By now, we’re pretty familiar with all the big diet trends out there – one of them being intermittent fasting (IF). With March being nutrition month, I asked my Instagram followers if there was anything they wanted to know more about, and one of the responses was about IF and if it’s as beneficial as people think it is. It was hard to answer in a brief IG story, so I wanted to discuss details on the blog. It’s going to be a lot of science + citations – after college, I can’t not do the research because I don’t want to misinform – but bear with me, I’m going to do my best to make it as simple as I can!
I feel like to call it a diet isn’t very accurate – it’s more of an eating pattern since you’re not told what to eat, just when + how much. Below are the most common variations per Healthline:
- The 16/8 method: it involves skipping breakfast and restricting your daily eating period to 8 hours, such as 1–9pm. Then you fast for 16 hours in between.
- Eat-Stop-Eat: This involves fasting for 24 hours, once or twice a week, for example by not eating from dinner one day until dinner the next day.
- The 5:2 diet: you consume only 500–600 calories on two non-consecutive days of the week, but eat normally the other 5 days.
According to Monique Tello, MD, MPH (via Harvard Medical School) “the entire idea of IF is to allow the insulin levels to go down far enough and for long enough that we burn off our fat.” By cutting out snacking between meals, our insulin levels should lower enough to allow sugars to be used as energy instead of stored as fat. Of course, the primary goal is usually weight loss, but it also offers benefits on the hormonal + cellular levels, as well (ie: increased human growth hormone, increased cell repair, increased metabolism, and changes in gene expression related to longevity + disease protection – via Healthline).
Nod your head if you’re still following me lol.
Clearly there are a lot of benefits, but something to be weary of is that it is still a relatively new(ish) method and as with any “diet,” it is not one size fits all. There are also studies that show that it might not be as beneficial for women, stating it can lead to poor blood sugar control, emaciation, masculinization, infertility, and missed periods (NCBI). It is recommended that “people with advanced diabetes or who are on medications for diabetes, people with a history of eating disorders [anorexia and bulimia], and pregnant or breastfeeding women should not attempt intermittent fasting unless under the close supervision of a physician” (Harvard).
Overall, my opinion on it is fairly neutral. It has its pitfalls just like any diet would, but I think the pros outweigh the cons for the most part. However, I think that people should make lifestyle changes that genuinely stand out to them instead of simply doing it because everyone else is. Also, I don’t want to see people using the fasting aspect to justify being able to “eat whatever.” I still think it’s most important to follow standard dietary guidelines – eat more fruits and veggies, fiber, healthy protein + fats, and avoid sugar, refined grains, and processed foods. I would recommend Healthline for guidelines + specifics on how to follow an intermittent fasting plan.
Just remember that while diet is the major indicator of our health, I can’t finish this post without stating that exercise and sleep are important too! All three should be used together to create the healthiest you possible – it’s not either/or. But, I hope that you found this post helpful and informative, and let me know in the comments or by e-mail if you have any other health topics you’d like to see highlighted for Wellness Wednesdays!