We’ve all heard the basic equation for weight loss: calories in, calories out. If the amount of calories you consume each day outruns your activity level, you gain weight. When your exercise burns more calories than your diet provides, you lose weight. It’s that simple.
Or is it?
Yes and no. Obviously, there’s no magic bullet that can tip this equation in the other direction— diet and exercise are important, of course, but But if you’ve already got a good balance of activity and exercise and would like to see additional weight loss without feeling deprived, you can take advantage of your body’s natural responses to food consumption (or lack thereof). In fact, when you eat can have a significant impact on successful weight loss.
This is where Intermittent Fasting comes in.
What is Intermittent fasting?
Fasting is defined as going for a period of time without taking in calories; intermittent means broken up, rather than in one continuous span. When you put them together, intermittent fasting consists of going for periods of time (such as a day) without eating. It’s this intermittent nature that makes fasting a safe and accessible method for losing weight.
How does intermittent fasting help with weight loss?
Intermittent fasting helps with weight loss on two different levels. On a really basic level, it puts boundaries around eating, which puts a dent into some of that mindless munching we’re often inclined to do throughout the day. But more interestingly, intermittent fasting also encourages your body to break down fat as a source of energy.
How this works involves your body’s response to food. When you eat a muffin or grab a mocha from the coffee shop down the street, your blood sugar (or glucose) is raised. Elevated blood sugar, in turn, stimulates the production of insulin, a hormone that tells your cells to turn that glucose into energy or store it in your muscles or fat.
If you’ve ever known someone with Type I diabetes, you know that this process of using glucose is really important. Without insulin, all that glucose stays in your blood, which can cause all sorts of health problems. And if you’re working on building muscle, insulin is key to getting your body into a state where it can add more bulk.
But for people who are looking to lose weight, releasing insulin is counterproductive. You want your body to be in a state where it’s breaking down fat, not adding it. If glucose in the blood is dangerous and the only way for the body to get rid of excess blood sugar is to produce insulin, how do you get into that state safely?
You do it by eliminating the source of the glucose for a while. Which is to say, eliminating food.
In other words, you embrace intermittent fasting.
A fasting period means the pancreas isn’t stimulated to produce insulin, which then means the body doesn’t prime itself to add weight. Even a small caloric intake can trigger insulin production, meaning that the calories you consume after a fasting period are not the same as calories consumed constantly throughout the day. This isn’t magical thinking— it’s actual science. In fact, it’s how many people are able to give their diet and fitness programs an extra benefit by using scientific knowledge of the body’s inner workings to the advantage of their health and well-being.
How does fitness play into intermittent fasting?
Even when you are eating fewer calories and keeping your blood sugar low, exercise is still important for general health benefits, cardiovascular fitness, and for building the strength, balance, and flexibility needed to function effectively now and as you age. The question then becomes not “Should I exercise while fasting?” but “How and when should I introduce activity while fasting for maximum impact on my weight loss and overall health?”
Getting the heart really pumping while in a fasting period can be hugely helpful, because that burst of adrenaline tells the body to break down fat which will then release energy for the body to use. Adrenaline is primarily released during high-intensity activity—not so much with moderate exercise like a stroll through the park. Luckily, it doesn’t take much high-intensity activity to jump-start this process. A few minutes of running, jumping rope, or even fast-paced dancing can do the job.
Is there a catch to this? If such short bursts of activity are so helpful for stimulating fat loss, why doesn’t everybody see weight loss success? Just like people, who will usually grab a conveniently located snack over one that’s difficult to get, your body goes for the easiest-to-access source of fuel.
If you’ve eaten a meal in the last several hours, it’s a lot easier for your body to turn that into energy than your fat. With that in mind, the best time for this brief, intense exercise session is actually in the middle of your fasting period.
Is intermittent fasting for weight loss safe?
When done correctly and responsibly, intermittent fasting can be a safe method for most people to lose weight, but it’s important to start slowly and watch for any health problems that may pop up. This is especially true for women, who can experience thyroid problems if they start an intense regimen of intermittent fasting too quickly. Of course, people who have a history of eating disorders or excessive calorie restriction should not try intermittent fasting, as they can easily fall back into bad habits.
Intermittent fasting doesn’t have to leave you feeling deprived, and it doesn’t have to be (and possibly shouldn’t be, for many people) something you follow every day. But, if it’s used appropriately, intermittent fasting can be a powerful tool in advancing towards your weight loss goals and in becoming a fitter, healthier version of you.
The post How to Do Intermittent Fasting for Easier Weight Loss appeared first on Yuri Elkaim.