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Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss: Separating Fact from Fiction

Intermittent fasting has become a popular trend in the health and wellness space, capturing the attention of many individuals seeking weight loss and improved health. But what exactly is intermittent fasting, and how does the research compare to the hype?

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that cycles between periods of fasting and eating.

It doesn't dictate what you eat, but when. There are various styles of intermittent fasting, some of the most popular include:

Time Restricted Eating

This involves daily fasting for periods of 12 hours or longer. One of the most popular methods is 16:8. This includes a 16 hour fast coupled with an 8 hour eating window. So for example, people may fast between 6pm and 10am and fit their meals in between 10am and 6pm.

The 5:2

This method of fasting was made popular around 10 years ago due to work published by Michael Mosely.

With this style of fasting, you would eat "normally" for 5 days of the week and then 'fast' for 2 days. On the fast days, it is advised that you limit your daily calories to 500-600.

Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss:

One of the key reasons people turn to intermittent fasting is its potential to aid in weight loss. By restricting the eating window, intermittent fasting can help create a calorie deficit, leading to reduced overall calorie intake. Many people find this method to be much easier to adhere to, compared to other dieting programs,

therefore making it a practical weight loss strategy for these individuals.

While intermittent fasting can be effective for weight loss, it may not be suitable for everyone. Some people may experience negative side effects, such as increased hunger, irritability, or difficulty concentrating, especially during the initial adjustment period. It also may not be appropriate for certain groups such as children, teens, pregnant and breastfeeding women. Additionally it may not be appropriate for some health conditions and for those with a history of disordered eating.

So What Does the Research Say?

Generally speaking, when it comes to weight loss, intermittent fasting is not necessarily superior to any other calorie restricted diet.

Two recently published randomised control trials (links here & here) looked at time restricted eating vs. daily calorie restriction. Both groups were consuming the same amount of calories, but the time restricted groups were consuming those calories only within an eating window of 8-10 hours.

Both studies found no significant difference in weight loss, changes in body fat or metabolic risk factors between the time restricted eating and calorie restricted groups.

"....a regimen of time-restricted eating was not more beneficial with regard to reduction in body weight, body fat, or metabolic risk factors than daily calorie restriction."

The bottom line

Incorporating time restricted eating into your lifestyle, can lead to positive changes in your weight. However, it's essential to consider individual circumstances and preferences before jumping on the trend. If you feel this style of eating could suit you and your lifestyle, then absolutely have a go and see how it works for you.

But please remember, intermittent fasting is not 'magic' when it comes to weight loss. The reason that it can benefit weight loss is because it can help you achieve a reduction in calories. There are a number of different ways you can achieve this, other than intermittent fasting so when it comes to choosing a weight loss strategy that is right for you, sustainability and overall well-being should always be prioritised.

In the end, the most effective diet for weight loss is the one you can stick to.



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