INTERMITTENT FASTING FOR WEIGHT LOSS
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Intermittent fasting might be your very best approach to weight loss. If you have known me for a while now, you will know that I love intermittent fasting so much. It fits right into my lifestyle and my busy schedule as a Medical Doctor and a Weightloss Coach.
My two jobs are pretty time consuming so eating 6 times a day is definitely a no go area for me.
I have tried eating 5-6 times a day with no lasting success. Sometimes I will pack my meals to work and I will not even get a 5-minute break to eat my food. I will come back home with my food flask untouched but with intermittent fasting, I don’t even bother.
It saves me time, energy and money. In fact, the moment I discovered how to make Intermittent fasting work for me, My life has not remained the same.
The constant thinking of what to eat, is this compliant etc, became a thing of the past.
Now, I’m not saying that Intermittent fasting is for everybody and I will talk about those who should avoid intermittent fasting later on in this article but trust me, Intermittent fasting is a lifesaver! You can take that to the bank.
What Intermittent Fasting is not?
Intermittent fasting is not the same thing as starvation. On intermittent fasting, you’re still going to eat the number of calories expected for you in a day.
Some people also believe that intermittent fasting is the same thing as skipping breakfast. That’s not true.
As you will learn later on in the article, Intermittent Fasting is all about flexibility. That’s the main goal for most of us anyway. A restrictive diet is something you definitely don’t want if you want to lose weight sustainably.
So what is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting(IF) is an amazing way to lose weight, improve your health and more importantly simplify your lifestyle.
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that cycles between periods of fasting and eating. It doesn’t dwell too much on what you should eat, rather when you should eat them. Hence, it’s not a restrictive diet per se, it’s a way of eating. (1)
Let’s take a walk down memory lane. Our Great Grandparents did not eat 6 times a day. They eat in the morning, go to work and then come back home to eat again.
There were no supermarkets, refrigerators, food available all year round or genetically created foods like we have today. It was more natural to function without food for extended periods of time.
If you are looking for a more flexible way to eat healthy while losing weight, then intermittent fasting is for you.
How does Intermittent Fasting works/The science behind intermittent fasting
CALORIE DEFICIT/REDUCED CALORIC INTAKE
Like every eating pattern, the goal is a calorie deficit. Intermittent Fasting just allows you to do it on your own terms.
It is assumed that eating within a particular window period and fasting for the rest of the day ultimately help you reduce your caloric intake for the day. But sometimes people tend to overeat during the eating window so they end up not getting their desired result.
Intermittent fasting aside, have you ever wondered why some people lose weight during a religious fast while some other people gain weight?
It’s all about the number of calories being consumed during the eating period.
During the eating period, ensure you’re not overeating or the whole purpose is defeated.
INTERMITTENT FASTING CHANGES HORMONE LEVELS TO FACILITATE WEIGHT LOSS
Ideally, when you eat, the food gets broken down into nutrients needed by the body. These nutrients are made available for use by a hormone called Insulin. So every time you eat, your insulin level increases so that the nutrients from your food will be made available for use.
The problem with having a consistently elevated Insulin is that it can lead to Insulin resistant which is a topic for another day.
While on Intermittent fasting, however, you’re able to lower Insulin level because you’re not eating too frequently.
When your Insulin level is low, you’re able to utilize stored fat for energy.
There’s also an increased level of human growth hormone levels. Human growth hormone helps you burn more calories thereby utilizing stored body fat.
Another very important feature is that there is an increase in the fat burning hormone called norepinephrine.
Because of these changes in hormones, some studies have shown that short term fasting may increase your metabolic rate by 3.6% – 14%.
Please keep in mind that if you binge and eat massive amounts during your eating periods, you may not lose weight at all.
Apart from weight loss, Intermittent fasting may also reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes. This study(2) showed that a safe, tolerable, dietary intervention in T2DM patients that may improve key outcomes including body weight, fasting glucose, and postprandial variability.
Intermittent fasting also helps to reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer.
Types of Intermittent Fasting
Essentially, there are about 6 different types of Intermittent Fasting.
THE 16/8 METHOD OF INTERMITTENT FASTING
This simply means fast for 16 hours and eat within an 8 hour window period. This means that there have to be 16 hours between your last meal and your next meal.
This can mean fasting from 8 pm till 12noon the next day or from 6 pm to 10 am the next day. Essentially, you’re simply skipping breakfast or dinner.
Feel free to pick your hours. Whatever works for you really. You are in charge!
Within your 8 hours eating window, you can fit in 2 or more meals depending on your preference.
For people who get hungry in the morning and like to eat breakfast, you can stick to early hours such as a 10am-6pm regime. But if you don’t enjoy eating breakfast on a good day, you can totally start eating from noon and stop eating by 8 pm.
Once your body gets used to the 16/8 regimen, you can add 2 more hours to the fasting period and do the 18/6 regimen.
WARRIOR DIET: 20/4 REGIMEN
You can take the 16/8 regimen up a notch by extending the hours to 20:4. This is very good for those who don’t mind eating one major meal in a day or people with 8-4 jobs and prefer eating when they get home from work.
I do recommend dipping your feet in the waters with a 16/8 method first.
THE 5:2 DIET
This simply means fast for 2 days in a week. You eat your normal daily caloric requirement for 5 days and reduce your caloric intake to 500-600 calories in 2 days. I talked about how to calculate your daily caloric intake here On the fasting days, it is recommended that women eat 500 calories while men eat 600 calories.
When breaking on your fast on these two days of the week, ensure that you are really not overeating, else the whole purpose will be defeated.
EAT STOP EAT
This entails doing 24 hours fast once or twice a week. For example, if you finish dinner on Wednesday at 8 pm today, don’t eat anything until 8 pm tomorrow.
You can also fast from breakfast to breakfast or lunch to lunch. Remember, we are talking about YOU here! YOU define your hours.
The problem with this method is that a full 24 hour fast can be difficult for most people so I suggest starting with 16/8 regimen or the warrior diet.
ALTERNATE DAY FASTING
This means fasting every other day. You can eat 500 calories during the fasting days to make this easy. A full fast on alternate days is extreme and quite unsustainable in my own opinion but hey, whatever works for you.
SPONTANEOUSLY SKIPPING MEALS
This simply means you don’t have to eat when you’re not hungry. In fact, 5-6 meals a day is not convenient for a lot of people. If you are looking for how to simplify your life on this journey, intermittent fasting is the answer.
How do you start intermittent fasting?
I usually encourage my clients who are transitioning from being 100% unhealthy to start with a low carb diet. This will help to curb cravings before starting intermittent fasting.
If you have mostly been living on junks, I suggest you do a low carb diet for one week before starting intermittent fasting.
Starting intermittent fasting just like that, might make you give up quickly due to hunger and cravings.
If you have been on a healthy diet, you can start with the 16/8 regimen. Use the first one week to get used to the regimen by increasing the time you normally eat by one hour daily. What do I mean by that?
If you normally eat your breakfast by 8 am and you want to start having it by 12noon, move it back by one hour each day i.e. 9 am today, 10 am tomorrow…..till you get to 12noon.
You can go at any pace you want as long as you bear in mind that adopting a healthy lifestyle is a marathon and not a sprint. You’re your own competition so just do what works for you.
How many hours should you fast intermittently?
This totally depends on the number of hours you are most comfortable with. Some people start with 16 hours fast and then progress to 20 hours only to realize that they are more comfortable with the 16 hours fast while some people are comfortable with the 5/2 regimen.
I say, decide on the number of hours you’re comfortable with and stick to that.
Is 12-hours fasting enough?
I get this question a lot!
First, I want to say that Intermittent fasting is just one of the ways you can lose weight. It’s not the only way. If you think intermittent fasting will not fit into your lifestyle, that’s okay. There is a plan for everybody. Just explore other options.
Now to answer this question, I will say that 12 hours of fasting is usually not good enough from my personal experience and working with Clients. Even though there are lots of controversy on this, from experience I’ve seen that 12 hours gives people more room to eat and that defeats the whole purpose of regulating Insulin levels.
Additionally, change occurs outside the comfort zone. Most of us are already used to 12 hours iish kind of fast. Don’t forget that sleep takes 8hours out of the 12 hours. For lots of people, a typical fast will mean to eat your last meal at 8 pm, fast for 12 hours and then eat the next meal by 8 pm. This gives you 12 hours to eat 3 square meals and a snack in between! Your best bet is 16 hours fast. Like I explained above, you can work your way there gradually.
What can you eat or drink while doing intermittent fasting?
These are my top recommendations – During your fast, you can take water, green tea, black coffee, bone broth, sugar-free gum, lime/lemon infused water, supplements or your medications.
Some people believe that if you keep your calorie intake below 20 calories, you are not likely going to break your fast but I suggest you pretty much just stick to the foods I’ve mentioned and you will be fine.
You have to individualize it though and stick with the ones you’re comfortable with.
Can I drink lemon water while doing intermittent fasting?
Like I explained above, lime/lemon infused water is okay during your fast. Not because it will do anything magical but because it will help with your water intake.
The goal is to drink 2-3l of water per day which might be a bit more difficult to achieve when you’re fasting.
My quick tip to prevent tip to stay hydrated while fasting is to be intentional with your water intake. Start your day with 500ml of water. This can be in the form of plain water, fruit infused water or tea. Then, keep going by taking little sips throughout the day.
Therefore, if you want to drink lemon/lime in water or any form of detox water, please go for it.
Can you chew gum during Intermittent fasting?
Some people like to buy time by chewing gum before their eating window. A sugar-free gum such as Orbit, Menthos, Clorets, Eclipse, Airwaves, Xyloburst etc.
However, some people feel more hungry or bloated while chewing gum. If this is you, then it’s best to stick with tea, fruit infused water or water.
How much weight can you lose with intermittent fasting?
This totally depends on a lot of factors. The major one being whether despite your fast you’re in a calorie deficit. I explained how to achieve a caloric deficit here
Other factors that make how much weight you can lose with Intermittent fasting vary includes your present weight – The bigger your weight, the easier it is for the pounds to fall off. Your age, genetics, and metabolism may also play a role.
But, I can assure you that if you’re in a calorie deficit on Intermittent fasting for one month, you will definitely lose a dress size. How cool is that?
Is Intermittent fasting safe for breastfeeding mums
This is a bit controversial but I’ve had breastfeeding mums do really well on the 16/8 regimen with no compromise to their breast milk supply. In fact, most of my clients prefer it to drinking loads of smoothies and vegetables because they believe too much vegetable make their baby stool more frequently.
A few tips to help you if you want to explore intermittent fasting
Listen to your body
Please listen to your body. If you were up all night because your baby did not allow you to sleep and you don’t have the energy to fast. That’s okay. Please eat. If you feel better during the course of the day, then you can stop eating early.
As long as you’re not too rigid with your eating window, you should be fine.
- Drink plenty of water!!!
Because a lot of people don’t drink enough water during their fast, they have the tendency to be dehydrated. This is one of the reasons why some experts do not encourage breastfeeding Mums to try intermittent fasting. Please make sure you’re drinking nothing less than 3l per day.
You can also take teas such as fennel tea, fenugreek tea, and other lactation teas. But, you definitely want to avoid all these fake green teas they sell in Naija because most of them contain caffeine which is not good for you or your baby.
Keto diet and Intermittent Fasting
Combining Intermittent fasting with keto can accelerate your weight loss success because on a keto diet, you stop eating carbs and 65% -75% of your caloric intake comes from fat.
While I don’t encourage the keto diet for most people, I also don’t encourage low-fat diet. A moderate amount of fat is a sweet spot.
There are amazing benefits of eating moderate fat and I talked about it here
But I will mention a few below:
YOUR CRAVINGS IS REDUCED TO THE BAREST MINIMUM
Fat doesn’t spike your blood sugar levels. In fact, a keto diet is so effective at stabilizing blood sugar because most of the foods have a very low glycemic index. If you pair a keto diet with fasting, your blood sugar will stay stable all day. Say goodbye to the cravings, fatigue, and mood swings that make high-carb fasting so difficult.
YOU RARELY FEEL HUNGRY DURING YOUR FAST
On a keto diet, your hunger hormones are regulated therefore, you can go longer without eating and you won’t get hungry. A meal high in protein and fat suppresses the level of an hormone called ghrelin which is an hunger hormone that makes you hungry consistently. Fasting becomes significantly easier on keto so you can fast for longer windows to reap all the amazing benefits.
Having talked about the benefits of Keto diet and Intermittent fasting, I need you to know that you don’t need a keto diet to get a tremendous result on Intermittent fasting. A lot of my clients get amazing results on a moderate carb diet.
How long will it take to see results on Intermittent fasting?
From my personal experience and working with Clients, most people lose weight within one week of starting Intermittent fasting. Yes! It’s that good. So far, I’ve recorded a range of 1-7kg loss within one week.
A lot of factors are definitely into play such as your current weight, your rate of metabolism, incorporating exercise etc.
As long as you’re in a calorie deficit, just be consistent and watch the weight fall off.
How many times a week should I do intermittent fasting to see result?
I recommend you start with the 16:8 regimen and that’s pretty much easy to do daily. In fact, it is now a way of life for a lot of people.
If you want to do 24 hours fast though, 2 days a week is fine. While eating a moderate caloric diet on the days you’re not fasting. This simply means that if you overeat on the days you’re not fasting, you might not get your desired result.
Can Intermittent fasting cause ulcer?
Peptic ulcer is mostly caused by a bacteria called Helicobacter pylori. Any other thing that will cause increased acid production and a reduced protective coat of the stomach.
Intermittent fasting doesn’t cause ulcer but it can aggravate stomach pain if you already have an ulcer. If you have ulcer, it’s best not to exceed 16:8 regimen. Even at that, you need to phase your diet.
What are the side effects of intermittent fasting?
Some people complain of hunger especially during the first week of intermittent fasting. This is common among people who just transitioned from eating processed foods and junks to intermittent fasting.
They may also feel weak and experience reduced productivity during the first few days.
This is usually temporary, and it can be prevented if you go on a low carb diet for about a week. This will help regulate your hormones before starting intermittent fasting.
If you are on any medication or you have any of the medical condition listed below, please consult with your doctor before trying intermittent fasting.
- Have diabetes.
- Have low blood pressure.
- Are underweight.
- Have a history of eating disorders.
- A woman who is trying to conceive.
- History of amenorrhea.
- Are pregnant or breastfeeding.
All that being said, intermittent fasting is very safe. A lot us do 40 days religious fasting with no adverse effect on our health. There is nothing dangerous about not eating for a while if you’re healthy and well-nourished overall.
How to Succeed With an Intermittent Fasting Protocol
I love intermittent fasting because it makes life easy for me. Sometimes I may not eat all day because I’m busy seeing patients. Intermittent fasting accommodates my crazy schedule. It makes things easier as I don’t need to plan, cook or clean up after as many meals as before.
To succeed, however, you need to be in caloric deficit. If you are overeating during your eating window, you will not get the desired result you want,
A really good tip to get you through week one if you’re a newbie is to make sure your week is occupied. Idleness and boredom make most people think more about food than they will when they have a lot to do.
Engage yourself, read a book, visit a friend, go for a spa etc. Don’t forget that you can take water, healthy teas, sugar-free gum etc during your fast.
You can do this!
It’s important to note that intermittent fasting is one of the numerous ways to achieve your weight loss goal. If this will not fit into your lifestyle, be sure to explore other options.
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