Fasting for People Who Like To Eat

Five Popular Methods

Photo by Engin Akyurt from Pexels

I have yo-yo dieted for most of my life. I could successfully lose 15–20 pounds before progress slowed, motivation waned, and I regained. Eventually, I hit my highest weight ever and knew I had to break past that 20-pound barrier. I did it with intermittent fasting — aka fasting for people who like to eat!

Fasting automatically puts people on the defensive. Just like the oft-repeated (but wrong) health advice about eight 8oz glasses of water daily, people also tend to believe lots of small meals a day somehow revs up your metabolism. Research has proven that just cutting calories will slow your metabolism and make you more likely to regain. Headlines everywhere touted the Biggest Loser Study and put “calories in, calories out” into question.

We need to keep basal metabolism high. How? What doesn’t put you into starvation mode? Actual starvation! We see metabolism sparing effect with studies of fasting and bariatric surgery.
What happens with bariatric surgery? This is also called stomach stapling. Because the stomach is the size of a walnut, people cannot eat. Their caloric intakes falls very close to zero. Fasting is the same except it is voluntary reduction of calories towards zero. What happens to basal metabolism? It is maintained! One of the Biggest Loser contestants in fact, did have bariatric surgery. What’s telling is that his metabolic rate started to go back up! Rudy Pauls had regained 80% of his weight before he got bariatric surgery. Then, his metabolism rate went up, whereas almost all the other competitors continued down.
As you fast, there are a number of hormonal changes that do NOT happen with simple caloric reduction. Your body senses that you are getting no food. Growth hormone surges. Noradrenalin surges. Insulin drops. These are so called counter-regulatory hormones that are natural reactions to fasting. They keep blood glucose normal. Growth hormones maintain lean mass. Noradrenalin keeps basal metabolism high. [1]

Note: If you want to get more into the science of fasting, I highly recommend any of Dr. Fung’s books or his free information available through YouTube and his website. I’m only covering short term intermittent fasts (IF) in this article. My experience with a 5 day fast was positive, but it is a different can of worms to IF.

Types of Intermittent Fasting:

1. 18/6 — Intermittent Fasting (IF) common routine

2. 20/4 — Warrior’s Diet (WD)

3. Eat Stop Eat — 1–2 24-hour fasts per week.

4. 36/12 — Alternate Day Fasting (ADF)

5. Modified Fasting

Finding the routine that works for you is key.

1. The 18/6 plan is recommended as an easy entry into the fasting world. It means fasting for 18 hours of the day. The eating window commonly used is noon til 6pm which allows for lunch and dinner in that timeframe.

Eat a good dinner, skip the evening munchies, go to bed early, sleep, skip breakfast (coffee is great at suppressing the appetite), keep busy, and before you know it you’re onto lunchtime.

2. From the common 18/6 it is easy to morph into the Warrior Diet timeframe of 20/4. For many people this can also turn into One Meal a Day (OMAD). OMAD is a popular choice for people who prefer a large, filling meal and don’t want to monitor their food all day.

3. Eat Stop Eat — This method involves one or two 24-hour fasting periods per week with the rest of the time spent “eating responsibly”. If you are seeking to auto-pilot your weight loss this method maybe too loose. If you have a lifestyle that involves a lot of social eating, this method might just be your salvation. As I mentioned earlier, the key is to find something that works for you and stick with it to give it a chance.

4. Alternate Day Fasting (ADF) — If Eat Stop Eat appeals to you, but isn’t offering the results you want to see, the ADF method is worth a try.

ADF preserves muscle mass better than calorie restriction [2], reduces harmful belly fat [3], and lowers insulin and insulin resistance [4]. Even better, ADF does not increase hunger as much as continuous calorie restriction. Studies into the compensatory hunger have concluded that many people who use ADF find their hunger decreases after the first couple of weeks [5]

5. Modified Fasting — This method allows for 500 calories on “fasting” days. Research shows that staying under the 400–500 calorie range for the fasting day will mimic fasting in the body. It also makes it easier to stick with the fasting plan [5]. Using low calorie foods, including a lot of vegetables, is recommended. Plus, it’s a window for fiber intake to help your microbiome (fiber feeds the good guys!) and keeps your bathroom habits regular.

The beauty of fasting is this — you just stop eating.

There are no points to count, foods to weigh, or special trips to the grocery store. The reason why it works is because it’s simple and free. Keeping busy is important because we often eat out of routine or boredom. For some this means taking up new hobbies and for others it might simply mean going to bed earlier so you don’t have that 10pm snack session. Drink plenty of calorie free beverages, including cold water.

What about hunger? It passes. On my longest fast I was surprised to note that hunger never got worse. It simply arrived, stayed about twenty minutes, and went away. Granted, I often drowned it in herbal tea or coffee, but the point is it goes away.

If you have special health conditions it is important to discuss this with your doctor before you begin. For the average person, these types of intermittent fasting are safe and effective.

Sources:

1. https://idmprogram.com/biggest-loser-diet-explained/

2. Catenacci, et al. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2016 Sep;24(9):1874–83. doi: 10.1002/oby.21581. “A randomized pilot study comparing zero-calorie alternate-day fasting to daily caloric restriction in adults with obesity.”

3. “Alternate-day fasting and daily calorie restriction similarly affect visceral adiposity and circulating inflammatory cytokine concentrations.” John Trepanowski, Cynthia Kroeger, Adrienne Barnosky, Kristin Hoddy, and Krista Varady

4. The FASEB Journal 2015 29:1_supplement

5. Varady, KA. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2016 Jul;19(4):300–2. doi: 10.1097/MCO.0000000000000291. “Impact of intermittent fasting on glucose homeostasis.”

6. Klempel, MC., et al. Nutr J. 2010 Sep 3;9:35. doi: 10.1186/1475–2891–9–35. “Dietary and physical activity adaptations to alternate day modified fasting: implications for optimal weight loss.”