Weight loss is not just about what you eat; it’s about when you eat. That’s why intermittent fasting can help you reach your weight loss goals. In this post, you will learn all the basics of intermittent fasting for weight loss. Then, I am going to explain how intermittent fasting has helped me lose weight without feeling deprived and I am going to tell you exactly how you can do the same
How to Practice Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting doesn’t restrict calories. Instead, it restricts when you can eat as you cycle through periods of eating and fasting.
Types of Intermittent Fasting
Another reason why intermittent fasting is so effective is that there are many ways to practice it to suit your needs:
- 16/8 Daily fasting: Probably the most common and well-known type of fasting. You fast for 16 hours and eat your meals within 8 hours.
- 20/4 Daily fasting: In this case, you cut your eating window in half. There are many other different variations of daily fasting, and some people even eat all their food within an hour timeframe. However, 16/8 and 20/4 are the two daily fasting choices most often referred to.
- 5:2 Diet: Eat normally for days while restricting your calorie intake to 500-600 calories the remaining two days.
- Eat-Stop-Eat: This type of intermittent fasting requires you to fast for 24 hours each week. You could start after dinner one day and eat dinner the next evening after your 24 hours are up.
Keep in mind that your morning coffee with anything in it will break your fast. If you fast in the morning and want a warm beverage, go for black coffee or tea.
Pick the Right Schedule for You
Most people think that intermittent fasting is about skipping breakfast. Not necessarily. Skipping breakfast works well for many because dinnertime is also a social activity, but if you would rather skip dinner, there is evidence that might be a better option.
Skipping Breakfast or Dinner?
Have you heard the saying Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper? There is some truth to that! A study published in Obesity found that overweight women who ate a large breakfast and a small dinner lost significantly more weight than those who ate the same meals in the opposite order. Not only that, but the women who ate most of their calories earlier in the day reported feeling less hungry. If feeling less hungry and losing more weight seems like a good deal to you, you should consider skipping dinner instead of breakfast.
Fasting Everyday or a Few Times a Week?
Fasting every day might not be the best option in the following situations:
- You are a woman.
- You are over 40.
- You have been practicing intermittent fasting and have hit a weight loss plateau.
In these cases, you might want to consider a longer fast a few times a week. It’s called phasing. Phasing keeps your metabolism guessing. Your body tends to want to keep you at a certain weight, even when that weight is more than what you want or need. That’s why people often gain the weight back after being on any diet for a while. When you change things up regularly, you reduce the chance your body will get used to your new lifestyle.
How Many Hours?
Whether you choose a daily or a weekly fasting type, you will need to decide how many hours you will be fasting. If you have never been on any fast, it makes sense to start slowly. Aim for a 14-hour fast a few times a week and gradually increase to 16 hours and even 20 hours. The length of your fast will also depend on how frequently you are planning to fast. If your goal is weight loss, and you fast only three days a week, you should fast for longer (20-24 hours). If you fast five days a week, 16 hours is excellent.
How Intermittent Fasting Helps You Lose Weight
Studies have shown intermittent fasting can be as effective as calorie restriction for weight loss even though you are not restricting calories when you are practicing intermittent fasting.
Intermittent Fasting Has a Positive Impact On Your Metabolism
Intermittent fasting positively impacts your metabolism in a few ways:
- May attenuate your body’s adaptative response to calorie restriction: Again, it’s the idea of phasing I was mentioning earlier. Your body doesn’t have enough time to adapt to fewer calories.
- Boosts your metabolism: Short term fasting will boost your caloric need rather than decrease it.
- Lowers your insulin levels: Having high insulin levels makes it a lot harder to lose weight. The fact that intermittent fasting decreases your fasting insulin is a huge benefit.
- Increases levels of human growth hormone (HGH): HGH promotes fat burning.
- Leads to a higher amount of norepinephrine in your bloodstream: Norepinephrine is a stress hormone that allows your body to burn more fat.
Intermittent Fasting Reduces Your Appetite
A recent study showed that eating breakfast at 8 am and dinner by 2 pm reduced the levels of ghrelin for the participants. Ghrelin is your hunger hormone. I have to admit that this topic is sometimes contested, but I have experienced a reduced appetite from intermittent fasting myself. It may be due to the fact that during fasting insulin levels decrease. Insulin elevation produces hunger.
Calories Do Matter
If you think intermittent fasting will give you a ticket to weight loss while eating all your favorite treats and desserts, you will be disappointed. Even though intermittent fasting is not about calorie restriction, you still need to pay attention to your caloric needs. Moreover, some foods you eat could be keeping you from achieving the weight loss you desire.
Calories In Calories Out
When I started researching health and wellness over ten years ago, I subscribed to a school of thought that calories don’t matter. Eat whole foods, avoid all junk, and you will lose weight. However, I discovered over the years that sometimes, whole foods are not enough. Weight loss is truly about calories in calories out. Just make sure to not eat less than your resting metabolic need for any length of time. You can use this calorie calculator to help you determine how many calories you should be consuming.
My Experience With Intermittent Fasting
I had been struggling with losing about 10 lbs for years. After turning 40, the issue became more than just losing 10 lbs. I started gaining more weight even though I was eating less and exercising every single day. I was doing all kinds of cleanses and detoxes. Once in a while, I was able to lose 3-5 lbs, but I felt hungry and incredibly deprived.
Recently, I watched a video by Dr. Jason Fung that explains it all. Did you know that when you try to lose weight strictly through calorie deprivation, the feeling of hunger doesn’t go away? Instead,
it only increases with time. No wonder why the traditional approach of losing weight by eating less and exercising more is so ineffective!
So, you feel hungry, yet you keep having to eat less to keep the weight off! If you start eating more again, you will put the weight back on. Why? Because the resting metabolic rate of a 150 lbs woman is lower than that of a 170lbs woman. When you weight less, you need less energy to maintain your metabolic functions. Yet, you are still used to eating a certain amount of food. You feel deprived and hungry. Now, you might know from my 5/2 intermittent fasting video, which I will link here, that I have been using intermittent fasting in conjunction with the fasting mimicking diet. I feel that using fasting mimicking has some added benefits:
- It helps increase cell regeneration and longevity since fasting beyond 3 days has been shown to increase autophagy (your body cleaning out its damaged cells).
- Fasting mimicking once a month has been allowing me to be less strict with intermittent fasting and still experience amazing results. As you may know, the 5/2 intermittent fasting method requires you to eat around 500 calories 2 days a week. I often end up fasting fully only one day a week. After two months, I lost 7 lbs! It is incredible to me since I was never able to lose more than 3-5 lbs before no matter how hard I try. With intermittent fasting,
- I don’t even feel like I am really trying hard. Most of the time (except on fasting days) I eat the whole foods I want.I even eat when I am not hungry sometimes! I did notice that I feel less hungry. It makes sense since intermittent fasting regulates your hunger hormones.
How You Can Use Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss
I recommend you start with one of these two options:
- Start slow with crescendo fasting. Fast for 14-16 hours every second day.
- Eat only 500 calories one or two days a week and see how that feels.
I feel that these are the two most sustainable and effective ways to implement intermittent fasting for women. Women are highly sensitive to hunger hormones. There is a concern that intermittent fasting could impact women’s hormonal health negatively. That’s why any fasting method that doesn’t require a daily fast may be preferable. I will soon create a video about intermittent fasting for women and I will link it here when it’s done, but for now, what you should understand is that for most women fasting for longer but not daily may be preferable.
Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss Troubleshooting
You may have been practicing intermittent fasting for a while and yet are unable to lose the weight. Let me help you troubleshoot, so we can see what you could experiment with to achieve the results you want. Consider these points as you experiment with your fasting strategy:
- Fasting type: As we talked about, there are many different ways to implement intermittent fasting. If the one you have been doing isn’t helping you, try another one.
- Inflammation: Inflammation is often to blame when people can’t lose weight. I know that before I started following the Paleo Diet, I had been trying everything to lose weight (except for intermittent fasting). When I changed my diet, the weight loss came effortlessly. Start with avoiding gluten and dairy at the very least.
- Calories: Make sure you are not eating too many or too few calories. Also, start journaling the food you consume in Fitness Pal, for example. Many of us tend to underestimate how many calories we are eating each day.
- Physical activity: Are you exercising too little or too much? Don’t do intense workouts for more than 2-3 hours a week. You can certainly exercise for 6-7 hours a week, just at a lower intensity.
- Stress: Stress can make it hard to lose weight because it increases your appetite. Try to relax and find activities to refuel your soul even if it’s just a short time each day.
- Poor sleep: Poor sleep will affect your appetite, and your metabolism in a similar way as stress does. If you struggle with poor sleep, contact me, I have found a natural remedy that makes a world of difference.
For more info on what could be causing you to retain the weight, read my Top Reasons Why Weight Loss Isn’t Working.
Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss 101 Video
Intermittent fasting is the most sustainable and effective approach to weight loss. Losing weight exclusively through calorie restriction and exercise is ineffective for 95% of the population because it creates an intense sense of deprivation and increases hunger. However, intermittent fasting helps regulate hunger signals and reduces the feeling of deprivation. Intermittent fasting not only helps achieve weight loss but it makes it possible to keep it off.