Intermittent Fasting: Fast and Furious Weight Management or Just Furious?
Fast weight management you say!? COUNT ME IN! Summer bod here I coooooooome! Heckin right! Going to look sooo fly on the beach *insert winking face and finger guns*. This is going to be great, let’s get started!
But wait, hold on, what is Intermittent Fasting? Probably just another fad diet *Skeptical look*. Let’s break it down:
- Intermittent Fasting is defined as cycling between periods of not eating(fasting) and time defined windows of eating.
- Typically these periods range from 16 hours fasting and 8 hour eating windows to sometimes 30+ hours of fasting. (You want me to not eat for 30+ HOURS!? ARE YOU INSANE!?… Yes. Yes I am. J/k. Don’t do that).
- During the fasting period a person is allowed to have water and other non-calorie containing liquids.
- During eating windows a person must consume all required nutrients for the day, before the next fast begins. I highly recommend reading our article on If It Fits Your Macros in order to facilitate these eating windows properly!
Like with all diet modalities, there will be pros and cons, deniers and believers! So let’s go through why you should or shouldn’t consider Intermittent Fasting.
- Decreased Metabolic Stress during times of fasting
- Increased insulin sensitivity
- Improved mood
- Increased Human Growth Hormone (although this increase is short term)
- Increased rate of cellular repair and maintenance
- Longevity gene expression benefits (i.e, you could live longer).
- Heart protective (Lower LDL(Bad) cholesterol, lower blood pressure)
- Improved functionality of Alzheimer’s Patients/Delayed onset of Alzheimer’s
Now, just from reading the pros of intermittent fasting… Sounds amazing, right!? A diet that helps a person live longer, better mood, less fat and keeps the brain and heart healthier? SIGN ME UP!
But, hold your horses. Next come the cons, and something major to note here; Most of the data we have on Intermittent Fasting comes from studies performed on animals, not humans. Few studies of high quality have been conducted on humans, and even the studies of high quality don’t definitively define these pros.
- Low energy
- Low evidence of beneficial effects of Intermittent Fasting in humans
- Low amount of well conducted studies proving/disproving Intermittent Fasting in humans that account for various benefits
- Fasting can have adverse effects on people with certain medical conditions
So the cons to this type of dieting are short, but carry a strong reason for caution. Because Intermittent Fasting hasn’t been widely studied in humans, we can’t be for sure that the benefits actually translate. As a side note, the first three cons are all short term; They appear only in the time period when your body is getting used to your new diet modality. However, these effects can be severe, so buck up! I know you’re tired, irritable and hungry… Go eat a snickers. Or smell one, if you’re still in your fasting window. Jeez.
Notice one major thing not present in the benefits section: Decreased fat mass. Wait. Wasn’t that the whole reason for this article? Yes. It is! In many of the studies on Intermittent Fasting, animals and humans, showed decreases in fat mass. However, and this is a big however, these studies used Intermittent Fasting as a means of calorie restriction. It’s already known that calorie restriction causes fat loss, and the studies found no clinically significant difference in fat loss from simply restricting calories versus restricting calories while also doing Intermittent Fasting.
At the end of the day, more studies performed on humans are needed in order to prove or disprove the application of Intermittent Fasting as a viable weight loss solution or health protective diet. If you find that following this type of diet makes it easier for you to restrict your calories, makes you feel better, or you simply have a schedule where Intermittent Fasting fits your needs (like a long shift worker), great! Do Intermittent Fasting. If none of those apply to you? Don’t do it! It’s not for everyone. Eat how you want. Count your macros and follow whatever diet protocol works best for you because being able to stick to a diet modality that you enjoy is the most important factor (as long as it’s healthy, obviously).