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Intermittent fasting is one of the latest weight loss trends to gain traction in mainstream media. But, what do we actually know about it? Is there a scientific basis, or is it simply the latest fad?

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that cycles between periods of fasting and eating. It is not a traditional diet, but rather a schedule of when to eat and when to abstain from food. Only water and zero-calorie drinks like back tea and coffee can be consumed during the fasting period.

Intermittent fasting can take different forms, with the two most common being the Daily approach and the 5:2 approach. The Daily approach or 16/8 method, involves fasting for 16 hours and restricting your eating window to 8 hours. The latter involves eating normally for five days and reducing your intake to ~600 calories, for the remaining two days.


How does intermittent fasting work and is it effective for weight loss?

The body’s primary energy source is glucose, a form of sugar derived from the food we eat. This glucose fuels our cells, tissues, and muscles, enabling them to function optimally. The liver stores excess glucose, as reserves for later use. Regular eating habits ensure this energy source remains replenished.

During extended periods without food, our bodies exhaust stored glucose and use fat as the secondary preferred energy source. This prompting of the body’s fat-burning response by restricting alternative energy sources, forms the basis of intermittent fasting.

Naturally, upon learning that intermittent fasting triggers this shift, one may ponder its potential for weight loss. At its essence, weight loss occurs when individuals maintain a calorie deficit—consuming fewer calories than they burn.

In the context of intermittent fasting, achieving weight loss requires consideration of the type and quantity of calories consumed during the non-fasting period. Understanding the fundamental mechanisms of weight loss at its core allows individuals to make informed choices during intermittent fasting.

Does intermittent fasting have other benefits apart from potential weight loss?

It’s important to mention that most studies on intermittent fasting have been conducted on animals. Human studies have had variations in the health of the participants and the type of food consumed during non-fasting period. This variability makes it difficult to draw conclusions about intermittent fasting and weight loss. That being said, intermittent fasting does have some documented benefits. These include:

  • Preliminary evidence suggests intermittent fasting may help prevent the loss of muscle mass that can sometimes occur during the weight loss process.
  • There is limited evidence suggesting lower levels of fasting blood glucose and insulin in people with Type II diabetes.
  • Improved blood pressure: Some evidence suggests that intermittent fasting may contribute to lower blood pressure levels.
  • Some evidence indicates decreased levels of inflammation, which may help lower the risk of chronic diseases.
  • In some studies, intermittent fasting has shown potential for improving resting heart rate and cholesterol levels.
  • Limited evidence suggests intermittent fasting results in a reduction in abdominal obesity, which is associated with various health benefits.

While some studies have observed benefits, the overall evidence for intermittent fasting and its effect on health outcomes is limited. We need further research to better understand the mechanisms and potential risks associated with intermittent fasting.

What are the drawbacks of intermittent fasting?

While intermittent fasting holds considerable potential for benefits, it is important to be aware of the drawbacks associated with it. These drawbacks may manifest in the form of:

  • Restricting food intake can lead to low energy, tiredness, irritability, and difficulty concentrating. You may also experience mood swings or brain fog.
  • Cravings and overeating: Fasting periods may trigger strong cravings and obsessive thoughts about food. This can lead to overeating or bingeing when you have the opportunity to eat, which can hinder weight loss goals.
  • Fasting can sometimes cause low blood sugar levels, resulting in symptoms such as shakiness, dizziness, and weakness.
  • Low blood pressure: Intermittent fasting may cause a drop in blood pressure, leading to symptoms like light-headedness or fainting.
  • Digestive issues: Some individuals may experience constipation or diarrhea when adjusting to intermittent fasting.
  • Nutritional deficiencies: With a limited eating window, it can be challenging to consume all the necessary nutrients your body needs. This can lead to deficiencies in vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients.
  • Women may be more susceptible to hormonal imbalances when engaging in intermittent fasting, which can affect menstrual cycles and fertility.
  • Prolonged fasting periods may cause the body to adapt by slowing down the metabolism. This often makes it more difficult to lose weight in the long run.

It’s important to note, not everyone will experience these drawbacks, and some individuals may find intermittent fasting suits them well. However, it’s crucial to pay attention to your body’s signals and consult with a healthcare professional if you have concerns.

Is intermittent fasting for me?

Whilst intermittent fasting is a powerful tool, it is not meant for everyone. In fact, certain individuals are strongly discouraged from practicing intermittent fasting. These include:

Those with increased energy requirements. Children under the age of 18 as well as pregnant or breastfeeding women fall in this category. Nourishment is paramount during these stages and any form of restriction is considered harmful.

  • People diagnosed with Type I diabetes, whose regular insulin intake is essential for maintaining stable blood glucose levels. Eating at regular intervals is vital to prevent the potentially fatal consequences of low blood sugar levels.
  • Those with a history of eating disorders or disordered eating, as intermittent fasting could trigger harmful behaviours from the past.

If you don’t fall into any of these categories, intermittent fasting can be an effective weight loss regimen worth considering. However, it demands careful deliberation of both its benefits and drawbacks. This will enable you to make an empowered decision that suits you as an individual.

We highly recommend that you seek guidance from your General Practitioner and consult with a Dietitian or Nutritionist before embarking on your intermittent fasting journey. Remember, the key is to unlock the power of intermittent fasting in the safest and most effective way possible.

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