Intermittent fasting has a number of benefits including weight loss, lower blood pressure and improved blood sugar control. And generally speaking, the side effects of fasting, on the whole, aren’t terrible, making it a popular way of eating for many people around the world.
If you’re new to the concept of intermittent fasting, it’s a way of eating that involves regular periods of fasting where no food is consumed. While its safe to say that not many people are eating during the night while asleep, those who practise intermittent fasting make a conscious effort to stop eating at a specific time of day — with the most common time to finish up around 8pm before having their first meal the next day at 12pm.
While there are many different ways to fast, this is by far one of the most popular. By prolonging the period between meals, it means your body is able to start burning fat as it’s already used the calories you consumed during the day.
By choosing to forgo food for a number of hours, it lets your body exhaust its sugar stores and begin to burn fat. According to Johns Hopkins neuroscientist Mark Mattson, Ph.D., this is called “metabolic switching”.
When compared to a typical way of eating, Dr Mattson explained: “If someone is eating three meals a day, plus snacks, and they’re not exercising, then every time they eat, they’re running on those calories and not burning their fat stores.”
During the periods of fasting, no food should be consumed and it’s recommended to steer clear of any liquids that aren’t water, black or herbal tea and black coffee (yes, you can drink coffee sans milk while fasting!) in order to keep your body in its fasting state. Then, when you break the fast with your first meal, consume food throughout the day as you would normally, being sure to reach for nutritious goodies.
According to research undertaken by Dr Mattson, it can take two to four weeks before your body becomes accustomed to intermittent fasting. As you adjust to the new routine, it’s common to feel hungry or experience mood fluctuations. Those who make it through this adjustment period tend to stick with this style of eating, says Dr Mattson.
If you’re attempting to lose weight via intermittent fasting, there are a number of factors as to how long this could take. As each body is different, each person responds differently to fasting so some may experience weight loss before others. Other factors include the style of fasting you choose and the food you consume during your eating window.
It’s likely that it’ll take a few weeks for your body to adjust to the eating pattern before you start to notice any drastic changes. Give yourself eight to 10 weeks of following this pattern before switching it up again. Make sure to chat to your GP about intermittent fasting before changing your current eating pattern.
In fact, in some cases, intermittent fasting could cause weight gain — depending on a number of factors — while others have experienced weight loss after stopping the eating pattern altogether. This goes to show that while intermittent fasting can be helpful for some, each body responds differently and may not work the same for you. Keep this in mind when waiting to see if this eating style works for you.