If you are a fitness fan then you may be familiar with the idea of intermittent fasting. If you are not it is a pretty simple idea. It does exactly what it says on the tin. You fast for periods followed by windows where you are allowed to eat.
Intermittent fasting is a fairly trendy weight loss plan at the moment and a lot of people are giving it a try, but what is the science behind it? Is it just another fad? Is it the answer to getting the body you want just in time for summer? Let’s take a look.
How it works
Well, we could go for a deep scientific breakdown of the supposed chemistry behind Intermittent fasting but it’s probably easier to keep it simple. When you “fast” or in other words, go for long periods without eating, your body sugar naturally drops. Your bodies response to this is to start pumping out chemicals that break down fats into sugars. Pro-tip for weight loss, the breaking down of fat is a goods thing.
How do I do it?
A really popular place to start is by trying the 16/8 split. This where you fast for 16 hours drinking only water and black coffee (which has negligible calories and has the added bonus of being an appetite suppressant). And then eat during an 8-hour window. This is fairly straight forward and can often be accomplished just by skipping breakfast.
A bit more hardcore is progressing to the warrior diet. Similarly you only really eat during a four-hour window. So perhaps a late lunch followed by an early dinner. However, you are allowed to eat some raw veg and fruit during the day so the fast isn’t quite so strict.
At the other end of the scale is the 5/2 diet where you do two 24 hour fasts in the space of a week or the alternate day routine where you fast for a day and then eat normally for a day.
One of the biggest criticisms levelled at IF is “won’t the body go into starvation mode”? while there is such a thing as a starvation mode where the bodies metabolism slows right down because it is worried about using up all of its energy supply, this does not happen after a day! This does also not tend to happen to people who have a large surplus of fat! And even though it does slow your metabolism down, in a hundred percent of studies creating a calorific deficit results in weight loss.
Loss of muscle mass
Again I don’t want to delve into too much-complicated science but one of the proteins released by your body when fasting is a substance called epinephrine which prevents the breakdown of lean muscle, however, this effect only lasts for about 72 hours. Fortunately, none of the IF fasts last that long. However, with fasting, some people have struggled to get the required calorie intake to bulk. But if you are using IF that is probably not what you are trying to achieve anyway.
Should I do this diet?
There are health benefits and some studies to back up Intermittent fasting. However, as with any diet it is always worth consulting your local doctor if you are worried. Ultimately skipping the odd meal isn’t going to hurt you. And training your body to not give off hunger signals so regularly can only be of benefit to you. Intermittent fasting coupled with a healthy balanced diet could lead to better losses if that is what you are trying to achieve. However, if you are looking to build muscle tissue it might not be the right diet for you.