What You Need to Know About Intermittent Fasting

You’ve likely heard of a friend or celebrity trying the latest diet trend: intermittent fasting. But what exactly does that mean and is there any evidence that it’s effective for improving health or losing weight? Let’s break it down.

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting simply means going a period of time without food. It can aid in weight loss by making the metabolism more flexible, allowing the body to burn more fat. Intermittent fasting causes the body to get used to burning fat for energy instead of glucose, or sugar.

A study conducted in 2014 found that intermittent fasting can cause 3-8% weight loss over 3-24 weeks. According to the same study, people also lost 4-7% of their waist circumference, indicating a significant loss of harmful belly fat that builds around organs and can cause disease. Another study showed that intermittent fasting causes less muscle loss than the standard method of continuous calorie restriction.

The Risks of Intermittent Fasting

However, fasting is not for everyone. For most people intermittent fasting is not sustainable.

The restriction may lead to an intense preoccupation with food, and rebound binge eating, particularly for women. Intermittent fasting can lead to an unhealthy relationship with your body and food, due to infrequent meals. It can also lead to an insulin spike and erratic blood sugar levels, which can affect alertness and energy levels. As your body adjusts to the eating schedule, dull headaches may appear. This can be caused by a decrease in blood sugar, dehydration, or an increase in stress hormones.

“Since 95% of diets fail – the chance for gaining weight back is very high. Because of the high number of risks associated with this approach to eating, I don’t recommend intermittent fasting as a way to lose weight,” explained Grace Derocha, registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator, and health coach at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

People who should particularly avoid fasting include:
• Pregnant and breastfeeding women
• Anyone with a history of an eating disorder
• Those with gut issues, food sensitivities, sleep problems, and anxiety or chronic stress should exercise caution

If you’re convinced that intermittent fasting is something you have to try, talk to your doctor first, especially if you have a chronic health condition.

If you do decide with your doctor that fasting is a viable approach for you, breaking a fast correctly is important. The best way to do so is to continue eating normally and get back into your regular eating routine. Don’t overeat: Having a large feast immediately after a fast could leave you feeling bloated and tired. If you do become ill or are concerned about your health, stop the fast immediately.

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Photo credit: Anna Kurzaeva

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  1. I found this post to be very informative. I liked the fact that it highlighted there could be some benefits to intermittent fasting and the best approach to breaking the fast. However and most importantly, this should not be a long term approach to a healthy diet.

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