Is intermittent fasting overrated? Here's what you need to know.

AlexandraSaper

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Intermittent fasting is becoming a very popular trend amongst people who want to lose weight or lead a healthier lifestyle. However, a lot of misinformation prevails on the internet. You might have noticed a lot of people claim to benefit from intermittent fasting, and at the same time, a lot of people don’t. Does this mean that intermittent fasting is overrated? Well, let’s find out!

In this article, we will compare the pros and cons of intermittent fasting to see whether it improves health or whether it is just another fad that has gained popularity.

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Before we dive into the pros and cons of Intermittent Fasting, let us understand what it is.

Intermittent Fasting, or IF, is a pattern of eating in which a person takes their meals in cycles. These cycles consist of eating within certain hours or days and fasting for the rest.

There are different types of IF methods that a person can follow. One of the most common is the 16/8 method where the fasting period is 16 hours, and the eating period is 8 hours. This means that all the daily dietary intake has to be taken in 8 hours, whereas, for the rest of 16 hours, only water is allowed.

People also follow the 5:2 IF method where they completely fast or eat low calories (500-600) on two nonconsecutive days of the week and eat normally for the rest of the week.

Apart from these, there are other methods where people fast/eat low calories for 24 hours on alternate days, or eat only one large meal a day with another small meal consisting only of veggies/fruits. Another way to observe IF is to skip any meal randomly through the week.

The common thing amongst all the above methods is that because of reduced eating times, the weekly calorie consumption of an individual is reduced. That is what explains the weight loss associated with IF. If you're on IF but end up consuming more than the required daily calorie intake, or the meals you do eat are processed and unhealthy foods, you might not benefit.

Advantages of Intermittent Fasting

Let us learn why intermittent fasting is good for you:

  • Helps In Weight Loss

This is one of the most advertised advantages of IF. Intermittent fasting, if done right, can help in decreasing body weight and body fat. People who fast for longer durations find that their bodies have more time to burn all of the calories that come from food available in their stomachs. Hence the body turns the stored fat into energy, facilitating fat loss. Additionally, by cutting out 1-2 meals per day, you’ll typically end up reducing overall calorie intake, resulting in weight loss.

  • Helps Maintain Blood Sugar

When people fast, their insulin sensitivity improves. It also causes a reduction in blood sugar levels. Thus, people with diabetes often find IF to help maintain their blood sugar in comparison to other restrictive diets. Of course, if you have any medical issues or concerns, always consult with a doctor before starting a new nutrition or dietary plan.

  • Helps With Maintaining Blood Pressure and Cholesterol

Research done by Cleveland Clinic shows that Intermittent Fasting also helps in lowering blood pressure and cholesterol. Furthermore, regular intermittent fasting ensures restful sleep which shows a decrease in inflammation in most people. Additionally, the weight loss that happens due to fasting is directly related to improvement in cardiovascular health.

  • Sharpens Brain Function

Intermittent fasting has been related to sharper memory and more attentiveness. One explanation is that your body can focus its energy on all the tasks at hand, rather than rushing to your digestive system to process foods you ate first thing in the morning. A lot of research has also shown that intermittent fasting protects the brain from neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer's that happens with age.

Disadvantages of Intermittent Fasting

Of course, Intemittent Fasting may not be for everyone, or may have some setbacks especially as you first begin. Let us learn why intermittent fasting may not be the right choice:

  • Can Lead To Lower Energy Levels

Some people feel tired and low on energy because of the lack of food in their system. This leads to tiredness and a drop in productivity throughout the day. However, it’s common for people to feel a decrease in energy when they first begin IF, and then to bounce back to normal (or better than normal) after getting used to the eating cycles for a couple of weeks.

  • Can Cause Hunger Pangs

One of the major consequences of fasting is hunger pangs. People who have a habit of continuously eating throughout the day can suffer from excessive hunger. This makes fasting unsustainable for them. But, keep in mind excessive hunger pangs and cravings are often due to a habit of eating, rather than your body’s actual need for food. Usually we eat due to boredom, emotions, procrastination, or simply thinking a grumble in our stomachs means we must eat food immediately.

In fact, humans can survive for long periods of time without food, especially first thing in the morning. You may find that after a few weeks of trying IF, the hunger pangs and cravings disappear.

  • Can Lead To Excessive Calorie Deficit

It is very difficult for some people to eat so much in a small time frame. Eating as much as 1800-2000 calories in a time frame of 8 hours can often lead to digestive problems in certain people. Furthermore, people sometimes can not even manage to eat their daily requirement of calories and nutrients which can lead to eating disorders as well as other health conditions.

If you struggle with disordered eating, or are trying to maintain or gain weight, consult with a doctor before trying IF as it may not be for you.

  • Can Cause Fertility Issues In Women

Intermittent fasting may also cause hormonal imbalances as well as fertility issues in some women. It can lead to difficulty in conceiving and delayed periods in some cases. There isn’t as much research on IF for women, as typically these studies and research involve men.

For some women with hormonal imbalances, IF can aggravate underlying issues and outward symptoms. For other women with hormonal imbalances, IF can actually help regulate hormones and keep certain symptoms, like weight gain and mood swings, more level.

Is Intermittent Fasting Overrated?

Of course not! But just like with any dietary methods, what’s most important is finding what works for you. Certain IF methods may improve health, boost energy, and reduce cravings for some people, whereas for others, it may lead to health issues, low energy, and disordered eating.

It’s always a good idea to consult with a doctor before trying IF, especially if you have any underlying health issues. Also, do your own research on different IF methods, because you’ll want to find the right eating cycles recommended for your health goals and body type.

If you do decide to give Intermittent Fasting a try, be sure to stick with it for a couple of weeks to let your body adjust. As with any change in diet, your body may initially respond in resistance, making your cravings and energy levels seem off balance. But once your body has time to adjust, you may see some amazing benefits come from Intermittent Fasting.

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American travel photographer and writer, based on the beautiful island of Bali. Two years ago, I left my job as a Washington DC lawyer, sold everything I owned, and booked a one-way ticket to Indonesia to turn my creative dreams into reality. I have traveled to 60 countries, have worked with major airlines, luxury hotels, tourism boards, and fashion/adventure goods companies. When I’m not working or traveling, I spend my free time writing, doing yoga, learning to surf, or swimming at my favorite beaches in Uluwatu in south Bali.

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