Intermittent Fasting, popularly known as IF is a popular diet trend on social media. It has been advertised by many celebrities and influencers as one of the best diets for losing fat, building muscle and for overall health. But it leaves many confused for those who are just approaching a healthy lifestyle.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
As the name suggests, intermittent fasting follows a period of eating and a period of fasting. One of the most popular approaches is to fast for a period of 16 hours, followed by 8 hours of eating. Half of the fasting phase involves sleep which reduces the amount of time spent consciously fasting, leading to the usage of higher energy only when conscious.
Who is it for?
Research studies have shown that Intermittent Fasting is a perfect approach for obese or overweight individuals who want a diet that will complement fat loss while maintaining or building muscle. This works well due to the excess fat storages being spent for energy during the fasting phase. Intermittent Fasting just like many other diets requires a nutrition expert to create the right diet so the body does not run out of energy and can keep one focused for longer.
People who are starting out into diet and exercise should not introduce sudden changes to the body. This causes stress which may lead them to quit their decision on the betterment of health. A slight caloric deficit followed by a structured diet and exercise program will help one achieve the benefits of intermittent fasting. It is not meant for anyone to simply incorporate into their diet. As with many other diet trends that have been popularised by studies, intermittent fasting was initially designed to help people with diabetes and anyone looking to make it part of their diet should consult a dietician or nutritionist.
Does it help in fat loss and muscle gain?
A popular takeaway in the workout aspect of IF is to perform fasted cardio for more fat loss. While this may burn fat initially, performing cardio for a prolonged amount of time in a fasted phase might lead to breaking down of muscle for energy, than fats. This will lead to muscle loss or maintenance, but not muscle building. A workout window matters here depending on the person as some may perform better before eating, while some perform better during the eating stage. A healthy meal in the post-workout window can help one build strength and avoid muscle loss or fatigue.
Intermittent Fasting, however, shows limitations. According to a research study where 8 lean healthy volunteers were subjected to IF and a standard diet, there was very little difference in metabolism, whole-body glucose, or lipid levels. This shows that it may be best suited for individuals who are overweight or obese, but one can consult a dietician to get a better idea if it works for them.
IF is among the few diets that show significant weight loss results compared to the many fad diets visible today in social media. It shows easy and maintainable results for those who are starting into exercise and may also have benefits for those who are already healthy, provided they consult a professional.