Is Intermittent Fasting Right for You?
PROS, CONS AND TIPS FOR THIS POPULAR DIET TREND
You’ve probably heard of this popular diet trend on every social feed and in every conversation with a group of health-conscious friends. Everyone is talking about it, but is intermittent fasting the right choice for you and your body?
What is Intermittent Fasting?
We all know that the key to weight loss is less food intake and more movement. Intermittent fasting is a pattern of eating that can drastically reduce the amount of food you consume and simplify your meal planning. It works by alternating fasting for a period of hours/days with periods of time in which you consume food. Water, black coffee and calorie-free beverages are allowed during the fast, but nothing else can be consumed without breaking the cycle.
The primary goal of intermittent fasting is for our body’s to efficiently tap into our fat storage and use that for energy rather than the food we eat. It is simple and can be very effective for reducing and maintaining a healthy weight when done correctly.
How to approach this method all depends on which option you choose. Some popular versions of IF include:
16:8 - Fast for 16 hours, 8 hour eating window daily
20:4 - Fast for 20 hours, 4 hour eating window daily
5:2 - Eat normally for five days/week and eat 500 calories two days/week
Eat Stop Eat - Fasting for 24 hours, two days per week
Alternate Day Fasting - Alternating days of fasting and normal eating
There are many benefits to embracing this pattern of eating, but intermittent fasting is not safe or effective for everyone. Regardless of which plan you choose, you should always consult your doctor before changing your nutrition and eating patterns. Together you can determine if any of these plans would be helpful in maintaining a healthy weight and/or improving your overall wellness.
Pros of Intermittent Fasting
If you are considering giving this trending diet a try, there are many benefits to both your physical and mental health. Some of the positive outcomes to a successful intermittent fasting pattern include:
- Weight loss: reduce body weight and body fat over time
- Increased insulin sensitivity: improve insulin sensitivity and lower your blood sugar levels
- Improved heart health: reduce blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels, and a reduce the risk of heart disease
- Enhanced brain function: improve cognitive function, reduce bodily inflammation, and a lower risk of neurological diseases such as dementia
- Increased longevity: Intermittent fasting has been shown to increase lifespan and improve overall health in animal studies
Remember that not all people will experience the same effects from intermittent fasting, but some people may find that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks listed below.
Potential Cons of Intermittent Fasting
Like any diet and nutrition plan, there are always potential drawbacks and struggles, including:
- Hunger and cravings: feelings of hunger and cravings, especially during fasting periods
- Reduced energy levels: fatigue, especially for people who are already in a calorie-deficit diet
- Hormonal imbalances: particularly in women, and may impact menstrual cycles
- Dehydration: potential for dehydration during extended fasting periods
- Poor nutrient intake: potential inadequate nutrient balance, especially if your food intake is not well-planned
- Social disruption: difficult to participate in social activities that involve food, such as dinner parties or holiday celebrations
It's important to note that more research is needed to fully understand the benefits and potential risks of intermittent fasting and its effects on different populations of people. If you are diabetic, struggle with chronic illness or have a history of eating disorders, it is very important to approach this method with caution and talk to your doctor before starting any new diet.
Some Tips for Success
If you are on board and ready to get started, there are a handful of tactics you can use to ensure you have the best shot at success. A new way of eating will always require discipline and willpower, but with a plan and some determination, intermittent fasting could be a very effective way to maintain a healthy weight.
- Ease into it: Don’t go too hard, too fast! Start with shorter fasting periods and gradually increase the duration as your body adjusts to the changes.
- Plan your meals: Make a plan to eat nutritious and filling foods during your eating periods. You’ll be hungry, so it’s easy to want to grab some yummy junk, but your body NEEDS real, whole food for energy.
- Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water, especially during fasting periods.
- Avoid overeating: Calories still count, even if you are consuming them in a small period of time. Try to avoid binging and overeating during your eating windows.
- Stick to the routine: Choose a fasting schedule that works best for you and stick to it to the best of your ability.
- Be mindful of your body’s hunger cues: Beware the HANGRY beast! Pay attention to your body's hunger and fullness signals and adjust your eating habits accordingly.
- Exercise regularly: Regular physical activity can help you adjust to the changes and support overall wellness during this time.
Regardless of which plan you choose, it is vital to focus on eating nutrient-dense, whole foods to take the best care of your body everyday. We are confident that there is a lot of potential for intermittent fasting to be a beneficial and healthy way for many people to manage their food intake and body weight. When you do your research and make a solid plan, you are sure to find success with this or any healthy path to wellness.