There are countless dieting strategies widely available all over the internet and offline sources, many of which come and go once science unravels the flaws, ineffectiveness or simply the lack of sustainability. One dieting strategy that has stood the test of time – and for good reason – is intermittent fasting (fasting diets), or simply diets where the main premise is including long periods within the day where you can’t eat and shorter ones where you can.
Several studies have highlighted the benefits of intermittent fasting, such as improving body composition, however the latest research indicates such a diet goes beyond this and actually benefits health at an even more rudimental level, including heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
A fairly recent study (1) spanning 2 years (2013-2015) took 100 participants between the ages of 20-70 and split them into two groups. The control group continued to eat their regular diet, whilst the other participants ate between 750-1100 calories a day for 5 days in every month. The results indicated some significant benefits of the fasting-diet protocol, with an average weight loss of 6 lbs; average waistline reduction of between 1 to 2 inches; reduced blood pressure and inflammation.
Another recent study (2) led to some profound findings, suggesting that fasting diets may have the potential to reverse diabetes. The fasting protocol carried out on mice and human cells led to the regeneration of insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, replacing the previously redundant cells, possibly leading to total organ regeneration.
Will I lose muscle mass using a fasting diet?
Its common knowledge that a calorie surpass is necessary for building muscle mass, however what if you were to consume these calories in a window that also facilitated a fasting period? Intermittent fasting allows for just this, typically advocating a 16-8 time split based on the 24 hour day; an 8 hour eating window and 16 hours of fasting. Putting this fasting window in place has metabolic benefits that will improve body composition, most powerful of which is the improved insulin sensitivity allowing you to consume the majority of your calories post-workout and utilize them for muscle recovery.
Although the purists among us would argue against it, many people (myself included) practice intermittent fasting with the use of BCAA (branched chain amino acids) during the fasting period, in a bid to hold on to muscle mass. This is often scrutinized as it devalues the benefits of the fasted period of the diet, although if maintaining lean mass is a factor, I’d certainly recommend the supplementation of bcaas.
Tip for curbing hunger
Over time this diet becomes more manageable, as your body adapts to eating within the feeding windows. Two things I recommend if you do suffer with bouts of hunger, especially early on include carbonated water consumption, which I’ve found massively improves satiety by given the stomach a feeling of fullness within the inclusion of food and calories. Something else I’ve found has helped is consuming black coffee, this for me personally is a fantastic appetite suppressant and it provides that boost when/if your mood begins to dip.
1. Min Wei et al. Fasting-mimicking diet and markers/risk factors for aging, diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. Science Translational Medicine, 2017; 9 (377)
2. Cheng et al. Fasting-mimicking diet promotes Ngn3-driven β-cell regeneration to reverse diabetes. Cell, 2017 DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2017.01.040