Is intermittent fasting just another fad?
by Aleczander Gamboa on Sunday 08 January 2023
5 min read
It can feel like there’s a hot new diet trend to jump on almost every day. Some stick. Others fade away. However, for the past few years, intermittent fasting has steadily become more mainstream.
As someone who has intermittently fasted before, one of its biggest appeals was how straightforward it sounded. Popular intermittent fasting methods include:
- 16/8 – this is where you fast for 16 hours of the day and only eat during an eight-hour window.
- 5:2 method – for two days per week, you cap your total daily calorie consumption at 500 for women and 600 for men. And then you eat normally for the other five days.
- 24-hour fast – this is an eat-stop-eat method. You eat food one day as per normal, then fast for a full 24 hours.
There are many variants on the three methods above, but they all follow similar principles. Let’s look at intermittent fasting so you can decide whether it’s right for you.
My experience with intermittent fasting
The method I tried – alternate days fasting
I tried a method like the 5:2, fasting on alternate days. For three days of the week (Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday), I capped my calorie intake to 600. The remaining four days (Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday) were a regular schedule of breakfast, lunch and dinner.
It wasn’t right for me. On the days where I fasted, I honestly felt like I was on death’s door. And on the days where I did eat, I would consume a mountain of food, not caring about intake or calories. Having a cycle like that defeated the purpose of fasting. However, I know people that love it. My personal trainer swears by it, especially when she’s doing bodybuilding competitions.
Is intermittent fasting really a diet though?
This is a hot debate among medical practitioners, dieticians and personal trainers. The answer? Yes and no.
Some believe it’s a diet trend because of the benefits it can have, namely weight loss and prevention of obesity. This is a common factor among all diets, which is why intermittent fasting has been categorised as one.
On the other hand, intermittent fasting doesn’t follow conventional diet rules. Most diets focus on what you eat. This one mainly focuses on when you eat. You’re still technically consuming food, depending on the type of intermittent fasting you’re doing.
The pros of intermittent fasting
By skipping meals, you’re eating fewer calories, which can help you lose unwanted weight. The challenge here is ensuring you don’t overcompensate by eating a lot more during your mealtimes.
Studies have been done to observe this benefit in action. According to a 2014 review, intermittent fasting helped reduce body weight by 3-8% over a 3-to-24-week period. It also showed the rate of weight loss was approximately 0.25-0.75 kg per week.
It can lower the risk of Type 2 Diabetes
Because fasting results in less energy being consumed, the weight loss you achieve can improve insulin resistance and blood glucose levels. Essentially, fasting is doing what most diabetes medications do, which is improving insulin sensitivity.
If Type 2 Diabetes runs in the family or your doctor has advised you to lose weight, intermittent fasting could be a great start to a healthier lifestyle.
The cons of intermittent fasting
It doesn’t teach you about healthy foods to eat
Like the many diets that came before, this trend skips the education of healthy foods. There are plenty out there, from fruits and vegetables to lean red meats. Intermittent fasting doesn’t help you understand what foods provide the best nutrition for your body. According to a 2016 review, participants who fasted experienced physical drawbacks including colds, headaches, lack of energy, bad temper and lack of concentration.
As such, it might be more useful for you to research what foods to eat and create a balanced meal plan that ensures you still get the right nutrients without the weight gain.
Ignoring your body’s natural hunger cues can result in more unhealthy eating
I can attest to this. I love food, and thankfully, my parents blessed me with no food allergies. I tried intermittent fasting because 1) I wanted to lose some weight and 2) because I wanted to look more ‘shredded’.
On the days I did fast, my stomach acted like a child having a tantrum. By lunchtime, my stomach would growl and hurt repeatedly, much to the dismay of my co-workers. The hands of the clock would turn into baguettes, as I eagerly awaited when I could eat my next meal.
When I did eat, I consumed a lot. It wasn’t even well thought out because I just needed as much food as possible. Eventually, I started noticing this unhealthy cycle, which propelled me to revert to my usual routine of breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Research shows that restricting food can decrease dopamine levels and release higher doses of dopamine during eating. This is what causes overeating. And if this cycle continues, it could lead to unhealthy habits and attitudes towards food.
The bottom line
Intermittent fasting comes with its pros and cons. While it wasn’t for me, I acknowledge its benefits, especially for people who are looking to lose weight or reduce the occurrence of Type 2 Diabetes.
However, I found having a balanced diet filled with healthy vegetables, fruits and proteins, paired with regular exercise worked best for me. I could make my cake and eat it too.
So, my verdict is rather than follow the latest diet trend, do research on what foods work best for you. Then create a balanced meal plan and go from there.
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