Is fasting for 20 hours superior to fasting for 16 hours?

Intermittent fasting is a great way to lose weight and promote better health. There is a particular study from The German Cancer Research Centre and Heidelber University Hospital that states IF is not superior to conventional calorie restriction. They conducted the largest investigation on IF to date. This paper is dated November 26th, 2018.

These scientists concluded that there are many ways in which to lose weight, and it’s a matter of an individual finding the way in which suits them best. Then one must diligently follow the plan for life in order to maintain this.

Everyone wants to know what the perfect time is for fasting. This study in particular states that IF is not a suitable long term weight regulator, mainly because there is no actual scientific evidence on the effects of prolonged fasting. I beg to differ on this, from reading multiple scientific papers, clearly stating how effective IF Is for weight loss and as well as achieving optimal health benefits.

The good news is that smaller duration studies have come up with very positive health and metabolic effects. If you have been on the IF path, you would have discovered this to be true.

The study undertaken by the university hospital that examined over 150 obese & overweight participants (who tried both fasting and calorie restricted eating) showed that improvements in health were both apparent in both methods. Visceral fat, belly fat and extra fat in the liver were reduced. The scientists pointed out that even small successes in diets are a big gain for losing dangerous visceral fat.

What is highlighted clearly in this study confirms that some people find it easier to be disciplined in a two day fast, rather than restricting their overall calorie intake indefinitely. In order to maintain their new body composition, people must switch towards different dietary habits. It is well stated that the perfect eating plan for you, is the one you can stick to long term and still get great results. The German Cancer Research Centre and Heidelber University Hospital study has eneded

Now, I have gone off track a bit with the study above, but it’s important to highlight that the best plan for you is the one you can stick to long term. Picking 16–20–24 has many differences in health and weight loss. You will achieve results with each and every one of these timeframes. Of course, there are more restricted methods available, for those who are looking at resolutions for cancer control or serious disease. These are a lot more in-depth, and I’m not sure if they would be suitable for this question.

As a personal recommendation (not a scientific one in any way, as I have not conducted research) because I specialise in strength training, hypertrophy and weight loss, I recommend cycling daily between different timeframes. The reason being is I fast for longer periods of time when I’m not training, and shorter periods when a challenging session is planned. This is because in order to grow muscle, you must consume enough calories, more so protein. You need the fuel and the stamina to lift heavy weights in order to achieve your goals. That is challenging to do when you are fasting (although not impossible). Of course, your goals could be completely different, and maybe you would like to fast for 20, 24, 18, or just pick 2–3 days dedicated to fasting, with the rest being restriction free. The choice is completely up to you.

The question is, what are you looking to achieve? Is it fat loss or health benefits or both?

Many people move towards IF because of the many benefits they receive, and how fast and effective it is for fat loss. This is all too enticing for many people, but we all must realise that in order to keep receiving these health and fat loss benefits, we must be willing to use this as a lifestyle habit. It’s not something you can do for 3 months and then resort to your old ways. One thing I have come to realise, is that the reduction in food is not a huge issue, and if anything, it helps me to enjoy my life a lot more because I’m healthier, happier and feel a lot leaner and muscular.

Choose the pathway that works best for you. Both timeframes are great, and find which one is best for your lifestyle. Then stick to it for life.

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Journal references to the exert above: Ruth Schübel, Johanna Nattenmüller, Disorn Sookthai, Tobias Nonnenmacher, Mirja E Graf, Lena Riedl, Christopher L Schlett, Oyunbileg von Stackelberg, Theron Johnson, Diana Nabers, Romy Kirsten, Mario Kratz, Hans-Ulrich Kauczor, Cornelia M Ulrich, Rudolf Kaaks, Tilman Kühn. Effects of intermittent and continuous calorie restriction on body weight and metabolism over 50 wk: a randomized controlled trial. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2018; 108 (5): 933 DOI: 10.1093/ajcn/nqy196

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