Intermittent fasting is a trend that we’re seeing a lot more lately. But like many other things you read about, it’s important to understand the pros and cons before making a choice on whether it will benefit you.
In short, intermittent fasting is going through periods of time without eating food or with limited calorie intake during certain hours/day or days/week. It’s more of an eating pattern than a diet. It limits when to eat, and not so much what to eat. And that’s part of the appeal for people who don’t want to count calories or use their food log to track everything.
Some argue it’s beneficial because it mimics how we were evolved to eat. Before refrigerators, 24-hour convenience stores, and all-day access to food, it was natural to fast from time to time when food was unavailable.
There are lots of variations of intermittent fasting. Common ones are:
- Time Restricted Eating. This involves eating within a time restricted window. Typically, the goal is 16 hours of fasting and eating only within the other 8 hours. There is no restriction on the foods you are eating.
- The Fast Diet. With this, you eat regularly for five days of the week, then take in just 500-600 calories/day for the other two (non-consecutive) days. There is no restriction on what foods you are eating.
- Liquid Fasts. Periods of time when only water, coffee/tea and maybe vegetable broth are consumed. This is typically for 1-5 days. I have done this for 5 days and will write about my experience in another post!
One of the main benefits of fasting is an increase in a process called autophagy. This is the body’s way of clearing out old, damaged cells and replacing them with new, healthier cells. In this way, intermittent fasting can be used as an anti-aging program because you are maximizing the growth of new, healthier cells. A great resource is a book The Longevity Diet.
In addition, intermittent fasting also helps to reduce the risk factors for many diseases such as heart disease, inflammatory conditions, cancer and Alzheimer’s. And it can help to keep weight at a healthy level.
Intermittent fasting can help you to lose weight because ideally you to eat fewer calories in total, and burn more fat during the fasting periods. Lots of people have success with it. But what do the studies say?
According to one study, intermittent fasting helped people to lose 3-8% of their weight over 3-24 weeks. In this study, people also lost 4-7% of their waist circumference.
Another study of 100 people with obesity showed that after a year, the people who fasted on alternate days lost more weight than people who didn’t change their eating pattern. But, they didn’t lose any more weight than those on a calorie restricted diet. And out of the people who were to follow the intermittent fasting protocol, 38% of them dropped out.
Sticking with a system is one of the keys to weight loss success. So, be sure to pick a system that you enjoy for it to be sustainable.
Intermittent fasting is not for everyone. People who are underweight or have eating disorders shouldn’t fast. Neither should women who are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or are breastfeeding.
Certain medical conditions can be worsened with longer periods of fasting. Also, people taking certain medications can be prone to side effects with intermittent fasting as well.
One of the reasons people drop out of the intermittent fasting eating pattern is that it’s hard to stick with the fasting part. They eat more than the allotted calories when they’re supposed to be fasting. And/or they overindulge after due to feelings of deprivation during the fast. None of these will help with weight loss.
Intermittent fasting is a weight loss trend that works for some people. It can help you to lose weight and reduce belly fat. But, it isn’t safe for everyone and can also be difficult to stick with.
For the best chance of long-term weight loss success, finding a system you can stick with is key.
Have you or someone you know tried intermittent fasting? What were the results? Do you want help determining if this is the right system for you? Book a free discovery call here to learn more.