Intermittent Fasting: The Pros and Cons of This Popular Dietary Approach

I’ve always been big on fasting – for religious purposes. I’d like to think of it as my secret weapon when I need to figure out life, find grace, favour, clarity etc. By now I’ve pretty much done it all; sun-up to sun-down weekly fasts, Esther’s 3-Day Fast [that’s the bazooka of fasts I tell you], 21 Day Daniel Fast. I’ve even done the Daniel fast for the entire lent period – twice – not easy. In recent years fasting has however been secularised as a weight loss technique called Intermittent fasting.

Intermittent fasting is a dietary approach that involves restricting food intake for a certain period of time, followed by a period of eating. This approach has gained popularity in recent years as a way to lose weight, improve health, and increase longevity.

There are several different methods of intermittent fasting, but some of the most popular ones include:

The 16/8 Method: This method involves fasting for 16 hours each day and eating during an 8-hour window. For example, someone might eat all of their meals between noon and 8pm, and then fast until noon the next day.

The 5:2 Diet: This method involves eating normally for 5 days of the week and then restricting calorie intake to 500-600 calories on the other 2 days.

Alternate Day Fasting: This method involves eating normally every other day and then fasting on the alternate days.

Some people choose to fast for longer periods of time, such as 24 or 48 hours, but these methods are generally considered more extreme and may not be suitable for everyone.

I cannot help but wonder if fasting for diet has the same effect as spiritual fasting… Either way, before you jump onto this fad, it’s important to understand what happens inside your body when you deprive it of food for extended periods;

  1. When you eat, your body produces insulin to help process the glucose in your bloodstream. When you fast, your insulin levels decrease, which can help improve insulin sensitivity and reduce the risk of insulin resistance.
  2. Fasting has been shown to increase autophagy, which can help improve cellular health. Autophagy is a process in which your body breaks down and recycles old or damaged cells.
  3. When you fast, your body begins to burn fat for energy instead of glucose. This process produces molecules called ketones, which can help improve brain function, reduce inflammation, and promote weight loss.
Potential Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

Lots of research is currently being done on the impact of Intermittent fasting for weight loss and overall wellbeing. Right off the bat, it has been associated with a number of potential health benefits, including:

  1. Weight Loss: Intermittent fasting can help reduce calorie intake and promote weight loss. Several studies have shown that intermittent fasting may be just as effective as calorie restriction for weight loss and may even be more effective in certain cases.
  2. Improved Metabolic Health: Intermittent fasting has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, lower blood sugar levels, and reduce inflammation, all of which can contribute to improved metabolic health.
  3. Reduced Risk of Chronic Diseases: Intermittent fasting has been associated with a reduced risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. Some studies have shown that intermittent fasting may help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, which are both associated with the development of chronic diseases.
  4. Increased Longevity: Some animal studies have shown that intermittent fasting may increase lifespan and improve overall health in a variety of ways.
  5. Improved Brain Function: Some studies have suggested that intermittent fasting may improve cognitive function and reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases.
Potential Drawbacks of Intermittent Fasting

While there are many potential benefits of intermittent fasting, there are also some potential drawbacks to consider. These include:

  1. Weight Gain: While restricting calorie intake can lead to weight loss, in some cases it may actually lead to weight gain because your body starts to build up reserves that it can consume when you “starve it”. Eating especially carb heavy and greasy foods when you do eat will likely counteract the possible benefits of fasting.
  2. Mood Swings: Fasting can be difficult for some people, particularly in the beginning. Some people may experience feelings of extreme hunger, irritability and fatigue during fasting periods.
  3. Headaches: Fasting reduces your blood sugar levels [hypoglycaemia] and cause headaches – especially if you do not drink enough water. If you are prone to migraines, hypoglycaemia could also trigger a migraine attack.
  4. Nutrient Deficiencies: It is important to ensure that you are getting enough nutrients during the periods when you are eating. Some people may struggle to get enough of certain nutrients, such as protein, when fasting.
  5. Disordered Eating: Intermittent fasting can be a trigger for disordered eating behaviours in some people. It is important to approach fasting with caution and to talk to a healthcare professional if you have a history of eating disorders.
  6. Social Isolation: Fasting can make it difficult to participate in social activities that involve eating, such as going out to dinner with friends or attending a party.
  7. Unsustainability: Intermittent fasting may not be sustainable for everyone in the long term. Some people may find it difficult to maintain the necessary level of discipline and may eventually revert back to their previous eating habits, hence may not be the most sustainable approach for long-term gains.

I’m personally not 100% sold on the dietary benefits of intermittent fasting, but I am pretty confident about the impact it has on your overall health and mental state. If your main goal is weight loss, there really is JUST ONE SECRET: cut out sugar and sugary foods from your diet [there’s an article coming up on that soon].

Have you tried intermittent fasting? What was your experience?

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