If you want to lose excess body fat, all you really need to do is consume fewer calories than you expend (i.e. eat at a calorie deficit) and take a few steps to ensure you maintain your muscle mass while you are losing the fat.
But if you are finding it difficult to get the results you want, there could be a simple solution to that – intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting is simply the practice of going without food for short periods of time on a regular basis. This could mean not eating for a full 24 hours once or twice per week, or you could just do 16 hours each day – which is basically just skipping breakfast.
There are a number of reasons why intermittent fasting works so well for fat loss, but here are the top five of them.
1. You Consume Fewer Calories Per Week
Rather than thinking of your calorie intake in daily terms, it’s better to think of it over the course of a week. So if you overeat on any one day, it doesn’t really matter, as you can easily make up for it the next day. And if you practice intermittent fasting you’ll be eating fewer meals each week, so you’ll be taking in less total calories – even if you eat as you normally would the rest of the time.
2. You Produce Higher Levels of Fat Burning Hormones
Hormones control most of our bodies metabolic activities, and that includes fat burning. And in the fasting state you produce much higher levels of growth hormone, which is our most important fat burning hormone.
You also produce much less insulin, and as insulin is a fat-storing hormone, this means you’ll be able to burn body fat for energy much more effectively.
3. You Produce More Fat Burning Enzymes
Hormones need enzymes in order to work properly, and fasting increases the activity of two of the most important fat burning enzymes.
These are adipose tissue hormone sensitive lipase (HSL), which is responsible for the release of fat from your fat cells, and muscle tissue lipoprotein lipase (LPL), which is responsible for the uptake of fat by your muscle cells, where it is used for energy.
4. You Burn Fat for Energy Instead of Sugar
When you eat, your body normally burns the carbohydrate (sugar) from your meal first, and then it starts to burn fat. But any calories that are not used within a few hours are just stored on your body as fat.
In the fasting state this changes, however, and your metabolism shifts from burning sugar to burning mostly body fat for energy. And this effect increases over time. So towards the end of a fast (particularly one lasting 24 hours), you will be burning far more fat than you ever would during a normal day of eating.
5. You Can Still Eat All Your Favorite Foods
With intermittent fasting, you only need to deprive yourself for short periods of time, and the rest of the time you can eat as normal. So that means you can still enjoy all of your favorite foods, and you won’t have to worry about following any particular “diet”. And that makes it very easy to stick to, so you’ll be able to lose the excess fat easily, and then keep it off – for life.
Contrary to what you may have heard elsewhere, going without food for short periods of time will not cause your metabolism to slow down and you will not go into “starvation mode”. In fact during a short fast your metabolism may actually increase a little, so you’ll probably have more energy and be more productive when fasting than at any other time.
Intermittent fasting is an integral part of many popular and effective dietary protocols such as Jason Ferruggia’s Renegade Diet and Martin Berkhan’s Leangains, which both employ 16 hour fasts. Brad Pilon, on the other hand, recommends 24 hour fasts and his book Eat Stop Eat is widely regarded as the ultimate resource on the subject.
Apart from making it easier to lose body fat, there are a number of other benefits of intermittent fasting. These include improved digestion (as your digestive system gets a rest when you are fasting), faster healing, reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and many other degenerative diseases, better immune system function and a slower rate of ageing – so you’ll probably live longer too.
And yes, in case you were wondering, you can build muscle very effectively while following an intermittent fasting protocol. You will of course have to increase your total calorie intake to a little above maintenance, and this may necessitate reducing your fasting periods down to 14 hours. But it does provide a very effective way to increase your muscle mass with minimal (if any) fat gain.
So if you haven’t started to use intermittent fasting as part of your dietary regimen, perhaps now is the time to give it a try. You’ll not only lose fat faster and more effectively, you’ll also enjoy improved health and probably a longer life too.