Fasting for weight loss seems to be one of the hottest diet trends right now. But despite its current popularity, fasting has been used for thousands of years for various purposes. (It can even boost your memory, according to Intermittent Fasting: Not Just for Weight Loss?.) Because of its popularity with celebrities, people have come to believe that intermittent fasting for weight loss has an advantage over traditional diet and exercise approaches. It doesn’t. While it can be a safe weight loss strategy (if done correctly!), it doesn't actually yield better results than other fat loss methods.
Today, there are a variety of ways that people use intermittent fasting for weight loss. Here are two of the most popular approaches.
24-hour Fasts: This protocol popularized by Brad Pilon in his book Eat, Stop, Eat. (He really introduced me to the science behind intermittent fasting for weight loss). Brad’s approach is very simple—just don’t eat for two non-consecutive 24-hour periods each week.
16/8: This fasting protocol requires you to shorten your ‘eating window’ each day so that you are fasting for 16 hours and eating for eight hours. For many people, this means that breakfast starts at noon or 1 p.m., then they stop eating at 8 or 9 p.m. each day.
Regardless of which protocol you choose, there are three universal components to weight loss that people often overlook when they turn to fasting as a weight loss strategy. Here's how they could impact your success with intermittent fasting for fat loss:
You need to maintain a calorie deficit: At its most basic level, intermittent fasting requires prolonged periods of no eating so that when you are eating, you can eat normally and not worry about eating less to create a caloric deficit. Here's a practical example:
Traditional dieting approach: You burn 1750 calories per day, so you eat 1250 calories per day to create a 500/day calorie deficit. Over the course of the week, you will have a total caloric deficit of 3500 calories, which yields approximately 1 pound of weight loss per week.