If you’ve been on the fat loss bandwagon for long enough, you’ve probably tried or at least heard of the concept of intermittent fasting (IF).
Within the fitness industry – like with most popular things – there are two camps with regards to IF – some people claim that it’s the only solution for fat loss, to improve performance, reverse disease and heck, even male pattern baldness (No, that’s a joke, in case you’re really wondering).
Others are confident that IF is nothing but an unsustainable, unscientific scam and does nothing toward fat loss, health markers or performance.
Before we get into the details of whether IF works or not, let’s understand what IF really is: in the simplest terms, it boils down to restricting eating (consumption of any calories) only to certain parts of the day.
This means that you’ll have a feeding window of 8-10 hours and fasting window of 14 – 16 hours.
The only things you’re allowed to consume during the fasting window is anything that has zero calories – water, black coffee, black tea (without any sweeteners or flavouring).
That said, there are multiple ways to do IF. You can fast for 14-16 hours everyday or most days of the week, or do a complete fast 1-2 days each week.
So, is IF the magic pill that can solve all your problems?
Like with everything else, the answer is MAYBE. IT DEPENDS.
Through both clinical research and having implemented IF among our clients here over the last 4 years, it’s pretty evident that IF does work, but sometimes, for some people. There are some studies that have shown improved health markers with people who have done IF for extended periods of time.
But what’s important to note is that the people participating in these studies also had controlled diets with superior quality foods, and stayed away from processed or packaged foods during the course of the study, which could have also had a direct or indirect impact on their health markers.
There are other studies that show that IF on a long-term basis, but interspersed with a few weeks of regular eating can show better fat loss results as opposed to continuous, long term fasting. This might be due to the reduced metabolic stress placed on the body during fasting, from the small amounts of excess calories once in a while.
Additionally, it’s important to note that more often than not, women tend to face menstrual health issues while on IF, in case their overall caloric intake dips. If overall calories are under control, IF most likely won’t cause any menstrual issues.
So, what does all this mean for you?
You can incorporate IF if:
It’s a sustainable solution for you
If you find that it’s an easier way to stay on a caloric deficit AND
If you generally eat wholesome, nutritious foods for the most part.
If you expect to stuff your face during the 8 hour feeding window without staying on a caloric deficit or use IF as an excuse to eat junk food on a regular basis, you’re possibly going to be fairly disappointed with the results.
The bottom line is that a caloric deficit seems to be the biggest change that IF causes, which in turn could lead to accelerated fat loss (because you have only 8 hours a day to eat, and you are expected to skip a meal while on IF).