The diet trend involves going for a designated period of time without consuming any calories, but one important thing to note about intermittent fasting though is that there are a variety of ways to incorporate this type of dietary trend.
Some recommend 16:8, which means for 16 hours of the day you are not consuming anything, and then all of your meals and calories for the day are to be consumed during a set eight-hour period. Some suggest 5:2, which requires that you fast and eat roughly 500 calories for two consecutive days, and then eat what you want on the remaining five days of the week. Other forms of intermittent fasting recommend taking a complete 36-hour fast once a week.
The good thing about intermittent fasting is that these variations allow you to find the option that’s right for you. And like with anything, there are pros and cons.
Pro: Intermittent fasting promotes improved body composition.
When you’re fasting, you’re not consuming calories, so it makes sense to assume that with eating less than you normally would, you’re going to lose weight. Fasting allows you to use up all of your stored sugars as fuel, and to then tap into fat stores. When we begin to burn fat stores, we begin to lose body fat.
Intermittent fasting helps to improve body composition by demanding a caloric deficit, promoting weight loss and decreased body fat, and causing positive changes to our metabolism via its effects on hormones, according to Healthline.
Con: It can be hard to stick with long-term.
Intermittent fasting requires that you go a designated period of time without eating at all, then you eat a designated amount of calories in a specific window of time, and repeat in order to create a caloric deficit. This prolonged period of zero calorie consumption can be difficult to stick with long-term due to low energy, cravings, habits, and the discipline required to stick to the specific time frames surrounding your periods of intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting is also hard to stick with long-term due to the amount of self-control required to do so. Both sides of intermittent fasting can be difficult; not eating when you’re supposed to be fasting, and not bingeing when it’s time to eat is equally important.
Brad Pilon, researcher and author of “Eat, Stop, Eat” suggests, “When you finish your fast, you need to pretend that your fast never happened. No compensation, no reward, no special way of eating, no special shakes, drinks or pills.”
While this may be difficult to do, it’s crucial for the process and ultimately, for you to reap the benefits of intermittent fasting.
Pro: Intermittent fasting can help with disease prevention and lower disease risk.
According to Dr. Rona Antoni, research fellow in Nutritional Metabolism at the University of Surrey, intermittent fasting has the ability to “have a beneficial impact on some important risk markers for cardiovascular disease,” according to Express.
The Cleveland Clinic lists that in addition to weight loss, fasting can help control diabetes, lower cholesterol, and lower blood pressure, all of which are important factors that should be managed for disease prevention.
A study done by researchers at the University of Surrey found that individuals who adhered to an intermittent fasting diet, had a 9% reduction in blood pressure, compared to a 2% increase found in those who followed a more traditional, regular daily diet.
Another study found that intermittent fasting increased sleep time, which in turn lowers blood sugar and decreases inflammation, which can be two big contributors to chronic diseases such as heart disease or diabetes.
Con: It may affect your social life.
Let’s be honest, the majority of our social interactions occur over food and drinks. When you’re fasting, you have to either have the willpower to not indulge or must figure out alternatives to still have a social life without breaking your fast.
While difficult, it is possible.
Too, though, fasting can be exhausting. During the times in which you’re fasting you’ll have lower energy levels than normal, and may not want to be out and about, or may feel like you just need to rest to conserve the energy you do have.
It’s a tricky balance.
Pro: Intermittent fasting promotes healthy brain function.
Fasting increases the rate of neurogenesis in the brain, which is “the growth and development of new brain cells and nerve tissues” according to professor of Neurology at John Hopkins University and chief of the Laboratory of Neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging, Mark Mattson. This, in turn, increases brain performance, mood, focus, and memory.
Additionally, Mattson adds that forgoing food challenges the brain and causes it to take preventative measures against diseases. This is attributed to the body going into ketosis, which is a process that uses fat as a fuel source to “boost energy and banish brain fog.”
We’ve all heard that puzzles and things of that nature that challenge the brain are good for us, and it seems like the challenges that fasting presents are, too.
Con: There’s an increased risk for some negative health consequences.
Those who already lead active lifestyles, or are leaner individuals before beginning intermittent fasting, may suffer from hormonal imbalances as a result.
For people who identify as women, this could lead to irregular menstrual cycles and the potential for fertility issues. For all people, hormonal imbalances could lead to insomnia, increased stress, or thyroid problems.
With the supervision or approval of a physician and careful monitoring of bodily functions, intermittent fasting is generally safe for most people.
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