Merriam-Webster defines “fasting” as abstaining from food or eating sparingly. It has been around since ancient times. Greek physician, Hippocrates, prescribed fasting for certain illnesses and religions throughout history have practiced it. So what is “intermittent” fasting(IF)….
and is IF right for you?
Intermittent fasting is a style of eating that involves alternating periods of eating and fasting. Although it is technically not a diet, it has gained popularity over the last few years as a way to lose weight. And in addition to the benefits of weight loss, some studies have begun to point to many other health and lifestyle benefits of this eating style.
Before embarking on any diet or weight loss program, it is important to check in with your doctor first. Intermittent fasting as a weight loss program is specifically not recommended for pregnant or breast feeding women, underweight(low BMI) individuals, those with eating disorders and adults over 70. If you have diabetes or other metabolic disorders, you will want to check with your doctor before starting intermittent fasting.
Although intermittent fasting can take many different forms, these are the most popular according to Healthline.com:
- Alternating periods of fasting for 12 hours or more and eating during the remaining hours of the day. The 16/8 method involves eating for 8 hours and fasting for the remaining 16 hours of the day. The timing for this is a matter of choice. If you don’t like to eat in the morning, you may prefer a schedule of fasting from 8 p.m. until 12 noon the following day. Similarly if you wake up hungry, a schedule of fasting from 3 p.m. until 7 a.m. may work better for you.
- The Eat-Stop-Eat Method developed by Brad Pilon involves fasting for 24 hours on two non-consecutive days of the week.
- The 5-2 diet involves eating normally on 5 days of the week and restricting intake to 500-600 calories on the other 2 days. Like the Eat-Stop-Eat Method, the fasting days should not be consecutive.
Water, black coffee and tea as well as herbal teas can be consumed during the fasting periods.
Can IF work for weight loss?
As our ancestors often had to go without food out of necessity and maintained lean bodies, it makes sense that this form of weight control would be successful. And it turns out that intermittent fasting changes our hormones in a way that assists with weight loss. It lowers insulin, increases the production of growth hormone and increases the fat burning hormone, norepinephrine. The result of these hormonal changes is a desire to eat less and the ability to burn more calories at the same time.
In a 2014 study, IF resulted in a weight loss of 3-8% over a 3-24 week period. It’s important to remember that it should not be considered a substitute for healthy eating. And the concept of intermittent fasting for weight loss involves eating fewer calories. If you consume too many calories during your eating window, you may not lose any weight.
Are there other benefits of IF?
Although most of the studies to date have involved animals, there are some important possible health benefits that will need to be further researched. According to Healthline.com, intermittent fasting may reduce insulin resistance and inflammation, promote heart health and protect against cancer. It may also protect against Alzheimer’s disease and promote longevity.
No diet or weight loss program is right for everyone. If you want to try intermittent fasting, be sure to check with your doctor first especially if you have underlying conditions. If you get the ok to proceed, experiment with the different approaches to intermittent fasting to see what may work best for you and your lifestyle. You may experience side effects such as hunger, low energy or fatigue, headaches and irritability. These will usually subside once you have adjusted to the new way of eating.
You’ll find a list of recommended intermittent fasting resources here at EverydayHealth.com.