You may have heard about a current diet trend called intermittent fasting. This weight loss approach has been around in different forms for many years but has seen a recent rise in popularity. Intermittent fasting is not necessarily a diet, but more of a pattern of eating that involves cycling between times of eating and fasting, ranging from a few hours to a few days at a time. Intermittent fasting can offer some weight loss benefits but also has several drawbacks, and it is not safe for everyone.
There are several ways intermittent fasting can be done, but figuring out which way works best will depend on each individual. While one of the main attractions of intermittent fasting is not having to count calories and track foods, weight loss benefits will only occur if you stick to healthy foods during your eating windows, and do not use it as an excuse to eat high-calorie, junk foods. When fasting, you may still drink water, coffee, and other no-calorie beverages which can help reduce hunger and keep you hydrated.
- The 16/8 method: This method requires you to fast every day for 14-16 hours while you restrict your daily eating window to between 8-10 hours. This method is simple and can be accomplished by skipping breakfast and not eating after dinner, while you eat two or more meals during the eating window.
- The 5:2 diet: This method involves eating normally five days a week and then restricting calories to 500-600 for two days of the week. Women should stick to 500 calories on fasting days, while men can consume 600 calories.
- 24-hour fast: Some people prefer to eat a normal diet most days of the week and then do a 24-hour fast once or twice a week. This method is the most difficult to maintain.
- Alternate-day fasting: With this method, you fast every other day. Some variations of this method allow you to eat 500 calories on fasting days, while others require one day of eating, followed by one day of fasting, and so on. This method is also very hard to sustain in the long term.
Benefits and drawbacks of fasting
Intermittent fasting can be helpful for weight loss. Studies have shown that when meals are restricted to an eight to 10-hour period during the day, it does aid in weight loss. However, weight loss results from fasting diets may not last. When you are done fasting and return to a normal diet, you may regain the weight or even more.
Another common pitfall to intermittent fasting is that it is difficult to maintain for the long term. And fasting can lead to deficiencies in important nutrients, vitamins, and minerals which can cause fatigue, dizziness, constipation, and other health problems. Fasting can also lead to dehydration, which can be dangerous.
There are certain people who should not try fasting at all, including those with diabetes, pregnant women or those who are breastfeeding, elderly people, children, and anyone with a chronic disease. Before trying intermittent fasting, you should consult your doctor to make sure it’s a safe choice for you.
What is essential in learning any new skill or practice is self-discipline, and this applies when adopting the practice of fasting as well as resuming a healthy diet once fasting has ended. Each person needs to find positive ways to motivate himself/herself to maintain the discipline that is required.