I often get asked about intermittent fasting, usually by women wanting to know whether it would be helpful for them in their quest to lose weight.
My answer is usually the same; yes, it can be very helpful, but there are different ways to do it, and some generally suit women more than others.
From fasting overnight to skipping meals on two days a week, intermittent fasting (IMF) can be a great way to improve health AND achieve your weight loss aims.
I also add that whilst intermittent fasting can be very helpful to boost weight loss, it is also extremely beneficial in terms of health that just losing fat. It helps to stabilise blood sugar, reduce inflammation, keep the heart healthy and improve cognitive function, to name just a few. There is also evidence of it being useful for those fighting cancer (of course under guidance and approval of their medical professionals).
So firstly, why is it helpful, and how does it work?
Fasting allows the body to rely less on glucose for energy and more on ketones and fat stores. And whilst it may be a fairly new concept to you, it’s actually been used for thousands of years, and is used today by certain religions such as Muslims during Ramadan, where they fast from dawn until sunset, once a year for around a month.
Research suggests that IMF lowers levels of oxidative stress and increases the body’s ability to deal with stress, at a cellular level, thus reducing risk of disease.
As I mentioned, there are many ways to intermittent fast such as:
Overnight fasting is my preferred IMF practice and something I naturally do most days, finishing eating by 7 or 8pm and not eating until 9 or 10am the following day. This is the IMF I recommend most to clients because they can start it gently with 12:12 and then slowly increase it. You can also choose how many days you do this over within a week.
I find that overnight IMF works well for women, especially midlife women going through perimenopause or already in menopause.
So, what are the benefits of IMF? As I mentioned, there are many health benefits such as improved heart health, but I’ll focus on the three that tend to be most important to the women I work with:
1. The one that most people are interested in is the ability to increase fat burning and help lose weight. IMF forces the body to use up fat stores for energy rather than glucose from carbohydrates, which is the usual source of our energy. When this source is removed, and glycogen levels are depleted, the body looks for alternative energy source and takes it from fat cells. Studies suggest that the 16:8 method of IMF can significantly reduce fat stores but not affect muscle mass, which is another reason I prefer it to the other IMF styles. Note: this is not the same as Ketogenic dieting whereby carbohydrates are restricted completely.
2. Yes, you’ve heard me beat this drum many times and I won’t be stopping any time soon. BLOOD SUGAR BALANCE. When we eat carbohydrates, they are eventually broken down into glucose in the blood and insulin is released to take it out of the blood and into the cells, where it can be used for energy (or stored as fat).
With our typical western diets, we tend to eat way too much carbohydrates which can lead to blood sugar imbalance, and when this becomes a chronic condition (where insulin no longer works in the way it should), it can lead to Type 2 diabetes. Some studies show that IMF can improve blood sugar balance by keeping the levels regulated and preventing spikes and crashes. In fact, IMF can be very helpful for those with T2 diabetes, to help in its reversal (this must be done under the care of a practitioner though).
3. Another benefit of IMF is the effect it can have on our feelings of hunger and satiety. Leptin is a hormone known as the satiety hormone and produced by the fat cells to signal when we have eaten enough. Leptin falls when we are hungry and should rise when we are full. When we are overweight, because leptin is produced in fat cells, we tend to have more leptin circulating in the blood. You’d think this would mean we wouldn’t feel so hungry, but it can actually cause leptin resistance which then makes it harder to switch off the hunger signals, resulting in us feeling hungrier, more of the time! Studies have shown that IMF can reduce leptin levels during the fasting period, meaning less hunger and potentially increased fat loss.
Of course, you can’t do IMF and expect great results if you then eat rubbish. The focus must still be on filling the diet with healthy whole foods during the day when you are eating and to eat as many nutrient rich foods as you can, and the right amount of food for YOU!
It is important to listen to your body, if you are feeling overly tired or weak or lightheaded, you may need to increase your eating window.
If you’re tired of struggling with weight loss efforts, and you finally want to do this the right way, nourishing your body and working WITH your body, and not against it… Let’s talk.
Here is my calendar, book a time in for a free discovery call and let’s work out the right plan for you so that you can make the long term changes you’ve been wanting to for so long.
N.B - IMF can benefit many people but it’s not for everyone. For example, if you suffer with low blood sugar, then a long fasting window may not be suitable for you. Anyone with Type 1 Diabetes cannot use IMF. Anyone with eating disorders should also not be following IMF, and I don’t recommend it for children or teens who are still growing. Anyone who is ill or suffering with a chronic disease should always consult their GP before embarking on IMF. Women who have hormonal issues or thyroid issues should also consult their GP. And of course, it is not suitable for pregnant or breast-feeding women.
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