Intermittent fasting (IF) is a controversial topic in the health and nutrition community. Most of the media around dieting and weight loss shy away from encouraging “fasting” and instead keep the focus on moderation, encouraging many small meals throughout the day and relatively steady daily calorie consumption.
However, there are health and nutrition professionals who promote, as well as research that demonstrates, the effectiveness of intermittent fasting. While there are various forms, the basic premise is the same: intentionally skipping certain meals or intentionally refraining entirely from eating according to a certain pattern.
Some intermittent fasting (IF) plans follow a time-based approach. When following these plans, you might, for example, eat only between noon and 5 pm. The specific times of the day and hours of the allowed eating period vary, and it’s best to consult your doctor, nutritionist, or other weight loss advisor, but whatever the variation, you will refrain entirely from eating during the “off hours.” Other IF plans suggest a full day of fasting, typically 24 hours, from one evening to another.
Proponents of IF plans point to the way that our bodies use energy as rationale for why this plan works, both for those looking to lose weight or maintain. When we eat, our body will typically use the energy from the meal that has just been consumed. This “fuel” is quickly and easily accessible (especially if the meal was heavy in carbohydrates). Whatever is not used is stored, as fat or glycogen. Some stored fat is a good thing – fat cushions and protects our bones and muscles and promotes the growth and health of our tissues and organs.
However, the average American has more stored fat than necessary, due to consuming more calories than the body can or needs to burn. On an IF plan, you intentionally deprive your body of calories at particular times instead of continuously supplying it with quick fuel from meals, with the idea that it will then be necessary for the body to turn to fat stores for energy.
Insulin also plays an important role in IF plans. We want our bodies to be insulin-sensitive; that is, we want them to produce just the right amount, not too much and not too little. Higher insulin sensitivity essentially means improved metabolic efficiency. According to the research supporting IF, fasting increases insulin sensitivity, so after a period of fasting, our body is primed to use any food that is consumed in the most efficient way possible – burned immediately, stored as glycogen, and only in minimal amounts, stored as fat.
You can see then how alternating periods of fasting and eating would, according to this theory, lead to fat loss.
Intermittent fasting is not for everyone, but under the supervision of a health or nutrition professional, it may help you reach your weight loss goals.