As we mentioned in a previous article, intermittent fasting (IF) is currently one of the hottest wellness trends. Essentially, IF is a health and fitness regimen that involves calculated periods of fasting and eating. While research positively points to IF as being a great method for burning fat, various studies have found that its benefits reach far beyond weight loss. For example, studies have shown that IF can improve brain health, slow tumor growth in cancer patients and even add years to one's life. Like any diet, though, IF methods and results vary. Here’s a look at what each method requires, and how you can benefit from jumping on the IF bandwagon.
The Fast/Feast Method
When you go on a diet, the leptin-hormone controlling satiety levels drop, which actually slows down fat loss. When you overeat (AKA feast or cheat), your leptin levels get bumped back up. The bump increases the rate of fat loss. That said, when you schedule a fasting day immediately following a cheat (feast) day, it prevents fat gain from the overeating by creating a caloric deficit. It also allows you to reap the benefits of the increased leptin levels.
The most difficult part about this method is that the fast lasts well over 24 hours. For instance, if you feast on a Sunday, your next meal wouldn’t be until Tuesday morning. This can be extremely difficult, but like any diet it becomes easier over time.
The 24 Hour Fast Method (AKA Eat Stop Eat)
With this method, you fast for exactly 24 hours. For example, if you eat at 8PM on a Sunday, your next meal would take place at 8PM that Monday. This can be done up to 3 times per week, but is most commonly done twice per week. Many people find success with this method because it’s so cut and dry. Literally the only rule is that you can’t eat for 24 hours. That’s it.
Like the other methods, the benefit of the 24 Hour Fast is primarily the caloric deficit you force yourself into during the fast. If you add a regular exercise routine on top of the deficit, it can be easy to see consistent weight loss with this method.
The 20 Hour Fast Method (Warrior Diet)
This method calls for a 20-hour fast followed by a 4-hour feeding period. With the 20-hour fast, it’s more about when you eat than what you’re eating. Since you’re essentially just have one meal per day (typically around dinner time), you can eat “junk” food and potentially still see weight loss. That is, as long as you get enough protein.
While it may sound like the dream diet, it can actually be tricky. Trying to get all of your “meals” into a 4-hour window can lead to discomfort. Additionally, it can lead to eating less wholesome foods which can arguably be bad for your overall health in the long run. On a positive note, though, you only have to worry about cooking once per day!
The 16/8 Fast Method (AKA Lean Gains)
One of the most popular IF methods (and most sophisticated), the 16/8 method includes 16 hours of fasting in a day and an 8-hour eating window. Since you technically fast while you sleep, a great way to abide by this rule is to eat your first meal at noon at your last at 8PM. This method is much more realistic for many, as the longest they have to fast is 16 hours - and for much of that they’re sleeping! In addition to the weight loss benefits, the infrequency of meals that this method calls for can actually make you feel fuller for longer periods of time.
Like any other fitness regimen, IF has its ups and downs. However, for those who enjoy indulging here and there, it's a solid option. If you decide to give it a try, let us know how it goes! We'd love to hear your results in the comments section.