WHAT PERIOD OF INTERMITTENT FASTING IS BEST FOR BELLY FAT LOSS?
When you eat might be just as crucial to your weight loss goals as the items you select.
Intermittent fasting is not new, but it is gaining incredible popularity. According to a 2019 study, restricting meals to a 10-hour window (followed by 14 hours of fasting) was associated with weight loss, a smaller waist circumference, lower blood pressure, and lower levels of LDL “bad” cholesterol in 19 adults with metabolic syndrome whose meals were spread over a 14-hour window.
The research also shows that time-restricted eating reduces visceral fat, the harmful fat retained in the stomach and is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. In addition, participants consumed 9% fewer calories even though they weren’t prompted to alter their diets.
IDEAL DISCONTINUED FASTING WINDOWS
An example of intermittent fasting is this so-called “time-restricted eating.” Time-restricted eating urges dieters to confine their meals to a specific window of time, as opposed to fasting on alternate days or for several 24-hour periods each week.
Your body can rest and repair for 14 hours while consuming water, coffee, or tea if you eat and drink within a 10-hour timeframe. In addition, your body can predict when you will eat so that it can be ready to improve metabolism, says research co-author Satchin Panda, PhD.
Similar findings from other research on time-restricted eating have been made. For example, University of Alabama researchers divided obese males with prediabetes into two groups: Between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m., one group consumed all of its meals. In contrast, the other sipped its meals for 12 hours between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. The study’s results revealed that both groups could maintain their weight, but those who limited their eating to an 8-hour window experienced lower blood pressure, insulin levels, and insulin sensitivity. They also reported less appetite.
When these systems are in harmony, the brain and other organ systems work together to regulate bodily functions like hormone production, according to research co-author Felicia Steger, PhD, RD, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Alabama in Birmingham. For example, many Americans eat their largest meals around supper, which puts a strain on the digestive system’s organs (such as the liver) just as our brains get ready to sleep for the night. To harmonize these cycles, early time-restricted feeding is encouraged.
THE MIND-BODY CONNECTION
Steger adds that because our mealtimes depend on ingrained cultural and lifestyle routines, it could take longer for your brain to adjust to time-restricted eating than it might for your body.
Even though the purpose of intermittent fasting and time-restricted eating is the same, lengthier fasts may be more challenging to keep up with. Trial participants randomized to a fasting diet left the study in 40% of cases, according to data published in JAMA Internal Medicine. Alternating days of fasting had no more significant impact on weight reduction for those who persisted than daily calorie limitations.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Despite some encouraging preliminary findings, Steger suggests being cautious.
She claims that intermittent fasting “may offer wide health advantages” and “has the potential to have a significant influence on well-being,” but that “additional long-term research in humans is needed to truly assess the efficacy of this method for the prevention and treatment of illness.”
The authors of a 2019 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine cautioned that the results might not be safe or repeatable in other groups because most of the existing research on time-restricted eating has focused on overweight young- and middle-aged individuals.
What does this signify if you’re looking to lose weight? The American Dietetic Association’s spokesman Whitney Linsenmeyer, PhD, RD, associate professor of nutrition at St. Louis University, favours a traditional strategy.
The only long-term cure, she claims, is to balance calorie intake with physical exercise.