Nutrition, Nutrition

Can intermittent fasting help your weight loss goals?

“When you’re hanging out for that food and you finally get that chance to eat, it’s common for people to really overdo it and that can develop into unhealthy eating patterns or worse issues down the track”

Intermittent fasting has been doing the rounds for years in various forms. But is making your eating habits more on again off again than Ross and Rachel really that beneficial to your health? We’ve checked in with Aquanation Personal Trainer (and nutrition brainiac), Byron Manning to find out.

Hands up if you’re an intermittent fasting novice?

In a nutshell, intermittent fasting is essentially monitoring what you eat when you eat.

“It’s having certain periods of time where you’re not consuming any calories or energy, then having periods of time where you can have these,” explains Manning.

He clarifies you’re likely to have both “an eating window of around eight hours and non-eating window that would be sixteen hours.”

So how does that work IRL? Basically, you could eat between 2pm and 10pm, and refrain from food consumption between 10pm and 2pm.

Is intermittent fasting risky business or a beneficial buddy to weight loss?

First, let’s start with what to be aware of before trying this eating plan.

Manning warns that by restricting your food intake to a certain window, could lead to cyclical over eating that can hamper your weight loss goals.

“When you’re hanging out for that food and you finally get that chance to eat, it’s common for people to really overdo it and that can develop into unhealthy eating patterns or worse issues down the track,” warns Manning.

If you want to keep your head in the game, Manning suggests this can go both ways.

“Some people might report that when they’re in that fasting period, they’ve got more energy and clarity when they’re fasting. But there’s also the other party who experience the opposite and their energy, mood, focus can all take a hit when you’re going without food,” Manning advises.

And it’s not just your brain that might get a little hangry, your muscles will be hankering for a feed too. “If you’re not able to eat consistently, that will hurt the amount of muscle mass you can gain and retain,” advises the Personal Trainer.

This applies to cardio fans too. “If you’re a runner, the fuel you’re using is probably carbohydrates so you’re probably not going to run as well [if you’re fasting], because if you’re not able fuel your body you don’t really have anything to run off,” Manning warns.

He adds this can not only hurt your fuelling and training but “also the quality of improvements you see from that training and your recovery.”

For those looking to gain muscle, Manning simply says “don’t do it.”

If you want your fasting and muscles too, Manning recommends you “set some targets to make sure you’re getting enough calories overall, make sure you’re meeting your requirements for proteins throughout the day and at the very least try to get all of what you need in that eating window.” Manning advises that if you are going to try intermittent fasting, but still want to see results from your training visit a sports dietitian.

The benefits

Okay stay with us, there are pros too we promise.

As Manning explains, many people try it because the benefits are thought to be “increased fat loss, reduced inflammation, increased insulin sensitivity and hormone secretion which can be related to muscle development.”

The Personal Trainer warns that he hasn’t seen enough evidence to back these claims up, still he’s adamant there are solid benefits to this eating plan.

“Intermittent fasting can lead to an individual choosing higher quality foods that are more nutrient dense,” says Manning. He explains this is because it’s more difficult for the individual to get everything they need in an eight-hour window so they’re more likely to eat nutritious main meals. Essentially, “people become more conscious of their food choices.”

Additionally, if you’re a little snack happy, intermittent fasting could help keep your healthy eating and weight loss goals on track. “For people who have weight loss goals and might be tracking their intake, they become more aware of that unconscious snacking,” the Personal Trainer points out.

Manning uses the example of a sneaky lick of the spoon when baking, “when you’re intermittent fasting it blocks out that chance because you’re simply not consuming food during that time.”

If you want to give it a try, here’s how.

Although it’s more of a short-term eating regimen for most, Manning says some people may find this suits their lifestyle and it may be more efficient. Nevertheless, the Personal Trainer advises for the majority, it’s not a long-term lifestyle choice.

“I wouldn’t recommend intermittent fasting but if you do want to try it, do it for a short time and make sure you can get in those five food groups and you’re getting all those vitamins and minerals in those eating windows that you would’ve been getting if you had no barriers,” advises Manning.

Byron Manning is a personal trainer at Aquanation with a Bachelor of Food and Nutrition Science at Deakin University and is currently undertaking a Masters of Dietetics at Deakin University. Learn more.