Intermittent fasting can produce ‘significant weight loss’ – results ‘peak at 12 weeks’
Lorraine: Nutritionist on the benefits of intermittent fasting
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There are many diets to help you lose weight, but if you’re looking to achieve “significant weight loss”, consider intermittent fasting. Findings from a recent study have revealed participants lost up to eight percent of their body weight in just eight weeks. So what does intermittent fasting involve and how does it work?
Intermittent fasting is all about when you eat.
In short, “intermittent fasting is an eating plan that switches between fasting and eating on a regular schedule”.
As a result of fasting for a certain number of hours each day or eating just one meal a couple of days a week, your body can burn fat.
But how much weight can you expect to lose through intermittent fasting?
According to a 2021 study review led by University of Illinois Chicago researchers, “intermittent fasting can produce clinically significant weight loss as well as improve metabolic health in individuals with obesity”.
Krista Varady, professor of nutrition at the UIC College of Applied Health Sciences commented: “We noted that intermittent fasting is not better than regular dieting; both produce the same amount of weight loss and similar changes in blood pressure, cholesterol and inflammation.”
According to the analysis published in the Annual Review of Nutrition, alternate day fasting resulted in weight loss of three to eight percent of body weight over three to eight weeks, with results peaking at 12 weeks.
For example, if you weigh 74kg, you could see a lost of up to six kilograms, which is just under a stone of weight in the two months – perhaps more if you continue intermittent fasting for the full 12 weeks.
Krista explained why it is a successful dieting tool: “You’re fooling your body into eating a little bit less and that’s why people are losing weight.”
There are concerns about the reduced number of calories consumed on fasting days, but Krista addressed this.
She said: “Fasting people are worried about feeling lethargic and not being able to concentrate. Even though you are not eating, it won’t affect your energy.
“A lot of people experience a boost of energy on fasting days. Don’t worry, you won’t feel crappy. You may even feel better.”
The review included a summary of practical considerations for those who may want to try intermittent fasting.
Side effects such as headaches, dizziness and constipation subside after one to two weeks of fasting.
Increased water intake can help alleviate headaches caused by dehydration during this time.
Moderate to high-intensity endurance or resistance training during food abstention can be done, and some study participants reported having more energy on fast days.
However, studies recommend those following alternate day fasting eat their fasting day meal after exercise.
Diet during fasting
There are no specific recommendations for food consumption during intermittent fasting, but eating fruits, vegetables and whole grains can help boost fibre intake and help relieve constipation that sometimes accompanies fasting.
Alcohol and caffeine
For those using an alternate day or 5:2 fasting plan, alcohol is not recommended on fast days as the limited calories should be used on healthy foods that provide nutrition.
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