Does Intermittent Fasting Work? We Asked An Expert

If your Instagram newsfeed is filled with a sh*t ton of fitness influencers, then amongst all the sweaty workout selfies and workout apparel discount codes, odds are, you’ve at least heard the mention of intermittent fasting. But what exactly is this scheduled way of eating if it’s not necessarily a diet? Well, to the average person (myself included) intermittent fasting probably just seems like a psycho routine where one only eats in a short window of time throughout the day and starves themselves the other hours all in the name of dropping a few pounds. Well, because I’m curious as to why someone would endure such torture when there’s like a million other ways to lose weight, I spoke to Kristin Koskinen, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) and founder of Eat Well Pros—a site that hooks you up with an RDN to help you adapt to new, healthier eating habits and lifestyle changes—about what exactly intermittent fasting is, what it requires, and most importantly: is it even sustainable?

Read on if you’re as skeptical about intermittent fasting as I was, because apparently the strategized way of eating isn’t as torturous as it may sound.

Betches: What is intermittent fasting?
Kristin Koskinen: Simply put, intermittent fasting is the strategy of cycling eating with fasting. Unlike dieting, calorie counting, macro calculating, and food group exclusions aren’t required. Regimens vary, but can include the following:

The Crescendo Fast: 12-16 consecutive hour fast for two or three days a week, on non-consecutive days.

The 5/2 Fast: Eat normally five days a week, for the other two days, eat 25% of your usual intake, allowing at least one day between fasting days.

The 16/8 Method: Fast for 16 consecutive hours per day; all food is consumed within an eight hour timeframe.

What does it do to the body?
The body requires fuel, and its preferred sources of energy are glucose and fat. Protein is an option, but a very expensive one, metabolically speaking. When glucose isn’t available, as during a fasting period, the body uses fat. The human body was not developed to graze, but rather, is well-adapted to deal with the absence of food.

Losing weight from fasting is the result of reduced calorie intake as a consequence of limiting eating hours paired with hormonal changes that occur. Fasting decreases insulin levels. All food, not just carbohydrates, stimulates insulin secretion. Lowering insulin levels has been shown to increase insulin sensitivity, which is important in preventing and managing diabetes, as well as attaining long-term weight loss.

Insulin resistance can lead to pre-diabetes, diabetes, and heart disease. So what is insulin resistance?  Essentially, it’s when the cells no longer respond fully to insulin. Insulin is a hormone, the proverbial key that unlocks cell doors, allowing glucose in from the bloodstream. The backlog of glucose causes the pancreas to produce and send out more insulin to drive open the cell doors. Over time, the beta cells of the pancreas can’t keep up, or wear out, and the person develops diabetes. In the meantime, the excess insulin load has lead to increased weight, which typically deposits around the waist.

What does a typical intermittent fast look like?
A starting fast might be for 14 consecutive hours. That could mean finishing dinner at 7:00pm and eating an early lunch at 11:00am. Water, herbal tea, and black coffee are not restricted. Mornings without food are one thing; without coffee, that’s quite another. Because most of the fast is overnight, you don’t have much time to think about the fact you aren’t eating. For some people, especially those in the habit of eating late into the night, they may find it easier to just go to bed earlier, and that is a win-win. Studies consistently link lack of sleep to excess weight. Sleep for as many of your fasting hours as you can, keeping in mind that seven hours of sleep is considered a minimum, 8-10 ideal, for health and wellness.

Is intermittent fasting recommended for weight loss?
Intermittent fasting has been an effective weight loss tool, especially in overweight or obese individuals. If a person has diabetes or  a history of hypoglycemia, they should consult with their health care provider before starting any sort of fasting program, as fasting will decrease blood glucose levels and medications may need to be adjusted. People with hypertension should also consult with their health care provider before starting a fasting regimen, as blood pressure can become low during a fast, which often presents as light-headedness. Fasting is not recommended for everyone and generally discouraged for those with a history of eating disorders, children, and pregnant women.

If you choose to go the intermittent fasting route, what are some things you should remember?
If choosing to pursue intermittent fasting, it’s important to continue to drink plenty of water and eat nutrient dense foods during the feeding times. Food should be eaten mindfully and slowly, and without the mindset of getting-it-while-you-can or making-up-what-you-lost when fasting.  Before recommending intermittent fasting, I suggest cleaning up your diet. Replace processed foods with whole foods, eat more plant-based foods, cut way back on refined sugars and sweeteners. Then, if you want to try intermittent fasting for weight loss, your nutritional status and improved eating habits will support your success.

How long should someone follow an intermittent fasting regimen?
This depends on the individual. For some people, they find it becomes a part of their lifestyle. Some people hop in and out of fasting routines seasonally, for a few weeks, such as just after the holidays or when favorite jeans are becoming too snug. Each person is absolutely unique and there are always many considerations, including overall health, activity levels, and the quality of their diet. The first step is to clean up your diet as recommended above. Get clearance from your health care provider if you have any health issues or suspect you may. If you decide an intermittent fast is something you want to try, start with a Crescendo fast for 4 weeks. See how you feel, stop if you experience persistent fatigue, high or low blood sugars, dizziness or light-headedness, nausea, vomiting or lethargy.

Images: Toa Heftiba / Unsplash; Giphy (3)

Splendid Spoon Fixed Intermittent Fasting And Made It Way Better

Last year, I tried the Intermittent Fasting diet for this site, and if you’ll recall from that article, one of my biggest complaints was that it wasn’t structured enough. It was a bummer because while it totally worked, I just couldn’t get on board with a diet that didn’t require me to buy anything and feel like I was part of a club that hotter/smarter/richer people belonged to. Like, why would I want to go to a party that doesn’t have a list or a celebrity DJ? It’s like Splendid Spoon heard me, because they figured out the Intermittent Diet and fixed it to make it betch friendly.

Splendid Spoon is a meal program that uses intermittent fasting and good vibes to make you look good and feel amazing—and Gwyneth Paltrow has approved it on Goop, so you know it’s the real shit. Thank god for this diet because it was 80 degrees in LA yesterday, and my New Year’s Eve dress might have to be a swimsuit this year. Do they make fireproof bikinis? What I’m saying is, I want to lose weight, but I don’t have time to work out because everything is on fire. Literally. Read the news.

Splendid Spoon uses carefully crafted, plant-based meals that you can replace your breakfast and lunches with throughout your week. We say meals, because while they come in juice cleanse packaging, they’re much more filling and appetizing than your standard $8 juice. They have names like Pumpkin Pear Hempseed, Beet Balsamic Bisque, and Butternut Turmeric. Everyone loves soup, and this is like soup, but better. Imagine if your soup told you your hair looks nice. Soup is like the iPhone 4, and these drinkables from Splendid Spoon are a fucking Tesla—you don’t need a phone if you have a Tesla, because your assistant will take your calls for you.

Splendid Spoon

I’m in love with Splendid Spoon, because it gives me just enough structure to feel like I’m part of an exclusive club without telling me what to do. Like yes, I want the bouncer there to keep basics out of the VIP section, but as soon as he tells me to get off of the table I am no longer interested in listening to him. Splendid Spoon was created by a hot MILF of two, so she knows how to get me to want to do something without making me feel like I’m following the rules. I bet her kids ask her for extra vegetables and think soda is disgusting, and that is just good parenting. The diet is simple—you replace five of your breakfasts and five of your lunches with Splendid Spoon meals, and one day a week you do a full cleanse. The last day of the week is your Wander day—aka a whimsical cheat day. This is the day for you to Instagram yourself eating pizza so the world will know you are still a chill betch. They have smoothies for breakfasts, so it’s not all just soup, and the menu actually gives you a ton of options to choose from.

Part of the meal plan also includes starting your day with a weekly intention, which is so new age, and we love it. Imagine being able to Postmates Café Gratitude’s entire vibe to your doorstep—that is what Splendid Spoon does. They also include meditating in the diet, because every week they give you a “guided, food-focused meditation.” I think “meditation” is a much better word than “not eating,” and it’s so clever for them to rebrand it this way. Instead of saying, “I’m hungry,” you simply say, “I’m meditating.”

Splendid Spoon

Anyway, if you’re like me and you really want to lose three pounds, you should check out Splendid Spoon. You can still eat Taco Bell on your Wander day, and if that’s not enough to get you on board, then you don’t really deserve to be skinny anyway. Splendid Spoon made intermittent fasting chic and easy, and we love anyone who does the work for us, especially when it comes to looking hotter.

Right now, Betches readers get $20 off their first order by clicking this link!