Intermittent fasting for weight loss involves fasting intermittently on consecutive or alternate days, usually one or two days per week. The intermittent fasting diet plan typically involves a reduction in caloric intake of approximately 75 to 90 percent of the body’s energy requirements. The human body is capable of protecting itself when it detects starvation. Simply trying to starve one’s self to thinness is not only extremely unhealthy, it does not work because of the body’s ‘starvation mode’ metabolism. However, intermittent fasting is somewhat of a work around for the starvation mode problem for individuals attempting to lose weight. Of course, because of the ‘normal’ diet days, proper nutritional requirements are maintained while the days of fasting provide for the reduced caloric intake leading to weight loss.
Different cultures and religions have practiced fasting for eons, so fasting is nothing new, but it has become more mainstream in the past 10 or so years. There are significant benefits of intermittent fasting; however, it is of paramount importance that the intermittent fasting diet is undertaken properly to avoid negative consequences. Serious mental health conditions, such as anorexia nervosa, involve excessive fasting due to fears of being overweight and are certainly unhealthy.
Intermittent Fasting Schedule
Intermittent fasting is accomplished in a variety of formats, but the basic formula entails alternating days with normal caloric intake with days of severe caloric restriction. In its simplest scheduling format, intermittent fasting is achieved by alternating days of fasting with normal diets. Other perturbations of the dieting schedule include a 5:2 strategy. The 5:2 program involves eating a normal diet for 5 days, and reducing the diet to less than 600 calories for 2 days for men. Similarly, intermittent fasting for women under this schedule, women consume normal diets for 5 days and then reduce their intake to less than 500 calories for 2 days before repeating the cycle.
Does Intermittent Fasting Work?
Intermittent fasting for weight loss, such as the 5:2 regimen, has proven to be as effective or more effective than traditional continuous reduced caloric intake diets. Another study, involving fasting one day per week combined with a 20 percent reduction in caloric intake the other six days each week over the course of 24 weeks, found that the intermittent fasting diet decreased visceral fat mass, while also having a favorable impact on the test subjects’ lipid profile. The mechanism for weight loss through intermittent fasting is not clear. In addition to the overall reduction in caloric intake, different hormones and cytokines from fat cells may be involved, such as leptin and insulin-like growth factor, among many others. Despite the lack of clarity in the precise mechanism of action, this ‘Yo-Yo’ pattern in intermittent fasting works.
Some of the target organs and tissues receive various effects from intermittent fasting.
- The liver, for example, may have a decrease in the predominance of fatty tissue within it and an increased sensitivity to insulin.
- The blood vessels have less oxidative stress as nitric oxide increases.
- The adipose (fat) tissue has greater deposition of triacylglyceries, with greater insulin sensitivity.
- The skeletal muscle has greater glucose uptake with decreased insulin resistance.
- The pancreatic islet cells within the pancreas undergo a reduction in age-related decline.
Safety of Intermittent Fasting
As previously mentioned, fasting and intermittent fasting have been around for eons. If the intermittent fasting plan follows proven and medically acceptable guidelines, then intermittent fasting is not only safe, but it also has health benefits. Like anything, an individual should not blindly start starving him or herself without a plan. In this way, it is similar to exercising. Most of us have at one point or another jumped right in and gave it our all only to make ourselves so sore the following days that we just said forget about it, exercise causes too much pain and it must not be for me. If you try to starve yourself to lose weight, you will be miserable and likely rebound, so it is best to only follow a proven intermittent fasting diet plan. As always, it is best to discuss such matters as dieting, exercise and fasting with your healthcare provider. Intermittent dieting might be inappropriate for certain individuals, such as those who are pregnant or diabetics, especially for those on insulin.
Intermittent Fasting Benefits
Obesity and Overweight Crisis
There are many intermittent fasting health benefits. According to an March 2013 update of its 2008 findings, the World Health Organization (WHO), reports that obesity affects over 500 hundred million adults, while over 1.4 billion of adults over the age of 20 worldwide are overweight. Worldwide, over 10% of the adult population is obese. The WHO also estimates that “44% of the diabetes burden, 23% of the ischaemic heart disease burden and between 7% and 41% of certain cancer burdens are attributable to overweight and obesity.” In the United States, approximately 1/3 of the adults are obese while 2/3 of adults are overweight and approximately $100 billion of healthcare costs in the USA are attributable to obesity. Needless to say, this is not only a global pandemic, but also a public health crisis.
So, how does intermittent fasting help with all of these problems?
Even a modest reduction in excess body fat weight, as little as 10%, can help reduce the risk of Type 2 Diabetes, hypertension and coronary artery disease. Since intermittent fasting is known to work for weight loss, these added health benefits accrue. One of the advantages to using an intermittent fasting weight loss strategy is that potentially dangerous side effects and complications from pharmaceuticals and surgery are avoided.
In addition to reducing risks of hypertension, cancer, diabetes and heart disease, intermittent fasting may also be protective of the central nervous system. Animal models have shown that functional improvement occurred in such conditions as Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and stroke when intermittent fasting is utilized.
Intermittent fasting may also be protective with respect to Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Generally speaking, intermittent fasting as a form of long-term reduction in caloric intake in adulthood “may protect the brain against diseases of aging and should be considered, together with exercise and cognitive enrichment, as an approach for reducing the risk of AD”.
Parting Thoughts: Useful Tips and Tricks for Intermittent Fasting Weight Loss
If you are looking for a way to lose weight, then an intermittent fasting diet plan may be exactly what you are looking for. Not only can you use intermittent fasting for weight loss, but also you will reap intermittent fasting health benefits. Whether men or intermittent fasting women, it is exciting to know you will achieve intermittent fasting success through one of the best programs available today.
- James E. Brown, Michael Mosley, Sarah Aldred, Intermittent Fasting: A Dietary Intervention for Prevention of Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease?, British Journal of Diabetes and Vascular Disease, 2013; 13(2):68-72.
- Cynthia M. Kroeger, et al, Improvement in Coronary Heart Disease Risk Factors During an Intermittent Fasting/Calorie Restriction Regimen, Nutr. Metab. 2012; 9(98).
- World Health Organization, Obesity and overweight, Fact sheet N°311 Updated March 2013. (http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs311/en/)
- Gilbert W. Kim, et al, Regulation of Appetite to Treat Obesity, Expert Rev. Clin. Pharmacol. 2011; 4(2):243-259.
- Mattson, M.P., Energy intake, meal frequency, and health: a neurobiological perspective, Annu. Rev. Nutr. 25, 237-260 (2005).
- Veerendra Kumar Madal Halagappa, et al, Intermittent fasting and caloric restriction ameliorate age-related behavior deficits in the triple-transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease, Neurobiology of Disease 26 (2007) 212-220.