January 24, 2021


Intermittent Fasting For Weight Loss - Overview

Intermittent fasting is one of the most effective methods to lose weight in a timely manner. This diet focuses on a cyclic eating pattern that triggers certain metabolic pathways in the body responsible for weight loss. Intermittent fast for weight loss can be very effective. 

Researchers have conflicting opinions about the validity of this diet in the long-term and whether or not it’s sustainable. Additionally, there is scarce scientific evidence about the potential side effects of prolonged intermittent fasting, which further complicates the conversation.

In this article, we will discuss the primary mechanisms that mediate the weight-reducing properties of intermittent fasting.

How does intermittent fasting cause weight loss

Hormonal regulation

During fasting, the body makes numerous changes to provide energy for the hungry cells. These changes include modifying the action of the nervous system and adjusting the concentration of hormones.

The first hormone that gets influenced by these modifications is insulin.

Generally speaking, the levels of insulin in the bloodstream varies depending on dietary intake. Shortly after your meal, insulin levels sharply increase to regulate your glucose concentration. Conversely, fasting downregulates the release of insulin from the beta-cells of the pancreas.

Norepinephrine (i.e., noradrenaline) is the second hormone that fluctuates during fasting. This hormone triggers enzymes to break down adipose tissue (i.e., fat deposition) and release fatty acids into the circulation.

The third hormone affected by this process is the Human Growth Hormone (HGH), which increases dramatically during fasting.

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Caloric deficit

Despite the seemingly non-restrictive nature of intermittent fasting, it inadvertently leads to weight loss by reducing the number of calories you consume per day.

You see, sticking to a short window during the day where you’re allowed to eat will make you consume fewer calories since you’re less likely to feel hungry in that timeframe.

For instance, if you’re following the 16:8 fasting type, you will condense your daily meals in 8 hours. As a result, your digestive tract will be mostly full, which prevents feelings of hunger and puts you in a state of caloric deficit.

In a 2014 review, researchers found that intermittent fasting reduces body weight by 3–7% when adopted for 3–24 weeks.

They also found that intermittent fasting offers other beneficial health effects that we extensively covered in this article. (insert the link of intermittent fasting benefits)

Faster basal metabolic rate

In addition to hormonal regulation and caloric deficit, intermittent fasting helps you lose weight by accelerating the basal metabolic rate (BMR).

In fact, researchers found that the basal metabolic rate (BMR) of people following the intermittent fasting diet is significantly high.

BMR is responsible for controlling the number of calories your body uses during rest. This number is subject to dozens of factors, including age, gender, weight, height, body type, diet, degree of physical activity, and genetics.

The vast majority of diets slow down BMR, gradually leading to a slower rate of weight loss. However, intermittent fasting seems to produce the exact opposite effect.

Decreased insulin resistance

Insulin resistance is a major cause of obesity.

Fortunately, several studies confirmed the beneficial effects of intermitting fasting on insulin sensitivity and its role in the regulation of blood sugar levels.

This suggests that intermitting fasting can help people lose weight while gaining back control over their blood sugar levels.

Additionally, prediabetic patients who have slightly abnormal levels of glucose can also use intermittent fasting to prevent full-blown diabetes.

Maintaining lean muscle mass

The most feared side effect of dieting is to push your body into a starvation mode that starts breaking down your lean muscle mass.

Surprisingly, studies found that intermittent fasting may actually prevent muscle loss while you’re losing weight.

In one review paper, researchers found that the caloric deficit caused by intermittent fasting produced similar results to other calorie-restricted diets when it came to weight loss. However, intermittent fasting barely caused any muscle loss.

The review stated that individuals on a regular calorie-restricted diet lost an average of 25% of their lean muscle mass, while those following intermittent fasting lost 10%.

With that said, you should take these findings with a grain of salt since they had several limitations.

How effective is intermittent fasting for weight loss

In general, intermittent fasting leads to 1–2 pounds of weight loss per week. This number is usually the uppercut for a healthy rate of losing weight.

Hundreds of research papers confirmed the effects of this diet on weight and how it helps obese and overweight individuals shed some pounds. However, the vast majority of the conducted study focused on the short-term effects of this diet.

In other words, there isn’t any concrete evidence that supports the effects of this diet after two years of fasting. Similarly, the exact side effects of this diet are still a topic of research.

To conclude this section, intermittent fasting is a fantastic way to kickstart your weight loss journey, but it shouldn’t be adopted for a long time period.

Once you’ve lost the initial weight you had in mind, try to opt for a more balanced diet that contains vegetables, fruits, and grains.

How does intermittent fasting affect bulking?

Contrary to popular belief, intermitting fasting is not only beneficial for individuals who want to lose weight.

If you are trying to bulk while cutting, you can combine your fitness routine with intermittent fasting for optimized results.

Bulking is all about increased caloric intake to meet with the demands of the muscle-building process. As you may know, intermittent fasting does not restrict the number of calories you’re allowed to eat per day, nor does it eliminate a certain food or macronutrient from your diet.

With that being said, athletes need to consume up to 4000-5000 calories a day during the bulking cycle, which is difficult to achieve if you’re only allowed to eat during a restricted time window. However, it is not impossible.

Takeaway message

Intermittent fasting for weight loss is extremely effective to induce lipolysis and promote a healthier body composition.

About the author 

Steven Rinker

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