Intermittent fasting (IF) is by no means a new ‘fad diet.’ In fact, IF has been around throughout human evolution and is still used in many spiritual practises. Hunters and gathers would often go for extended periods of time without eating, as there was simply no food available. As such, our bodies have actually become accustomed to going long periods without food. However, in modern society, we are so used to eating on a regular basis, we often don’t know what it feels like to be hungry and as such our ability to cope with this feeling is generally limited.
Basically, IF involves not eating, or eating very little food for a period of time. The theory is, if you stop eating for a period of time, it allows the body to burn off its excess fat, as it does not have access to food as a fuel source.
Some common methods used are:
This involves eating normally for 5 days, generally a balanced, Mediterranean style diet, followed by eating a calorie restricted diet for 2 days. Commonly on the fasting days you eat between 500-600 calories. This diet generally doesn’t tell you what to eat, its more focused on the times your eat and the calorie intake. Meaning you could technically get your calories from cake or chocolate, as long as you don’t go over the recommended amount. This can cause issues, as your body may not be getting this nutrients and vitamins it needs from food, due to the restriction in calories.
This IF diet restricts the time you are able to consume food to just 8 hours a day. This might mean consuming your first meal from 10am and eating your last meal before 6pm. Similar to the 5:2 diet, 16/8 is not as focused on what you are eating, more so what time you are eating.
Things to consider:
Results indicate that most people on an IF do experience weight lose, however they also experience muscle lose. Also, the weight lose tends to plateau as the body adjusts to the new eating plan. It is recommended that you have a high protein intake and continue strength training while undertaking this diet.
No counting calories
This diet allows you to continue with your regular eating habits, simply adjusting the hours you eat. This can be seen as both a positive and a negative, positive as you don’t have to make diet changes, negative because you may be continuing to make poor diet choices. This may mean your body is not getting the nutrients it requires and you will more than likely regain the weight once you stop fasting.
May lead to overeating
Fasting for a period of time can leave you feeling ravenous and starving for that first meal. This can lead to overeating and large portions when it comes to finally breaking the fast period. It is important to plan that first meal and pace yourself.
Can be difficult to maintain lifestyle
Many social activities can centre around food. Undertaking IF may leave you feeling isolated from social occasions and difficult to maintain.
So does it work?
The evidence on this varied. It seems people lose weight at the beginning, but there is little information to suggest that is maintainable and effective long-term.
I used myself as a guinea pig and undertook the 16:8 diet, so I only ate for 8 hours a day for 2 weeks. Honestly, it left me feeling exhausted, hungry and weak. As someone who likes strength training, I found that my training suffered while I was on the diet. This was because I wasn’t able to train to my full capabilities due to having no fuel. I did lose about 2kg, but as soon as I went off the diet it came back on straight away, so chances are it was just water weight.
I think it you want to use this diet to kickstart your weight lose, then go for it. I’m sure about its long term benefits though…