In this post, I will discuss the main reason why intermittent fasting could help you lose weight.
The simple answer to the question: does intermittent fasting work for weight loss is yes, but the reason is not fasting itself as some “hype” might have led you to believe.
The Cause Of Weight Loss
There is a huge market for weight loss on the internet, and if you are to believe all the online marketing there seem to be new methods for losing weight discovered all the time.
No matter the method the real reason why weight loss occurs is a calorie deficit. There needs to be a deficit in the energy balance of your body.
This also means, that if you are doing intermittent fasting but are not in a calorie deficit, then you will not lose weight.
From the pure perspective of weight loss, it doesn’t matter how that deficit is created. However, if you want to stay healthy and retain your muscle mass there are of course a number of concerns you need to address.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is not really a diet at all, but it is an eating schedule or pattern that cycles between periods of fasting and periods of eating.
There are different variations of intermittent fasting, I believe skipping breakfast which results in about 16 hours of fasting every day is the most popular one. (See my other post where I cover different variations more in-depth).
The Psychological Effect Of Eating Less
Intermittent fasting has a large number of benefits to overall health and there is actually some clear evidence that intermittent fasting helps burn fat more easily but to understand the real reason why it works you have to understand the basic psychology behind restricting your eating.
As I mentioned above in order for weight loss to occur a calorie deficit is necessary. This means you either have to restrict the calories you are consuming or increase your daily activities or most likely both (recommended). Restricting calories does not feel great. Resisting the urge to eat more and not succumb to your hunger takes a lot of willpower and is not easy at all. That is the hard truth.
Because of this, every strategy that can make it easier for you to create that calorie deficit is going to drastically lower the chance of failure. especially if you already have a stressful life like most people have.
How Intermittent Fasting Works
Intermittent fasting is a very simple strategy to help create the required calorie deficit to lose weight. In a nutshell, instead of thinking about what you can or can’t eat, for certain time you don’t eat or think about eating at all.
When it is finally time to eat you are able to eat far more satisfying meals. If we stick to the example of skipping breakfast, you could be eating 2 larger meals instead of 3-4 smaller meals. This is simply going to feel more satisfying. Another benefit is you don’t have to cook as much (if that is relevant to you).
If you are tracking calories and macros, which I would recommend if you are serious about losing weight, it is also going to be easier to track calories of 2 meals instead of 3-4 meals.
Finally, intermittent fasting affects your hormone levels in a way, that does both make it easier for your body to burn fat and it does increase your metabolic rate a bit. This is of course great.
This is where intermittent fasting really shines, it both makes it more easy and enjoyable to be in a calorie deficit and it makes it easier for your body to burn fat and increases your metabolism.
Personally, I think intermittent fasting is great because it essentially simplifies your day by reducing the number of meals and that is for many people easier to implement than “traditional diets”. You simply have to give less conscious thought to restricting yourself regarding what you should eat.
With this being said, doing intermittent fasting should not hold you back using other strategies that might make your life easier when you are losing weight. I especially recommend strategies to suppress hunger.
Why Thinking Less About Eating Makes Losing Weight Easier
To better understand why it is easier to think less about eating, you need to understand a few things about willpower.
Even though willpower is hard to quantify many studies has shown that it is indeed a limited resource. There are two useful ways you can imagine your willpower like. One way is that your willpower is a muscle you can train, another way is that your willpower is like a battery that is drained throughout the day.
Basically, every action you perform and any decision you make that is not what you can describe as habitual requires a bit of willpower because you have to use conscious thought. This includes thinking about what you can or can’t eat.
If you like most people have a busy life, you have a lot of activities and decisions you need to make throughout the whole day. All this stuff drains willpower and is not going to make it easier for you to consciously restrict yourself in regard to the food you are consuming.
Fasting Is Probably Easier Than You Think
Now you might be thinking that it would be absolutely impossible for you to deal with the hunger that comes with fasting. If this truly is the case, then you can just ignore all of this. Intermittent fasting is not for everyone.
But, you should at least consider the fact that you are already fasting every single day while you sleep. That is of course unless you get up in the night and eat.
Many people report that extending that fast from after having slept is fairly easy to do. And while you might feel a bit uncomfortable and hungry in the beginning, this should soon pass. Additionally, many people also report that those fasted morning hours are very productive because of the increase in focus and alertness that is usually associated with fasting.
Other Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting results in a number of changes to hormone levels, cell functions and gene expressing that are proven to have benefits to overall health. It makes it easier for your body to burn fat, and actually slightly increases your metabolic rate. Additionally, depending on your current health these changes give rise to potential benefits to heart, brain and cellular health and is possibly anti-aging. See my other post on goes more in-depth about these benefits.
As this post is about losing weight, I suggest you look at things as just extra benefits. The increased metabolic rate is nice and it will help you burn a few more calorie every, but it is magically going to melt away all your fat.
Many people (including myself) have adopted intermittent fasting as a lifestyle. This approach can be viewed more like a “lifehack”, by that I mean a relatively easy way to gain a lot of health benefits.