is, you eat during a window of eight hours and then fast for 16 hours. Unlike the other methods, this one is more flexible as you can choose your eight hour eating window.
This means that you can choose a time slot that suits you best. Some may skip breakfast and eat between midday and 8pm, whereas others may want to eat earlier and opt for 9am-5pm instead.
Also Read: Why is sleep so crucial for weight loss?
To get the most out of this and to reap the benefits of intermittent fasting, be sure to eat a healthy balanced diet during the eight hour window.
Whilst its flexibility makes it a popular choice, some find it difficult to fast for 16 hours.
The 5:2 method
This method has become popular in recent years and is quite a simple approach to fasting. For five days a week you would eat normally and then the other two days would be restricted to a ¼ of your daily calorie intake. So as an example, on five of the days you could consume your normal 2000 calories, then on your two fasting days, you’d only eat 500 calories.
Studies have shown that the 5:2 diet is as effective as a continuous calorie restriction for weight loss. Further research has also found that it can help prevent diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.
As is the 16:8 method, this is also somewhat flexible as you can choose the two days to fast on. However, no matter how effective, this diet type is not for everyone.
Eat Stop Eat
Now, ladies, this is a more unconventional type of intermittent fasting. Eat Stop Eat, made popular by Brad Pilon, entails fasting on one or two non-consecutive days and then eating as normal for the remainder of the week. It is of course recommended that you also eat a healthy and varied diet.
A lot of willpower is needed if you are going to fast for 24 hours. It is also worth researching furthering into the Eat Stop Eat method to ascertain its health benefits and weight loss properties.
I’m not going to teach you to suck eggs with this one, it is pretty self explanatory. When following this method, you fast every other day. Others that have followed this type of intermittent fasting have modified it to work for them and instead of fasting for the full 24 hours, have limited their calorie intake to a ¼ of their normal daily intake, similar to the 5:2 method.
Alternate day fasting is known to be just as effective as following a calorie restricted diet for weight loss.
The Warrior Diet
Created in 2001 by Ori Hofmekler, the Warrior Diet follows the eating pattern of ancient warriors. It is less restrictive than the Eat Stop Eat approach but a bit more extreme than 16:8 if not all of them.
This type of intermittent fasting requires you to eat very little for 20 hours a day and then as much as you want (more of a need if for weight loss really) for a 4 hour window at night. For those 20 hours, it is encouraged that you eat small amounts of dairy, raw fruit, vegetables, hard boiled eggs and non-calorie fluids.
During your four hour eating window you can essentially eat whatever you like but still stick to healthy, organic and unprocessed foods.
Also Read: Does a vegan diet help weight loss?
For us to understand the full weight loss benefits, more research is needed.
What to eat during intermittent fasting
During fasting, you should be drinking water and zero calorie drinks like black tea or coffee. Then during your eating window, you can eat normally, just don’t start raiding the pantry and consuming everything in sight.
You should still be eating well-balanced meals.
What effect can it have on your hormones?
Whilst intermittent fasting may be great and help you shed those pounds, it can also affect your hormones. During fasting periods, your body will change so it can access its energy stores.
Fasting is when these metabolic changes will occur:
Norepinephrine (noradrenaline) – our nervous system sends norepinephrine to our fat cells. This makes them break down body fat into fatty acids that can then be burned for energy.
Insulin – Our insulin levels increase when we eat, so when you fast, they decrease hugely. When you have lower insulin levels, you burn fat.
Is intermittent fasting safe, though?
Ladies, whether you’re wanting to manage a condition or lose weight, intermittent fasting is not for everyone. Before you go crazy and completely change your life and diet, you may want to check with your doctor first.
Intermittent fasting is not suitable for the below groups:
- Diabetics or those with a blood sugar condition
- Pregnant women and those who are breastfeeding
- Those with a history of eating disorders
- Children under the age of 18
What about maintaining muscle mass?
When you’re dieting, your body will lose muscle as well as fat. Although, some research has shown that intermittent fasting may actually be beneficial for maintaining muscle mass whilst losing fat.
Don’t get too carried away with that fact though ladies, the study did have its limitations so these results may not be 100% correct.
Here’s how to make it work for you
If you’ve given all of the above a read and you’re considering giving intermittent fasting a go, here are a few things to bear in mind:
- Calories – during your eat window, try not to make up for the fact that you’re fasting and eat within moderation
- Eat healthily – you may be fasting which is great, but what you consume is still important
- Exercise – Many of the intermittent fasting methods recommend exercise, strength training in particular.
- Patience – as much as we all want to see results straight away, we also know it takes time. Give yourself and your body time to adjust to your new lifestyle and change will happen.
- Consistency – like absolutely any diet, consistency is key! You need to stick to it for an extended period of time.
The benefits of intermittent fasting
For some of us, having a set routine is what makes the magic we call ‘weight loss’ happen. There are a variety of benefits to intermittent fasting, including:
- Simplicity – Making this type of plan easy to follow
- Memory and brain function boost
- Cardiovascular health – Intermittent fasting has shown to improve blood pressure and resting heart rates
- Physical activity and enhanced endurance
- The prevention of health conditions
- Tissue health
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