Intermittent fasting is talked about often as a way to lose weight, but there have always been debates about if it is beneficial to your health. However, the most recent review, which was published in October 2021 in the Annual Review of Nutrition, indicated that intermittent fasting might improve several markers of cardiometabolic health as well as cause weight reduction that is comparable to that caused by typical calorie-restrictive diets.
So what is intermittent fasting, and how can it benefit you? Let’s find out!
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
An intermittent fasting diet involves cycles of fasting or significant calorie reduction followed by unrestricted eating periods. The goal is to lose fat and reduce risk factors associated with diseases such as blood pressure and cholesterol.
How Does Intermittent Fasting Work?
There are numerous ways to practice intermittent fasting.
- Whole-day fasting- This type of fasting calls for 1-2 days each week of total fasting. The 5:2 diet plan, for instance, encourages no dietary restriction five days per week, alternated with a 400–500 calorie diet the other two days.
- Alternate-day fasting- Days with no food restrictions alternate with days that only include one meal that supplies roughly 25% of the daily caloric needs (or around 500 calories). For instance, you would alternate between days with no dietary restrictions followed by a day of caloric restriction of 500 calories and repeat.
- Time-restricted feeding- This entails adhering to a daily diet plan with a set fasting period - usually lasting 14-16 hours (including sleeping hours). For example, when following a TRE schedule, meals could be consumed from 8 am to 4 pm, while the rest of the day is spent fasting.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
- Supports Weight Loss – Intermittent fasting is known to support weight loss through caloric restriction without counting calories. Emerging research shows that calorie restriction can reduce body weight and visceral fat.
- Improves Brain Health and Function - It may boost brain health and function, enhance memory and mental performance, and support brain health by preventing brain neurons from degenerating and malfunctioning.
- Extends Insulin Resistance - By decreasing leptin concentrations (a hormone produced by fat cells to control hunger) and raising adiponectin (a hormone involved in glucose and lipid metabolism), intermittent fasting and weight loss may help lower fasting blood glucose and enhance insulin sensitivity.
- Encourages Heart Health - Based on findings from primarily one study, intermittent fasting may protect our hearts by avoiding heart disease and promoting recovery after heart attacks.
Is Intermittent Fasting Safe?
Identifying your reasons for trying intermittent fasting and your goals is crucial. Do you intend to do this forever? Some people experiment with intermittent fasting to lose weight, while others use the technique to treat long-term ailments, including irritable bowel syndrome, high cholesterol, or arthritis.
Whatever your motivation for attempting an intermittent fast, remember to combine fundamental nutrition concepts such as a well-balanced diet, consuming mostly whole, unprocessed foods, and calorie consciousness in order to position yourself for success. Many people can safely fast intermittently, but not everyone can.
Some individuals should refrain from attempting intermittent fasting. These include:
- Children and teens under age 18.
- Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- People with Type 1 diabetes or blood sugar problems.
- Those with a history of eating disorders.
Get a Personalized Nutrition Guidance at Living Proof NYC
Wondering if intermittent fasting is right for you? Speak to our licensed holistic nutritionist-dietitian, Lisa Jubilee, for evidence-based guidance. At Living Proof NYC, we provide 100% online nutrition counseling, so you can get the guidance you need wherever you are. Schedule a consultation today to get started on your journey towards a healthier life!