Who here has tried Intermittent fasting or know someone who has? I am sure the vast majority of you raised your hand. I am also sure that those of you who raised your hands either tired intermittent fasting yourself or know someone who has because of all the great benefits it provides. Am I right or am I right? I bet I am right! So, what even is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is essentially an eating window where you simply limit the amount of time, you’re able to eat within a 24-hour window and of course fasting for the remainder of the time. There are many different variations of intermittent fasting with the most common being the 16:8, which is where you have an 8-hour eating window and fast for the remaining 16 hours. To do this, most people choose to skip breakfast and enjoy their first meal in the afternoon. For example, the most common break down is a Noon-8pm eating window or an 8pm-noon eating window. So, this means you are having your first calories consumed either by drink or food at noon and your last calories no later than 8pm and same for the 8pm-noon eating window. Pretty simple, right? Well, thanks for mainstream marketing intermittent sounds much fancier than it actually is. It is just a glorified way of skipping a meal. And if you really think about it, we all fast every day while we are sleeping for 7-9 hours on average. Typically, intermittent fasting is done to lose weight, but does it actually work?
Yes, it definitely works for weight loss, but not for reasons you may think or mass marketers want you to believe. The reasons for weight loss while practicing intermittent fasting are really quite simple. It boils down to caloric deficit. You are obviously going to automatically put yourself in a deficit when you are skipping meals while fasting. This, of course, is assuming you don’t all out binge when your eating window finally arrives because you were dying of hunger waiting to take your first bite of the day. The bottom line here is that it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to come to the conclusion that if you completely skip a meal or even limit the amount of time you have to eat, you’re likely going to consume fewer calories than you typically do which will in turn put in in a caloric deficit. There’s nothing inherently magical about intermittent fasting. Sorry to say. It simply comes down to the fact you are putting yourself in a calorie deficit that you are losing weight. Not because you are fasting. Fasting is just the mechanism you are using to get in a deficit.
We just learned that there is nothing magical or special with fasting for weight loss, but is there any health benefits at all that are associated with the practice of fasting? Well, all or most of the proclaimed health benefits seem to come from being in a caloric deficit vice fasting itself. The benefits so often associated are decrease risk of type 2 diabetes, lower cholesterol, etc. Again, this is simply due to weight loss from being in a calorie deficit. Not from the practice of fasting. So long story short, fasting doesn’t have any superior health benefits outside of making it easier to eat fewer calories than you normally would. What about fasting and your metabolism?
As stated earlier, most people who practice intermittent fasting choose to skip breakfast, however, many still believe that breakfast is the holy grail of meals. I truly hate to be the bearer of bad new, but there is nothing special about breakfast. It is really just the first meal that allows you to break your fast. Skipping breakfast has absolutely no impact or effect on your metabolism or overall health for that matter. There is absolutely no correlation between skipping breakfast and gaining weight. Many people still claim you will gain weight if you skip breakfast because they believe you will consume more calories in later meals. False. Although this is possible for certain individuals, forcing typical non-breakfast eaters to now start eating breakfast, they are bound to gain weight. Not because of breakfast, but because now this meal puts them in a calorie surplus. Finally, let’s touch on fasted cardio. Does fasted cardio really allow you to burn more fat then nonfasted cardio?
I don’t want to get too far in the weeds here, yes, if you do fasted cardio and I mean truly fasted cardio, then you will tap into your fat stores a lot faster because you will naturally be low on glycogen. But my questions would be why? Why would you want to do fasted cardio on less than optimal fuel or energy? When you properly fuel your body with good carbohydrate sources a couple hours before your run or workout you will feel better physically and mentally and of course your performance will be more optimal.
Takeaways here, intermittent fasting isn’t the secret to losing weight or burning fat. The point here is to get in a caloric deficit. If you tend to overeat and have a hard-time-consuming smaller meal, then yes, intermittent fasting can be beneficial for you to help with eating less calories for weight loss. But again, it is the deficit not the fasting that is causing weight loss. So, just eat a balanced diet for all 3 or however many meals you eat a day and burn more calories than you consume then weight loss will happen with or without fasting.