Intermittent fasting (IF), which also encompasses dietary strategies including time-restricted feeding (TEF) and fasting-mimicking diets (FMD), is a lifestyle change in which calorie consumption is restricted to certain times of the day or a specific amount of hours in hopes of producing benefits for weight loss, body composition improvement, and overall health optimization (Fanti et al., 2021; Harvie & Howell, 2017).
The most commonly used forms of intermittent fasting include alternate day fasting, 5:2 fasting (5 days per week of regular calorie consumption and two days of little to no calorie consumption, and time-restricted feeding (usually 16 hours of fasting and 8 hours of feeding per day). Intermittent fasting is a relatively simple dietary approach to follow because it does not emphasize consistent calorie tracking or energy restriction, and thus provides an ample amount of freedom for the user, along with the periods of restriction.
Additionally, intermittent fasting provides unique health benefits for the user, which are obtained through periods of fasting. However, although there are certain health benefits associated with intermittent fasting, overall energy balance is still a critical aspect of long-term weight management and developing a healthy lifestyle that is accompanied by nutrient-dense food choices necessary, regardless of calorie consumption timing or restriction.
Nevertheless, intermittent fasting can have beneficial effects for a variety of individuals, and it can be positively utilized as a dietary method that coincides with adequate energy intake and appropriate food choices to assist with weight management and overall health.
Carb backloading is simply a dietary pattern that involves consuming the bulk of your carbohydrates at the end of the day, rather than at the beginning. Prioritizing carbohydrate consumption towards the end of the day has potential benefits for appetite and hormonal responses.
Ready to learn more about carbohydrate backloading and intermittent fasting?
Keep reading below!
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is a dietary approach that involves a lifestyle change as much as a change in nutrition consumption habits. Therefore, intermittent fasting or forms of intermittent fasting are often proposed as a long-term solution for weight management and health promotion.
By definition, fasting means “an abstinence from food, or a limiting of one’s food, especially when voluntary and as a religious observance.” One of the most common periods of fasting is the Muslim season of Ramadan, where Muslim individuals fast from sun up to sun down each day.
One of the challenges in addressing the impacts of intermittent fasting is the lack of conclusive long-term scientific research. Intermittent fasting encompasses a variety of different forms of fasting, and interventions for research studies are not always similar enough to draw deeper conclusions, as some fasting studies do not span full days, and some do now even involve absolute fasting (Templeman et al., 2019).
However, a key aspect of intermittent fasting related to weight management is that a variety of research studies have noted promising effects of IF on fat mass and insulin sensitivity when fasting is routinely extended for over sixteen consecutive hours.
The most common fasting schedule is a 16:8 ratio where you are allowed food consumption for eight hours per day while fasting for sixteen hours.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Unlike religious fasting, intermittent fasting generally is practiced for health benefits. Many research studies have been conducted on the health benefits of intermittent fasting, providing evidence of its various health benefits.
Here are a few of the primary benefits of intermittent fasting
Intermittent Fasting Can Improve Your Health
One of the better studies on the effects of intermittent fasting for various health indicators was published in The Journal of Translational Medicine. To analyze the effects of Intermittent Fasting (time-restricted feeding), thirty-four restrained males were randomly assigned a diet of either time-restricted feeding or normal diet practices to follow for eight weeks.
The caloric intake and macronutrient breakdown within each group were controlled, and the subjects were tested before and after the eight weeks of the assigned diet phases.
The time-restricted feeding group consumed their daily caloric intake throughout an eight-hour window each day, with three meals consumed at 1 p.m., 4 p.m., and 8 p.m, and had 16-hours per day of “fasting” time.
The normal diet group consumed their calorie allotment for the day in three meals as well, although meals were spread out at 8.am., 1 p.m., and 8. pm.
Both groups also used an identical resistance training program during the eight weeks. Fat-mass and fat-free mass were tested using a dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry, muscle area was tested using an anthropometric system, and total and free testosterone, insulin-like growth factor 1, blood glucose, insulin, total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and triglycerides, along with other markers of health, were all measured.
Measures of maximal strength, including the bench press and leg press, were also tested, along with resting energy expenditure and respiratory ratio. The results showed decreased fat mass for the time-restricted feeding group compared to the normal diet group, and fat-free mass, arm and thigh muscle size, and maximal strength were maintained in each group.
There were no significant total cholesterol changes, high-density lipoprotein, low-density lipoprotein, triglyceride levels, or resting energy expenditure. At the same time, there was a significant decrease in respiratory ratio, testosterone, insulin-like growth factor 1, blood glucose, and insulin levels in the time-restricted feeding group.
The results demonstrate that Intermittent Fasting (time-restricted feeding) can be beneficial for health indicators and body composition for resistance-trained males.
Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss
One of the primary questions of concern regarding any form of intermittent fasting for weight loss is whether or not it produces superior results to traditional diets that involve continuous calorie restriction. Research has indicated that intermittent fasting can have superior effects on waist circumference and central fat distribution when compared to continuous calorie restriction diets, along with increased production of HDL-cholesterol particles and an increase in β-hydroxybutyrate (Morales-Suarez-Varela et al., 2021).
Although intermittent fasting may produce statistically similar effects on overall weight loss as continuous calorie restriction diets, that superior effects on waist circumference and central fat distribution are particularly important when aiming to reduce cardio-metabolic disorders.
Furthermore, intermittent fasting has demonstrated positive effects on modifying the gut microbiota as it has shown the ability to enrich the beneficial Bacteroidaceae, Lactobacillaceae, and Prevotellaceae families.
In fact, intermittent fasting has demonstrated positive effects on health indicators even without accompanying weight loss, which is likely due to unique signaling pathways, changes in eating and sleeping patterns, and subsequent metabolic pattern changes (Aksungar et al., 2016).
While doing intermittent fasting, you can also try drinking green tea or black coffee (I prefer Puroast Low-Acid Coffee) when you wake up in the morning because they can promote fat oxidization but don’t “break your fast.”
Additionally, you can try fasted cardio to burn even more fat.
Intermittent fasting is an exceptional way to improve your physique and get an aesthetic body!
Intermittent Fasting and Diabetes
Intermittent fasting can help to normalize your blood sugar levels and reduce your resistance to insulin. According to studies on the connection between fasting and insulin, intermittent fasting can reduce insulin levels by 20 to 30%!
If you are at risk of developing Type II- Diabetes, intermittent fasting may help!
Intermittent Fasting and Brain Function
As well as helping you lose weight, it’s possible that intermittent fasting can be great for your brain health as well. It can increase the growth of new neurons, as well as protect the brain from damage in the future.
After a few weeks of intermittent fasting, you are likely to feel mentally sharper than you have previously.
Intermittent Fasting and Muscle Mass
Surprisingly, intermittent fasting can preserve your muscle. As long you don’t enter into starvation mode, you’ll maintain your lean muscle. Starvation will cause your body to break down protein for energy and that will result in muscle loss.
Contrary to popular belief, intermittent fasting will not cause muscle loss. During periods of fasting, your body first turns to fat cells for an alternative energy source, and it only breaks down protein (muscle) after extended fasting periods.
Intermittent fasting can also increase human growth hormone naturally, which helps your muscles to grow.
There are multiple potential beneficial effects of intermittent fasting when combined with resistance training in terms of reducing body fat and total body mass and preserving fat-free mass, compared to non-intermittent fasting diets (Ashtary-Larky et al., 2021).
Dangers of Intermittent Fasting – Are There Side Effects of Intermittent Fasting?
A primary concern of intermittent fasting is whether or not it promotes erratic eating patterns, binge eating habits, and a lowered mood during fasting periods (Harvie & Howell, 2017).
Intermittent fasting has demonstrated positive effects on eating habits and mood in overweight and obese individuals, but it appears to have potentially harmful effects on normal-weight individuals who previously held an “unrestrained” eating style. Due to the additional health benefits of physical activity, many individuals also question whether or not it is safe to exercise while doing intermittent fasting.
Although it may be beneficial to wait until the middle of the feeding period to exercise, intermittent fasting does not appear to limit an individual’s ability to exercise.
How to Begin Intermittent Fasting
If you would like to try intermittent fasting, here is a quick checklist of steps you can take:
- Consult your doctor
- Select an intermittent fasting method that fits into your daily routine
- Eat nutritious foods
- Stay hydrated
- Be consistent
- Don’t give up too soon
What is Carb Backloading?
Although generally considered similar, carb backloading is quite different from intermittent fasting on its own. However, they are easily combined and work well together.
The basic concept of carb backloading is to eat a light meal in the morning (or skip a meal entirely), and only eat light meals into the afternoon preparing one large feast at night.
The essential goal is carbohydrate backloading is to eat as few carbohydrates as possible early and throughout your day, and only fuel your body with carbs a short while before sleeping.
For most people who do carb backloading, a common strategy is to eat zero carbohydrates until after your workout in the afternoon around 5 pm.
Carb backloading works by playing to the strengths of our fat and muscle cells. After years of study, it is generally considered a fact that our fat and muscle cells are more sensitive in the morning than they are in the evening.
By consuming carbohydrates later in the evening, your muscle and fat cells will be less sensitive to glucose.
If you choose to eat your carbohydrates later in the evening, excess glucose is absorbed back into the muscles for better performance- rather than fat storage.
Overall, the basic idea is to eat carbs when your body is less likely to store them as fat.
Carb Backloading for People Who Train in the Morning
If you do your weightlifting in the morning, you are going to want to change this concept around a little bit. True carb backloading is not as efficient for people who weightlift in the morning because eating carbohydrates is necessary for post-workout nutrition.
Eating carbohydrates after your workout is necessary so your muscles can recover and refuel for your next workout session.
However, people who do their workout in the morning can still do carb backloading if they are smart about the rest of their diet! One option for post-workout recovery for people who train in the morning is to load up on protein and healthy fats and save their carbohydrates for the evening.
The human body works on a 24-hour clock, and muscle recovery is a 24-hour job. As long as you fuel your body with the proper macro and micro-nutritional nutrients over the course of 24 hours, your body will adapt accordingly!
Using Intermittent Fasting and Carb Backloading Together for Weight Loss
Combining intermittent fasting with carbohydrate backloading is a very effective way to lose weight, and even build muscle.
If you want to combine these two concepts, I suggest you follow the traditional 16/8 split for fasted/fed hours.
After a few weeks of using this diet strategy, I am sure you will be impressed with how well your body handles carbohydrates! This strategy is excellent for people looking to lower or stabilize their blood sugar.
If you are looking for an example of someone (other than myself) who believes in these two fundamental concepts to dieting, one of the biggest proponents of this type of diet in our generation is Herschel Walker.
The former NFL Running Back and athletic legend Herschel Walker has sworn to a diet of one vegetarian meal per day for years. Although this exact diet may not work for most people, this style can certainly benefit anyone who gives it an honest try!
Both of these diet strategies work well for me and are backed by honest science. If you give them a try, I am confident you will appreciate the results!
For more information, check out this video to hear about one special success story made possible by intermittent fasting!
Concluding Thoughts – Should You Do Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss?
In my opinion, intermittent fasting is one of the best ways to get healthy and stay healthy, in my opinion.
The use of intermittent fasting as a form of weight management and health promotion is relatively invalidated, although there are numerous indications that it may be beneficial.
Rat and mice studies have demonstrated numerous physiologic health indicator improvements from intermittent fasting diets that include reduced insulin and leptin levels, reduced body fat, reduced resting heart rate, reduced blood pressure, delayed onset of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease, and increased resistance to stress and common diseases in cells, tissues, and organs (Mattson et al., 2017).
However, long-term studies in humans are largely unavailable or without conclusive evidence. Intermittent fasting appears to have beneficial effects on weight management and cardio-metabolic risk factors in humans, but there is a significant gap in the scientific literature pertaining to the most appropriate fasting protocol. When utilized properly in combination with a diet rich in nutrient-dense foods and an appropriate calorie intake, intermittent fasting can assist with weight management and an overall healthy life.
It is vital that you still consume an appropriate amount of calories, vitamins, and minerals, but in my opinion, using intermittent fasting to schedule your meals is a great way to improve your health and lose weight!