There is a market for any type of weight loss diet you may come across. You will be amazed by reading all the weight loss tips and how diverse these are. And fasting is one popular weight loss method.
Fasting is abstinence from eating for a defined period of time. The idea has come from religions, many of which have fasting as a spiritual ritual. Religions claim that fasting helps you control religious and physical discipline and is also a way to understand the suffering of the less privileged who do not have access to food all the time.
Types of fasting
Religiously speaking fasting is not limited to just food. There are different types of fasting. For example, in the Bible, there are four fasting types.
- A regular fast: It is abstinence from food. Drinks are allowed.
- Complete fast: No food as well as drinks allowed.
- Partial fast: Not eating particular food/drinks.
- Sexual fast: Abstaining from love is also a type of fast.
Generally speaking, fasting is a regular practice in religion without a definite end. But there is also another type too which may be similar to regular fast or complete fast. We call it intermittent fasting.
What is intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting is giving up food for a particular time period or for a specific number of days in a week for weight loss. There are different further types of intermittent fasting to lose weight. It all depends on what intermittent fasting schedule you would like to follow.
- 16/8 fasting. You eat for 8 hours and fast for 16 hours a day. For example, you can have dinner at 8 and skip your breakfast and by your lunchtime you have completed intermittent fasting 16/8 requirements.
- 5:2 Diet. You eat normal food for five days and fast for two days of the week to lose weight. These two days need not be consecutive days of the week. And on fasting days, you eat minimum food with calorie range between 500 and 600.
- Eat-Stop-Eat. This is a bit moving towards extreme fasting because you will be fasting for full 24 hours one day or twice a week.
- Alternate day fasting. As the name suggests, you fast every other day. It depends on you if you want to observe complete fast or restrict your food intake to 600 calories.
- The Warrior Diet. It is a daily fasting diet plan. You only eat a huge meal at dinner and do not eat anything during the day. You eat fruits and vegetables (raw) during the day in small quantities.
- Unstructured fasting. This involves not following any fasting plan. You can skip any meal at your convenience.
Benefits of intermittent fasting
Apart from the religious considerations fasting has shown some health benefits too. (1) So here are some intermittent fasting benefits that have been documented in research.
- A study published in 2005 found that intermittent fasting improves brain and cardiovascular functions, decreases risk of artery disease, blood pressure and increases insulin sensitivity. (2)
- Alternate day fasting improves good cholesterol and lowers triglycerides which establishes that it is good for human heart health and lipid profile. (3)
- Another study on fasting found that it led to healthier cholesterol profile readings in fasting people. (4)
Does intermittent fasting work for weight loss?
Intermittent fasting for weight loss has become so popular these days that a lot of health research has focused towards understanding if intermittent fasting results are for real.
Many medical research studies have concluded that fasting has weight loss benefits which should not be surprising because intermittent fasting for weight loss is practically a way of calorie restricted diet which always works for weight loss. (5) The only difference being that calorie restriction diet is followed every day while intermittent fasting is based on calorie restriction that is time of the day or day of the week dependent to lose weight.
So, how long you have to fast before you start burning fat? A research study published in Nutrition Journal found that those following intermittent fasting for two months (one day per week) lost 2.8 kg which also included belly fat.(6)
A 2011 study at the University of Illinois found that you could lose up to 8 percent weight by intermittent fasting every alternate day for three months. (7) The same study shows that benefits of intermittent fasting for fat loss are also established. And you could burn between 11-16 percent of body fat between a period of 3 to 12 weeks. So, that is the answer to the question: how long do you have to fast before you start burning fat?
What should i eat during intermittent fasting to lose weight?
Since you will be restricting your calorie intake severely on intermittent fasting for weight loss, you are sure to feel hungry while you are fasting. There are no recommended foods for intermittent fasting as such.
While it is not possible to eliminate food cravings, it is possible to suppress these by eating foods that will make you feel less hungry.
- Eat high fiber foods during the eating windows. Some of the good examples are oatmeal, whole grain bread, non-starchy vegetables, fruits, beans and nuts, berries, eggs,legumes, and avocado.
- Eat high protein foods. Some of the good examples are chicken, fish, lean meat, tofu and nuts.
- Keep yourself well hydrated. Sometimes it is not hunger but thirst with the feeling of hunger. Drink plenty of water.
- Stay away from any sweetened beverages (even fresh juices). Drink some hunger suppressing drinks like coffee and green tea.
Is it safe?
While intermittent fasting is safe for a healthy person as long as it is not a prolonged extreme version, there are still certain safety considerations you have to keep in mind.
- During the first few days you will surely feel sluggish and sapped of energy. This will improve gradually as the body adjusts.
- Breastfeeding mothers should wait because they need even more calories for milk production.
- Pregnant women should not consider intermittent fasting.
- People with diabetes should go for intermittent fasting only under medical supervision because blood glucose levels may fall dangerously during a fast.
- People who are suffering from any medical condition should invariably consult their doctor before starting this diet.
- Your metabolism slows down during fasting. So you should not take it to extremes because it will become counterproductive as your body will slow down burning calories because it will go into starvation mode.
The bottom line
Intermittent fasting is one of the science backed ways to lose weight that is based on calorie restriction, which is known to be the only consistent way of losing weight. However, you need to still keep eating a balanced diet and keep yourself well hydrated.
Those with any medical conditions should invariably consult their doctor before they try intermittent fasting for weight loss.