Last Updated: 7th October 2016
Losing weight is something that many women around the world want to do. Intermittent fasting for weight loss is becoming more important. There are many benefits shared and statements made to show how it works. Do intermittent fasting weight loss programs really work? Are they good for your body?
There are also other statements made to show that this type of diet doesn’t work; that it’s dangerous for you. Are they really right or could you try the diet temporarily?
It’s time to work out the truth from the lies. Here’s a look at all the myths of intermittent fasting to help you find the best weight loss plan for you.
What Is Intermittent Fasting Weight Loss?
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Before we even get started with the myths and truths, it’s important to understand what intermittent fasting really is. Does this mean eating or drinking nothing at all for an entire day? Should you only fast for a certain number of days or for a full week or month? Just how does the diet work?
The main benefit of intermittent fasting for weight loss is that it encourages people to eat fewer calories. Dieters find it easier to create a calorie deficit, without feeling like they are cutting everything out. While they eat at different times to normal, they will still get a healthy amount of calories into their day.
There are different types of fasting diets to try. One of the most common right now is the 5:2 diet, which changes to 6:1 while maintaining weight. A person will eat 500-600 calories for two days of the week but the other days they can eat a normal amount. The two days can be hard, but they are realistic, and people are less likely to binge because they can normally eat during the rest of the week. When it comes to maintenance, they will eat 500-600 calories for one day a week and the rest of the week eat normally.
Another intermittent fasting diet is the Eat-Stop-Eat diet. On this one, people will follow a normal diet but include a complete fast for 24 hours once or twice a week. They will only drink water during this time, and the followers get to choose when they do the fasting. Many will choose from dinner to dinner since they find it easier to cut out breakfast and lunch during the days.
The 16/8 diet has also become popular. People will eat all their calories during an eight-hour window, usually between noon and 8 pm. The rest of the time, they don’t eat anything.
People don’t eat more during the hours they can. The aim is to stick to a normal calorie amount for their weight and gender, so they reduce their weekly calories.
These aren’t the only intermittent fasting diets available, either. There are so many fasting ideas out there, and they all work effectively. It’s all about finding your favourite for your weight loss needs.
It Is Possible to Lose Weight!
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These diets do make it possible to lose weight. There are many myths that state they don’t, but studies have shown that they do work. This is only when the diets are followed properly.
The benefit is that people are able to control their hunger pangs. They know that no food is a completely off limit, but that they get to have their meals at a set time. It can also help those who have plans that they need to work around or prefer to have strict schedules for their diets.
Some of the health benefits noted have been a reduction in insulin responses. Because there is less glucose from the food, the body doesn’t have the need to release as much insulin during the day. This leads to a lower risk of diabetes.
There are many other health benefits, including hormone regulation and confidence boosts.
It’s worth making a note that the diets aren’t easy. If losing weight were easy, there wouldn’t be any overweight people in the world. This isn’t a miracle cure, and you will need to have the motivation to follow the plan.
Why So Many Myths?
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If intermittent fasting for weight loss is so good, why are there so many myths? Why are people so insistent that this isn’t something worth following?
There are many reasons, but the main one is the constant statements; often by people who look like they should know the truths. Bodybuilders will often complain that they’re hungry or “experts” may claim that their diet is better for you. Marketers of other diets will say just how bad fasting for long periods of time.
The more someone is told something, the more they are likely to believe it. This is especially the case if they are told by people they trust and respect or are told the same thing by multiple people not even in the same friendship group.
Many of the myths are told to promote something else. People will claim that one diet is better than the other because they are promoting a specific diet. They don’t want to focus on any potential reasons not to try that diet. Celebrities and bodybuilders endorsing certain products for money will also make sure they promote their product and focus on the myths of the intermittent fasting diets.
There are also mixed results from studies. These mixed results are usually due to limitations in the studies that are taken into account by the people reading the studies. Many will take the studies at face value, rather than comparing how the different studies were carried out and the type of people doing the studies.
This problem has been noted with numerous myths. Researchers have looked into why the studies come out with different results and assess the limitations involved. It could be that people in the studies weren’t following a healthy diet plan or that they had medical conditions that affected their ability to lose weight.
It doesn’t help that people aren’t interested in actually reading through the studies. They don’t want to make their own conclusions and will listen to the media or the endorsements instead; often selecting the most damaging or scariest of points to work on their agenda.
You’ll Get Fat Skipping Breakfast
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Part of intermittent fasting involves skipping breakfast. There will be many people telling you that this is dangerous and will just make you fat. Breakfast is often spouted as the most important meal of the day.
According to those against intermittent fasting weight loss, skipping breakfast will lead to being hungrier throughout the day. Your body already goes through a long fasting period during the night, and it needs food to start your day. If you don’t eat breakfast, you’re more likely to gorge on food later, and that will lead to weight gain.
The truth is there are some studies that show skipping breakfast leads to weight gain. There are also studies that show skipping breakfast helps to lose weight.
Those who skip breakfast in a general day are less likely to be health conscious with the rest of their meals. They’ll snack on high calories foods. Those who are skipping as part of a weight loss diet will stick to healthier meals when they do eat.
The main difference in the studies is when they involve children and teenagers. Those who eat breakfast are more likely to do better in school because they find it easier to concentrate.
This is one of those myths that depends on the individual. There are some truths, but if you’re following a fasting diet for your weight loss efforts, you will usually find that you lose weight.
Fasting Will Slow Your Metabolism
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This is another common myth, and can be backed up by those following crash diets. If the body doesn’t get enough food, the metabolism slows down to counter the fewer calories it is getting. Rather than burning the calories your body has stored, it will adapt to survive on less.
It’s important to remember that this is an intermittent fasting diet. Rather than consuming calories throughout the day, the calories are being consumed in set sittings. There isn’t change to some calories, so there is no need for the body to slow the metabolism down.
Even not getting the full calories for 24 hours won’t change much. There are plenty of people who will eat less for 24-48 hours without even meaning to in cases, simply because they don’t feel hungry. Their metabolic rates don’t decrease because of this. It takes weeks of starvation for the body to go into what is dubbed “starvation mode.”
Some studies show that it will take 72 hours for the metabolism to drop by just 8%!
You End Up Really Hungry
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If you don’t continuously eat throughout the day, you’ll end up hungry. This is a common belief, and it is time to work out the truth behind it.
Some people may find that they feel hungrier by switching from constantly eating to intermittent fasting. This is normal because it is a change to the system. However, it really depends on the type of food that you eat when you are allowed to eat. If you use your calories up smartly, you can get food that leaves you feeling fuller for longer, so you don’t feel the need to eat as much.
Hunger could also be in the head. People look at the time and think that they need to eat, so they feel hungry. Others will feel hungry because they are thirsty. It can lead to overeating the calories because your body isn’t actually crying out for food!
There are people who will have a quick snack, but usually not something that will keep them full.
Those who do feel the need to snack regularly may find intermittent fasting for weight loss much harder. This will come down to the individual, and some will binge later because they have not been able to eat when they’ve felt hungry. Others will find going hours without food easy, despite the start of feeling hungry.
Smaller Meals Throughout the Day Are Better for You
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This myth links to the skipping breakfast and feeling hungry myths. There are believes that eating smaller meals more frequently throughout the day is better for you than eating larger meals at intermittent intervals.
Studies don’t show this at all. It all comes back to the calories. Eating all your calories in one sitting and eating them spaced throughout the day still means you get the same amount of calories throughout the day. It doesn’t change anything about your body! You won’t see a reduction in your metabolic rate and your body will still burn the calories.
This will depend on the person, though. It’s worth remembering that element about hunger. If you are one of those that really struggles with hunger pangs, then you may find it much harder to have larger meals at intermittent intervals. You may find that eating smaller meals throughout the day is easier for you.
But this is on an individual basis. There’s no truth behind the belief that small meals are better for the masses.
Another reason for this myth is the belief that the health deteriorates without regular food. This is often because people start gorging on unhealthy foods when they feel hungry. Gorging is going to be bad, but sticking to the intermittent fasting plan is not going to have an adverse effect. Think about the food that passes your lips and makes healthy choices and you will find your health benefits.
You’ll Lose Muscle’
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The body goes into starvation mode and then eats at the muscle rather than the stored fats. That’s the reasoning behind this myth, but it is not truth.
It is easy to see where the myth comes from, though. The body can start to eat the calories in the muscles, but that is usually with extreme crash dieting to the point of barely getting any food. It also means the person isn’t doing exercise to protect the muscles in the body. As the weight gets so low, the body will start to get the calories from the muscles.
However, for the intermittent plan, the diet isn’t going to cause muscle loss. The diet doesn’t give your body a chance to do that! You’re also still getting plenty of protein to help build the muscle while you lose weight!
Intermittent fasting is popular with bodybuilders. If it meant a loss of muscle, do you think they’d really still stick to their diets? Wouldn’t they move to something that isn’t as damaging? The bodybuilders are able to keep their fat percentage low while having the energy to do the workouts they need to build their muscle.
You’re not cutting out exercise with this diet. You’re not reducing your calories so much that you’ll struggle to do it all. You’re just getting your calories at strategic points and not as often as you would with a normal eating pattern.
Your Brain Needs the Fuel Constantly
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Remember above about breakfast? There are studies that show children and teenagers work better at school if they have had breakfast.
There are a few reasons for this, and those reasons have led to the myth that intermittent fasting leads to the brain not getting the fuel it needs. This diet can lead to poor concentration and memory loss.
The truth is that in a developing body it does need the fuel to help. Those children and teenagers who eat breakfast will get the energy they need for their initial start and find it easier to concentrate. Their bodies need extra calories compared to adults, often because they are much more on the go.
When it comes to adults, this is certainly not the case. Some people may find it easier to concentrate, but the brain doesn’t just stop working. You won’t be at risk of memory problems. If this were really true, the human race wouldn’t be as big as it is! Just think about the amount of people who have gone without food throughout history and have lived, reproduced and helped continue the race.
The belief in this myth is linked to the brain needing glucose (blood sugar). While it does need this, it can also get the energy from proteins. At the same time, the body is very good at regulating everything that it needs. It’s designed like this, so 24 hours of not eating are not going to affect it negatively! You’ll still have the same amount of glucose to keep the brain working.
The biggest reason people believe this is because they focus on hunger. They get it in their head that they can’t function properly, and this creates a placebo effect. If they got out of that mindset, they would be able to keep going throughout the day. Like many of the other myths, this is very individually dependent, but the science is on the side of the diet.
While the glucose levels within the body will remain stable, there will not be the same response by the body. The pancreas won’t release as much insulin, so instead of the myth against the brain, there is the truth that the body benefits from less insulin. There is a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
The Health Is Negatively Affected
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One of the biggest myths told is that the health will be affected. You may hear the phrase “that can’t be healthy,” and it’s not because you’re not eating that much. It’s the type of food you’re eating.
There is a belief that those who fast will gorge on food when they are allowed to eat. They’ll get all the food that they haven’t been allowed throughout the day, and eat too many calories. They’ll also make the choice of chocolate over fruity goodness, so won’t get the nutrients the body needs.
However, this isn’t the case. Those who are on a specially-designed intermittent diet for their weight loss will make sure they get their nutrients. They will follow a healthy eating plan in the hours that they can eat, so they focus on good food that fills them up and gives them energy.
The diets don’t cut out water from the diet. People are allowed to drink when they need to, and this can often help to deal with hunger pangs. Their bodies aren’t starved of water for hours at a time.
There’s No Calorie Deficit
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One of the biggest lies out there is that you won’t create a calorie deficit, but you’ll still lose weight. This is a myth that surprisingly a large amount of people believe. If this were the case, the diets would be miracle cures, and there wouldn’t be anyone overweight!
As mentioned above, the diets do create a calorie deficit. They just do it in different ways to normal crash diets or healthy eating plans. For example, the 5:2 diet only creates a deficit over two days. You go back to eating normally the rest of the week. However, that calorie deficit is a large amount, at around 1500-2000 calories each day. This isn’t enough to create a starvation mode, though!
The aim of the other five days on this diet is to follow a healthy plan and not overeat the calories. That way the weekly calorie deficit is created to help lose weight one week from the next. If a person has overeaten on calories throughout the week, the fasting won’t create the deficit, and there wouldn’t be a weight loss at the end of the week.
All intermittent fasting diets are like this. They all require a healthy eating plan when someone is allowed to eat. This doesn’t just help to create the calorie deficit but also ensures people get all the nutrients they need throughout the week.
You Won’t Lose Weight Because You’ll Gain Muscle
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This is one of those strange myths that shows people haven’t really done their homework. Fat and muscle are two different elements of the body. Neither can change into the other. You can build muscle while you lose fat and muscle can become flabby and look similar to fat, but fat will not turn into muscle!
The idea that you won’t lose weight because your body will just turn muscle into fat is ridiculous. Even the idea that you’ll lose fat and gain muscle isn’t completely true.
You will need to do exercise to build and tone muscle. Yes, you can do that on these diets, and you will build some muscle throughout, but it isn’t going to replace your fat completely. It takes longer to build the muscle.
The problem really is the scales and the way they measure your weight. They take an overall look at your weight, which can take into account fat, muscle, water retention and more without separating them. If you suddenly increase your exercise amounts, it’s not going to be a sudden growth of muscle, but your body is countering for the amount of exercise you now do. Follow that plan for a couple of weeks and it will all even out so you go back to losing weight.
A pound of muscle and a pound of fat will be the same. The difference is the amount of space the two take up in the body. Unless you’re training for a marathon or fitness competition, there are slim chances that you will see the amount of muscle take up the same space as the fat.
You’ll Gain the Weight Back Afterwards
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When it comes to crash diets, you’ve likely followed the plan and then just gained it all back again. This is common, and there is a reason for it: you go back to eating the old way. Crash diets don’t help you change your habits.
Those who have followed long-term diets will also find sometimes that they gain weight. They get complacent or decide that they don’t want to stick to the maintenance program for the rest of their lives. It’s not the diet that hasn’t work but their mindset and decisions.
The same applies to intermittent fasting weight loss plans. If you don’t stick to the maintenance plans, you will end up gaining the weight afterwards. However, there are maintenance plans because they are lifestyles that you can stick to for the rest of your life. This indicates that they are healthy and helpful for you.
Those who have found they gained the weight again likely didn’t stick to the plan. It may have been a choice they made because they wanted to follow an older plan or it may have been a lack of maintenance. One truth in all this is that maintenance is harder than weight loss because it goes on for much longer. The problem is people would rather blame the plans than their own actions.
The diets do work for the long term. They are designed to help you lose weight and keep it off in the long run. You just need to have the motivation and determination to succeed at that.
One Plan Didn’t Work so the Others Won’t Either
There are many different types of intermittent fasting plans. Many believe that since one didn’t work then, the others won’t either. After all, they all have the same idea regarding food and calorie deficits, right?
This is completely wrong. Some diets will be easier for people to stick to while others have elements that people focus too much on that they hate. Having two days where you eat nothing at all may seem too drastic compared to reducing your calories to 500 for two days a week. Likewise, eating only 500 calories for two days may seem too hard for those who would prefer to eat in an eight-hour period seven days a week.
You can only consider yourself and your preferences. Look at your current eating patterns and try the different diets, with the one that sounds most favourable for you first. Weigh them all up against each other and make sure you do put the effort in.
At the same time, you will need to have the determination to succeed. Too many people go into diets believing that they won’t work and then find them very hard to stick to. They find any reason for them not to work. If you go in with a negative mindset, you won’t find that they do help you lose weight and keep it off afterwards.
Should You Follow an Intermittent Fasting Diet?
With all those myths considered, is this something that you should follow for your weight loss? It’s not as easy to say yes or no. This really will depend on you as an individual.
Now that you’ve learned the truth behind the myths, it’s up to you whether you believe that this is a diet that you can stick to. There aren’t any tough restrictions on the type of food that you can eat, but on the times that you can eat them. You will need to be tough on yourself about sticking to lower amounts of calories on certain days if you’re following the likes of the 5:2 diet or sticking to only eating during certain hours of the day.
Overall, you could find that the diets are good for your health. While you reduce the times that you’re eating, you’re not cutting out nutrients or calories completely. You’re just taking them in at different times of the day. It can just get very tempting to snack.
If you need to eat regularly for medical needs (such as taking medication), this is likely not going to be a weight loss plan for you. However, skipping a meal and having your calories later will not affect a normal healthy person. You’d not going to go into starvation mode, and you won’t make your brain stop working!
It is a diet worth considering. There are pros and cons to all weight loss programs, but most of the cons of this one are surrounded by myths.
Just always remember that you should choose the diet that works best for you. The effects may vary, but make sure that you don’t compromise your health while going through options.