If you are thinking about starting an intermittent fasting protocol for weight loss it can be one of the best decisions you make.
That being said, there are many pros and cons to intermittent fasting. It's best to take some time and go through in-depth thought and research before making a commitment.
This post highlights the top 3 pros and top 3 cons I’ve found during my over two and a half years of fasting and research.
Pro # 1. Weight and fat loss are easier to achieve.
Weight loss is probably the number one reason people start a fasting protocol.
Personally, more fat loss was my primary motivation.
I found that while my diet and activity level were good, I wanted to shed some more body fat.
After months of thinking fasting was too extreme, I decided to give it a try.
I'll never forget that first day in the summer of 2016. I started with the 16/8 protocol which means you fast for 16 hours and have an eight-hour eating window.
After that first fast, I found that I had more energy and I felt lighter. I’ve been fasting intermittently ever since.
Coupled with a good diet and exercise routine, I began to shed some of the fat I needed.
Intermittent fasting allows you to restrict caloric intake without excessive counting.
After a few weeks, your body adjusts and your fasting periods become easier.
I suggest that if you’re interested in fasting, start with the 16/8 protocol first.
You only skip one meal (usually breakfast). Skipping breakfast allows you to remove a meal period that is notoriously filled with sugary processed foods.
Pro # 2. You gain more time.
Planning six healthy meals a day can be quite stressful. Even planning three meals a day can be a pain.
If you only eat 7–14 meals a week, this can simplify your life in ways you cant imagine.
When you start to fast I suggest you:
- Go grocery shopping on the same day and time each week- This will help you break your fasts with healthy food.
- Have a good exercise routine in place- Fasting is not a cure-all. You’ll see faster results if you work out consistently.
- Fill the extra time you gain with meaningful activities- This could be spending more time with loved ones or starting that side hustle you’ve been putting off.
Prepping and eating many meals a day takes too much of your valuable time.
Eating shouldn't be the primary focus of your day.
Pro # 3. Fasting promotes better overall health and longevity.
The research on fasting and longevity is preliminary but promising.
In addition to protecting, you from diseases like obesity and diabetes, fasting can lower your risk for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Since I have started fasting I’ve never caught a cold. In fact, the only sickness I’ve had are mild allergies that resolve in a few days.
If you tend to get sick a lot, fasting can help strengthen your immune system provided you have an overall healthy lifestyle.
Con #1. The first few weeks are the hardest.
Like with any good thing, fasting does have its downsides.
Once you start fasting the first few weeks to a month will be the hardest. If you’re used to eating constantly throughout the day and then stop, your body will freak out a bit.
During this transition period, it's important that you take it easy on yourself. Going from eating all day to once a day is probably not the best approach.
I suggest you:
- Start with the 16/8 protocol- As I mentioned earlier.
- Drink lots of water while fasting- Water will help with hunger. Adding a bit of sea salt will also help you flush out toxins.
- Break your fast if you feel dizzy or sick. Even if you fast for 12–14 hours that's a great start. You can work your way up to longer fasting periods gradually.
- Make sure you are eating a proper amount of calories- It's easy to go into an extreme caloric deficit with intermittent fasting. Make sure your meals are filling and nutritious.
Other healthy living practices like good sleep and meditation will help you with your transition.
Embrace a marathon mentality.
You want your positive results from fasting to last a lifetime.
Con # 2 . You’ll have the temptation to overeat when you break your fast.
Years ago I suffered from binge eating disorder (BED). When I started to fast, most of my BED symptoms were healed.
Despite this, I still found myself overeating after a long fast. You will overeat on occasion especially in the beginning.
Try to be kind to yourself as much as possible. Know that you’re going through a learning curve and you’ll adjust over time.
If you suffer from disordered eating its best to heal first before fasting.
Fasting can make disorder eating symptoms worse.
On the flip side, if you don't have an eating disorder, fasting allows you to become more mindful about the food you’re consuming.
Over time you’ll want less junk food. You’ll crave nutritious warm food.
When you break your fast I recommend you:
- Fill up on fruits and veg first.
- Saying grace before your meals allows for increased mindfulness.
- Eat as slowly as possible. The more you fast this will become easier.
- Drink water before meals to reduce overeating.
- Sip on kombucha to aid in digestion.
- Save eating carbs for last.
If you find yourself constantly overeating, it's best to take a few days off and refuel.
This will help you regulate hunger and become fat adapted.
Con # 3. You can go overboard with fasting.
A few winters ago I started fasting for 23 hours daily. I wanted to try OMAD (one meal a day) because of all the good research I found.
Since I practiced 16/8 for over a year, I transitioned into OMAD quite easily.
So easy in fact that after a month I found myself cold and lethargic all the time.
I was going overboard with fasting.
Your body can acclimate to new conditions faster than you think.
I was confused at first but then realized I simply wasn't eating enough. Especially during a cold NYC winter.
Like I mentioned earlier if you have adverse symptoms while fasting, take a few days off.
You don't want to make yourself sick and deprive yourself of necessary vitamins and minerals.
Contact your health care professional if you’re unsure fasting is for you. It's not for everyone.
If it is, I wish you all the best on your intermittent fasting journey!