For decades, there has been widespread intrigue and research into intermittent fasting and how it can benefit a whole range of health areas and assist in weight loss, turning it into a worldwide health trend and way of ‘dieting’. Read on to learn everything you need to know from the science and history to the methods and the social backing, in this complete definitive guide to intermittent fasting.
What is intermittent fasting?
The dreaded idea of ‘eating less’ to lose weight can seem almost impossible for many people, especially if you are a foodie or an avid socialiser! Intermittent fasting (IF) is the ‘diet’ that allows you to not deprive yourself or cut out whole food groups that you love. At SuperFastDiet we prefer to call it an unbreakable, part-time diet that will soon turn into a lifestyle. No, you don’t have to restrict yourself each and every day, making socialising and simply enjoying food that you eat each day that much harder.
Instead, with intermittent fasting you only diet on certain days or during certain hours, meaning the rest of the week you can eat as normal. Of course, the word ‘normal’ needs to be explained. Each person’s way of eating and enjoying food is different, but by this, we mean about 1800-2000 calories for a woman and 2000-2200 calories for a man. It means you are able to not be so strict with yourself. You’re able to go out for dinner and not have to think about whether to have a wine or a dessert – enjoy both!
The History of Intermittent Fasting
Since ancient times, fasting has been advocated for spiritual development and the promotion of health. For centuries, it had been demonstrated and practiced in religions such as Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, and Hinduism for various physical and spiritual reasons to show there faith and devotion, and to provide themselves with health and mental clarity.
The respected Greek biographer, Plutarch, in AD 46 said, “Instead of using the medicine, better fast today,” and similarly in b 428, the famous and respected Greek philosopher Plato stated, “I fast for greater physical and mental efficiency.”
Fasting as a way to combat obesity, and as a means to lose weight has also long been recognised. In 1915, Doctors, Folin, and Denis recommended short and safe food restriction as a method of weight reduction. Thankfully, it was already seen as safe, due to it being practiced for centuries in ancient times, by people like Plutarch and Plato, as mentioned. It was further backed up in the 1950s with research done separately by Dr. W Bloom, who also focused on shorter time frames of fasting, followed by Dr. Gilliland who was more interested in longer time frames of fasting and its impact. Both were in agreement that it did provide positive impacts upon a person’s physical health.
These type of statements from highly respected people in history proved they were aware of the positive impacts that fasting had on there mental and physical health, but it wasn’t until hundreds of years later it was picked up in today’s modern society with extensive and improved clinical research, revealing its assistance with weight loss and the impressive and widespread health benefits it can provide, which will be discussed.
Even though research and positive statements surrounding intermittent fasting had been circulating for decades, it wasn’t until 2012 until it really started to make its mark on the world, with the release of a multitude of books, followed by extensive studies worldwide on the 5:2 and fasting phenomenon. Two of the world’s major intermittent fasting experts backed it all up, being Dr. Jason Fung with his 2016 book, The Obesity Code, further developing the intermittent fasting scientific evidence, and scientific research from Dr. Krista Varady, initially looking into the impacts that intermittent fasting had on rats to do with cancer markers. Through this research, it was coincidently discovered that the rats were also losing weight, with this discovery leading to further questions surrounding how it too could help humans in the same area.
Krista backs up the many benefits of IF, stating, “These intermittent fasting diets are very sustainable. Results from long-term studies show that people can stick to these diets for extended periods of time and maintain their weight loss by incorporating fasting into their lifestyle.”
Dr. Fung and Dr. Varady are two of the experts of the SuperFastDiet program for their extensive research and expertise in fasting. This string of highly respected, world-class experts really struck a chord in the dieting and weight loss world, prompting intermittent fasting to be the respected health and weight loss solution it is today.
Below is a video from Dr. Jason Fung, explaining how intermittent fasting assists in weight loss and reducing of body fat in a simple, easy to understand way.
Scientific & Medical Evidence of Intermittent Fasting
Since all of the scientific research and interest around IF first started in the early to mid-2010s from people such as Dr. Jason Fung, it has been widely backed world-wide by a long list of well-regarded health and nutritional professionals. Dr. Jason Fung is considered one of the world’s most renowned experts when it comes to the science and evidence surrounding why intermittent fasting is such a successful diet stating, “Successful dieting requires an intermittent strategy, not a constant one. Restricting some foods all the time (portion control) differs from restricting all foods some of the time (intermittent fasting). This is the crucial difference between failure and success.”
It is a known fact that most of the reasons for failure when it comes to trying out different weight-loss tactics such as keto is the removal of whole food groups that your body is used to and craves. Dieting is both a mental and physical game. Fung states, “the bottom line is that calorie-restriction diets ignore the biological principle of homeostasis – the body’s ability to adapt to changing environment.” Fung is explaining that restricting yourself day in, day out will end up with “less weight loss, and less visceral fat loss” due to it “being harder to keep the weight off ” as you are hungrier for much of the time.
Dr. Krista Varady, Associate Professor of Nutrition at the University of Illinois, has long been an avid supporter of the incredible benefits and effectiveness that intermittent fasting provides, and like Fung is also an expert on the SuperFastDiet program. She backs that it is, “easy to follow, simple and flexible”, making IF so appealing for health and weight loss. She says participants “report plenty of energy and improved mood,” demonstrating that it is positive for so many aspects of your health and wellbeing.
More and more medical professionals are treating obesity and various health conditions with part-time dieting in the intermittent fasting form. Each year in America, the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation surveys consumers to understand their beliefs and ideas around food and there purchasing decisions surrounding food. In 2018, they found that part-time dieting was their #1 choice of eating pattern. The interest and belief in IF continue to grow, with it no longer considered a ‘fad’, but instead a scientifically-backed part-time way of eating and lifestyle choice for weight loss and improved health.
Below is a video from Dr. Krista Varady, explaining why people lose weight intermittent fasting.
Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
As has been mentioned above, the scientifically-proven health benefits that can come from IF are pretty expansive and respected, with the weight loss factor, being a major one, but definitely not the only one!
A recent article from Harvard Medical School by Monique Tello, MD, MPH, states “Flipping the switch from a fed to fasting state does more than helping us burn calories and lose weight. Fasting improves metabolism, lowering blood sugar; lessens inflammation, which improves a range of health issues from arthritic pain to asthma; and even helps clear out toxins and damaged cells, which lowers risk for cancer and enhances brain function.” Tello here is referring to a recent in-depth review of the science backing of IF in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Ultimately, the overall benefits discovered of IF surrounded the ideas of “look better”, “feel better”, “live longer.” Listed below, Dr. Krista Varady states ten science-backed health benefits of intermittent fasting that proves it is so much more than weight loss! Some have been mentioned above, backing up the impressive points…
- Decreased ‘bad’ cholesterol: ‘Bad’ cholesterol levels decreased with intermittent fasting. Studies found that LDL (the cholesterol that marks increased risk of cardiovascular disease) decreases by 10-20%. (See references: 1,2,3)
- Increased ‘good” cholesterol: Studies have shown that intermittent fasting increases your HDL ‘good’ cholesterol levels by 10-15%. High levels of HDL cholesterol marks the decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. (See references: 1 and 2)
- Lowered blood pressure: Intermittent fasting lowers blood pressure by 5-10 mm Hg which reduces the risk of heart disease. (References: 1,2,3)
- Loss of belly fat: Multiple studies report that intermittent fasting assists with losing belly fat, often the hardest to lose. Waist circumference has been shown to decrease by 5–7 cm. (See references: 1,2,3,4)
- Lowered insulin levels: Insulin resistance and risk of Type 2 Diabetes is lowered. Studies have found a reduction in insulin resistance by 20-40%. (See references: 1,2,3)
- Reduced inflammation: Inflammation response may be reduced with intermittent fasting. Studies show that inflammation markers such as TNF-alpha and IL-6 were reduced while fasting. These markers are linked to the development of heart disease and diabetes. (See references: 1,2,3)
- It may help prevent cancer risk: Intermittent Fasting may help prevent cancer. Insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) promoted the growth of cancer cells. Studies have found that Intermittent Fasting reduces IGF-1 by up to 50% which can help reduce cancer risk. (See reference: 1)
- It protects the brain: Studies have shown that as a response to Intermittent Fasting, the body produces proteins that protect neurons (our brain cells). This, in turn, helps our brains cope with stress and resist disease. (See references: 1,2,3)
- It may help prevent Alzheimer’s: In laboratory experiments, Dr. Mark Mattson and his colleagues have found that intermittent fasting—limiting caloric intake at least two days a week—can help improve neural connections in the hippocampus while protecting neurons against the accumulation of amyloid plaques, a protein prevalent in people with Alzheimer’s disease. (See references 1,2,3)
- It has anti-aging effects, can lead to a longer life span and a reduction of age-related diseases: Studies have shown a reduction in biomarkers for aging, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. These results support the use of intermittent fasting to promote longer lifespan and health-span. (See references: 1,2,3)
Intermittent Fasting and Peri-Menopause/Menopause
Intermittent fasting has been proven as an ideal way to keep body weight and belly fat in check during menopause and post-menopause. New research shows that menopausal women can lose loads of weight with various forms of intermittent fasting.
“After 12 months of alternate day fasting, post-menopausal women lost 11kg and reduced belly fat by 1kg[vi],” reveals Dr Krista Varady. “Likewise, after 3 months of part-day fasting (also known as 16:8), post-menopausal women lost 4kg and 0.5kg of belly fat.”
“Incredibly, intermittent fasting is one dieting method that appears to yield better results for menopausal and post-menopausal women than anyone else! “In both of these studies, post-menopausal women lost twice as much weight as premenopausal women, due to better adherence with diet,” says Dr Varady. “All in all, these findings suggest that fasting may be particularly beneficial for women after menopause.”
But that’s not all. “In addition to weight loss, post-menopausal women experience 10-20% decreases in bad LDL cholesterol,[vii][viii][ix] 5-10 mm Hg reductions in blood pressure,[x][xi] and 20-40% decreases in insulin resistance.[xii][xiii][xiv] Over the long term, these improvements can help ward off heart disease and diabetes,” says Varady. “And best of all, intermittent fasting does not have any negative impact on bones.[xv] So, you can rest assured that while you’re losing weight, your bone density won’t suffer!”
Intermittent Fasting and Brain health
As mentioned above, your brain also can benefit greatly from intermittent fasting. When you fast, you are producing ketones, which are extremely efficient sources of fuel for both your brain and your body. Ketones are water-soluble compounds produced by your liver when it metabolises fat. According to Dr. Mark Mattson, Professor of Neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University, fasting ultimately challenges your brain. It then reacts by activating adaptive stress responses that help it cope with diseases. Ketones are ultimately the connection between intermittent fasting and the plethora of health benefits explored above.
The three different types of ketones that are produced when fasting are acetone, acetoacetate, and beta-hydroxybutyrate. These promote positive changes in the areas of the brain that are important for memory, learning, and overall brain health.
Intermittent Fasting’s Social Backing
Intermittent fasting, along with the incredible list of world-class scientists and doctors, also has some pretty impressive celebrity advocates too. These famous faces refer to intermittent fasting for plenty of health reasons and to keep their physiques in tip-top shape. Here are a few:
- Jennifer Anniston – “I do intermittent fasting, so no food in the morning. I noticed a big difference in going without solid food for 16 hours.”
- Halle Berry – In one of Halle’s weekly Instagram #FitnessFriday chats, she discussed how she is a big intermittent fasting fan, saying she fasts until 2 pm each day and has her last meal by 10 pm that night.
- Nicole Kidman – Australia’s golden girl, Nicole Kidman, is also known to eat within an 8-hour window, starting the day eating around 10 am and finishing at 6 pm that day.
- Margot Robbie – Margot’s trainer stated that Margot too uses intermittent fasting to reset. ‘The reason I have always been a big advocate for intermittent fasting is that it isn’t one of those exclusion diets, where you can’t eat, that’s bad for you, you shouldn’t eat that.’
- Kourtney Kardashian – Kourtney, attributes intermittent fasting in conjunction with the keto-diet to her figure. She stated on her app that she doesn’t eat past 7 pm at night and then starts eating the following day at 10.30 or 11 am!
- Hugh Jackman – Hugh was said to follow the 16:8 fasting plan, and told Men’s Journal that he felt “so much better on it” and “ I haven’t put on nearly the amount of fat I normally would. And the great thing about this diet is, I sleep so much better”,
- Jennifer Lopez – Jennifer eats 500 calories 1 to 2 days per week, and also sometimes incorporates the part-day method too, fasting for 14 to 16 hours also.
Intermittent Fasting Methods We Love at SuperFastDiet
One of the most common reasons why intermittent fasting is so popular is the flexibility that comes with it. There are a whole plethora of intermittent fasting methods out there to choose from, allowing the individual to pick which one bests suits their lifestyle. The three that we have found to be the most effective and approachable are the 2-day method or 5:2, the part-day method or 16:8, and the 3-day method. Below it will be discussed what each method entails and the reasons they are widely used. It has to be recognised that the number of calories to consume in the following methods are an average. Each person will have a slightly different number, depending on gender, weight, height, body fat percentage, and activity levels. It does differ for males and females. This is why knowing your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) numbers are important. You can find out how to do that here. But ultimately, aiming for the following numbers will lend results.
The 2-Day method is derived from the well-known 5:2 diet that took the world by storm in the early 2010s. When undertaking this method of intermittent fasting, you only eat a limited amount of calories over the course of the day, being 500 calories, for just 2 days of the week. For the remaining 5 days, you are able to eat ‘normally’, around 1800-2000 calories over the day. This is a popular method due to the ‘dieting’ being done in just 2 days, being disciplined and focused for only a short amount of time, and able to eat without restriction for the rest of the week.
For some people, 500 calories is too little food for a day of eating. This is why we here at SuperFastDiet trialed and tested having 1000 calories over 3 days of the week instead. We discovered it does lend the same results, being just as effective! Being able to have slightly more calories for one more day in the week is preferred to allow for a little more freedom and wiggle room for some. Similarly to the 2-day method, for the remaining 4 days of the week, you simply eat as you would normally, around 1800-2000 calories for women.
Part-Day aka 16:8
The last method that we recommend here is the part-day method, which is more so time-based than calorie-intake based. This focuses on only eating for a part of the day, generally 8 hours, leaving the other 16 hours to fasting. The most common way of doing this is by finishing up eating at 8 pm, then fasting until 12 pm the following day, skipping breakfast. This is done each day. In this method, the calories are not as restricted, with the amount within the 8-hour window generally recommended to be 20% less of your non-fast day TDEE, generally around 1600 calories. As you don’t eat overnight whilst you are sleeping, the main challenge is getting through the morning until lunchtime without eating. Zero-calorie drinks are of course allowed. In fact, going up to around 50 calories in the morning, such as a coffee with a dash of milk, or some broth is allowed.
All three of the methods are equally effective and beneficial as the next. It is all about finding the one that suits your personality and lifestyle the best!
SuperFastDiet Real Life Intermittent Fasting Results
Here at SuperFastDiet, we have had an extraordinary amount of amazing successful weight loss stories, achieving inspiring results. All three of the methods have proved successful and useful for all different women and weight loss goals, with each member being able to pick one to best fit their various lifestyles. Here are just a few:
Jacqui-Anne, lost 35kg
“I lost 35 kilograms in 28 weeks (seven months). What I love about part-time dieting is how convenient it is. I still go out, I still have real food. I still drink. I just love it. It’s so easy! Now I’ve lost weight, I’m a lot more outgoing. I love being out of the house, I even love the gym! I’m such a different person. I’m a lot happier. And my family’s a lot happier. I absolutely love life now. I’ve had a few life wins since I started part-time dieting. It had been about 30 years since I put on a bikini. And I just thought: Why not?”
Tracey, lost 25kg
“A friend told me that I still had half a life to live, and to stop thinking that the best years are over and start making today count. I’d tried making changes in the past, but it seemed too difficult to sustain. SuperFastDiet was just so doable and so flexible! Instead of dieting 24/7, all I had to do was have reduced calories a couple of days a week. And the best part was that I could choose which meals to have, which days to fast and when I could enjoy a treat.”
Mary-Anne, lost 25kg
“SuperFastDiet suits my lifestyle to a tee because I can easily get lost in my writing when fasting then feast in the afternoon when the kids come home. My husband has lost weight too and, in all, I know I have found the answer to losing weight and keeping it off- for good. I lost more than the 20 kilos and now sit at 23 kilos down- my youthful weight. Only three more to go!”
Lisa, lost 9kg
“Other programs were so restrictive, they took over my life, they’d always tell me I had to this, or I couldn’t have that. They were unrealistic and too hard to stick to. And I’d do them for weeks, or even months and see minimal results, if any. Who has time for that?! I dropped a couple of kilos within the first two weeks and I was thrilled. I’ve lost almost ten kilos so far and I finally feel like myself again. I’m super-positive, energetic and everything is just so much simpler and easier. I feel strong and I am more clear thinking. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done for myself.”
MORE AMAZING RESULTS:
To Sum Up
As has been discussed throughout this definitive guide, intermittent fasting has become a highly respected and scientifically proven way of assisting in improving several areas of health, as well as of course combating obesity, being a proven way of successfully losing weight. Intermittent fasting inspired the creation of the SuperFastDiet program to assist and support thousands of women around the world on how to correctly undertake IF, with constant guidance and support. Since the creation of the program, it has proven to be extremely beneficial to so many.
Are you interested in trying it out for yourself to see how it can change your life today? Click here to learn more about what is offered in the SuperFastDiet program.