Does Fasting Really Help Weight Loss?
There’s no denying that fasting is currently all the rage, with stacks of fashionable diets available for those serious about dropping the pounds and looking their best. But just how effective is fasting in helping you banish fat, what options are available and most importantly, are they safe?
Let’s delve into the fascinating world of fasting…
Fasting-based diets: the lowdown
You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to diets that base themselves on fasting – here are some of the most popular options:
The 5:2 diet
The mother of all fasting diets, the premise of 5:2 is simple – consume just 600 calories if you’re a man and 500 calories if you’re a woman two days each week, whilst eating normally for the remaining five days. It’s popular and is thought to be super effective: in fact, a 2012 study linked this eating lifestyle to not only weight loss but lowered risk of obesity-related cancers.
The key to the 5:2 is to keep a close eye on the calories on fasting days and do not over indulge on regular eating days.
On a personal note, I followed the 5:2 diet 3 years ago and managed to lose 18 lbs in 5 weeks
Another trendy choice, juice fasts see solid foods replaced by freshly-pressed fruit and vegetable juices for anything from a day a week to a full fortnight.
While thought to help the body rid itself of toxins and induce weight loss, health professionals have been quick to highlight that the body doesn’t actually need this extra support as it does a good job of de-toxifying itself. The lack of protein and fibre this approach involves has also been heavily criticised.
The fasting mimicking diet (FMD)
A University of Southern California-devised plan, this sees dieters follow a strict five-day fast each month, with normal eating habits followed the rest of the time. The sees calories lowered by a third to a half (1,090 calories in day one then 725 calories for days two to five), with foods consisting predominantly of vegetable broth and herbal tea. This supposedly makes it easier and safer to fast. After three months all participants showed lower biomarkers linked to diabetes, cancer, ageing and heart disease… and all managed to shed body fat.
The day on/day off (DODO) diet
This involves three completely food-free days each week. The night before a fast, ensure you eat a dinner of protein and vegetables, followed by a day of eating nothing at all. Its founder Drew Price claims dieters can expect results of up to 7lbs of weight loss in the first week and 1lb to 3lbs afterwards.
The 16:8 Diet
This involves not eating for 16 hours a day, with two healthy meals are eaten in the other eight hours. This is reported to be the method followed by Hugh Jackman when filming Wolverine.
Which fasting diet is right for me?
While different diets work for different people, it’s fair to say that most health professionals warn against any extreme fasts, just as they would do with crash diets, because they fail to deliver the nutrients the body needs and can do more harm to the metabolism than good. Across the board, diets incorporating an intermittent fasting approach have delivered better results both in terms of boosting the metabolism and facilitating fat burn.
One study in the Cell Research journal is particularly telling – this saw mice put on an intermittent fasting diet, eating normally for two days, followed by a fast day, for 16 weeks. A second group continued to eat as usual.
After four months the fasting mice had lower overall body weights, as well as lower amounts of white fat and more brown fat, which is used for energy and body heat. Insulin and glucose levels were also more consistent.
And that’s not all – on-off fasting has shown a strong results in protecting against ageing, cellular damage, high blood pressure and even Alzheimer’s and dementia. This makes good sense really, given that our ancestors were perfectly healthy and they didn’t have access to food around the clock!
In conclusion, as with anything you need to take the time to find out what’s right for you, but we’re confident that in moderation (and with common sense), fasting can be a golden ticket to shedding the fat.