I know we’re still at the start of 2019, but I’m going to call it. Intermittent Fasting is the top diet trend of 2019. Keto was all the rage 2018, but now everyone’s on the Intermittent Fasting bandwagon. Should you be jumping on it too?
WHAT IS INTERMITTENT FASTING?
Fasting is defined as the choice to completely abstain or reduce your food and/or fluid consumption for a set period. Intermittent fasting is quite simply an eating pattern that cycles between periods of eating and not eating. This way of eating doesn’t specify foods you should and shouldn’t eat, but rather dictates when you should. Intermittent Fasting is a change of eating patterns, rather than a diet.
TYPES OF INTERMITTENT FASTING
Time Restricted Eating
Also known as the 16:8, this involves restricting your meals to an 8-hour window each day and fasting for the remaining 16 hours. Following this pattern, you might choose to skip breakfast and have an early dinner or start eating earlier in the day and start fasting from 4pm or so. For example, you might choose to skip breakfast, and eat between 12-8pm, or have a later breakfast at 10am, and have dinner by 6pm.
Alternate Day Fasting
This form of fasting involves cycling one day of fasting and one day of your regular intake. On the ‘fasting’ days, it is recommended you consume less than 25% of your recommended daily energy intake, roughly 400 calories.
One of the most popular intermittent fasting diets, 5:2 involves reducing caloric intake for two ‘fasting’ days each week, roughly 500 calories for women and 600 calories for men, per day. The other five days then allow for relatively unrestricted, ‘healthy’ eating.
WHAT HAPPENS TO THE BODY?
Generally speaking, you are likely to lose weight when undertaking any of the above forms of Intermittent Fasting. But let me explain… The reason people who fast intermittently will usually experience weight loss is because they are eating less kilojoules than they were eating before – not necessarily because of the ‘fasting’. In fact, this is why most ‘diets’ (regardless of restrictions put in place) will cause weight loss – because the total amount you are eating is less than what you were before. Interestingly, there are some studies which favour Intermittent Fasting to result in less muscle loss, when compared to a general calorie deficit diet, helping you maintain lean muscle mass.
Depending on how tightly you comply with these fasting methods, there’s potential for numerous other benefits, outside of the weight loss. Research suggests that any prolonged period with little to no calories for short periods has been linked to lowered cholesterol levels, improved blood pressure and blood glucose control. Other notable research out there also supports a link between periodic fasting and a reduction in inflammation and the ability for fasting to improve your immune function. This places you at less risk of infection as fasting kick-starts stem cells to generate new white blood cells.
NOT FOR EVERYONE…
Although fasting holds potential of great benefit, it is worth noting that fasting isn’t suitable for everyone. I’d recommend you avoid fasting if you are; pregnant or breastfeeding, underweight (BMI under 20), under the age of 18, or over the age of 65. I’d also say Intermittent Fasting is unlikely to be suitable if you have a history of disordered eating, are diabetic or have problems controlling your blood glucose levels. Please speak with your trusted health care professional for other options which may be more suitable.
At the end of the day, while Intermittent Fasting may cause short-term weight loss, it’s unlikely to be sustainable for an extended period of time. I wouldn’t suggest long term fasting anyway, as it places you at increased risk of slowed metabolism and energy conservation. But in the short term, fasting holds great potential for both weight loss and improved general health. As with any diet, it’s best to get the all clear from a trusted medical professional before commencing, speak to your GP or a dietitian to ensure it’s right for you.
Avid Foodie & Dietitian
Determined to be a dietitian, from the early age of 15, once graduating high school Rachel completed a Bachelor of Nutrition & Dietetics. Since then, she has worked as a Nutrition Advisor for a large multi-national food manufacturer, performed nutrition consultancy work for small and medium business and also dabbled in marketing. The food industry is her true passion, the ability to change and optimise the nutritional profile of an item before it even hits the shelf is a true fascination of Rachels.