Looking to Lose Weight? Here’s the Skinny on Intermittent Fasting

Photo of weight scales with measuring tape

If losing weight is your goal, you already know you’ll need to eat less and exercise more. But is there perhaps a third factor involved besides diet and exercise — one that could help melt those extra pounds away just a little bit faster? There is. As it turns out, WHEN you eat may be just as important as WHAT you eat.

Timing Is Everything

There are a variety of intermittent fasting methods to choose from, but whether you decide to do alternate day fasting, time-restricted fasting or periodic fasting, the basic concept is the same:  To purposely go without eating food for a specific number of hours and turn on your body’s natural fat-burning program.

The idea behind intermittent fasting is simple. When you stop taking in food and give your digestion a rest, some amazing biological changes occur that can only be triggered when digestion stops.

These biological changes include:

  • Spiked production of human growth hormone (HGH), associated with burning fat, anti-aging, healing joints and protein synthesis
  • Dissolution of amyloid plaque in arteries
  • Increased antioxidant production, which helps to reduce your risk of developing cancer and/or tumor growth
  • Reduced inflammation throughout the body, which in turn can help to alleviate the painful effects of arthritis
  • Stem cell production stimulated

While most folks try fasting as a way to lose weight and burn off excess fat, it’s clear that intermittent fasting has the power to take your physical health to a whole new level. In addition to weight loss, people who fast regularly often experience healing of the gut and microbiome, improved cardiovascular and cognitive function, and overall improved immune system function.

The Rules of Intermittent Fasting

Again, since the idea is to give your digestive tract a break, you’ll need to avoid two things during your fast:

  • Anything with calories or fat (including oil)
  • Anything that increases your blood sugar

Generally, intermittent fasters can drink water, black coffee, black or green tea, and some herbal teas. (Be sure to read the ingredient labels and avoid teas containing any type of fruit extracts, as fruit raises your blood sugar.)

If you need to use a sweetener, stevia is considered safe, but creamers, honey, sugar, maple syrup, and other blood sugar-spiking sweeteners should be avoided, as those will break your fast.

The video below explains in more detail which substances break a fast, which supplements are allowed during your fasting period, and even a few “gray area” items.

Intermittent Fasting Methods

Depending on your lifestyle and preferences, there are several different fasting methods to choose from.

Time-Restricted Fasting or the 16:8 Method. This is by far the most popular and easiest to implement fasting method. It involves gradually reducing your “eating window,” during which time you consume all of your calories for the day, to 8 hours over a 24-hour period. Experts advise starting with a simple 12/12 plan, where you fast for 12 hours (generally overnight), then eat as many meals as you like during the following 12 hours. Once you’re comfortable with that, you can increase the fasting period to 13, 14, 15 and 16 hours over time. The 16:8 method is most effective for weight loss when done daily.

Periodic Fasting or the 5:2 Method. With this approach, you would eat normally for 5 days, then reduce your caloric intake to 20% of normal for the remaining 2 days of the week. Experts advise that during those 2 fasting days, women should take in no more than 500 calories and men should limit themselves to around 600.

Alternate Day Fasting. There are several variations of this method. The strictest version involves fasting for a full 24 hours, then eating normally for 24 hours, and alternating back and forth. A more lenient version allows restricted-calorie intake (as in the 5:2 Method above) on your fasting days, and normal eating on alternating days.

The OMAD Method. The One-Meal-A-Day plan is probably the most extreme method of intermittent fasting. It requires a full 23-hour fast daily, with only a tiny 1-hour eating window. Experts recommend eating after your most active part of the day, such as after work. Since you’re likely to consume fewer calories in a day when limited to only 60 minutes of eating time, most people do lose weight on the OMAD diet. However, hunger pangs and cravings can be challenging to manage.

Who Should Avoid Intermittent Fasting

Despite its enormous health benefits, intermittent fasting is not recommended if you have certain preexisting health conditions. These include:

  • People with a history of eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia
  • People who’ve been diagnosed with sleep disorders
  • Pregnant women or those who are hoping to become pregnant
  • Women who are breastfeeding

The jury is still out on whether or not people with hypothyroidism should do intermittent fasting. If you are hypothyroid and still want to try intermittent fasting, consult with your doctor first and definitely start slow to see how your body reacts.

We’re Here to Help

Here at Apollo Chiropractic, we treat our patients holistically. We want to help you improve all areas of your health and wellness, not just eliminate pain. That’s why we offer nutritional counseling services, including a free nutritional consultation for any client who wants it. Just give us a call at 505-792-3311 to get started.