What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting (IF) is being dubbed as a revolutionary weight loss diet/lifestyle that also promotes healthfulness, vitality and longevity. Many diets have come and gone off the back of a single study advocating its benefits....is IF any different? In short, IF entails fasting for 24 hours 1 or 2 times a week alongside a structured training regime. Most people eat as normal until 6pm, followed by a 24 hour fast until 6pm the next day.
Whatever the method behind IF, the underlying principle to any successful weight loss plan is achieving a calorie deficit either through calorie restriction, increased physical activity or both. This is the short and fast of it. As a registered Dietitian, my time spent in the clinical setting encompassed the formulation of diet plans, meal routines and supplement regimens for those that need to gain weight, lose weight and those who have a specific nutritional requirement! With weight loss or weight gain, the formula was simple....calories in must either exceed (for weight gain), or be in deficit (for weight loss) of calories out! So the intermittent fasting way of eating doesn’t seem to be anything new, rather it is a unique way of latching on to something we have known for years!
The research behind IF is robust, it has been peer reviewed by some of the foremost scientists in the world, and the fasting principle has been published in renowned journals such as The British Journal of Nutrition and The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition spanning at least 25 years...so it’s nothing new! The exciting thing about the claims made in the articles and on the recent Horizon programme is not only the reported weight loss that is possible, but also the many health benefits including improved insulin receptivity, development of brain neurons and reduced risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes! Can a way of eating that dates right back to the times of the Palaeolithic man (eat, fast, eat, fast etc) really deliver all of this...well, why not!?
The evidence behind the weight loss claim is completely feasible, after all, the principle is that you reduce your over all calorie intake to put you in negative energy balance. The hormonal shifts that supposedly put you into a ‘starvation’ and ‘self preservation’ mode resulting in fat storage has been somewhat quashed by author and researcher Brad Pilon (amongst others), who presented several peer reviewed articles demonstrating this (although there are several articles in favour of this ‘preservation’ theory too). He also explained how key articles on fasting/extreme calorie restriction lasting between 24 to 72 hours had no effect on resting metabolic rate, meaning this would not promote inadvertent weight gain either!
Reported Health Benefits
Aside from the health benefits that are attributable to a 10% loss in bodyweight, the researchers behind the IF principle also state that 1-3 days of fasting (not in a row) can 1.) Decrease body fat & body weight 2.) Maintain skeletal muscle mass 3.) Decrease blood glucose levels 4.) Decrease insulin levels & increased insulin sensitivity 5.) Increase lipolysis & fat oxidation 6.) Increase Uncoupling Protein three mRNA (associated with increased fat burning) 7.) Increase norepinephrine & epinephrine levels (increasing energy) 8.) Increase Glucagon levels 9.) Increase growth hormone levels. 10.) Reduced Insulin like Growth Factor 1 (IGF1). Most of these benefits are attributed to the metabolism of fat for energy, resulting in fat loss, whilst other factors i.e. increased glucagon and insulin like growth factor also promote the use of fat for energy as opposed to storage, and increases the utilisation of carbohydrate and protein for energy and muscular development.
Role of Nutritional Supplements
Brad Pilon and other authors and fans of the IF principle might disagree, but any principle that entails calorie restriction or fasting comes with risks. Through fasting/reducing calories you are restricting the intake of certain food groups such as protein, carbs, fat, and vitamins and minerals...this is an inevitability! The IF theory is that these nutrients will be replenished during the non-fasting states, however if these fed states are not maximised, your nutritional stores will not replete exposing you to deficiencies. Ensuring your diet is nutritionally complete is not easy, three regular meals consisting of starchy carbs, meat or another protein source, fruit and vegetables, and some dairy produce (or alternative calcium and vitamin source) is the best way to achieve this. However, not all of us manage this on a daily basis, hence the NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENT in its nutrient dense, low calorie, convenient form makes for the ideal answer to this problem!
To ensure overall nutritional adequacy for general health and vitality, and to boost your fat loss goals, try opting for:
If you would like to know more, see the Eat Stop Eat article by Brad Pilon