I’ve spent a lot of space on this site reviewing meal plans for weight loss, but most (if not all) of them deal with what you should eat. Another angle for tackling weight loss is controlling how or when you eat. One such method is through intermittent fasting.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
If you’re like most people, you stick to a pretty standard schedule of eating three square meals per day. You wake up and have breakfast. Around noon or so you have lunch. When you are done with work for the day, you enjoy some dinner in the evening. Other people eat on a different schedule. Instead of having three larger meals, they split it up into four to six smaller meals that are spread every two to three hours.
Whichever is your eating schedule, you’ll always be full and getting the nutrition that you need. But what if I flipped all that upside down and said you could through periods of starvation (in a healthy, controlled manner) as a means to weight loss? That’s what intermittent fasting is.
This is a diet schedule that cycles through periods of fasting, where you drastically reduce your caloric intake or eat nothing at all, followed by periods of unlimited eating. This eating schedule has been in practice for thousands of years, with many religious groups and philosophers like Socrates and Plato among the followers.
How Does It Work?
The goal of intermittent fasting is to boost weight loss by shocking your body’s metabolism. If you follow the same diet every day, eaten at the same times every day, your body adjusts to it. It becomes the norm. After a period of time with this consistency, your metabolism slows down and you don’t burn fat as efficiently as you used to.
With intermittent fasting, you are throwing your metabolism a curveball and keeping it guessing. Some say that this diet has roots back to our hunter-gatherer ancestors (like the Paleo Diet), where they didn’t when or where their next meal would come from.
Intermittent Fasting Schedules
There are innumerable ways to follow a fasting schedule, but a few of them are more popular and recommended than others. Below are some of the most common fasting routines.
Obvious by the name, this plan involves a day of zero food consumption, followed by a day of unlimited eating. On the fasting days, you are allowed to consume around 25% of your body’s daily recommended calorie intake (this varies from person to person). There are no food restrictions on the non-fasting days.
This may be the easiest intermittent fasting plan for beginners. It is the least extreme and easiest entry to trying out a diet like this. On this fasting schedule, you dedicate a time period of the day where you are not allowed to eat anything. Most commonly, this is usually something like 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. while they are at work. Outside of those hours, you are allowed unlimited eating.
With this schedule, you select one or two days in the week where you fast – eating nothing or 25% of your daily recommended calories as a maximum. This is sometimes called the 5:2 ratio, with 5 days of eating and 2 days of fasting each week. On the fasting days, stick to around 400 to 500 calories.
I have tried this out myself and will attest that it is tough to adjust to, but it can be very effective for weight loss. If you’re looking to try this out, try it with the Time-Restricted schedule first and see how it works for you. The next step up would be the Alternate Day method.
I like how this eating schedule gives my body a shock. It’s like how it is advised to be changing up your workout routines so you don’t hit plateaus. It’s something that is preached in my favorite Shortcut to Size workout program. If you do the same exercises and use the same machines on each and every workout, you’ll hit a wall. It works the same way with dieting. Changing it up can be a great thing!
This book, which comes very well reviewed, makes this diet plan easy to understand and follow. I highly recommend checking it out if you’re interested in this kind of dieting.