Crash Course on Intermittent Fasting
Do you have trouble overeating at night? Are you fighting the numbers on the scale? Is it a constant struggle to fall asleep? If you identify with any of these problems, you should consider intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting or IF is a term for extending the amount of time you fast or abstain from eating. There are three popular forms of intermittent fasting: the 16/8 plan, the 5:2 diet, and alternate day fasting.
Types of Fasting
The 16/8 plan consists of fasting for 16 hours and then eating within an 8 hour window. This method is the most common and often incorporates a night’s sleep into the fasting period to ease the initial discomfort that can occur with fasting. In the 5:2 diet, you will eat normally for 5 days of the week and then fast for 2 days straight with a 500 calorie meal on each day. This is beneficial for individuals that have an overwhelming work schedule and cannot fast during the week. Alternate day fasting involves alternating “feasting” days with fasting days, and with some cases, an allowance of a 500 calorie meal on fasting days (Schryver, T.).
Benefits of Fasting
Fasting can provide benefits such as lower cholesterol and blood pressure, decreased inflammation, lessened joint pain, and the promotion of healthier sleep. This diet has the potential to decrease factors for heart disease which include diabetes and unhealthy lipid levels. Most of these benefits result from metabolic switching that occurs after 10-12 hours of fasting. During metabolic switching, the body depletes its supply of glycogen and begins burning ketones (“Time to Try Intermittent Fasting”). Another benefit of fasting is that it has been shown to promote an improvement in blood sugar control. Intermittent fasting also triggers autophagy, which is the process by which cells get rid of damaged proteins. During fasting periods, you can drink water, tea or coffee. It is important to ensure all of these options are calorie free and don’t contain any sugar or milk.
Negative Side Effects
A few side effects to consider when trying this type of diet include: headaches, hunger, mood changes, bad breath, sleeplessness, and fatigue/low energy. It is important to consult your doctor before trying a new diet. Intermittent fasting is not recommended for people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, are prone to eating disorders, children or teenagers. There is also no long-term research on this diet so the side effects over an extended period of time are unknown. (“The Great Diet Debate”). It also causes slower weight loss when compared to diets such as keto. Some individuals can lose up to 10 pounds on keto within the first week while individuals on intermittent fasting can expect to lose about ½ pound to 1 pound per week. It is also important to note that fasting has similar weight loss results as following a traditional diet.
If you are considering intermittent fasting, the first step is to choose a method of fasting that works best for your body and routine. There is no need for counting of macronutrients or micronutrients. Initially, your body will experience side effects, but these will subside as your body adjusts to the diet. Ultimately, fasting is a great method for slow, sustainable weight loss, health benefits, and to encourage better sleep.
Schryver, T. (2021). Intermittent Fasting: Old Practices for Modern Day Weight Loss. Environmental Nutrition, 44(4), 4.
The Great Diet Debate. (2021). Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, 38(11), 6.
Time to try intermittent fasting? (cover story). (2020). Harvard Heart Letter, 30(11), 1–7.