1. What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent Fasting involves alternating between cycles of eating normally and fasting (or eating a minimal amount). It is often referred to as a diet but is more accurately described as an eating pattern.
Is intermittent fasting good for weight loss? Yes, it is traditionally seen as a way of losing weight but research into intermittent fasting benefits has revealed that this practice can support our health and wellbeing in other ways too.
Intermittent fasting: how long should you fast for?
There are various routines and patterns of intermittent fasting, and you should consider which will best suit you and your lifestyle before you begin.
Some examples include:
- Fasting on alternate days and eating normally in between.
- The 5:2 plan which involves eating a balanced diet for five days a week, and vastly reducing calorie intake to between 500-600 calories on for the remaining 2 days each week.
- 16:8 fasting, when you eat normally during an 8-hour window and fast for the remaining 16 hours of the day. Most often, this means eating in the day between 10am and 6pm and fasting overnight until the next morning.
- A 24 hour fast for one day a week or one day a month.
2. What are the Benefits of Intermittent Fasting?
Weight loss: Intermittent fasting has been shown to be an effective way of losing weight by burning the body’s calorie reserve before moving onto burning body fat. Managing a healthy weight helps to avoid the negative effects of obesity, which reduces risks of some of the health complications related to being clinically overweight such as high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, and diabetes.
Prevent Type 2 diabetes: Intermittent fasting causes a significant drop in blood insulin levels. This encourages the body to shed stored fat reserves and can also help to regulate blood glucose levels which has been known to prevent or even reverse the onset of Type 2 diabetes.
Improve brain function: Research has shown that it helps to boost brain function and clear the mind.
Reduce inflammation: Some research studies have demonstrated that intermittent fasting can reduce inflammation in the body which can help to improve health conditions related to inflammation such as: Arthritis, Alzheimer’s Disease, Asthma, Multiple Sclerosis, and Stroke.
Strengthen the heart: Research has shown that intermittent fasting can help to lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol, control diabetes and lose weight – these are 4 of the main contributing factors for heart disease.
Long-term health: Some studies have shown that intermittent fasting has benefits for long-term health too. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine revealed evidence of a range of health benefits associated with intermittent fasting including longer life, a leaner body, and a sharper mind.
3. Is Intermittent Fasting Healthy?
Intermittent fasting is not a new concept, humans have been fasting since prehistoric times when hunter-gatherers could sustain days without food.
Today, food is readily available to most people and this often means that we snack and eat more often than we should while moving much less due to working long hours and sitting for long periods in front of televisions or computer screens. Intermittent fasting can be an effective way of changing our unhealthy relationship with food and encourages us to only eat when we need to.
Intermittent fasting means eating fewer calories and gives the metabolism a boost which can encourage weight loss without drastically altering our diet.
This is safe and healthy for many people, but it is not for everyone. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, or if you suffer from medical issues such as low blood pressure, diabetes, or kidney stones then intermittent fasting may not be the right choice for you. If you are unsure if intermittent fasting is good for you, you should always seek advice from a healthcare professional. It is advisable to speak to your GP before making any drastic changes to your diet.
4. Does Intermittent Fasting Work?
As with any healthy eating plan or weight loss programme, success depends largely on the individual. However, intermittent fasting can work well for weight loss for several reasons:
Simplicity: Intermittent fasting can work well for many people because it is not based on a complicated diet plan. Following a straightforward eating pattern is easier to manage, and therefore more successful. Results of a UK study in January 2021 that studied a small group of obese people for 12 weeks found that the individuals who followed an intermittent fasting plan most strictly reported the most weight loss, but even those who followed the plan less rigidly lost weight too.
Cuts calorie intake: You often consume less food when you skip regular meals and as long as you don’t over-indulge during ‘normal’ eating periods you will naturally consume fewer calories.
Reduces snacking at night: The metabolism slows down in the evening, so this is the worst time to snack. Intermittent fasting has been shown to reduce night-time eating which is one of the main contributing factors to weight gain.
The healthiest diet is well-balanced and varied, and combined with regular exercise this can help you effectively manage a healthy weight and contribute positively towards your physical and mental wellbeing too.
Intermittent fasting can provide a healthy kickstart to weight loss and lead to a better relationship with food, and if an intermittent fasting plan is followed correctly with the right advice, it can be a very effective addition to a healthy lifestyle.