When people hear about or adopt a ketogenic diet, they begin to dig around for ways to optimize their results or speed things along. Eventually, I want to say the majority of people who follow a ketogenic diet learn about intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting or IF may be used without the use of a keto diet. Intermittent fasting is a schedule of when to eat versus a ketogenic diet, which is more of what to eat or not eat. The two may be used together or entirely separate from one another with great success.
However, for one reason or another, you may find yourself wanting to transition off of a ketogenic diet, but still wanting to implement the intermittent fasting (IF).
In this article, I'll go over if you can still lose weight without keto, different intermittent fasting protocols, why IF may not be all that it's cracked up to be, and possibly a better alternative to IF.
Can You Lose Weight Intermittent Fasting Without Keto?
I get asked this question quite often from individuals who found keto and IF but want to move to a diet with more moderate carbohydrates.
Can you lose weight intermittent fasting without keto?
And the answer is… of course, you can.
You can lose weight without keto AND without intermittent fasting. You may have had trouble losing weight previously, and keto and/or IF seemed like the holy grail, but it was just another means to an end.
As the saying goes, there's more than one way to skin a cat.
You can look at both keto and intermittent fasting as tools you can implement when the time is right, but don't confuse that with them being THEE only tools you can use for weight loss, weight maintenance, or even weight gain if that's what you're after.
How To Lose Weight Without Keto
You may have been led to believe that eating VERY low-carb or keto was the only way you'd be able to lose weight. I get it, I was in your shoes, and I too believed that at one point, but I assure you that's not the case.
While lowering carbohydrates or following a ketogenic diet may help many individuals, as it did me, and possibly you, it's not the be-all-end-all.
Keto can be great for many reasons:
- Steady energy
- Increased satiety 1
- Decreased inflammation 2
- Yes, and bacon
While keto may be great at helping you lose weight, and some people find it a sustainable lifestyle, there are just as many who do not want to stay keto forever.
I get it.
As much as you've been led to believe that carbohydrates are evil and calories don't matter, neither one is true.
Weight loss still comes down to the fundamental principle of calories in vs. calories out. (CICO) The hard part about calories in vs. calories out is that those numbers are always changing, which makes it hard to calculate accurately.
Plus, most people don't want to have to count calories.
And you don't have to.
So I Have To Count Calories To Lose Weight?Counting calories IS NOT required to lose weight, and you definitely can lose weight without counting calories.
But don't confuse not having to count calories with being the same as calories don't count.
There may be a benefit for specific individuals to count calories, and the research also shows a trend towards more weight loss and maintenance of weight loss with those who do track calories, but that’s a whole other discussion in and of itself.34
Which leads me to my next point, the adage of eat less move more IS also true, but we can all agree it is not helpful advice.
The reason you may have lost weight on keto, with or without exercise, and possibly without counting calories, is because ketogenic diets are known for suppressing appetite5, which causes you to eat less overall.
No matter how you put it, every diet that causes weight loss works through the same fundamental principle, it causes you to eat less.
Therefore, the only way to lose weight is to eat in a manner that allows you to remain in a caloric deficit consistently.
Whether that's keto or not.
How Intermittent Fasting Helps You Lose Weight
First, let's define what intermittent fasting is.
Intermittent fasting is an umbrella term to describe various meal timing schedules that involve periods of fasting (not eating or reduced calorie intake) with periods of non-fasting (eating).
What most people refer to as intermittent fasting should really be referred to as time-restricted eating (TRE). Intermittent fasting can encompass periods of dieting (calorie restriction), regardless of daily timing, with periods of not dieting.
On the other hand, time-restricted eating (TRE) is restricting your eating window to a particular time or hours in the day.
Makes sense, right? Time-restricted eating means restricting the time that you eat.
Intermittent fasting means times of not eating (fasting) OR eating less (calorie restriction) with times of eating (not fasting) or not dieting (not calorie-restricted).
I'm assuming most people will be eating within an 8-hour eating window or less, which I will intermittently (see what I did there) refer to as both intermittent fasting (IF) and time-restricted eating (TRE).
So how does time-restricted eating help you lose weight?
For the most part, time-restricted eating helps people lose weight through the same fundamental I spoke of earlier. TRE causes weight loss by helping you achieve a caloric deficit.
Calories in vs. Calories out
Had you eaten the same amount of calories you did during your 8-hour eating window, but spread throughout the day, there would be no statistically meaningful difference in weight loss. 6
Since that cat is out of the bag, how does IF or TRE help you lose weight?
For one reason or another, condensing the eating window works for some people.Certain individuals find it easier to eat bigger meals less frequently, while some people prefer smaller meals, but more frequent.
In one study, participants were only instructed to delay their breakfast time by 1.5 hours and eat dinner 1.5 hours earlier, thus shortening their eating window by 3 hours. No other rules were given about what to eat or how much to eat.
A simple change in the time frame of when these people ate was enough to cause them to consume significantly fewer calories and, as a result, lose weight. 7
In another intervention, participants ate within an 8-hour feeding window, but at whatever time of the day they preferred. Again, no other rules were given, and over 16 weeks, participants lost more than ~6.5 lbs. 8
Maybe you're not hungry in the morning, that's great, skip breakfast and have bigger meals later in the day.
However, if skipping breakfast causes you more stress because you're starving when you wake up, then eat when you wake up!
There is no inherent benefit for weight loss in terms of TRE unless that benefit is allowing you to adhere to your diet better and eat less overall, which is the main benefit for people.
Many individuals like to be social in the evening or have bigger dinners, and many people want to go to bed on a full stomach rather than semi-hungry. IF allows these individuals to stay under their calories for the day, with makes it applicable to them in losing weight.
As you may begin to notice, the main benefit of intermittent fasting on weight loss is the ability to cause people to eat less by restricting the eating window.Therefore, my advice would be to eat in a way that you enjoy and that you can adhere to.
In the end, the most critical overlying factor will be the total amount of food (calories) you eat, not the times that you eat it.
What Is Better Than Intermittent Fasting
If intermittent fasting, aka time-restricted dieting, is no better than intermittent fasting, what do I recommend?
Everyone's different has different needs and can tolerate different modalities. Without knowing YOU as a person and your history/background, it's almost impossible for me to tell you what to do.
BUT, here's what I do recommend for most people.
Instead of intermittent fasting, or in addition to, if you enjoy that style of eating, I recommend intermittent dieting (or intermittent fasting as per the scientific definition).
That means, alternate periods of dieting and actively trying to lose weight with periods of non-dieting and maintaining your weight, aka taking a diet break.
Now, when I say diet break, this doesn't mean a free for all. You should be eating a little more food, just enough to maintain your weight plus or minus a pound.
This period of increased food acts to help to give you a break both psychologically, but physically as well.
A study, known as the MATADOR study, took two groups of people who dieted a total of 16 weeks. The first group of people dieting for 16 straight weeks, the second group of people also dieted for 16 weeks BUT completed the 16-weeks in 8 x 2-week blocks.
Meaning, the second group dieted for two weeks, followed by two weeks of maintaining weight (more food).
In the group that intermittently took breaks every two weeks, greater weight and fat loss was achieved. Additionally, the same group also had a higher success rate of maintaining weight loss after the intervention. 9
While a break every two weeks isn't necessary, it's essential to realize that now and then, we have to take a break both mentally and physically from dieting.
It would seem as though taking periodic breaks also allows us to tackle the next few weeks energized and refreshed, thus providing a better outcome.
Besides, it's much easier to stay the course when mentally you will know there's a break every few weeks versus every few months, or *gasp* not at all.Whether it takes you a month or six months to lose the weight, will it matter when you look back five years from now? I bet it won't. You'll be glad that you lost the weight in the first place, and managed to keep the weight off through smart decisions and building up healthy habits.
Dieting is a stress, and we can't be continuously stressed without eventually breaking.
Here is a generalized guideline of how often to take a break while dieting.
So Can You IF Without Keto?
You can implement intermittent fasting with keto or ANY other diet you choose to follow.
However, keto may allow some people to adhere to an intermittent fasting protocol easier due to the appetite-suppressing effects of a ketogenic diet, so you would have to try for yourself.
Intermittent fasting or time-restricted eating is just a method of eating that is convenient for some individuals or allows them to adhere to a caloric deficit, regardless of foods eaten.
A caloric deficit is the overlying determining factor whether you lose weight or not despite what other keto gurus may lead you to believe.