Some fad diets do aid weight loss. Everyone knows someone who lost 10 lbs in two weeks doing some kind of new, strange and incredibly specific diet plan; whether it be by following Atkins or Paleo, the more extreme Military Diet, or even the Baby Food Diet.
But, the problem with fad diets like these is that, ultimately, they are difficult, if not impossible, to follow over the long term because of a range of factors; some are difficult to follow, others involve eating unpleasant foods, some are incredibly expensive, and for some, sourcing and preparing the ingredients can only be achieved at great expense or great effort. Some will also leave consumers feeling fatigued, ravenously hungry, and grumpy, or can cause side effects including constipation, diarrhoea, bad breath, nausea, and headaches. The worst problem with fad diets, however, is that once the consumer is no longer following the diet (either because they quit or because the crash diet was only supposed to last for a few days or weeks), they put most or all of the weight back on again!
In short, fad diets suck.
Instead of trying to restrict what we eat, some studies and a growing group of ardent supporters suggest that we should be restricting WHEN we eat. Intermittent Fasting has boomed in the past few years, as a weight loss method and a life style to boost general health. There are numerous different ways to incorporate intermittent fasting into your life; some may be more suitable for some people than others. Below we have outlined some of the most popular ways of fasting, and the pros and cons of each method. We also go into some of the wider benefits of fasting, as well as to see exactly how intermittent fasting can aid weight loss.
5:2 or “The Fast Diet”
The 5:2 diet reached its peak popularity in 2013 after the book The Fast Diet was released, and at the time it was hailed as the diet plan to end all fad diets. The philosophy of 5:2 is simple; you spend five days of the week eating normally, and for two days each week you eat a very calorie restricted diet. The Fast Diet recommended that men consume 600 calories on their fast days, whilst women consume 500 calories on their fast days. The two fast days per week do not have to be on any particular days of the week, nor do they have to be in a row, making it relatively flexible. The most important part of this method of fasting is ensuring that you do not overeat or binge on non-fast days!
The Fast Diet Book included some recipes and meal plans to get you started, but this is far from required reading. There are lots of websites featuring ideas of what to eat on fast days, and there are plenty of online forums and support groups that share recipes and advice.
The most difficult part of 5:2 appears to not be hunger, but the inconsistency of fasting two days out of five. For people who like to follow a set routine, or need a repetition to stick to a new habit, 5:2 might not be ideal.
16/8 Fasting involves fasting for around 16 hours per day, leaving an eight hour window in which to eat the day’s food. This might appear difficult at first glance, but consider how long you normally fast for between your last meal of the night and your first meal the next day; if you don’t snack after dinner and get eight hours of sleep before enjoying breakfast, you might be fasting for 12 hours each day already.
You will also be glad to know that some more flexible followers suggest that you can have between fourteen and sixteen hours of fasting each day, with an eight to ten hour window to eat in. You can still drink water and calorie-free drinks, such as black tea or coffee, throughout the fast period.
The 16/8 method of fasting helps to boost weight loss in several ways; it helps to stop mindless snacking by limiting the hours in which you can eat, which will limit calorific intake. It also helps to run down each cell’s glucose supply for a few hours, letting the body easily switch over to burning stored body fat to use as its primary fuel source. This process is called ketosis. If done correctly, you will literally be burning fat in your sleep!
The Wolverine Diet
There are diet plans that take the 16/8 model and restrict it even more. One of the most severe ones, called the Wolverine Diet, was most famously followed by Hugh Jackman to get into shape each time he played Wolverine. This diet essentially banned carbohydrates, the food choices were incredibly restricted, and also required a gruelling exercise schedule. Some sources also claim that Hugh Jackman also had to consume between 4000 and 5000 calories daily in order to bulk up so much.
A lot of the information about 16/8 refers back to the Wolverine Diet, making it seem as if it is both extreme and a diet plan; 16/8 is just another method of fasting, that can be combined with any eating plan you want. We recommend either two regular sized meals or three smaller meals per day.
But how does IF actually aid weight loss?
We have already mentioned how fasting patterns lead to consuming less calories overall. But science is increasingly revealing other ways that Intermittent Fasting could help to boost weight loss efforts.
Studies suggest that short bouts of fasting can actually increase the body’s metabolic rate, meaning more calories burned overall. This study found that the participants metabolic rates increased by an average of 3.6%, which is a significant increase!
Human Growth Hormone
When fasting, Human Growth Hormone levels in the bloodstream increase; increased levels of Human Growth Hormone has been associated with improved fat burning processes, but also with improved muscle gains. So when combined with muscle building exercises, fasting can be making you leaner and stronger.
A higher success rate than fad diets
Studies show that (statistically) people are more successful at sticking with an intermittent fasting pattern of eating than they are at sticking to “calorie restriction”, AKA dieting. The review of these studies looked at common types of diet plans, avoiding more bizarre fad diets, which are not typically looked at in weight loss studies (and typically have even worse success rates). Ultimately, being able to fast as a lifestyle choice, rather than as a temporary measure, means that you are more likely to succeed and reach your weight goals in the long run, compared to repeatedly giving up on individual weight loss measures.
Benefits beyond weight loss
Intermittent Fasting has numerous other benefits, beyond just weight loss.
Studies also suggest that intermittent fasting can improve blood pressure, lower both total and LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol) levels, and lower blood triglycerides.
Insulin resistance and Insulin sensitivity
Insulin resistance is a precursor to type II diabetes, but it is reversible if caught in time! If you have been diagnosed as insulin resistant, you should be undertaking as many positive lifestyle changes as possible to minimise the chances of developing type II diabetes. One study showed that when eating after a period of fasting, the body is more sensitive to insulin, meaning that it could regulate blood glucose levels more easily.
Theoretically, intermittent fasting could be suitable to be followed by diabetics, but only with approval from and close supervision by their doctor.
Not all studies are conducted in humans; preliminary studies are often conducted in mice and rats. One study found that overweight mice following intermittent fasting did better in learning and memory testing than mice that did not follow the same feeding pattern. They also had what researchers described as improved brain structures. It is definitely possible that this can also apply to humans too, although studies need to be conducted to prove this conclusively.
Overall, it is clear that there are numerous benefits to Intermittent Fasting, but it is far from a cure-all! Our advice; give up on trying fad diets out, stick with healthy moderate eating, and consider the possibility of fitting your healthy eating into an intermittent fasting framework.
Disclaimer: Our reviews and investigations are based on extensive research from the information publicly available to us and consumers at the time of first publishing the post. Information is based on our personal opinion and whilst we endeavour to ensure information is up-to-date, manufacturers do from time to time change their products and future research may disagree with our findings. If you feel any of the information is inaccurate, please contact us and we will review the information provided.