Low Calorie, Intermittent and 24-Hour Fasts Explained
Fasting for short periods of time, from a few hours up to a full day, has become much more popular in recent years. In theory it’s a convenient way to lose weight because it’s simple. Instead of carefully counting calories, balancing macronutrients and timing your meals, you simply stop eating for set periods of time. Then during non-fast times, eat normally.
Turns out, fasting isn’t quite as easy as it appears. When someone is allowed to “eat normally,” does that mean they can continue with their regular meals of hamburgers, fries and a sugar filled soda? How long should an individual fast last: hours, a day or even longer? How often should you consider fasting to lose weight? And after the weight is off, is it healthy to continue fasting?
To understand the options, benefits and pitfalls, the first thing you should know are the different durations of fasts being promoted. This is by no means an exhaustive list, it’s just a sample of some of the more popular ones.
24 Hour Fast
You avoid eating any calories for a 24-hour period, once or twice a week. You can (and should) drink water or other non-caloric beverages during the fast.
The most popular versions of this program don’t require you really change what you’re eating. You aren’t expected to count calories or worry too much about meal composition. Simply avoiding food, one or two full days a week, is enough to create a calorie deficit and weight loss. Common sense is encouraged. Eating a cookie is OK but wolfing down the entire bag isn’t.
A little note about going on a binge. My first thought was that as soon as someone finished a fast like this, they would overeat on their free days and make up the calorie deficit. But it turns out, most people don’t.
There appears to be a limit on how much people overeat. In one study, people overate by 10-22 percent on days after a fast when they had no restrictions. However, when fasting days were added in, they still had a total calorie REDUCTION of about 28 percent over the course of a week. That’s over twice as much as people were able to achieve using traditional reduced calorie diets.
The disadvantages of 24-hour fasting include possible dizziness, fatigue, headaches and irritability. Some levels of self-control are critical for this to succeed. Details on 24-hour fasting can be found in the book, "Eat Stop Eat: Intermittent Fasting for Health and Weight Loss" by Brad Pilon.
Intermittent Daily Fast
(Also Called IF or Intermittent Fasting.)
You have a daily calorie window to fit all your eating in. Those windows can be as small as the time needed for a single meal, to “feeding periods” that extend between 6-10 hours.
In “The 8-Hour Diet: Watch the Pounds Disappear without Watching What You Eat!” you restrict all your eating daily to an 8-hour window. Nothing but non-caloric beverages before or after. The big advantage to a program like this is the bulk of fasting occurs when you’re asleep. Many people then simply avoid eating breakfast and making their first meal sometime around lunch.
An even more extreme versions is, “The Warrior Diet: Switch on Your Biological Powerhouse For High Energy, Explosive Strength, and a Leaner, Harder Body.” Following that program the time you can eat is shrunk to just 4 hours, typically in the evening, where you eat everything you’re allowed in a single meal. Unlike other intermittent daily fasts, The Warrior Diet has very specific lists of what you can and can’t eat.
The disadvantages of intermittent daily fasting include dizziness, fatigue and irritability while fasting. The shorter the “feeding periods” are, the more difficult it can be to stick with the program. The more extreme versions of these programs also tend to have very specific guidelines on WHAT you can eat. The combination of strict nutritional plans and limited eating windows can make these programs challenging to stick with.
Low Calorie, Regular Calorie Diets
In these programs you eat normal for one day, followed by a day where you limit yourself to between 500 and 700 calories. They’re not fasts, because you are eating. But since the calories are so low, many people group them into fasting programs.
One of the most popular versions of this program is called, “The Alternate-Day Diet Revised: The Original Up-Day, Down-Day Eating Plan to Turn on Your "Skinny Gene," Shed the Pounds, and Live a Longer and Healthier Life.”
These tend to be much harder for people to stick with. Once you start eating on a low calorie day, it can be difficult to summon the will power to stop until you’re full. Other disadvantages include dizziness, fatigue and irritability on the low calorie days.
Click Here for part two of this article. Learn what research has said about the effectiveness of these various programs, and what benefits (or dangers) they may pose.
Part 1 2
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