Intermittent Fasting: Surprising Update
- By Monique Tello, MD, MPH, Contributor
Theres a ton of incredibly promising intermittent fasting research done on fat rats. They lose weight, their blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugars improve but theyre rats. Studies in humans, almost across the board, have shown that IF is safe and incredibly effective, but really no more effective than any other diet. In addition, many people find it difficult to fast.
But a growing body of research suggests that the timing of the fast is key, and can make IF a more realistic, sustainable, and effective approach for weight loss, as well as for diabetes prevention.
Avoid Intermittent Fasting If You Are At Risk For An Eating Disorder
Intermittent fasting has a high association with bulimia nervosa, and as a result, individuals who are susceptible to an eating disorder should not undergo any diet associated with fasting. Risk factors for an eating disorder include having a family member with an eating disorder, perfectionism, impulsivity and mood instability.
Alternate Day Fasting : 2 Method
Some people fast on alternate days to improve blood sugar, cholesterol, and weight loss. A person on the 5:2 method eats 500 to 600 calories on two non-consecutive days each week.
Some alternate-day fasting regimens add in a third day of fasting each week. For the rest of the week, a person eats only the number of calories they burn during the day. Over time, this creates a calorie deficit that allows the person to lose weight.
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Why Might Changing Timing Help
But why does simply changing the timing of our meals to allow for fasting make a difference in our body? An in-depth review of the science of IF recently published in New England Journal of Medicine sheds some light. Fasting is evolutionarily embedded within our physiology, triggering several essential cellular functions. Flipping the switch from a fed to fasting state does more than help us burn calories and lose weight. The researchers combed through dozens of animal and human studies to explain how simple fasting improves metabolism, lowering blood sugar lessens inflammation, which improves a range of health issues from arthritic pain to asthma and even helps clear out toxins and damaged cells, which lowers risk for cancer and enhances brain function. The article is deep, but worth a read!
So What Is Intermittent Fasting What Is It Used For
People fast for all kinds of reasons. Health, religion, and culture are usually the main focus. But were not here to talk about the religious or cultural aspects of fasting. Thats a separate conversation.
There are more than one type of intermittent fasting. Ranging from alternate day fasting, to sun up, sun down fasting. However, the version we all know, and the one well talk about here, is called Time Restricted Feeding. Meaning, the feeding windows are restricted to a specific amount of time, daily. This has proven to be the most effective and the most sustainable. I wont waste time delving into the dirty details of those other methods as I find them unreasonable, and time is valuable. The science just isnt there to prove their ultimate efficacy over Time Restricted.
Critics of intermittent fasting have thrown their usual jabs at something that appears new to them. Theyll say theres not enough evidence. Or theyll tell you theres not enough proof because we havent conducted enough quality studies on humans.
While that technically may be true, its misguided. Just because we cant prove it, doesnt mean its wrong. I mean technically, we cant even prove gravity exists, but we know it does right? If youre not sure, jump off a building and get back to me. This idea that everything regarding health and nutrition must have double blind experiments, clinical trials and peer reviewed studies, or else its false, is a fallacy.
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So Is Intermittent Fasting As Good As It Sounds
I was very curious about this, so I asked the opinion of metabolic expert Dr. Deborah Wexler, Director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Diabetes Center and associate professor at Harvard Medical School. Here is what she told me. “There is evidence to suggest that the circadian rhythm fasting approach, where meals are restricted to an eight to 10-hour period of the daytime, is effective,” she confirmed, though generally she recommends that people “use an eating approach that works for them and is sustainable to them.”
So, heres the deal. There is some good scientific evidence suggesting that circadian rhythm fasting, when combined with a healthy diet and lifestyle, can be a particularly effective approach to weight loss, especially for people at risk for diabetes.
Is Fasting An Effective Weight
If you are obese or overweight, fasting is an effective weight-loss method, if you stick to it. But it is no more effective than a diet that restricts your daily calories. We know this because there were no additional weight-loss or cardiovascular benefits of fasting two days per week, over an ordinary calorie-restriction diet, in a study of 150 obese adults over the course of 50 weeks.
But you should also consider how difficult the diet will be to stick to. In a study of 100 randomized obese and overweight adults , the dropout rate was higher with those who were fasting, 38 percent, compared with 29 percent for calorie restrictors and 26 percent for those who kept eating as they normally did.
Some people really struggle with having to monitor their intake and constantly record food in an app every day. So the takeaway of the study was if daily calorie restriction doesnt work for you, maybe alternate-day fasting would be a little easier, said Krista Varady, Ph.D., professor of nutrition at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the senior author of the study. Theres nothing magical here. Were tricking people into eating less food, in different ways, she said in 2017.
There is some new evidence that shows different forms of fasting are not equal in part because some are easier than others, but also because some forms of fasting better match our bodys natural circadian rhythm, thus lowering insulin levels, increasing fat-burning hormones and decreasing appetite.
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How To Eat On Your Non
The best way to explain how to eat on your non-fasting days is to act like you arent fasting at all. The idea is to cut your overall weekly calorie consumption so that you lose weight. If you eat more than normal on your non-fasting days, you wont see any weight loss.
You dont need to count calories, but you should be practicing mindful eating. Focus on savoring your foods and paying attention to how your body feels. Stop eating when you are full. You are free to eat whatever foods you want but dont eat as much as you want.
If Is A Diet In Disguise
If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it is adiet. Intermittent fasting is just another culturally normative diet cloaked inbuzzwords such as wellness and productivity. Like all diets, there arerules of when you can and cant eat, and we know from overwhelming researchthat diets are NOT sustainable long term and will eventually be abandoned. Bummer!
Why is our culture soOBSESSED with being healthy?
Dieting for the majority of folks is a great way to distractand cope with and from existential anxiety, anti-aging anxieties and otherareas in our lives where we have no sense of control.
Never underestimate the inclination to bolt. Pema Chodron
What Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron means by, neverunderestimate the inclination to bolt, is that humans are really bad atsitting with discomfort . We just arent good at identifying andsitting with our emotions- especially that more ambiguous ones such as fear,anxiety and grief. Dieting serves as an immediate and effective bypass to thesedifficult emotions so that we dont have feel our existential pain. If we focuson pounds lost or miles logged in the fit bit, we gain an immediate sense ofcontrol and mastery over of life. We have tangible results that itsworking and that everything will be okay once we hit x on the scale or x onthe tracker
But I want to be healthy!
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Making It Work For You
For some people, aspects of intermittent fasting may be a great way to control how many calories you consume.
- If you often find yourself mindlessly overeating in the evening, setting an eight-hour window to eat within may help stop this happening. Make a point of not eating after dinner and waiting until the next day to eat again. If you follow the 16:8, for example, that would be eating dinner at 6pm and waiting until 10am the next day to eat again.
- If you find it hard to cut out complete food groups or certain favourites, the 5:2 diet means you can still enjoy these on your normal eating days .
- During normal eating periods, make sure you eat a healthy, balanced diet dont just overeat on junk food.
The Weighing Scales Have Remained Resistant To Change But Theres Been A Boost In General Health
I have wanted to get fitter and lose weight for a long time, but Ive always been cautious not to be caught up in one of those eat healthier and exercise scams that are often doing the rounds. When my phone rings from the Solomon Islands, I suspect its someone going to tell me that sweets and biscuits and crisps are not the way to go I should invest my hard-earned money in vegetables and fruit.
Im also naturally suspicious of all forms of dieting Im usually quick to warn people that the strict food and drink regime theyre on sounds rather unhealthy .
And until 2021, I had never even considered going on a diet. I know nothing about Paleo, Atkins, Dukan or Keto. It might as well be the midfield line-up for the side that recently beat the Republic of Ireland football team.
But that hasnt stopped me from promising regularly to try something, anything, to lose a few stone. Ive weighed myself several times over the past few years a before weight as I make plans, yet again, to begin exercise and eat healthier.
And then I dont. And then I weigh myself again at the start of the next promise. And then I dont. I have a handy chart of myself getting fatter.
Exercise simply doesnt cut it. Literally. If weight-loss is your goal, exercise alone does not work. At least not for me. During one of the first lockdowns I managed to do 50 runs in 100 days. It made no difference whatsoever to my weight because, I suspect, you cant outrun your fork.
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Counting Calories Beats Fasting Diets For Weight Loss
People who simply cut their daily calories by 25% lost the most weight and fat tissue in three weeks of dieting, compared with two groups following different intermittent fasting regimens, an international team of researchers reported.
“Standard dieting may be more effective than intermittent fasting for reducing body fat,” said senior researcher James Betts, a professor of metabolic physiology with the University of Bath’s Center for Nutrition, Exercise and Metabolism in England.
Fasting diets require that people refrain from eating, either on specific days of the week or during certain windows of time during the day.
This clinical trial tested the merits of an alternate-day intermittent fasting schedule, in which people would fast for one day and then on the next consume as much as twice their usual daily calories.
The study was published June 16 in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
Two U.S. nutrition experts not involved with the study agreed with the findings.
What The Studies Show
Intermittent fasting has been shown, in many short-term research studies, that it can help you lose weight, improve your health and potentially protect you from developing certain diseases. And whats most appealing, is that it doesnt restrict you daily, like conversional dieting.
Studies have also shown that intermittent fasting may help prevent or even reverse diabetes. This is because it helps to control and reduce insulin and glucose concentrations in your blood.
However, theres still not enough studies to show how safe intermittent fasting is if you do it for a long time. But in general, most research highlights that its safe in otherwise healthy adults.
Inside Gwen Shamblin Laras Creepy Weight Loss Cult
As the much-hyped diet plan promoted by the rich and famous of Hollywood and Silicon Valley, intermittent fasting has reached peak popularity in recent years.
But experts fear that the restrictive regimen a quasi-religion followed by the likes of Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and actresses Jennifer Aniston and Vanessa Hudgens can be a dangerous cover for an eating disorder.
Its a wolf in sheeps clothing, registered dietitian Tammy Beasley told The Post. I wish intermittent fasting had a warning stamped on it.
The buzzy fad, touted as a weight-loss and maintenance strategy, suggests people eat only at certain times of the day or, in one of its stricter forms, the week. It was the and the second-most-searched diet, after keto, in 2020.
According to a 2019 review published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the program leaves folks lighter and improves their health, but more recent research published last year by JAMA Internal Medicine found it no more effective than the average diet for fighting flab.
Its a wolf in sheeps clothing. I wish intermittent fasting had a warning stamped on it.
Tammy Beasley, dietitian
The intense habits of the 44-year-old billionaire partly inspired event planner Kristin White to try intermittent fasting in November 2018.
Im easily influenced and thought: If it works for a high-flying businessman like him, I should do it too, said the 54-year-old Seattle resident.
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Eating Too Much In Your Fasting Window
One of the reasons people choose to try Intermittent Fasting is that the reduced time available to eat means consuming fewer calories. However, some people will eat their usual number of calories in the span of the fasting window. This may mean that you will not lose weight.
Dont eat your regular consumption of say, 2000 calories in the window. Instead, plan to eat around 1200 to 1500 calories during the period when you break the fast. How many meals you eat will depend on the length of the fasting window, whether it be 4, 6, or 8 hours. If you need to overeat and are in a state of deprivation, reconsider the plan you chose to follow, or ease off the IF for a day to refocus and then get back on track.
How Do You Do The : 4 Fast
To effectively do the 20:4 fast, you need to abstain from any foods for 20 hours. You can drink calorie free drinks like water, plain black coffee, tea, and calorie free sports drinks. This might sound intimidating but ideally, youd be sleeping for at least 8 hours of those 20.
Then you have four hours at the end of your day that you can eat all you want. If you are a shift worker, or just would rather eat during the day, you can tailor that four-hour window to fit your schedule.
How to eat during the 20 hour fast
The simple answer is – you dont. There shouldnt be any eating during the 20 hours of your fasting window. If you do, it should be a bare minimum. Keep in mind that this type of intermittent fasting is one of the hardest to stick to, as you tend to get really hungry abstaining from food for 20 hours.
This can also be difficult if youre used to having breakfast and drinking coffee with cream and sugar.
In this case, you can choose morning to be your four-hour window. But, that means youll be going to bed hungry and that can make falling asleep difficult.A tip from us would be to play around with the schedule and find one that is the most doable for you.
How to eat during your 4-hour feast?
Obviously, you wont be eating for four hours straight. Thats not what the concept entails. It just simply means that during those four hours, you can eat as much as you want.
36:12 Intermittent Fasting
24:0 Intermittent Fasting
Restricting Calories In Your Fasting Window
Yes, there is such a thing as reducing your calories too much. Eating less than 1200 calories in your fasting window is not healthy. Not only that, but it can also sabotage your metabolic rate. If you slow your metabolism down too much, you will begin to lose muscle mass as opposed to increasing it.
To avoid this mistake, try prepping your food for the week ahead on the weekend. This gives you balanced, healthy meals ready at your fingertips. When it is time to eat, you can enjoy a healthy, nutritious, and caloric-correct meal.
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