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Intermittent Fasting: The Key to Winning the Fight Against Fat?

February 11, 2014

Intermittent fasting has quickly become a popular strategy in the fight against fat and is viewed by many as a great way to improve your health. The emergence of extreme eating plans, such as the 5:2 diet, is one of the reasons for this current interest in intermittent fasting, but does fasting actually work or is it just the latest in a long line of fat loss fads?

2 apples and 5 cakes which would you choose

Does it Work?

There are many different practices when it comes to fasting, be it an alternate day fast, a type of caloric restriction, or the already mentioned 5:2 diet. Whatever the method, they all share the same central idea of choosing to skip meals or refraining from eating altogether for a certain period of time.

In fact, it seems that there is some strong evidence pointing to the fact that intermittent fasting is indeed a very potent tool for fat loss. A study conducted earlier this year by researchers at the University of Illinois found that alternate day fasting for 12 weeks resulted in increased fat loss. And another study, this time published in the ‘American Journal of Clinical Nutrition’, ended with almost identical results. So it seems that intermittent fasting may well be a viable way to get rid of unwanted fat.  

How Does it Work?

It seems obvious, but if you are fasting then you are going to be eating less overall than you normally would. One of the key things with weight loss is that in order for it to happen, you need to create a calorie deficit by using up more calories than you are consuming. So if fasting results in fewer calories consumed, then you are going to increase this deficit, and thus lose weight. Furthermore, by fasting, your body won’t have the energy available from recently consumed food, and is forced to start burning the energy stored in the body. With fat being one of the body’s main energy stores, your body will begin burning fat for fuel. The loss of fat is further accelerated by the fact that fasting has been found to increase the release of growth hormones.

This is important because one of their functions is to burn fat, so with higher hormone levels, the easier it will be to lose fat. An article published in the ‘Journal of Applied Physiology’ explains that fasting has also been found to help improve insulin sensitivity. The more insulin sensitive our bodies are, the more efficiently they deal with energy gained from food, meaning that less energy is stored as fat. General levels of insulin have also been found to drop during a fasting period, which in turn aids fat burning. This is because insulin inhibits the process of fat burning, so the less there is of it, the more fat burning there will be. All of these reasons point to why intermittent fasting could well help you with your fight against fat, but there are also some other great reasons for giving intermittent fasting a go.  

Other Benefits

We now know that it can help burn fat, but intermittent fasting can also be great for other aspects of your health as well. An article published in ‘Nutrition Journal’ points out that alternative day fasting combined with exercise can help improve some risk factors associated with heart disease. It has also been suggested that intermittent fasting helps to improve certain other disease risk factors such as cholesterol and blood glucose.

This means that along with reductions in body fat, the risk of contracting diseases such as cancer and diabetes will be lower, and thus life expectancy will increase. It could also be suggested that intermittent fasting may be easier to stick to than your average run-of-the-mill diet. Diets that make you conscious of what you are eating and force you to restrict your calorie intake each day are often much harder to stick to in the long term.

On the other hand, intermittent fasting sounds like a far easier way to keep a hold on your eating habits since you only need to be restrictive a few times a week. In addition, there is a study published in ‘Obesity Reviews’ which suggests that intermittent fasting is better than a normal daily calorie restrictive diet when it comes to maintaining muscle mass.

And as previously discussed, you will know that muscle plays a key role in the burning of fat.   To conclude, it seems as if intermittent fasting can not only be a powerful tool for weight loss, but can also lead to other health benefits.

There still needs to be more research carried out, but the current evidence definitely displays fasting in a positive light. That being said, intermittent fasting will not be for everyone, so have at look at your options and read up on all the different types of intermittent fasting. However, if you do decide to give it a go there is a good chance that you will find it to be an effective practice, helping you to expel that unwanted body fat.

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