Is Intermittent Fasting More Effective for Losing Weight than Dieting?
By: Jane Sandwood
Can you go from 8pm until noon the next day without eating? For most of us, that’s no problem. This is one method of intermittent fasting. But, does fasting help with weight loss? And, does it do a better job than traditional diets? We will answer these questions and more below.
How Does Intermittent Fasting Work?
There is a broad range of methods for intermittent fasting. One of the most popular alternatives is the 5:2 diet. This basically entails eating normally for five days out of the week and “fasting” (taking in 500 to 600 calories per day) for two nonconsecutive days. According to a research professor of medicine, Dr. Luigi Fontana at Washington University School of Medicine, this strategy can assist you in losing weight and cutting calories successfully if you can stick with it. He noted that fasting can cut up to a quarter of your overall calorie intake over the course of a week.
The problem is that some intermittent fasters end up binging on the non-fast days. You might be able to avoid this problem. Dr. Fontana found in his preliminary data that people found intermittent fasting much easier than reducing calories at each meal. On the other hand, some individuals can easily fall into the habit of overeating after their fast. This can lead to a number of issues, including insulin problems (a hormone vital for blood sugar regulation) and weight gain (not loss).
The Problems with Intermittent Fasting
Nutrition scientists say that intermittent fasting can exacerbate the binge-eating tendencies that are already found in a quarter of all obese people. Also, skipping meals increases insulin spikes and blood sugar according to an Ohio State University study from 2015. This sets the stage for insulin resistance which leads to Type 2 diabetes.
But nutritionists say this may only happen with some people. Intermittent fasting could improve insulin sensitivity in individuals with elevated levels of blood sugar who are either diabetic or pre-diabetic. Research in diabetic animals found that there was a slight benefit to not having insulin moving constantly.
The University of Illinois-Chicago conducted a review of the research in 2014 and found that intermittent fasting did not achieve as much fat loss as capping one’s daily caloric intake. Limiting one’s calories also led to comparable insulin resistance, fasting insulin levels, and reductions in visceral fat. Also, there is the chance that intermittent fasting will slow your metabolism and cause your body to enter starvation mode where it burns muscle for energy.
The basal metabolic rate of an individual is lowered after one day of fasting. In the long run, that is not helpful. Yet, it is unclear whether the drop in metabolic levels is any more extreme in people who drastically reduce calories a couple times per week versus those who cut calories each day. More research is needed.
Are You Able to Function on Little to No Calories?
There is little research on humans to show who might benefit most from intermittent fasting. But, there are some steps you can take to figure out whether it is right for you. For example, how do you feel when you skip a meal? When many people miss a meal or reduce calories drastically, they do not feel well. Their work performance and energy levels suffer. They might get what is described as “hangry.” Three to six meals per day are better for individuals who get hypoglycemic.
Eating every couple hours is important for many people’s weight loss goals. This prevents you from going into a meal ravenous and keeps your insulin and blood sugar levels stable during the day. You can maintain more metabolism-revving muscle mass by eating six times a day - even when consuming the same number of calories you would otherwise - than if you ate less frequently.
It is actually a lot of work trying to fit in six meals a day. For instance, people respond well to six-meal-a-day plans if they are great with routines. However, if you have trouble packing or prepping meals to eat during the day, including at work, six meals is impractical. After all, the meals can’t be candy bars, fast food, or other processed foods if weight loss is the goal.
Pick a Diet and Stick with It
At the end of the day, the actual diet you pick is not nearly as important as your ability to stick to your diet. That is because you will reduce calories and lose weight when you correctly follow your approach whether it is to eat six small meals per day or to try intermittent fasting. Also, the timing of your meals does matter, but what you eat is much more crucial. If you want to lose weight, eat plenty of healthy fats, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and protein at each meal.
Guest Post Author: Jane Sandwood is a freelance writer and editor with over 10 years’ experience across many fields. Jane has a particular interest in issues relating to health, fitness and nutrition. When Jane isn’t writing, she is busy spending time with her family. She also enjoys music, reading and travelling whenever she can.