You’ve probably heard the buzz around Intermittent Fasting, it seems to be all anyone is talking about at the moment. So we thought we’d take a look at the science behind it and see if all the fuss is worth it.
We’ve all seen the parade of diets that have come and gone over the year, but it seems that this idea of transitioning between fasting and eating what you like has been slowly winning legions of followers.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting involves transitioning between cycles of fasting (or consuming a very limited amount of calories) and unrestricted eating. The time frame of the actual fast however, depends on the diet you’re following.
Some of the most popular intermittent fasting diets include:
• 5:2 diet – eating just 500-600 calories two days a week and eating normally for the other five.
• 16:8 diet – fasting for 16 hours and eating whatever you like for eight.
• Eat Stop Eat – fasting for 24 hours once or twice a week.
• Alternate-day fasting – fasting every other day.
• The Warrior Diet – fasting throughout the day then eating one big meal at night.
• It gives your digestive system a break
• It is mentally easier than dieting
• It helps you lose weight
It gives the digestive system a break
One of the benefits of intermittent fasting is that it gives the digestive system a break and encourages your body to use the energy you have stored in fat cells.
It can be mentally easier
Some people find fasting an easier way to lose weight rather than daily dieting, as it is often easier to be strict on what or when you eat for a set number of days rather than all the time.
Helps you lose weight
Because losing weight requires a reduction in your calorie intake, it makes sense that intermittent fasting often results in weight loss – but that doesn’t always mean it’s a sustainable way to shed some kilos.
• No better than tracking your calories
• Harder to sustain long-term
• Concern over quantity of food
• Insufficient research
No better than tracking your calories
Scientists at the University of Illinois at Chicago conducted a clinical trial to find out if alternate-day fasting was beneficial and found that “it did not produce superior weight loss or weight maintenance compared with daily calorie restriction”.
Harder to sustain long-term
Intermittent fasting may result in weight loss but, because it is so restrictive. When you take into account real life, social events and other times where you aren’t totally in control of the food it can be difficult to maintain.
Concern over quantity of food
Because of the diet’s focus on the quantity rather than the quality there are concerns about nutrition. Even if you’re hitting your calorie goal, when you look at your macro and micro nutrients you may find you’re way off base which could seriously affect your health in the long run.
Although some studies suggest intermittent fasting may have health benefits, it’s important to note that most of this research has been done on animals and not humans.
In reality there isn’t enough robust data available to show us the potential side effects of intermittent fasting on the human body over an extended period of time.
Is it Safe to Try Intermittent Fasting?
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding. If you’re a teenager or have high-calorie needs (athletes or highly active people) or you have diabetes, then you should avoid intermittent fasting for health reasons.
Like any kind of long term healthy eating plan it is a lifestyle choice and, while it can help you lose weight and it seems to be working amazingly well for the people you’ve seen on Instagram, remember – not everyone is the same and it isn’t guaranteed to work for you.
Some people may find it too restrictive, for others it may not fit into their lives very well. Some people may find that they are already, unknowingly, intermittently fasting because of work or travel and it seems like a natural choice.
But don’t just hop on board because it’s trendy. There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to a healthy lifestyle, so perhaps instead of focusing on when we eat, we should look more closely at what’s on our plate.
Can You Fast and Use a Kcal Extra Meal Plan?
We don’t recommend fasting as the evidence is still murky but if you really wanted to, you could adapt your meal times around a fast.Written by Lauren Jacobsen, Nutrition Director