Keto, Paleo, Intermittent Fasting…all are trendy diets that have become incredibly popular over the course of the few years. It seems like there is always a new diet trend that promises to help you to lose weight, gain muscle, have more energy…and intermittent fasting seems to be one of the most prevalent diets right now. We wanted to dive into this diet and break down what it is, how it works, and its pros and cons, so that you will have all information necessary to decide if this is something that you would like to try.
What is Intermittent Fasting
When was the last time you fasted…on purpose. If you’re like me, when you first read about this diet, your gut reaction was probably along the lines of “why would I ever want to purposely fast! That sounds horrible.” As it turns out, there are some pretty clear benefits to intermittent fasting. Fasting can be very beneficial for weight loss, focus, energy, and the promotion of less insulin resistance in the individual.
The newest fasting diet trend is called Intermittent Fasting. This type of fasting pushes your fasting window from a regular 12 hour fasting window (the amount of time between dinner and the next day’s breakfast) to anywhere between 14 and 20 hours1. Sounds pretty extreme, right? But each of us usually “fasts” everyday while we sleep. Intermittent fasting can be as simple as extending this a little longer.
With intermittent fasting, you are not actually cutting calories, you are simply shifting them to later in the day. If you normally eat 2,000 calories/day, you won’t all of a sudden decrease down to 1,500 calories, you will just push your 2,000 calories closer together. You eat more per meal but with less meals, while keeping your caloric intake the same.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Here are some of the benefits typically experienced while intermittent fasting:
- Weight loss: Intermittent fasting may drive weight loss by lowering insulin levels. The body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose, which cells use for energy or convert into fat and store for later use. Insulin is a hormone that allows cells to take in glucose. Insulin levels drop when a person is not eating. During a period of fasting, it is possible that decreasing insulin levels can cause cells to release their glucose stores as energy2. Repeating this process regularly, like with intermittent fasting, may lead to weight loss.
- Lower cholesterol: According to a study published in Obesity magazine, intermittent fasting may help lower total cholesterol, as well as LDL (bad) cholesterol, when done in combination with endurance exercise. The researchers in this study also noticed that intermittent fasting reduced the presence of triglycerides, which are fats found in the blood that can lead to stroke, heart attack, or heart disease3.
- Reduced insulin resistance: Intermittent fasting may also help stabilize blood sugar levels in people with diabetes because it resets insulin, though more research is needed. The idea is that restricting calories may improve insulin resistance, which is a marker of type 2 diabetes. Fasting encourages insulin levels to fall, which may play a role in reducing the risk for type 2 diabetes, notes a study published in Nutrients magazine4.
These benefits sound all well and good, but what about the drawbacks? Well, a very notable aspect of this diet is its dropout rate. In a recent study evaluating intermittent fasting, which was published in JAMA Internal Medicine magazine, 38% of the 100 people involved in the study dropped out5. It is a tough diet to stick too. There is also a strong biological “push” to want to overeat after a fasting period, which could derail progress pretty quickly. Also, someone who would like to start this diet will need very strong willpower, along with a strong social support system to endure these fasting periods long-term.
One of the top tips for those embarking on the intermittent fasting journey is to make sure that you are still getting all of your vital nutrients in. You may need to add a supplement or two to your day-to-day routine, just to be safe. We recommend adding a powdered green drink mix to aid with digestion and help keep your immunity on track. A quality probiotic can also be helpful too, especially one with enzymes, which can help assist the body’s natural ability to break down proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and dairy into absorbable nutritional elements.
If you are considering intermittent fasting, make sure to discuss it with your doctor. Skipping meals can be dangerous to people with certain conditions.