You’ve heard about the success stories. You’ve seen incredible before and after photos worthy of #transformationtuesday. Intermittent fasting seems to be the answer to everyone’s weight problems, and the thought of sacrificing a few hours of hunger for a period of binging on your favorite cheeseburger and unlimited soda sounds totally doable, right?
Wrong. Intermittent fasting, at least the correct way, isn’t just about that. Intermittent fasting has helped people in managing their weight while reaping numerous health benefits but there are guidelines to live by. Take a moment to ask these five questions before you press that timer.
- What is intermittent fasting and how did it become so popular?
First things first: intermittent fasting is not a form of dieting. It’s a pattern or schedule of eating without necessarily cutting your calories. It doesn’t change or restrict the type of food you eat, but rather when you eat. The main goal is to reach the body’s fasted state, which only happens after 12 hours of not eating or processing food (fed state), so that the body can easily burn stored fat that have been inaccessible during the fed state.
The most common form is Time Restricted Fasting or Daily Intermittent Fasting, which follows a 16-hour fast and an 8-hour period of eating ad libitum or at one’s pleasure.
While intermittent fasting is commonly done to lose weight, it’s also used for physical, mental and spiritual reasons. It’s been practiced for centuries by our forefathers out of necessity (they didn’t have 24/7 restaurants back in the day). It’s now gaining popularity again for its weight loss and health benefits.
- Aside from losing weight, what are the other benefits of intermittent fasting?
For one, intermittent fasting can make a busy day simpler. You can schedule your 8-hour eating period from noon to early evening allowing you to skip breakfast but enjoy lunch and dinner. One less meal to prepare or worry about.
It also has other evidence-based benefits such as lowered risk of Type 2 Diabetes, increased human growth hormones (HGH) which is great if you want to build muscles, improved cellular repair and better sleep. A recent study have also shown that alternate day fasting can lead to longer life!
- How about possible side effects?
Commonly-reported side effects include low energy, heartburn, headache, brain fog, and diarrhea. Note that severity depends from person to person and some of the effects may reduce or completely disappear once the body gets used to the new eating pattern.
Jenny Lynne Cua, a Registered Nutritionist-Dietitian (RND) gave a fair warning. “The possible health effects depend largely on the person’s food choices. If you regularly consume unhealthy, processed meals during the eating period, then it will be detrimental to your overall health. Be mindful that you’re eating balanced nutrient-rich food, and not just worry about when you’re eating.”
Jenny also cautions about over reliance on coffee or tea which are mostly allowed during fasting. “Coffee and tea are diuretic and contain caffeine. Excessive intake may result to dehydration so make sure to drink lots of water.”
- Who is intermittent fasting for?
Any healthy adult can try and benefit from intermittent fasting. However, anyone with medical conditions such as diabetes, or eating or sleeping disorders as well as those who are pregnant and are constantly stressed should steer clear from it. When in doubt, see a nutritionist or a doctor first.
- Can I stop intermittent fasting once I reach my weight #goals?
Never forget that fasting does not equate to losing weight. Weight loss depends on calorie consumption versus expenditure or in simpler terms, how much energy you eat or take compared to how much you use or burn with normal activities and exercise.
“If you followed intermittent fasting and ate excessively during the eating period, didn’t do any physical activities and consistently ate food loaded with calories, fat and sugar, you won’t lose weight and might even gain more. You also run the risk of getting sick from bad food choices,” Jenny adds.
On the other hand, if you follow intermittent fasting with balanced healthy meals and have successfully shed the pounds, going back to the normal eating pattern is not a problem.
Intermittent fasting is not new nor something to fear about. One of the biggest misconceptions is that you need to constantly eat and skipping a few hours will kill you. Oftentimes, you eat once the clock says so, forgetting that human bodies are amazing at giving cues. Listen to it!