A newish craze in the fitness world is intermittent fasting. It has become more and more prevelent in the last 5 years or so and people love it. Chances are, you probably know someone who has tried it and swears by it. You might be wondering, what the heck is intermittenting fasting and should I get on the boat? We’ll be diving into all the particulars of intermittenent fasting for weightloss, the dangers of it and if it actaully works!
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Before jumping in, let’s talk about what intermittent fasting is. Intermittent fasting is an eating cycle where you choose a specific eating and fasting window. For example, eating during a 10 hour window and then fasting for a 14 hour window. There are several different windows.
Some are much more extreme, such as consuming your calories in a 4 hour window and fasting for 20 hours. I have even heard of some intermittent fasters who will fast for a certain numbers of days out of the week and then eat on certain days. That kinda blows my mind and is really unhealthy (in my opinion) but we’ll be getting more into that later.
To me, intermittent fasting is kinda funny because I feel like most of us do a version of this already, unless you’re a midnight snacker. Think about it, we all probably eating breakfast around the same time and dinner around the same time too and then, we are fasting the rest of the time.
The key to intermittent fasting is during your fasting window you cannot have any calories at all. The recommendation is to drink only water and black coffee or tea.
Intermittent Fasting Claims
The claims of intermittent fasting definitely make it seem like an attractive option for weight loss. Some of the claims I have heard are:
- Decreases bloating
- Better management of hunger
- You can eat whatever you want within your eating window and still lose weight
- More energy/less sluggish
These all sound awesome, who doesn’t want to feel less bloated, be able to manage hunger better, eat whatever you want and have more energy? However, these claims seem to be backed more by personal experience as aposed to scientific research (although, there have been recent studies showing the benefits of intermittent fasting for weightloss when monitored closely).
Decreases bloating: This makes sense because you are regulating your digestion by having specific eating and fasting windows. Your body becomes familiar with this schedule and your digestion becomes more synced.
Better management of hunger: I think this ties back to the first one, your body gets on a schedule and acclamates to that. Thus, resulting in your body getting hungry at the same time everyday when your body knows you will be eating. It’s kind of like cows that get fed at the same time every day. They instictually start walking towards the feeding trough because their bodies know when its time to get hungry. Not that you’re a cow.
More energy/less sluggish: This could be the result of scheduling your food intake and not getting bogged down by slow digestion. I am honestly not sure about the science behind that but I know when my digestion is slow I usually feel sluggish but when things are moving well, I have more energy. Just personal opinion here, though.
You can eat whatever you want and lose weight: So…I guess this is technically true. You could theorhetically eat whatever you want and lose weight if you are staying within a calories deficit. If your calorie intake is 1900 calories, then you could eat 4 Little Debbie’s and lose wight but thats obviously not recommended.
I think this claim lends more towards the belief that you can binge on obscene amounts of calories as long as youre in your eating window and that’s simply not true. Just because you are eating 3,000 calories in 4 hours and then fasting for 20 doesn’t mean your body won’t burn those calories diffrently. It’s STILL 3,000 calories and its still 24 hours. Make sense? This belief is one of the several danger I find in intermittent fasting.
The Dangers of Intermittent Fasting
Any good thing can become bad… look at Anakin Skywalker. I don’t think intermittent fasting as a whole is a bad thing but if abused and used incorectily, you could wind up on the Dark Side.
In my opinion, there are two big dangers of intermittent fasting:
- Leads to unhealthy relationships with food: This can manifest itself in binge eating because you feel like you ned to “fill up” because you are about to embark on a long fast. I have found many people eat insanely large amounts of food during their eating window to avoid feeling hungry halfway through their fasting window.
- Can disrupt hormone production: Fasting of any kind plays with our hormones and how and when they are secreted. I am not a scientist or an expert on this topic, but, I do know that hormones are very important and play into everything. We want our hormones functing well and smoothly. Have you ever has PMS (or been around someone with PMS), yeah, hormones are powerful.
Addtionally, this dietary techinque is not healthy or safe for everyone. Some individuals who should be very weary before starting intermittent fasting are:
- Diabetics (Type 1 and Type 2): Maintaining stable insulin levels is paramount in the management of diatbetes. Fasting can have very serious adverse affects on insulin levels. Individuals with diabates absolutely must seek medical advice before starting intermittent fasting.
- Nursing mothers: Nursing women require more calories to produce milk. Beginning a fasting regime could potentially interefere with milk production.
- Pregnant women: Fasting should absolutely never be part of a pregnant womans eating routine. Maintaining healthy calories is vital for fetal developement. Fasting/decreasing calories can have much deeper health implications. In some cases, the body will pull from reserves in the bones and teeth resulting in fragil bones and crumbling teeth.
- Children: With youth obesity becoming more and more prominent, measures definitely need to be taken for the health of our children, however, fasting is not the answer. Children are developing and need a healthy amount of calories to sustain them as they are going through growth spurts and hormonal changes. There are many other healthy ways to manage weight that do not include fasting.
At this point, I am sure you can see that intermittent fasting isn’t all rainbows and unicorns. All of these things should definitely be considered before beginning this regime. You’re probably wondering, ok…but does it work?
Does it Work?
Here’s the short answer: it can.
Here’s the long answer: it’s not because you’re fasting.
Allow me to explain: Basically, the reason why ANY weight loss plan works is beause you are in a calorie deficit. The reason why there is success with intermittent fasting is because when you decrease your eating window you will subsiquenty (not in all cases) decrease your caloric intake. That’s all there is to it. There’s no magic here. It’s simple math. Calories eaten versus calories burned.
I’m sorry… that probably isn’t very exciting, but its the simple truth.
I like schedules and that is probably the only attractive thing to me about intermittent fasting. I think it can have some benefits on your digestive regulation and health. My daughter for example, when she was first born I was nursing her whenever she cried. This inevitably led to her digestion being all over the place and developed some colic symptoms. Once I put her on a feeding schedule the colic cleared up and she was super happy and calm.
I don’t think we are any different and I think there can be some benefits to trying to eat at certain time. However, I do think there need to be limitations:
- Make eating/fasting windows realistic. 12/12 (eat during 12 hour window and fast during 12 hour) is fine.
- Eat within your calories. Don’t use your eating window to binge. If you have a sustainable window, I doubt you’ll be driven to binge.
- You don’t have to call it intermittent fasting, you can just call it eating 🙂
There you have it! That’s my take on this super fit topic and I hope that you have more knoweldge and confidence with moving forward!
Have you tried intermittent fasting? What was your experience?