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Intermittent fasting has been a buzzword for a few years now, and it’s understandable to have questions about it. After all, there are *lots* of big claims about intermittent fasting, with some people swearing it does everything from improving heart health to helping you live longer.
But intermittent fasting doesn’t necessarily make sense for everyone, or even most people. Still, it may be worth it for some but, like many things, it’s a bit of a hassle. That’s why I’m here to break it down for you so you can safely assess whether this is a practice that fits your lifestyle and health. Here are some things to consider before try intermittent fasting.
First, let’s see what intermittent fasting means.
In case you aren’t familiar with it or weren’t aware of the specifics, intermittent fasting (sometimes referred to as “IF”) is an eating pattern where you have set designated periods of time to eat and fast (or , when you don’t). to eat).
There are various popular intermittent fasting programs. The most popular is 16:8, where you have 16 hours of fasting followed by eight hours of eating. Another popular time is 12:12 p.m. (12 hours fasting and 12 hours eating). Some people will alternate fasting days, such as in the 5:2 schedule, where you eat normally for five days and have two non-consecutive fasting days. In general, the 16:8 program seems to be the most manageable for people.
IF diets are mostly hyped for weight loss, but hang in there.
There have been a few studies on weight loss in intermittent fasting, but the data is a bit murky. Most of the studies we have are on small sample sizes, covering short periods of time. So it’s hard to say if one form of intermittent fasting is better for the other, or if one “works”.
While limiting your eating window can be helpful in some ways, especially in people who tend to eat late at night, we still haven’t been able to detect a weight loss benefit when you compare it to a calorie-restricted diet.
It’s really about the quantity *and* quality of the food you eat, as opposed to the actual consumption window, studies show. We still need more data on the impact of time restriction on weight loss.
Fasting diets are controversial for other reasons as well.
Many people, including many nutritionists, speak out against intermittent fasting diets, and there are many reasons why it’s controversial.
One of the most obvious is that it can be a very slippery slope for someone with a history of eating disorders, or anyone who tends to get overly restrictive with food.
Another important thing is that we are still learning a lot about intermittent fasting and getting data on the potential benefits. We don’t have a lot of data on pre-menopausal women and the impact of IF on hormones, for example. Is intermittent fasting good or bad for these women? It’s quite difficult, even for a professional in the field like me, to give a precise answer without enough data to back up claims about specific groups of people.
As for the weight loss claims, they’re just not really validated, and certainly not long term. It may just be that some people lose weight on an intermittent fasting diet because they restrict calories, not that the intermittent fasting diet itself is doing anything special.
Ultimately, FI diets really should be discussed on a case-by-case basis with an individual and their healthcare provider rather than saying, “Everyone should try this.” It’s easy to get caught up in big claims, but remember that not much is proven yet when it comes to IF.
For these reasons, intermittent fasting may not make sense for many people.
There are a few people for whom intermittent fasting just doesn’t make sense. These include someone training for a sporting event like a long-distance run – you need to eat enough carbs to be able to run a marathon, for example. Generally speaking, people training for a sporting event probably shouldn’t practice intermittent fasting.
People with diabetes may not work well with an intermittent fasting diet and you definitely should not follow this diet if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
And even, if you have a history of eating disorders, it is better to give up intermittent fasting. Trying one is too slippery a slope when they require you to implement strict rules on your diet.
But for others, intermittent fasting *can* fit into a healthy lifestyle.
Again, intermittent fasting isn’t for everyone, and the data is a bit confusing when it comes to benefits. But I believe it has the potential to be useful for a few different groups.
Including people who tend to eat late at night. Having fixed fasting windows can reduce the chances of overeating in the evening.
There is also decent data on intermittent fasting and glycemic control, which maintain good blood sugar levels, especially in people considered medically overweight or obese.
And what the human data has shown so far is that intermittent fasting can reduce inflammation in the body. Inflammation is the root of many health problems, including blood sugar issues like diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. So if you have blood sugar, blood pressure or cholesterol problemstalk to your doctor about IF.
Here are my tips on whether IF is right for you.
There are lots of reasons people decide to try intermittent fasting, and it’s very important to consider your personal goals. What do you hope to achieve by following an intermittent fasting regimen? Do you want more energy? Losing weight? Then see if there is any valid research to support your goal.
If you can, talk to a licensed healthcare provider who can give you personalized advice. It’s also important to consider if you’re on medication or have any underlying health conditions that could make intermittent fasting unsafe for you.
Finally, ask yourself if this is feasible for you. Not everyone agrees with fasting windows. If you prefer to eat every three hours or so, this is definitely not the diet for you. But, if you want to find a way to stop late-night snacking and like the idea of clear parameters, intermittent fasting might be a good choice.
Meet the expert: Jessica Cording, RD, is a nutritionist and author of The Little Book of Game Changers: 50 Healthy Habits for Managing Stress and Anxiety. She practices in New York.
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