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How Intermittent Fasting Helps with Weight Loss

There are many ways of losing weight. Intermittent fasting is one of them (1).

Intermittent fasting is a pattern of eating that involves consistent short-term fasts. It also involves periods of no food consumption or very minimal food intake.

Intermittent fasting is known to aid weight loss. When you fast for short periods, you’ll eat fewer calories. This leads to weight loss over time (1).

It is worth mentioning that intermittent fasting can also help modify risk factors for chronic conditions like cardiovascular disease and diabetes. For example, it lowers blood sugar and cholesterol levels (2, 3, 4, 5).

In this article, I will discuss intermittent fasting and how it helps with weight loss.


Its effects on your hormones

Intermittent fasting helps with weight loss, but also, it affects your hormones.

Why is this so? It is because your body stores energy (calories) as fat.

When you fast or don’t eat, your body will undergo several changes to improve access to stored energy.

Such changes include changes in the activity of your nervous system and changes in the level of vital hormones.

Two significant metabolic changes that occur during fasting include (6, 7):

· Insulin: When you eat, your insulin level increases. On the other hand, insulin levels fall drastically when you fast. Lower insulin levels facilitate fat burning.

· Noradrenaline: It is also known as norepinephrine. The nervous system releases noradrenaline to the fat cells, causing the breakdown of body fat into free fatty acids. Your body then burns these fatty acids for energy.

It is worth mentioning that short-term fasting increases fat burning. However, studies have shown that alternating-day fasting and whole-day fasting trials lasting 3–12 weeks and 12–24 weeks, respectively, helps reduce body fat and weight (8, 9).

However, there is still a need for further research to examine the long-term effects of intermittent fasting.

Fasting also alters the level of human growth hormone (HGH). In fact, during fasting, HGH levels may increase as much as 5-fold (6, 7).

Initially, HGH was believed to enhance the burning of fat. However, new research shows that HGH facilitates the conservation of energy by the brain, thus making it difficult to lose weight (10).

HGH increases appetite and impedes energy metabolism by activating a group of neurons in your body known as agouti-related protein (AgRP).


Intermittent fasting helps with weight loss and reduction of calories

Intermittent fasting promotes weight loss by helping you to eat fewer calories and carbohydrates.

All intermittent fasting protocols involve skipping meals during the fast. So, technically, whenever you’re on an intermittent fast, you’re consuming fewer calories, unless, of course, you compensate by eating more during the feeding periods.

A 2014 study (11) published in the journal Translational Research found that intermittent fasting caused a 3–8% reduction in body weight over a timeline of 3–24 weeks.

Further investigation shows that intermittent fasting may cause weight loss at a rate of 0.55–1.65 pounds (0.25–0.75kg) weekly (12).

The same study also showed that weight loss reduced waist circumference by 4–7%, indicating that the participants lost belly fat.

This implies that intermittent fasting greatly aids weight loss.

That said, intermittent fasting does not only help with weight loss. It has many other health benefits, including reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease (13, 14).

Yes, calorie counting isn’t required during an intermittent fast. But then, it is worth mentioning that weight loss is mediated by a reduction in the intake of calories.


Tips to succeeding with intermittent fasting for weight loss

There are a couple of things that you should consider if you want to lose weight via intermittent fasting:

  • The first is the food quality. What you eat is important, whether in or out of fasting. As much as you can, ensure that there is more whole, single-ingredient foods in your diet.
  • Your calorie intake matters. You must normally eat during non-fasting periods, but that’s not to say you should overeat to compensate for what you missed during the fasting period.
  • Consistency also matters. To see the weight loss benefits of intermittent fasting, you have to stick with it for an extended period.
  • Patience, they say, is a virtue. It also applies to intermittent fasting. It may take a while for your body to adapt to an intermittent fasting protocol. However, apply a great deal of consistency to your meal schedule, and things will get easier.

References

  1. Johnstone A. (2015). Fasting for weight loss: an effective strategy or latest dieting trend?. International journal of obesity (2005)39(5), 727–733. https://doi.org/10.1038/ijo.2014.214
  2. Impact of intermittent fasting on the lipid profile: Assessment associated with diet and weight loss. Santos, Heitor O. et al. Clinical Nutrition ESPEN, Volume 24, 14 - 21
  3. Horne, B. D., Muhlestein, J. B., & Anderson, J. L. (2015). Health effects of intermittent fasting: hormesis or harm? A systematic review. The American journal of clinical nutrition102(2), 464–470. https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.115.109553
  4. Mahmoud Abdellatif, Simon Sedej, Cardiovascular benefits of intermittent fasting, Cardiovascular Research, Volume 116, Issue 3, 1 March 2020, Pages e36–e38, https://doi.org/10.1093/cvr/cvaa022
  5. Carter, S., Clifton, P. M., & Keogh, J. B. (2018). Effect of Intermittent Compared With Continuous Energy Restricted Diet on Glycemic Control in Patients With Type 2 Diabetes: A Randomized Noninferiority Trial. JAMA network open1(3), e180756. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.0756
  6. Antoni, R., Johnston, K. L., Collins, A. L., & Robertson, M. D. (2017). Effects of intermittent fasting on glucose and lipid metabolism. The Proceedings of the Nutrition Society76(3), 361–368. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0029665116002986
  7. El-Zayat, S.R., Sibaii, H. & El-Shamy, K.A. Physiological process of fat loss. Bull Natl Res Cent 43, 208 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1186/s42269-019-0238-z
  8. Tinsley, G. M., & La Bounty, P. M. (2015). Effects of intermittent fasting on body composition and clinical health markers in humans. Nutrition reviews73(10), 661–674. https://doi.org/10.1093/nutrit/nuv041
  9. Welton, S., Minty, R., O'Driscoll, T., Willms, H., Poirier, D., Madden, S., & Kelly, L. (2020). Intermittent fasting and weight loss: Systematic review. Canadian family physician Medecin de famille canadien66(2), 117–125.
  10. Furigo, I.C., Teixeira, P.D.S., de Souza, G.O. et al. Growth hormone regulates neuroendocrine responses to weight loss via AgRP neurons. Nat Commun 10, 662 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-019-08607-1
  11. Adrienne R. Barnosky, Kristin K. Hoddy, Terry G. Unterman, Krista A. Varady, Intermittent fasting vs daily calorie restriction for type 2 diabetes prevention: a review of human findings, Translational Research, Volume 164, Issue 4, 2014, Pages 302-311, ISSN 1931-5244, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.trsl.2014.05.013.(https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S193152441400200X)
  12. Metabolic Effects of Intermittent Fasting.Ruth E. Patterson and Dorothy D. Sears. Annual Review of Nutrition 2017 37:1, 371-393
  13. Malinowski, B., Zalewska, K., Węsierska, A., Sokołowska, M. M., Socha, M., Liczner, G., Pawlak-Osińska, K., & Wiciński, M. (2019). Intermittent Fasting in Cardiovascular Disorders-An Overview. Nutrients11(3), 673. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11030673

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