What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting covers a number of methods of adapting food intake to provide periods of fasting.
The two most common are:
Alternate day fasting – eat one day, don’t eat the next.
Time restricted feeding – fast 16-20 hours, eat 4-8 hours
The most common within the fitness world is time restricted feeding with 16:8 being most commonly used.
Intermittent fasting is something I began talking about around 2013. Naturally as times change, experience is gained, research moves on and my strategies have adapted.
I have always said that intermittent fasting isn’t optimal or essential for everyone.
Whilst I still see intermittent fasting as a useful tool, it’s emphasis in my plans has certainly decreased.
People have been to led to believe that there are silver bullets out there when it comes to fat loss and intermittent fasting risks falling into this misleading category.
I consulted on a popular health TV show a couple of years ago covering weight loss, diets and intermittent fasting. They were encouraging me to say that regardless of calorie intake you could lose weight if you followed intermittent fasting.
I explained that I often used IF for people looking to gain weight too.
Ultimately a consistent calorie deficit is essential for fat loss, this is regardless of what time you eat or don’t eat.
Intermittent fasting has been shown it can aid fat loss in obese people but provides no superiority over continuous energy restriction (link)
There are also possible health benefits of fasting shown in animal research that are independent of calorie reduction (link)
So, who should fast and who shouldn’t?
If you have flexibility on your eating schedule, enjoy intermittent fasting and find it makes it easier to hit your calories and macros then do it.
If you don’t have flexibility on your eating schedule, don’t enjoy fasting and find it makes it harder to hit your calories and macros then don’t do it.
Either way, it will not make or break your results.
The strict evening cut off time of IF may benefit a lot of people depending on their eating window. Ever been told that eating late at night makes losing weight harder?
Whilst eating late doesn’t cause you any real issues, having a cut off time may help.
Because most of us eat the majority of our junk food late at night. Ever raided the fridge, cupboards or local shop after dinner?
Cut out this junk food and calories are reduced.
This isn’t metabolic changes or the magic of fasting it is simply reducing calorie intake.
I used to include IF in my schedule but I no longer do consistently. My work schedule means I can’t have breakfast at the same time each day but my evening meal remains the same time most days.
This means that my eating window can be anything from 6 hours on super busy days, to 13 hours on quiet days.
I’ve been in good shape whilst including IF and I’ve been in good shape not including it.
Get your training, calories and macros right and you can ignore all the tricks, fads and next big thing.
Intermittent fasting is a good option if it works for you, but isn’t a magic diet for fat loss.
The best diet for fat loss is the one you can best adhere to that provides a calorie deficit. You don’t have to make drastic changes to get in shape, just get the basics right consistently.