Intermittent Fasting: The Good and Bad

Intermittent fasting (IF) is one of the most popular weight loss methods out there, and many people swear by its effectiveness. If you’ve been going to the gym for awhile now you probably heard people talking about it. Intermittent fasting is a pattern of eating during which you refrain from consuming anything that has calories for an extended time period usually between 12 and 40 hours. You can drink coffee and other beverages with zero calories.

But although generally considered safe, it might not be right for everyone. Restricting calorie intake for long periods at a time is not recommended for:

  • Kids and adolescents
  • Breastfeeding and pregnant women
  • Individuals certain medical conditions like diabetes
  • Individuals taking certain medications
  • Individuals with eating disorders

The following are the most widely used Intermittent Fasting patterns:

1. Time-restricted eating. You’ll fast every day for 12 hours or longer. One example is the 16/8 method which is basically a 16-hour fast daily and an 8-hour eating window wherein you can fit in 2 or more meals.

2. The 5:2 diet. It involves eating as you normally do five days each week and consuming no more than 600 calories on the remaining 2 days.

3. Eat Stop Eat. It involves a 24-hour fast 1-2x per week.

4. Alternate-day fasting. The goal of this pattern is to fast every other day.

5. The Warrior Diet. This is a form of intermittent fasting which entails eating small amounts of raw fruits and veggies during the day and eating a big meal at night.

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

There are many health benefits of intermittent fasting such as:

1. Supports weight loss and enhances metabolic health

Most people go through IF with the goal of managing their weight and metabolic health. The latter is a marker of how well our body metabolizes and processes energy measured by blood sugar, blood fat and blood pressure levels.

Research shows that intermittent fasting can be as effective for losing weight as other diets that limit your daily calorie consumption. Time-restricted eating patterns like the 16/8 method has been linked directly with weight loss. Apart from not having any calorie intake during the fasting period, IF also regulates your appetite by suppressing hunger feelings which can also contribute to weight loss.

2. A sustainable lifestyle change

At the onset, intermittent fasting might seem intimidating especially if you go to gyms like David Lloyd’s gym, but it’s actually not. Moreover, it doesn’t require calorie counting, eating certain foods that you might not enjoy, watching your macros or avoiding your favorite foods altogether.

So if you want to start your day with breakfast at 8pm, then you can have your lunch as usual, and even a snack or a light meal before 4pm, which should be your last meal for the day.  Conversely, if you’re planning to have dinner at 7pm as your last meal for the day, then your next meal should be breakfast at 7am the following day.

3. Works well with a healthy diet and exercise.

IF is focused more on when you eat instead of what you eat. So it’s generally easy to apply it with your current diet. There are no special foods to buy or particular foods to avoid. Then again, if you truly want to achieve a healthy lifestyle, it’s always better to have a healthy, balanced diet filled with fruits, veggies, protein and complex carbs.

Drawbacks of Intermittent Fasting

Although the IF eating pattern can be part of a healthy diet and lifestyle, it’s not for everyone. Here are some of the drawbacks you may encounter if you’re trying it for the first time.

1. Difficult in the beginning

Intermittent fasting needs restraint, discipline and self-control. Some people might find it easy but for others, the idea of keeping your calorie intake within a set time frame might feel unnatural in the beginning.

2. Have to deal with hunger pangs

If you’re not used to fasting then even an 8-hour fast might feel like a long time. For the first few days, you may go to bed hungry which can feel uncomfortable. But once you’ve adjusted, you might even find that IF makes you feel less hungry.

3. Mood could be affected

When you first try intermittent fasting, you may notice the ups and downs in your mood. Fasting can have side effects, such as fatigue, headaches, constipation, and others. Moreover, some of the classic symptoms of low blood sugar levels are anxiety and irritability. These symptoms will improve over time though.

If you decide to try IF, remember that diet quality is paramount. If you want to gain the most with intermittent fasting, go for a variety of nutrient-rich whole foods during your eating window and as much as possible avoid or limit processed foods.

Learn more about intermittent fasting here:

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