Instead, it sets a pattern of eating that helps people control their caloric intake without depriving themselves.
There are many strategies for intermittent fasting (IF), but why should you consider any of them?
Usually, fasts range from about 14 to 36 hours. Between fasting periods, you can eat anything you like (within reason). During fasting periods, you eat little or no calories at all.
Not eating? That sounds awful, huh?
Here’s a rundown of the advantages and techniques to decide for yourself…
Why Do It?
The ultimate goal of intermittent fasting is not only to lose weight, but to target and reduce body fat specifically.
Fasting expert James Clear reports that the benefits of intermittent fasting include being “stronger, leaner, and more explosive.” However, people also adopt intermittent fasting for a variety of health reasons, including:
- Speeds fat loss
- Increases lean muscle mass
- Builds strength
- Fewer meals to cook and prepare
- Fewer rules: the number of meals you eat and calories you consume is irrelevant
- IF is more about when you eat, not what you eat (depending on the strategy; see below), so there are fewer rules, meal plans, and (hopefully) feelings of failure
It Lengthens Lifespan
- Boosts digestive health
- Reduces LDL cholesterol levels
- Improves body’s responsiveness to insulin, which better regulates blood sugar, leading to fewer cravings, mood swings, and drops in energy
- Caloric restriction, in general, is surprisingly good for health. Fasting—which is not starvation, an important distinction—has also been shown to reduce the risk of cancer, and significantly lengthen lifespan
It Improves Cognitive Function
- Psychologically, intermittent fasting potentially reduces feelings of deprivation or restriction (which ultimately cause us to quit, or binge)
- Because the body isn’t slowed down with digestion, IF increases focus and concentration. Anthony Mychal calls it, ‘”an ejaculation of creativity.”
How It Works
What Intermittent Fasting Is Not
Too many people use intermittent fasting as an excuse to gorge themselves or eat a ton of junk food. If you’re an individual who can’t help but overeat after a fast, then IF most likely isn’t for you.
The Different Strategies
Fast begins at 10 p.m. at night and lasts until 2 p.m. the next afternoon.
The Leangains Method involves eight hours of eating and 16 hours of fasting. Coffee, tea, and sugar-free drinks are allowed during the fast.
Strategic post-workout meals and rest day nutrition are paramount (making this approach a little rule-heavy, but convincingly effective).
The breakdown looks like this: 8 a.m.: Drink Bulletproof Coffee. 2:00 p.m.: Break the fast with foods from the Bulletproof Diet. 8:00 p.m.: Eat your last meal before beginning the fast.
24-Hour Fast, Weekly
Brad Pilon’s Eat Stop Eat approach uses a weekly 24-hour fast to reduce overall calorie intake, which he claims speeds fat loss, without limiting what you’re able to eat.
This period of 24 hours of fasting once a week, starts from lunchtime on one day to lunchtime on the next, so fasters can still consume food on every day of the calendar week.
This plan alternates 24 hours of eating followed by 24 hours of fasting.
The Alternate-Day Diet approach switches between one “down” day (where you consume only 400-500 calories) followed by a normal eating day (return to your regular ~2,000 calorie diet).
Ensure that you eat large meals during the times you can eat so that your body gets enough fuel to function during the fasting periods.
Eat nutrient-dense foods so that you get adequate vitamins and minerals in your diet.
Avoid processed, nutrient-devoid foods such as simple carbohydrates to avoid adding calories that don’t deliver nourishment.
It’s Not For Everyone
Again, it’s important to listen to your body. Intermittent fasting is different for every individual—so although IF has a number of benefits, it also has some drawbacks to consider.
- If you have any medical conditions, special dietary requirements, or chronic diseases, it’s best to consult a doctor to determine whether you can meet all your dietary needs with IF.
- When people first transition to intermittent fasting, they often feel sluggish or have low energy, taking that mid-afternoon slump to another level.
- Some people struggle with not eating for extended periods of time, resulting in headaches, fatigue, mood swings, or anxiety. (Note: most people do experience some of these symptoms at first as the body adjusts to new meal patterns…but if they persist, it’s a red flag.)
- Long periods of calorie restriction could lead to binge eating. Especially for those with a history of eating disorders, the IF eating pattern could be especially disruptive.
- Regular intermittent fasting has been shown to cause decreased performance in serious athletes, often in those who are not consuming enough calories to sustain their performance.
The Bottom Line