If you’ve been actively working to lose weight for a while, you likely already know about intermittent fasting.
Essentially, it’s a diet regimen that cycles between brief periods of fasting. During the periods of fasting, the individual can significantly limit their calorie intake or go without food altogether. Once the fasting period ends, they’re allowed to resume normal eating until the next fasting cycle arrives.
Intermittent fasting is promoted as a means to change body composition through the loss of weight and fat mass. Promoters also say that it improves vital health markers associated with cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
The two questions most people seeking to lose weight ask are;
- Does it work? Can intermittent fasting help you shed pounds?
- What’s the best approach to intermittent fasting?
We’ll mostly focus on the second question – the best approaches to intermittent fasting. However, we must mention that, yes, intermittent fasting works.
A systematic review of 40 studies by the Harvard School of Public Studies shows intermittent fasting is effective for weight loss. Specifically, it shows that participants can lose between 7-11 pounds over 10 weeks.
The review also shows that intermittent fasting is just as effective as calorie restriction. Over six months, people who fast intermittently, alternating between periods of restricted eating and periods of regular eating, lose the same weight as those who restrict their calories to 75% of baseline calories divided over three meals.
Other research findings show that intermittent fasting can also help you lose actual fat, unlike most diets, such as low-calorie diets, that are more concerned with cutting weight. People who fast lose can look forward to losing 4%-7% of waistline fat within 24 weeks.
Meanwhile, calorie restriction may even eat up your muscles, leaving you weak and frail. It’s been shown that calorie-restricting diets can eat up 25% of your muscle mass, compared to just 10% for intermittent fasting.
Six Ways to Fast Intermittently
The great news is that there are several ways to approach intermittent fasting. The following are six popular approaches to consider;
1. The 12/12 approach
This is arguably the easiest way to fast intermittently. All you need to do is divide your day into two parts, each lasting 12 hours. You can eat normally for the first 12 hours. But after that, you’re required to fast for the next 12 hours. It’s an excellent choice for beginners as the fasting window is short. Most people who choose this approach fast from 7.00 pm to 7.00 am daily.
2. The 16/8 approach
This second approach requires fasting for 16 straight hours, after which you can eat normally for the next eight hours before you resume fasting. Women are allowed to modify it to 14 hours of fasting and 10 hours of normal eating. People who choose this approach tend to fast from have their last meal at 8.00 pm, skip breakfast, and have their next meal at noon the following day.
3. Alternate day fasting
Alternate day fasting means fasting every other day. If you eat normally on Monday, you’re required to fast for the entire day on Tuesday and so on. However, there are variations to what you can’t eat on fasting days. While some diets require complete avoidance of solid foods, others allow up to 500 calories. Whichever the approach, participants often lose up to 5.2kgs (just over 11 pounds) in about 12 weeks.
4. The 5:2 approach
The 5/2 approach involves eating normally for five days a week and significantly restricting your calorie intake for the other two days. On the fasting days, the recommended calorie intake is 500 to 600. You can still have breakfast, lunch, and dinner. However, the total calories from the three meals must not exceed 600. It’s best to fast after every 2/3 days.
5. The warrior diet
The warrior diet is a unique intermittent fasting approach that involves restricting your diets to small amounts of raw fruits and vegetables during the day and eating one large meal at night. Essentially, you fast all day, eating only one substantial meal every 24 hours. It’s a highly effective fasting approach with outstanding results. However, it’s only one of the approaches that can be demanding on the body.
6. Spontaneous meal skipping
Finally, an approach that truly defines intermittent fasting is spontaneous meal skipping. Here, you’re not required to follow and pre-defined fasting rules. The only rule is that you must skip a meal every few days. Ideally, you should aim to skip one meal a day. For instance, you can decide to have a heavy breakfast and skip lunch. Some people also choose to skip breakfast. The choice is yours.
It’s the Best Way to Lose Weight
Whichever approach you choose, you’re likely to lose up to 11 pounds within two and a half months without losing your muscles or adverse effects on your energy levels.