The Magic (or not) of Intermittent Fasting
Being in the health and fitness space, people often tell me about their new diets or fitness plans. This happened the other day:
“Hey Rob, I’m trying intermittent fasting!”
“Oh cool, do you find it helps you to eat less?”
“Uh, no – I just only eat within a 6 hours window now, usually between 2pm and 8pm. Don’t you know how it works?”
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Quite simply, it means not eating (fasting) for most of the day, and then eating all of your food within a shorter period.
The length of the “eating window” can vary. Usually the eating window has to be 8 hours long or less to be considered intermittent fasting.
Some people eat for 8 hours and fast for 16, others do 6:18, some even do 4:20.
The timing of these windows could be at any point during the day, but most people have most of the fasting hours overnight while they’re asleep. They then wake up, skip breakfast, and eat their first meal of the day at some point in the afternoon. Depending on what you’re doing, your first meal could be at 12pm, or it could be at 4pm.
Intermittent Fasting CAN (MAYBE) Help You Lose Fat
Intermittent Fasting IS a legitimate tool that I stand behind for fat loss. It works for many people. But it doesn’t ALWAYS work! You can fail to lose fat and just maintain your weight doing intermittent fasting, or you can even GAIN weight!
I don’t do intermittent fasting, but it can help you to lose fat if you’re in a calorie deficit!
If you’re not in a calorie deficit, only eating between the hours of 12-6, 3-8, or 6-10 will make ZERO difference to your progress.
Intermittent fasting doesn’t do anything magical.
There’s a lot of hype about it at the moment. If you believe those who shout the loudest about it then you’ll expect to turn into some kind of fat burning machine and gain superpowers of determination, willpower and productivity, just by changing the hours that you eat. I’m not convinced.
If you’re looking for a magic pill that will help you lose fat; this isn’t it (and neither is anything else).
It merely makes it easier to manage the hunger that comes with eating less food when you’re trying to lose fat. Restricting the times in which you eat to a smaller window just means it’s EASIER to eat less food overall. This is because you have less time in which to fit in as much food. You may be quite hungry during the fasting window, but then you’re quickly satiated if you eat one big meal. You may then end up eating only one other big meal later on in the evening.
What’s the result of this? You’ve eaten fewer meals. These meals could be quite big, but the likelihood is that by removing breakfast and any other morning snacks, you end up eating fewer calories overall.
Fat loss happens when you eat fewer calories than what your body needs to maintain your current weight and your activity.
If you require 2,500 calories to maintain your weight and you spend a few weeks eating 2,000 calories per day, you’ll lose weight. If you eat 1,500 calories per day you’ll be hungrier and probably find it a lot more difficult, but you’ll lose more weight. This is called being in a calorie deficit.
Intermittent fasting makes it more likely you’ll end up in a calorie deficit – without having to pay as much attention to what you’re eating.
HOWEVER, you can easily GAIN weight doing intermittent fasting if you use it as a license to eat whatever you want in that window and think that it’s all ok because this is some magic trick that gets people shredded. If you put yourself into a calorie surplus by eating high calorie food (or enough lower calorie food!) you will still gain weight, regardless of what time you eat at.
Remember: Any cool diet trick you hear about (IF, keto, paleo, carnivore etc.) works for people IF adopting that approach puts them into a calorie deficit. If they still find a way to NOT be in a calorie deficit, it WILL NOT WORK!
Should I Do Intermittent Fasting?
If you need to lose fat, intermittent fasting is a good way to do that.
If this is you, you probably shouldn’t do intermittent fasting:
- You want to gain weight
- You have had success losing fat in the past counting calories, or doing something other than intermittent fasting
- You like eating breakfast and you have no problem losing fat
If this is you, you might want to give Intermittent Fasting a try:
- You want to lose fat
- You struggle to lose fat
- You are quite busy during the day, without much time to eat (or even think about food)
- You eat breakfast out of habit, not because you wake up incredibly hungry
- You’ve skipped breakfast before and found you were able to make it to lunch time without much problem
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