Intermittent fasting is a dietary approach that’s definitely gaining a great deal of popularity all around the world for the numerous benefits it provides – increased weight and fat loss, better health, and even a link with longevity.
One of the most important factors behind the effectiveness and success of this approach is its ability to control the production of powerful hormones within the body, especially insulin and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1). When these hormones and the feedback loops that govern their production function optimally then an environment is created where we’re better capable of reduce stored body fat, often at a higher rate because we’re better able to regulate our metabolism and blood sugar.
The 16:8 diet is one of the more popular forms of intermittent fasting, the other being the 5:2 fast diet. If you follow the 16:8 approach, you have to eat all your calories in an eight-hour period every day, seven days a week. In general, this feeding window should be kept between the same occasions every day, usually from early afternoon to early evening. In doing so the body is forced to tap into stored energy to fuel its daily activities every day. Some form of fasted exercise is promoted to help speed up fat metabolism and enhance insulin sensitivity. Nevertheless, there are several challenges to this approach.
Firstly, it may be hard to abstain from eating for such long periods of time, at least in the beginning. Nonetheless, when you’ve been following this diet for a while unplanned snacking shouldn’t be an issue any more. The other challenge some people face is physically eating all of their required calories in such a short period of time.
And if you don’t know exactly how much you must eat then you could be under-eating or overeating. The former is a more frequent scenario in most instances. If this is indeed the case then you may be creating an environment where your body is doing everything it can to preserve stored body fat and weight because it perceives your fasted state, along with the lowered calorie consumption, as a state of starvation and initiates measures to ensure your survival. This could be additionally affected by your high-intensity training sessions as it shifts you further into a calorie deficit from an already depleted state. All of these factors could therefore be the reason behind you inability to lose more weight and centimetres.
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Therefore, you need to calculate your daily energy requirements. Ideally this should be done with the help of a qualified professional – a biokineticist, dietician or trainer.
However, to give you a ballpark figure try applying the following steps:
- Calculate your basal metabolic rate (BMR).
- Calculate your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE).
- Calculate your calorie requirements in accordance with what your specific goals.
CALCULATE YOUR BMR:
Work out how many calories your body needs daily. There are many equations that you can apply, as well as apps and websites that can help you. However, a straightforward manual equation for a woman to calculate her BMR is:
BMR = 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (years) – 161
CALCULATE YOUR TDEE:
BMR x either 1.1 (low-activity level), 1.2 (moderate activity level) or 1.3 (high-activity level).
Depending on what your goals are – weight maintenance or weight loss – you now should determine how many calories you should eat and burn. A daily calorie deficit of between 250-500kcal is the most widely accepted deficit that’s necessary to achieve healthy, sustainable weight loss of up to 1kg a week. Once you achieve the desired weight then your equation should balance to maintain your goal weight.
Nonetheless, generally speaking, if you follow intermittent fasting you don’t have to create a calorie deficit to lose weight. The state of hormonal homeostasis it creates, together with the periods of fasting, supposedly work in unison to create weight homeostasis (a return to your natural ideal weight) if you’re consuming the right amount of calories every day, with the right macronutrient ratios. Adherents just have to choose healthy foods and minimize carbs by replacing them with healthy fat like olive oil, coconut oil, olives, eggs, avocados and nuts.
Once you have determined your ideal intake then it’s worth trying that out to see how your body will respond. You might also want to shift your macronutrient ratios around – slightly more or less fat and slightly more or less carbs depending on your body’s response – to help initiate more fat loss.
One final point to think about is the intensity of your exercise. Generally speaking, you should be using exercise to help shape and sculpt your body, not create a huge calorie deficit. However, this doesn’t mean you should avoid high-intensity training, especially if you enjoy it or if you’re training for improved performance. Nonetheless, if your exercise sessions are taking place in a fasted state and are completed a couple of hours before your feeding window then you’re creating a highly catabolic environment that your body can also perceive as a threat. If this is the case, this may be the reason your body is holding on to those last few centimetres and kilograms.
It’s recommended that you shift your feeding window to coincide with your high–intensity exercise, to fuel your performance and aid recovery, which is when that sought-after shapely muscle will be developed. If you want to keep tapping into those fat stores then limit your workout in your fasted state or training done long before your feeding window to low to moderate intensity cardio.
To conclude, your weight-loss and fat-loss plateau could be attributable to the timing of your high-intensity exercise in relation to your food intake. Either way, when you hit a plateau one or more factors have to be changed to reignite progress in the right direction. Lastly, when consumed in moderation, a few glasses of red wine a week shouldn’t negatively affect your intermittent fasting diet. Just make sure that such drinks are included in your feeding window as they contain calories (and make sure these calories are included in your daily caloric intake, as well) and they also affect insulin.