One of the downfalls of many diets is inconsistency: most people find dieting really hard because they have to constantly watch what they eat, track their food or their portion sizes, and in most cases, it becomes so difficult to maintain that they fall off the wagon. Other people just have such a busy schedule that things like meal prepping or food tracking is too inconvenient, at least for the long term.
One system that I like to use for my clients who have trouble sticking to long term diets is something called Intermittent Fasting. Let’s take a closer look at what that is exactly, and why it’s so beneficial not just for weight loss, but also for health.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
- Intermittent Fasting (IF) is a term that is used interchangeably with Time-Restricted Feeding (TRF) . IF/ TRF basically means you limit the number of hours in the day in which you can eat (or drink).
Some of the proposed guidelines include:
8 hour eating window, 16 hour fasting window
Ex: eat your last meal at 7pm, sleep on an empty stomach (water or herbal teas are allowed), and eat breakfast the next morning at 11am.
10 hour eating window, 14 hour fasting window
Ex: eat your last meal at 8pm, and have your breakfast at 10am the next morning.
12 hour eating window, 12 hour fasting window
Ex: eat your last meal at 8pm, and your breakfast at 8am the next morning.
*Note that you can change the timings of the last and first meal of the day to fit your schedule. The rule of thumb goes that the longer your fast is, the better benefits you will experience (but it’s not necessary to fast for more than 16 hours).
Intermittent Fasting works for weight loss in two ways:
You will naturally reduce your food/ calorie intake by around 20% because this eliminates the chance to eat snacks, especially late-night snacks. Evening/ night time is usually when people indulge in comfort foods like chocolate and ice-cream. Fasting after 8pm+ will naturally get rid of those extra calories.
It It improves your hormones, especially the ones relating to weight management or body composition. IF makes you more sensitive to insulin, so the food you eat will more likely be used for energy instead of stored as fat. Fasting for 12-16 hours a day on a regular basis also helps keep your blood sugar levels stable, which is really important for people who have insulin resistance, pre-diabetes, or diabetes. In addition, if you fast closer to the 16- hour window, you will enable your body to burn stored fat for energy.
Other benefits of Intermittent Fasting:
Improves digestion by giving your gut a chance to rest. IF also has anti-inflammatory properties, which is important for gut health.
Improves heart health by decreasing bad cholesterol and increasing good cholesterol
Protects brain from age-related decline
Decreases hunger by improving a hormone called leptin. Leptin is responsible for telling your brain that you’re full so that you stop eating.
How do you start intermittent fasting?
- choose 3 days a week where you can start with fasting for 12 hours. Over time, increase your fasting window to 13 or up to 16 hours.