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How Fasting Helps You Lose Weight

Steve Tanner explains how you can change your eating lifestyle in a way that would promote weight loss without restrictive diets.

Those who have kept track of the trends in the dieting world should have seen over and over again, the different quick -ix diets that hit the media regularly. It seems like there is something new each day, and when that proves not to work, it is on to the next.

But, what if you did not have to diet? What if you could change your eating lifestyle in a way that would promote weight loss without restrictive diets? This concept may sound too good to be true, but recent studies have shown that might not be the case.

What Is Fasting?

Fasting is refraining from eating for a specific time. The main idea of fasting is to force metabolic adjustments to occur in your body. These metabolic changes do not happen until, on average, three to five hours after eating, and it is not until eight to 12 hours after a meal that a person is considered to be in a state of fasting.

There are different types of fasting based on the amount of time spent in the state of fasting, but each type aims to serve the same primary purpose.

16/18

The 16/8 method is when you skip breakfast and only eat during eight hours of your choosing; the remaining 16 hours are spent fasting. The time you eat using this method can be 12-8 pm, for example, or any other variation of eight hours.

5:2

The 5:2 diet does restrict calories, and, therefore, may not be everyone's favourite. But, if counting calories is something you already do, this diet could be the perfect one for you. With this diet, 500-600 calories are consumed twice a week, on non-consecutive days. Other than those two days, however, eating remains normal.

Eat-Stop-Eat

Eat-stop-eat requires a longer fasting period, which is 24 hours. This is done once or twice a week by not eating breakfast one day, for example, and, then, not eating again until breakfast the next day.

Five-Day Prolonged Fast

Lastly, the five-day prolonged fast is what it sounds like it is a fast that lasts for five days. However, there are two different five-day fasts that people have been taking advantage of.

The first version, the original, only allows for the consumption of water during the fasting period. That being said, five days is a long time to fast, especially if you are trying it out for the first time. That is why the modified version of the five-day fast was introduced.

For the modified five-day fast, you can eat plant-based, low-calorie, low-carb, and low-protein foods during the fast. The idea behind this modified fast is that it is supposed to mimic the results of the original five-day water fast by restricting calorie intake to just 800 calories per day.

It is important to note that in the non-fasting periods, your diet should, still, be on the healthier side. Fasting does not mean you can eat anything you want in those open periods of eating. When aiming for a healthier lifestyle, there are five food groups you must ensure you are getting enough amounts of. Those five groups are:

  • Bread, cereals, and potatoes
  • Dairy Fruits and vegetables
  • Meat and fish
  • Fatty/sugary foods

Fasting VS Fad Diets

A key benefit of fasting is that you have a smaller window of time when you are allowed to eat, and this small window reduces your calorie intake naturally, without leaving you feeling as unfulfilled as most fad diets do.

What is great about fasting is that it makes dieting a lot simpler. There is nothing worse than trying to begin a new diet and failing because it is too confusing to follow. When fasting using the 16/8 method, for example, it is a lot easier to maintain a healthy lifestyle within an eight-hour window, wherein you are only eating two meals, than it is to keep that same lifestyle eating normally.

This is not to say that fasting is easy because no lifestyle change is at the beginning. However, the simplicity of fasting sets you up to succeed in the long run because it is easier to stick with than a more complicated diet.

Many fad diets fail because:

  • They are short-term and, therefore, even if the weight does come off, the weight is gained back rather quickly once the diet ‘ends.’
  • They leave you feeling hungry because you are cutting back calories drastically.
  • Because fewer calories are being consumed, the dieter often feels tired and has no energy to get the required amount of exercise.

Health Benefits Of Fasting

While diet is always going to be important when trying to lose weight, fasting has effects on the body that aid in weight loss, more than merely cutting out sugary foods or eating more vegetables does. Some of these effects include:

Higher human growth hormone (HGH) levels

When fasting, your HGH levels increase exponentially. HGH serves to boost muscle growth and strength within the body, as well as help exercise performance and in recovering from injury or disease. Since fasting increases these HGH levels, the body will show an increase in fat loss, as well as muscle gain.

Sensitivity to insulin improves

When the body’s sensitivity to insulin improves, insulin levels drop drastically as well. When insulin levels drop, the body fat that is stored becomes more accessible. When this stored body fat becomes more accessible, your body begins to take from those fat stores to produce energy. This process ultimately results in weight loss that is targeted at fat instead of muscle.

Cells initiate cellular repair

When fasting, cells will begin a cellular repair process. Within this process is something called autophagy, which is when your cells clear themselves of dysfunctional proteins that can build up within cells. In short, autophagy is an excellent benefit of fasting because it forces your body to clean itself and create energy.

Fights inflammation

Having acute inflammation is normal and aids in fighting off infections. However, chronic inflammation can seriously impact your health by causing heart disease, cancer, or arthritis. Studies have shown that fasting can help to lower levels of inflammation and lead to a higher level of wellbeing.

Enhances heart health

One of the leading causes of death around the world is heart disease, and the most effective way to reduce the risk of heart disease is through diet and lifestyle changes, like incorporating fasting into your life. A study that took 100 obese adults and had them fast for three weeks saw a significant decrease in blood pressure, as well as cholesterol. Another study of 4,629 people credited fasting for their lower risk of coronary artery disease and diabetes.

While fasting, it can help to schedule your fast not only around your lifestyle, work commitments, and exercise routines but also while you are sleeping. This tip will keep you from feeling hungry while you are awake and make the fasting period easier to manage.

The cool part of fasting is that there are certain drinks you can consume during the fast, which will give you a boost to make it to your eating window. However, it is important to note that any liquid that is consumed during fasting must contain zero calories. Some examples include the following:

  • Water
  • Tea
  • Black coffee
  • Bone broth

Many who are fasting rely on bone broth because it has nutrients that serve to help your body during a fast. If you do not like the idea of drinking bone broth, water alone can help to fight off hunger, as well as provide energy.

When not fasting, it is not only important to maintain a somewhat healthy diet, but it is also important to avoid overeating. If overeating occurs during non-fasting periods, then there is a risk of interfering with the benefits fasting has to offer. Worse, you might end up gaining weight instead of losing it. Since fewer calories are being consumed on fasting days, the food you eat should not only be low in calories but should also be high in protein and fibre as those kinds of foods will help you stay full for longer periods.

Fasting not only helps you lose weight, but it can also help keep muscles intact while dieting. The great part about this? Not only will muscle be gained, but body fat will be lost at the same time, allowing for faster and more effective results. Merely cutting out calories as with a regular diet would not provide these same results.

How To Reinforce Fasting Benefits

Now that all the benefits of fasting have been laid out, what can one do to ensure success in their fasting journey? These include:

  • Buy quality food
  • Pay attention to calories, without counting each one
  • Be consistent; you will not succeed with fasting if it is not a long-term change
  • Be patient with yourself and with the process

Should exercise be incorporated while fasting? Yes, absolutely! With fasting, it is especially important to focus your exercise on strength training more so than any other type of workout. During fasting, burning body fat while keeping muscle is the key, and strength training is a great way to accomplish that. Also, strength training during fasting is beneficial to hormone optimization.

While strength training is recommended during fasting, it is essential to schedule your fasting around when you are going to work out. Working out in the morning is the best time because it allows your body to match its natural circadian rhythm, which is your body’s 24-hour internal clock.

Strength training exercises that can be taken advantage of are:

  • Lifting weights
  • Stair workouts
  • Walking hills
  • Cycling
  • Dance
  • Pushups, sit-ups, squats, etc.

Not everyone enjoys strength training. If you are this type of person, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) could be your most viable option.

HITT combines periods of intense activity with 15 to 30 minutes of rest. This kind of training is
efficient and provides benefits that other aerobic exercises cannot offer, including:

  • Boost in human growth hormone
  • Increased strength
  • Increased stamina
  • Improved body composition
  • Increased brain function
  • Better depression management

In 2014, a study showed that intermittent fasting, when paired with exercise and a healthy diet, led to a reduction in body weight of 3-8% over a three-24-week period. These results showed people losing roughly .55 pounds per week when fasting intermittently and 1.65 pounds per week when doing alternate-day fasting. With these results, people also showed a waist circumference loss of 4-7%, meaning they lost belly fat, a common goal for dieters.

These results not only show that fasting can be a great aid in weight loss but if you are going to sign up for alternate-day fasting as opposed to intermittent fasting, the chances of seeing results are higher. Regardless, fasting, in general, can be a great advantage in any weight loss endeavour.

Fasting: Are There Risks Involved?

With all the benefits that intermittent fasting has to offer, it is helpful also to address the safety of this lifestyle change, and if there are any concerns to be aware of. As with anything, if you begin fasting correctly and safely, there are no real issues to be worried about. However, you should not try fasting if you:

  • Have low blood sugar
  • Have a history of an eating disorder
  • Are underweight/at an average weight
  • Are pregnant or nursing

Even if you do not have any of these conditions, it is always a good idea to consult a doctor before making any diet changes. And, as you get further into fasting, make sure to monitor how you feel, and if anything feels off, consult a doctor.

It is normal to feel hungry or weaker than usual as your body adjusts to the fasting lifestyle. Still, extreme hunger, headaches, fainting, or any other symptoms should be addressed if they persist.

Conclusion

While fasting can be a great tool to aid in weight loss, it must be paired with regular exercise and a healthy lifestyle to see long-lasting results. Since fasting allows you to control calorie intake fairly easily, while also changing how the body stores and burns fat, it is a great lifestyle change that can propel your weight loss journey forward. Do some research, pick a fasting plan, and see if it could be the right course for you.


Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • TANNER, S. (2020) How Fasting Helps You Lose Weight [WWW] Available from: https://www.brianmac.co.uk/articles/article597.htm [Accessed

About the Author

Steve Tanner is a freelance journalist.