Is Fasting The Magic Pill of Weight Loss?
Ever wondered whether fasting is for you? Well, in this blog I have gone ahead and explained what fasting is, along with the pros and cons of it, so you can decide whether it’s something you want to try.
What is fasting?
Fasting (or intermittent fasting as the cool kids like to call it) is an eating pattern where you cycle between periods of eating and fasting. There are several different ways you can do your fast. You can split up the day by skipping breakfast and eating your first meal at noon and your last meal at say 8pm the night before. This way you've technically been fasting for 16 hours and then allowing the other 8 hours of your day to eat. This is actually the most popular form of intermittent fasting, known as the 16/8 method.
Another way is having breakfast at say 7:00am then you stop eating by 3:00pm. Other ways include Eat-Stop-Eat where once or twice a week you don't eat anything between dinner one day and dinner the next day (a 24 hour fast). Another popular one is the 5:2 diet where during 2 days of the week you eat only about 500–600 calories.
But most people already "fast" while they sleep so intermittent fasting can be as simple as extending that fast a little longer. No food is allowed during the fasting period, but you can drink water, coffee (no sugar or milk), tea (no sugar or milk), and other non-caloric beverages.
To make life easier I’m going to give you the pros and cons in dot point form:
- May have significant reductions in blood sugar and insulin levels
- Can make dieting easier (depending on your personality)
- Promotes blood sugar control by reducing insulin resistance
- Promotes better health by fighting inflammation
- May enhance heart health by improving blood pressure and cholesterol levels
- May boost brain function and prevent neurodegenerative disorders such as dementia and alzheimers
- May aid in cancer prevention
- Can make dieting harder (depending on your personality)
- People who fast commonly experience dehydration
- Fasting can increase stress levels and disrupt sleep.
- Can cause heartburn as lack of food leads to a reduction in stomach acid, which digests food and destroys bacteria
- It may affect your social life
- 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.
- May develop binge-like tendencies
I say MAY in a lot of these dot points because most of the studies were done on rats and weren’t conclusive. But in saying that the studies look promising.
It is for you?
If you’re a fan of an all-or-nothing approach, or if you’re someone who likes defined rules to follow, intermittent fasting may be worth trying. It also might be especially good for people who participate in mindless snacking at night since the hard stop will curb this behaviour.
When it comes to weight loss, the answer to whether fasting leads to weight loss is kind of complicated. Any diet that restricts calories can be an effective strategy for weight loss. But the studies on the long-term effects of intermittent fasting are limited, and there's no research to suggest that intermittent fasting is better than a consistent calorie controlled diet for weight loss. Fasting may be a way to jump-start your weight-loss process but it may be short lived due to the thought of days with severe calorie restriction. No matter your pattern of eating, the important thing is to have consistent habits.
Who shouldn’t try intermittent fasting?
Fasting is for normal, healthy individuals. Do not attempt fasting if you’ve had an eating disorder or signs of disordered eating, which include, but aren’t limited to, binge eating, food obsession, misuse of laxatives, and extreme food restriction. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, you should not attempt intermittent fasting. Anyone being treated for diabetes with medications, as well as anyone with cancer and those with a compromised immune system should also avoid intermittent fasting or speak to their doctor before trying it.
How I (Kristy) really feel about fasting
I feel fasting has its health benefits, although most of the studies aren’t conclusive on that. It can however help get people into a calorie deficit, and it's great for those all-or-nothing type people who need to have a label on their diet to follow it. BUT it all comes down to the individual and their eating style. Is it realistic to stick to long term? Probably not, and weight loss is about something you can sustain. Forcing oneself to do intermittent fasting when you really don’t like it is not a great idea. A calorie deficit is a calorie deficit; it doesn’t matter if you eat every two hours over a space of 12 hours or fast for the majority of the day and only eat during a 4 hour period, your body will burn fat for fuel regardless. If you want the health benefits sure, if you want weight loss - I wouldn’t bother. Plus it hinders not only your social life (sorry guys can’t come out for a drink I’m fasting #partypooper) but can also have detrimental effects on your work-life i.e fuzzy brain, low energy, hormonal dysfunctions... the list goes on. In conclusion, you do you boo! But you need to think about the wider scope of issues that come along with fasting, not just the potential health benefits.