Intermittent fasting for weight loss
Can fasting help you achieve your weight loss goals?
Intermittent fasting has become a popular option for people wanting to lose weight. Accredited Practising Dietitian Ashleigh Jones explains some common questions about what intermittent fasting is all about, and whether it’s the right approach for you.
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting has become a very popular health and fitness trend in the last few years, particularly amongst people who trying to lose weight. This trend has lots of different names, including IF, intermittent eating or time-restricted eating, 5:2, 16:8 or even LeanGains.
The term “fasting” means, “to abstain from food”. Intermittent fasting, involves going without food for a period of time. Most of us already practice a certain amount of fasting without even trying, as we avoid food during the hours we are asleep! However, intermittent fasting takes things to the next level. Instead of avoiding food for only the 8 hours we are sleeping, people who practice intermittent fasting will abstain from food for 14 hours or more.
What are the different kinds of fasting?
There are many different approaches to intermittent fasting. Some people restrict their eating to only a small window of time each day – the 16:8 approach is an example of this. Others might follow a 5:2 method, where they have two “fasting” days each week, during which they heavily restrict their Calorie intake, and then eat normally on the remaining five days of the week.
Does intermittent fasting lead to weight loss?
In order to lose weight, we need to create a calorie deficit, which means consuming fewer calories than we burn. Some people use intermittent fasting as a weight loss tool. If you follow a 16:8 or 14:10 time-restricted eating approach, you will find that you have fewer opportunities to snack on less healthy foods. This can help you to eat less calories overall, which can lead to weight loss. When you follow a 5:2 approach, with two “fasting days” each week, you can achieve a calorie deficit over the course of the week which leads to weight loss.
It’s important to note that intermittent fasting will not always lead to weight loss for all people. Even if you are restricting your eating time to an 8 hour window each day, it’s possible to eat enough calories to gain or maintain weight. Similarly, if you are calorie restricting on two days per week, it’s possible to eat enough calories on the remaining 5 days each week that you do not lose weight, or even manage to gain weight.
What are the benefits of intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is not ideal for all people, but it can be a helpful tool for people who struggle with portion control or late night eating and drinking. It can teach some good habits, and help to break the cycle with snacking. Intermittent fasting can be helpful for people who find it’s easier to stick to a healthy eating plan if they know they only need to “diet” for two days each week, such as the 5:2 approach, or only eat within a set number of hours, such as 16:8 or 14:10.
Who should avoid intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is not recommend for people who are pregnant, have insulin-dependent diabetes and are at risk of low blood sugar (“hypos”), a history of disordered eating, or are malnourished or are underweight. If you have a medical condition, talk to your GP or Accredited Practising Dietitian before getting started to find out whether intermittent fasting/eating is the right approach for you.
Do I need to fast to lose weight?
No, the latest studies show that how much you eat matters far more than when you eat. When it comes to weight loss, intermittent fasting can be better than doing nothing at all, but if your calories are controlled it doesn’t matter when you eat them. However, intermittent fasting can help kick start your weight loss which can keep you motivated in the first couple of weeks of starting a new diet.
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