You’ve seen countless before and after photos, read success stories, and wondered if intermittent fasting is good for weight loss. Then you’ve come to the right place!
Properly applied, intermittent fasting can bring about extraordinary weight loss success. Based on current studies, I show you exactly how it works and which health benefits you may unleash.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting has become the most popular form of fasting worldwide due to its impact on weight loss results and scientifically proven benefits.
It involves eating within a certain period and fasting for the rest of the day.
There are various forms of intermittent fasting, but the most popular is fasting within around 16 hours.
Thereby, you eat only between noon and 8 PM. This way, your body can fast for 16 out of 24 hours with an 8-hour eating period.
The fasting period ensures that your whole digestive tract rests for another 8 hours daily after 8 hours of sleep (or even before).
To start classic 16/8 intermittent fasting, all you need to do is skip breakfast.
Contrary to popular belief, breakfast is the most important meal of the day only for the food industry due to the energy boost from hormone release in the morning.
However, those with exceptional work schedules can just as easily skip dinner or lunch and succeed. This flexibility is one of the main advantages of intermittent fasting.
Unlike other diet trends, intermittent fasting is all about less, not more. As soon as you skip a meal, you’re already practicing it. Health can be that simple!
In addition to 16/8 intermittent fasting, the following intermittent fasting protocols are widely used:
- One-Day Fasting (6:1 Diet) – you do not eat anything on a full day a week
- Two-Day Fasting (5:2 Diet) – you do not eat anything on two full days a week
- Alternate Day Fasting (ADF) – Eat one day, fast one day (often with a small meal)
- One Meal A Day (OMAD) – 23/1 intermittent fasting, where you eat once a day
Is Intermittent Fasting Good for Weight Loss?
Intermittent fasting takes advantage of the fact that gaining and losing weight is controlled by hormones. The storage hormone insulin is the key player in this process.
Insulin is responsible for signaling cells to take glucose from the bloodstream and store excess energy as fat or glycogen.
Accordingly, researchers can predict 75% of the gain and loss of overweight people with the help of insulin levels (Kong et al. 20131).
Moreover, insulin prevents the breakdown of body fat (Meijssen et al. 20012).
Since intermittent fasting is the most effective way to lower insulin levels, many people successfully leverage it for weight loss.
The fasting period stops nutrient intake, lowers insulin levels, and thus ends the body’s storage mode.
During this process, your body draws energy preferentially from glycogen stores in the liver, kidneys, and muscles. As soon as these carbohydrate stores are empty, it has to resort to fat depots to obtain energy (Heilbronn et al. 20053).
This mechanism is probably the essential goal of intermittent fasting for most people.
Consequently, our bodies build up fat reserves during times of abundance to draw on this body fat during food shortages.
Because we eat around the clock at all times of the year today, we gain weight. In contrast, intermittent fasting restores the natural balance between eating and fasting.
Accordingly, fasting eliminates the hormonal imbalance that causes obesity (Lustig 20014).
How Fast Can You Lose Weight With Intermittent Fasting?
You lose weight as soon as your body burns its fat for energy. When this happens is individual and depends mainly on your diet.
Therefore, intermittent fasting is not a free pass to sweets and other refined carbohydrates.
When you start fasting, and your carbohydrate stores are full, you won’t lose a gram of fat in the next 24 hours.
Depending on your body, these stores can hold 1700-2200 calories. That means your glycogen stores will cover your whole daily energy expenditure.
For this reason, intermittent fasting works best with a low-carb diet.
If the carbohydrate stores remain empty after the meal, the body can immediately burn fat instead of sugar.
Likewise, intense exercise can help you get into a state of efficient fat burning (ketosis) faster by also helping to empty glycogen stores.
First and foremost, what and how much you eat and exercise or not determines how fast you lose weight with intermittent fasting.
Provided you eat a low-carb diet, you will feel the first weight loss as early as week #1. About 3 grams of water are stored with every gram of carbohydrate in the form of glycogen.
As soon as you deplete the glycogen stores, this water is flushed out of the body. Therefore, with intermittent fasting, you initially lose about 3-6 pounds of water weight.
However, after a conventional high-carbohydrate diet, the body needs 3-6 weeks to learn to burn fat efficiently again.
Once it is fat-adapted, extraordinary results become possible.
What Are the Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting?
Let’s look at the health benefits of intermittent fasting besides weight loss backed by science:
- Less dangerous body fat: Intermittent fasting burns unflattering fat under the skin and visceral fat in organs which is particularly dangerous to health (Catenacci et al. 20165).
- Reduced inflammation: Numerous studies show intermittent fasting can lower inflammatory markers contributing to weight gain (Faris et al. 20126).
- Better insulin sensitivity: One study of over 100 overweight women showed that intermittent fasting over six months could reduce insulin levels by 29% and insulin resistance by 19% (Harvie et al. 20117).
- Improved type 2 diabetes: Some studies suggest intermittent fasting reverses insulin resistance and even type 2 diabetes (Halberg et al. 20058).
- Increased life expectancy: According to recent studies, fasting can slow the aging process, increasing life expectancy (Nakamura et al. 20189).
- Boosted metabolism: The increased release of norepinephrine during fasting boosts energy levels and the basal metabolic rate (Zauner et al. 200010).
- Better muscle gain: Fasting is the most effective way to stimulate growth hormones naturally (Ho et al. 198811).
- Improved memory function: Fasting increases brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) – a neuronal growth hormone that forms new neural connections and increases memory function (Witte et al. 200912).
- Enhanced gut health: Fasting periods give the gut a rest, starve bad gut bacteria, improve intolerances, and thus increase life expectancy (Catterson et al. 201813).
- Improved fertility: Intermittent fasting was shown to increase the release of luteinizing hormone in women suffering from polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which could help promote ovulation (Nair et al. 201614).
Hence, intermittent fasting is much about hormone balance. What does that mean for women in particular?
Can Women Lose Weight with Intermittent Fasting?
Yes, women can lose weight with intermittent fasting. Some people argue that intermittent fasting is only beneficial for men.
But that we exist today is based on the fact that not only men are built for fasting. Hence, women had to survive food shortages.
Since reproduction is the primary goal of the female body, it focuses on survival during food shortages. Otherwise, no offspring can be conceived.
Therefore, the following situations can affect the female hormone balance:
- Infections and inflammation
- Poor food choices
- Too little food
- Too much exercise (physical stress)
- High stress in everyday life (psychological stress)
- Too little sleep (also a stress factor)
Accordingly, one study shows that excessive caloric restriction can have adverse effects on the release of two female hormones (Meczekalski et al. 200815):
- Luteinizing Hormone (LH)
- Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH)
If these reproductive hormones cannot communicate appropriately with the ovaries, periods may stop, or, in some cases, the entire cycle may stop.
Likewise, the same study states that excessive exercise and psychological stress equally throw hormones out of balance (Meczekalski et al. 201416).
However, as long as intermittent fasting is done correctly, it does not upset hormone balance negatively.
Intermittent fasting is, above all, flexible. That’s why it’s advisable to start with an intermittent fasting plan that fits into your daily routine and doesn’t create additional stress.
If you can’t go without breakfast, skip dinner instead. If 16 hours of fasting per day is too much, start with 12 or 14.
Intermittent fasting doesn’t have to be a calorie restriction. Instead, it’s more of a concentration of food intake over time.
This balance of eating and fasting balances insulin levels. Consequently, you can lose weight through this eating pattern without restricting your basic calorie needs.
Best Intermittent Fasting Tips for Weight Loss
You’ll find countless myths and insufficiently researched claims on the internet regarding nutritional advice. Intermittent fasting is no exception.
Therefore, beginners should take the following three tips for best weight loss results with intermittent fasting without experiencing physical side effects.
1. You Do Not Have to Take It Easy
A popular myth about intermittent fasting is that you must take it easy.
Unless you already feel tired, the surest way into sluggishness is to rest even more. Instead, activities can help your body go to fat-burning faster.
If you feel a sense of fatigue while fasting, it’s usually a sign that your carbohydrate stores are emptying. However, this is not a bad thing.
The body is telling us that readily available energy is running low by feeling sluggish. And that’s what we want to achieve.
Nevertheless, the body does not immediately expend extra metabolic energy to burn fat, especially if you start fasting.
Accordingly, like a savings account, body fat is only attacked when carbohydrate stores, the checkings account, are empty.
That’s why it helps to increase your energy needs with exercise. This way, you force your body to switch to burning body fat.
Nevertheless, when fasting, it is crucial to listen to your body. If you feel good about fasting and strength training, there is nothing wrong with it.
If you feel unwell, you can always break the fast.
For example, intermittent fasting and muscle building work great for me since fasting releases enormous amounts of growth hormone.
However, it is important to always exercise during fasting to maximize fat burning. If you eat before exercising, insulin production will prevent fat burning (Meijssen et al. 200117).
2. Stay Hydrated
It is essential to drink a lot, especially when fasting for the first time. Otherwise, the fluid loss caused by glycogen breakdown will inevitably lead to headaches.
Also, drinking is the best remedy for cravings. One of the most common beginner mistakes in intermittent fasting is confusing thirst with hunger.
We snack instead of reaching for water or tea since food keeps us hydrated.
When we forgo habitual snacks, we don’t automatically replenish the fluids they had previously given us.
As a result, we think we feel hungry. Accordingly, with intermittent fasting, you often don’t have cravings, just cravings for fluids.
Three drinks, in particular, have proven effective against cravings:
- Mineral water: Water before a meal reduces hunger. The carbonic acid also helps with an unsettled stomach. In addition, mineral water contains electrolytes that the body has flushed out when emptying the carbohydrate stores.
- Black coffee: While caffeine can boost metabolism, the antioxidants in coffee help suppress hunger. For this reason, decaffeinated coffee can also be a good option.
- Green tea: Green tea has proven to be a good choice when fasting due to polyphenols and other antioxidants. It reduces hunger, stimulates metabolism, and helps with weight loss.
Should we drink more than a gallon of water daily during intermittent fasting?
No. Drink when you are thirsty or feel cravings. No one needs to force themselves to drink ill, especially since overhydration can also have adverse effects.
In addition, fluid needs are individual, so there can be no blanket rule. However, a glass of water or tea will not hurt in doubt.
3. Do Not Fear the Shaker
In addition to fluid loss, a second significant aspect is responsible for physical complaints such as dizziness.
An undersupply of salt (sodium) is the primary trigger for this. Therefore, even in strict therapeutic fasting, natural salt is allowed in addition to water.
Besides other electrolytes, sodium, in particular, is flushed out of the body while breaking down carbohydrate stores. Since salt has an unjustly unhealthy image, nutrition-conscious people often save with it.
However, we now know that those countries with the highest salt consumption have the lowest rates of cardiovascular disease (Park et al. 201618).
Moreover, salt takes the bitter taste out of food and acts against cravings. Since it also has a negative feedback loop, unlike sugar, your body will tell you when you’ve had enough salt.
While sugar consumption promotes insulin resistance and body fat storage, salt increases insulin sensitivity and aids weight loss (Sakuyama et al. 201619).
Finally, salt is the natural antagonist of sugar. If you want intermittent fasting without problems, salt your food as you like.
Furthermore, if you have a headache during fasting, you can dissolve natural Himalayan salt in water or drink homemade sole water.
How to Break Through a Weight Loss Plateau on Intermittent Fasting
If you’re having trouble losing weight, unconscious factors could be in your way. Besides conventional diet, these circumstances may hinder fat burning:
- Soft drinks, juices, shakes, and sports drinks: Beverages are often reasons losing weight doesn’t work. They all contain vast amounts of hidden sugar. Moreover, protein shakes stimulate insulin secretion enormously.
- Sweeteners: Unfortunately, zero sugar does not stand for fat burning. Artificial and natural sweeteners increase insulin levels and arouse cravings (Tey et al. 201720; Yang 201021).
- Stress: Psychological stress has been shown to cause abdominal fat, thus increasing body mass index and impairing metabolism (Rosmond et al. 199822).
- Sleep deprivation: Insufficient sleep is one of the most significant stressors. Consequently, a meta-analysis has shown that less than six hours of sleep increases the risk of weight gain by 50 percent (Cappuccio et al. 200823).
- Excessive exercise: Excessive exercise can cause chronic inflammation and is equally a stressor for the body (Hackney 200624). Moreover, the increased appetite caused by training with the wrong diet will inevitably lead to weight gain.
- Processed foods: If you prefer highly processed to natural foods, you’re unlikely to succeed – even if they’re labeled “low-carb.”
- Too many carbohydrates: Although giving up may seem difficult in this age of sugar and side dish addicts, high insulin levels and full glycogen stores prevent fat burning.
- Target weight proximity: Weight loss slows down if you’ve already lost a significant amount. The closer you reach your goal weight, the more you experience a stall.
- Thyroid problems: If you’ve gotten this far without finding a reason for the plateau, you may struggle with thyroid or adrenal issues.
In any case of doubt, you should immediately consult with your doctor.
Combine Keto and Intermittent Fasting
Ketogenic diets and intermittent fasting share many similarities.
The keto diet is defined by an essential rule that specifies the macronutrient intake as follows:
- Fat: 75-80%
- Protein: 20-25%
- Carbohydrates: 5-10%
When you reduce your carbohydrate intake for a more extended time and replace these calories with healthy fats and proteins, the body has to adapt to these circumstances.
This way, you can reach the metabolic state of ketosis, a completely natural mechanism that has ensured the survival of our species.
When carbohydrate stores were empty in food shortages, the body had to tap into fat reserves as a primary energy source.
And ultimately, food shortages are nothing more than extended periods of fasting that are involuntarily completed. The inability to preserve fresh foods, in turn, represents nothing else than natural intermittent fasting.
Therefore, both diets aim to lower insulin levels to enable fat burning.
Accordingly, the keto diet attempts to put the body into ketosis by depriving it of carbohydrates, which can only be achieved by fasting for 2-5 days (Courchesne-Loyer et al. 201725).
A key synergistic factor now comes into play. Those already on a ketogenic diet can get into efficient fat-burning faster with intermittent fasting and thus lose weight faster.
How Much Weight Can You Lose in a Week With Intermittent Fasting?
There can be no blanket answer to this question. People, their initial situation, and their bodies are individual.
If people stick to a ketogenic diet and practice 16/8 intermittent fasting, they can lose 3-10 pounds in the first week.
However, the initial success is the depletion of glycogen stores. Therefore, it is logical that you cannot continue to lose weight at the same pace after flushing out the water depots.
Therefore, you should not immediately despair if the weight loss stagnates after the first pounds have fallen.
After that, it can take another 2-5 weeks until a body learns to burn fat efficiently again. After all, your body burned only sugar for decades if you ate a conventional Standard American Diet (SAD).
How much weight you can lose per week or month depends on how much body fat you carry.
In my experience, a slightly overweight person can lose about 1-2 pounds per week or 4-8 pounds per month with keto and intermittent fasting.
Lastly, you want to lose weight at a healthy pace and, most importantly, sustainably. You will slowly lose weight if you are close to your target weight. However, it can go significantly faster if you’re far from it.
Can I Do Intermittent Fasting Without Keto and Still Lose Weight?
People can lose weight successfully with intermittent fasting, even without keto.
For example, a recent study states intermittent fasting burns problematic fat more effectively than a low-carb diet (Catenacci et al. 201626).
You’ll get better results by combining fasting with a low-carb diet like keto. If your carbohydrate stores are empty, you’ll get into deep ketosis much faster, burning body fat more efficiently.
Can I Do Intermittent Fasting and Lose Weight Without Exercise?
Also, exercise is not necessary for successful weight loss with intermittent fasting. As long as insulin levels are not lowered by fasting or diet, exercise cannot immediately help burn fat.
Finally, insulin blocks the enzyme that breaks down body fat (Meijssen et al. 200127).
Exercise gives you one thing above all: Appetite. Therefore, people who base their diets on refined carbohydrates will gain rather than lose weight through excessive exercise.
In addition, constant eating and high insulin levels can cause muscle mass loss instead of body fat. This way, people reduce their basal metabolic rate.
We also know this negative spiral as yo-yo dieting.
A study involving the weight-loss TV show The Biggest Loser, participants demonstrated this very fact.
In this study, the weak metabolic rate persisted longest in those who lost the most weight during calorie restriction.
Consequently, these participants rapidly regained weight after conventional caloric restriction (Fothergill et al. 201628).
The longer your fasting periods, the less exercise you need to do to lose weight. Ultimately, the increased growth hormone release preserves muscle mass and stimulates muscle growth (Rudman et al. 199029; Tavares et al. 201330).
Therefore, experienced intermittent fasting enthusiasts can gain partial muscle mass with One Meal a Day (OMAD) by doing a few minutes of weight training weekly.
Sample Meal Plan
The plan that has proven to be the easiest to integrate into everyday life is the 16/8 method. It is up to you which 16 out of 24 hours you decide not to eat.
However, fitting the 8 hours of sleep into the fasting period is helpful. This way, you shorten the fasting period to 8 hours a day.
Therefore, it makes little sense to skip lunch. However, some people have accomplished results by skipping lunch based on their unique daily routines.
Nonetheless, the sample intermittent fasting weight loss meal plan is limited to lunch and dinner since most people like to eat dinner with their families.
- Lunch: Avocado tuna salad with egg
- Dinner: Pork chops baked with cheese and steamed broccoli in olive oil
- Lunch: Chicken mayonnaise salad with cucumber, avocado, onion, and walnuts
- Dinner: Roasted chicken legs with cauliflower puree
- Lunch: Ground beef lettuce wraps with cheddar cheese, onion, and bell pepper
- Dinner: Chicken stuffed with cream cheese, served with roasted asparagus
- Lunch: Roasted pork belly, served with steamed kohlrabi
- Dinner: Mackerel fried in coconut oil with kale and toasted pine nuts
- Lunch: Grilled salmon with a salad of leafy greens, feta, and tomato
- Dinner: Ribeye steak with butter and coleslaw
- Lunch: Chicken salad with olive oil, feta cheese, olives, and lettuce
- Dinner: Pasture-raised beef burger (no bun) with tomato, onion, cheese, and kale
- Lunch: Garlic butter steak with mushrooms and asparagus
- Dinner: Cheese bowl tacos with guacamole
This plan deliberately does not include snacks, as not eating between meals helps you lose weight by keeping insulin levels low.
However, snacks are not forbidden during eating, as long as you don’t overdo them. Therefore, here are the 40 best snacks to buy and make.
The bottom line is that intermittent fasting is the most effective method for weight loss, no matter how overweight or old you are.
My success stories range from people in their mid-forties who have lost over 25 kilograms through intermittent fasting to people in their seventies who can still do 125 miles on a bicycle, thanks to 16/8.
Fasting is simple and saves time and money. You can practice it anytime, anywhere, by skipping a meal.
Thus, it can also reduce psychological stress. In addition, intermittent fasting makes life easier for those who don’t like counting calories and portion control.
Last but not least, your health is now in your hands. Find the proper method for your everyday life and start losing weight today!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
How much weight can you lose in a month with intermittent fasting?
In my experience, an average person who is slightly overweight can lose about 4-8 pounds in a month with intermittent fasting.
How many hours should you intermittent fast to lose weight?
For weight loss results, you should do intermittent fasting for about 16 hours daily. Remember that you sleep 8 of these 16 hours if you skip breakfast or dinner.
Does intermittent fasting help for weight loss?
In my experience, almost anyone can lose weight with intermittent fasting. I, too, have achieved my target weight through it.
How much weight can you lose 16 8 intermittent fasting?
It depends on how much excess weight you have. Adequately done, intermittent fasting can help you reach any realistic target weight.
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Stephan is a writer and a true man of science, holding multiple diplomas and master's degrees in different research areas. His greatest passion is closing the gap between the conventional perception of health and the latest scientific evidence – always following the data.