What is intermittent fasting for healthy weight loss?
When we’re looking at ways to lose weight the focus should be to lose weight permanently and in a safe a healthy way. In fact, only 20% of people are successful at maintaining weight loss. Therefore, the question needs to be asked why? I suppose you could put it down to sustainability.
This is where intermittent fasting comes in. A good motto to go by, if you can’t stick at it for life don’t start it! In reality, this is where 80% of people fail. Intermittent fasting isn’t a diet per se, it’s a lifestyle change. With that said, let’s look at what is intermittent fasting for healthy weight loss. (1)
Intermittent fasting is the process of going through schedules of eating and not eating. Further on we will get into the different types of fasting. In this article, we will also cover the benefits of choosing this method to lose weight. Furthermore, intermittent fasting doesn’t dictate what foods you can and can’t eat. Instead, it focuses on when you can eat which makes this a lifestyle change and not a diet. Increasing your odds at success for healthy weight loss.
How does intermittent fasting work?
To put it simply, intermittent fasting is a form of calorie deficit. This is the only scientific way to lose weight. In fact, every diet plan will put you into a calorie deficit. Similarly, fad diets take this to the extreme, and with most people wanting to lose weight fast they choose a fad diet. Ultimately, failing as you simply can’t do it long term.
Calorie deficit explained
A simple way of looking at a calorie deficit is how many calories you burn to how many calories consumed per day. However, for the most part, people don’t know what their daily intake is. never mind what they are burning! Don’t worry, there are some simple formulas to work this out. Before we work this method out think of calories as energy.
Firstly, you have total daily energy expenditure otherwise known as TDEE. This takes into account calories needed to perform your daily activities such as work or cleaning the home.
Secondly, you have a basal metabolic rate otherwise known as BMR (not to be confused with BMI) BMR is the number of calories your body needs to function such as to keep your heart pumping and lungs breathing, etc.
To simplify BMR and TDEE both go hand in hand as BMR sits in TDEE. Three other factors play a part-
- Non-exercise activity thermogenesis also known as NEAT
- Thermic effect of food Also known as TEF
- Thermic effect of activity also known as TEA
As you can see, quite a mouthful and complicated structure. However, in the next section, it becomes uncomplicated and easy to work out.
Figuring out how to calculate a calorie deficit
Because BMR makes up for most of your TDEE we will work out that and the most reliable way is to use the harris-benedict way.
- Woman BMR = 655 + (9.6 x weight in KG) + (1.8 x height in cm) – (4.7 x age in years)
- Men BMR = 66 + (13.7 x weight in KG) + (5 x height in cm) – (6.8 age in years)
as an example for myself, 655+ (9.6 x 92KG = 1538) + (1.8 x 176 =316) – (4.7 x 39 = 183)
Now I take them totals 1538 + 316 – 183 = 1671. So if, I do nothing that’s how many calories I need to stay alive. The next part is to work out how much energy (calories I need on top of this TDEE)
To work out approximate TDEE multiply the formula that fits you by the BMR we worked out.
- Sedentary (little to no exercise + work a desk job) = 1.2
- Lightly active (light exercise 1-3 days/week) =1.375
- Moderately active (moderate exercise 3-5 days /week) =1.55
- Very active (heavy exercise 6-7 days/week) = 1.725
- Extremely active (very heavy exercise, hard labor job 2x/ day) = 1.9
If we use me as an example again I fit into the moderate category so I take 1671 x 1.55 and my TDEE is 2590. What we need to do now is create the deficit. Simply take 20% of that total meaning I will lose weight if I consume 2072 calories or fewer a day.
20% is a good number as you won’t “starve” and will massively improve your odds of success. However, you don’t need to do the maths as there are plenty of free online calculators or apps to download.
Something to note, using the 20% will equate to 1lb of fat loss per week. 1lb of fat is roughly 3500 calories. This makes intermittent fasting healthy for weight loss.
Different types of fasting
The great thing about intermittent fasting for healthy weight loss is flexibility. With intermittent fasting, you can eat what you want and you can choose a method that suits you best as there are four ways to fast!
- Time restricting fasting
- 5:2 diet
- Stop eat stop
- Alternate-day fasting
See below how they differ.
Time restricting fasting
I chose time restricting fasting for reasons I will outline further down. Typically, you’ll find this method is split 16/8. Sixteen hours will be the time you fast and eight hours is your window to eat. Usually, you would fit three or four meals in within 8 hours.
5:2 diet plan
The 5:2 diet plan involves you eating exactly how you do know but for two days of the week, you consume no more than 500-600 calories. Therefore, you could squeeze one meal or two small meals on the fast days.
Stop eat stop
If you don’t like the idea of two consecutive days of having one meal like you would on the 5:2 then this may be more suitable. You’d still eat normally for five days but you get to pick which two days you fast for.
Alternate day fasting
equally as simple as the other three types of fast. Simply put, eat normally for one day and fast the next and repeat.
Other benefits of dieting using intermittent fasting
Using intermittent fasting for healthy weight loss certainly works. However, this isn’t the only benefit you’ll get from this lifestyle change. In fact, you’ll benefit in many different ways.
- Changes functions of hormones, genes, and cells (in a good way)
- Can reduce visceral fat (fat that surrounds your organs and is potentially dangerous)(2)
- Can lower risk of diabetes type 2
- Can reduce inflammation in the body caused by oxidation stress
- It May be beneficial for a healthy heart
- Induces cell repair
- May helps in preventing cancer (3)
- Numerous benefits for the brain
- It May help prevent Alzheimer’s
- It May help you live longer
As you can see above, some pretty neat benefits accompany weight loss. comparatively, you’ll also get more benefits from losing weight as well.
My experience with an intermittent fasting diet for weight loss
Firstly, id like to say, intermittent fasting is super powerful for weight loss. That said, it wasn’t plain sailing, especially the first week. The first week was hellish, to say the least. I decided on the 16:8 plan. The reason being, it felt right it! besides, I figured eight hours of that was spent sleeping (yes right, that didn’t happen).
So then, let’s talk about the first week. Normally, I would eat before going to bed which is about ten o’clock. This was harder than I thought as my body was certainly used to the food before bed. I found myself waking up in the middle of the night hungry. Not to be deterred, I stuck with it and didn’t eat anything through the night
The real problems started the next day. Because I couldn’t eat until noon my hunger was mind-blowing. I felt dizzy, irritable and questioned if this was even worth it. Because I don’t like to be beaten I stuck to the plan and saw it through.
What Happened after the first week?
This is when the magic happened! I don’t use scales as I’ve always believed in the scales don’t tell you the full truth. Instead, I rely on how I feel, clothes getting loser/tighter, and what difference I see in the mirror. Anyway, that second week I felt lighter more energetic. I also found myself choosing food that would fill me up more as I knew I’d only got eight hours to eat.
My bloated stomach was less bloated, My body looked leaner even though I knew scientifically I wouldn’t have lost much weight in a week. I just felt really positive. The headaches stopped, the hunger stopped most of all the dizziness stopped which was really annoying.
The end result
technically speaking, there isn’t an end result as this is a lifestyle change and not a diet plan. I can eat whatever I want as long as it’s in the eight-hour window. So far I’ve lost 13lbs and kept my muscle mass. Ideally, this is what you want and why I don’t use scales. The scales won’t change if you train like me because I’m putting weight on with muscle but losing actual body fat.
For me, intermittent fasting for healthy weight loss is a must. I had my doubts before starting it but the results and the way I feel speak for themselves. Notably, intermittent fasting doesn’t require you to eat any different or any special “fat-burning” concoction that tastes vile and doesn’t work.
Because this is a lifestyle change and not a diet you can stick to it forever. In fact, it’s virtually the most natural way of eating, our ancestors would eat the same way as the food wasn’t readily available. For this reason, it would make sense why our bodies behave the way it does when we enter a fasting state. In a nutshell, if you want to lose weight safely and lose actual body fat intermittent fasting is an essential tool.
However, if you’re looking for fast weight loss this isn’t for you. something like the 3 week diet plan gives solid results and is still relatively safe. Intermittent fasting should be viewed as a lifestyle change and not a diet.