If you've struggled with weight loss, trying every diet and exercise plan you've heard of without any success, intermittent fasting (IF) could change your life. It's not a diet but rather a pattern of eating, alternating between periods of fasting and periods of eating. Since there are no restrictions on what you eat, many people find freedom in being able to eat their favorite foods (hello, french fries, chocolate, and wine!) and in larger portions while still losing body fat, especially stubborn belly fat.
There are many methods of intermittent fasting, but which one is the best for weight loss? Dr. Luiza Petre, a board-certified cardiologist and weight-management specialist, says that in order to figure out which method works best for you, it's important to know how intermittent fasting helps with weight loss.
Dr. Petre says one reason is because of enhancing hormone function. Fasting raises your human growth hormone (HGH) levels (by five times!), lowers insulin levels, and increases leptin (the hormone that decreases hunger and increases metabolic rate), all of which combine to "increase the breakdown of fat in the body, which is then used for energy." Intermittent fasting increases metabolic rate by four to 14 percent and will reset your body from burning sugar as fuel to burning fat.
Another reason is that IF helps you create a calorie deficit over the course of the week, because you're less likely to overeat if your eating window is shorter or if you're eating very little. Intermittent fasting also helps reduce sugar cravings, which can also contribute to weight loss. Dr. Petre said, "When your stored sugar levels are depleted, your body will stop craving it."
"The best IF method for weight loss," Dr. Petre told POPSUGAR, "is the one that you can stick with and accommodates your schedule. There is no universal best because everyone is unique, our bodies react differently, and we have different schedules and life situations." Here are the six most popular methods to choose from:
- 16:8 or Leangains: Fast for 16 hours and eat all your food within eight hours, every single day. A popular way to do this is to skip breakfast and eat from noon until 8 p.m.
- 5:2 or Fast Diet: Twice a week (nonconsecutive days), you restrict calories to around 500 calories a day (600 calories for men), and for the other five days, you eat as if you are not on a diet.
- Eat, Stop, Eat: This method involves fasting for 24 hours once or twice a week.
- The Warrior Diet: Fast all day, then eat one large dinner. Raw fruits and veggies, fresh juice, and a few servings of protein, if desired, are allowed during the fasting window.
- Alternate Day Fasting or Up Day Down Day Diet: Fast one day, then eat normally the next day, and repeat.
- One Meal a Day (OMAD) or 23:1: Fast 23 hours, then eat one meal a day within one hour.
Dr. Petre suggests finding the method that feels the most natural, something you can maintain long-term. Take two to four weeks to ease into intermittent fasting in order to allow your body and mind to acclimate and to find the most success. Dr. Petre also said, "Don't be afraid to switch to a different protocol if you find your original choice doesn't fit your lifestyle. The benefits are worth the effort, and with a little trial and error, results are sure to follow."
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