Can Intermittent Fasting Help Me Lose Weight?
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Have you ever tried intermittent fasting? It has become very popular in recent years, and for a good reason. Many people use it as an effective way to achieve weight loss, while others want to become healthier by following simple intermittent fasting regimens. Women in menopause often suffer from weight gain, alongside low libido and hot flashes, and getting rid of excess weight could help them feel better. Let us tell you how intermittent fasting really works and whether it can help you lose weight effectively in menopause.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is a way of dieting when you alternate between periods of fasting and eating windows. During fasting periods, you either do not eat any kind of food, or significantly restrict your calorie intake. Intermittent fasting could help you achieve healthier weight by helping you lose fat mass easier. Besides, fasting goes long back to ancient traditions, where our ancestors would go for hours or even days without eating.
It is thought that by following intermittent fasting the body will adjust to the new way of eating and at some point will stop losing fat mass. However, because the most common fasting protocols alternate between not eating and eating, this should not happen. Intermittent fasting is not only good for weight loss. In fact, studies have shown the benefits of this practice for preventing age-related diseases (1), improving the health of the nervous system (2), and improving heart health (3).
Types of Intermittent Fasting
There are several types of intermittent fasting. Choose the one that you think you can follow best, and if you are a beginner in this, the 16:8 plan would probably be the best to start. Thus, here are intermittent fasting regimens to help you get into it.
This is the type of intermittent fasting with a 16-hour fast and an 8-hour eating window. You can choose the eating window based around your schedule, although it is not recommended to eat dinner too late, because later in the day it will be difficult for the body to put away sugar. If you want to work out, it would be best to do it during your fasting period, so you can break your fast with a carb-heavy meal for energy recovery and muscle building.
This fasting protocol involves not eating for 24 hours on two days of the week and not having any restrictions during the other 5 days. You can either eat no food during the two days or you can reduce your calories to have only 25% of your usual intake. The two days of fasting should not be consecutive.
Alternate Day Fasting
When on alternate day fasting, you alternate the days of food restriction with the days of no restrictions. For example, you can eat what you want on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays and fast on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. But for this method, you still eat during your fasting days, just with a strict limit on your calorie intake to about 500 calories.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
One of the main benefits of this practice is, of course, the good it does for your digestive system. For the fasting window, your digestive system can enjoy a break and your body can burn fat more efficiently because it will have to use stored energy instead of the calories from the food you consume. After about 10 hours of fasting, your body starts using the fat deposits for energy, so this can help prevent visceral fat and aid weight loss in menopause. Another benefit of intermittent fasting is that it is much easier to follow compared to other hyped diets out there. You can be strict about your food intake for several days or at certain hours a day, but you do not have to watch how much you eat all the time. And since you are restricting calories anyway, you will be losing weight without pushing yourself.
Downsides of Fasting
Fasting has a few downsides, too. Firstly, there is not enough research on humans at the moment to confirm whether the health benefits of intermittent fasting are real. Secondly, all fasting protocols are focused on calorie intake rather than nutritional intake. While you are getting your calories in, you might be missing on important nutrients if your dietary choices are unhealthy. And thirdly, some people should not try intermittent fasting without consulting their doctor first. These include pregnant or breastfeeding women and people with diabetes.
Importance of Self-Control During Fasting
During the periods of fasting, especially when you are starting out, it is very hard to maintain self-control and not reach out for food. But this problem with self-control also goes for your eating window. If you are doing a 24-hour fast and then eat 2,000 calories for dinner, this undoes the benefits that intermittent fasting should bring you. When you finish your fast, just go back to your regular eating habits. So, do not add extra calories or “reward” yourself with unhealthy snacks after your fast. If you can maintain self-control while fasting and after your fast is done, your weight loss strategy will be much more effective.
What you can do:
- Drink plenty of water, even more than you usually drink. Sometimes when you feel hungry it means you are actually thirsty, so hydration is important.
- You do not have to drink only water. You can also drink coffee, tea, or herbal teas.
- Eat foods rich in fiber and protein during your eating windows such as legumes, fruit and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, grass-fed meat, and wild-caught fish.
- Avoid watching TV or Netflix. When you are watching TV or are browsing movies on the web, you are likely to come across food ads, and this is certainly not the type of ads you want to see when fasting.
(1) M. Mattson, V. Longo, and M. Harvie. “Impact of intermittent fasting on health and disease processes.”
(2) B. Martin, M. Mattson, and S. Maudsley. “Caloric restriction and intermittent fasting: Two potential diets for successful brain aging.”