Intermittent fasting (also known as fasting) promises benefits for health and longevity, but what about its effectiveness?
Weight loss programs have spawned an almost cottage industry in order to counter the international obesity epidemic. Currently, fasting is considered to be the fashionable method to lose weight.
Intermittent fasting involves alternating periods of extreme caloric restriction with periods of “normal” eating. Those who implement it in their lives, ensure that it reduces inflammation and other risks of diseases, in addition to losing weight faster than traditional diets.
Learn here the general concepts, as well as the risks of doing it without proper precautions
What is intermittent fasting?
Something similar happens with all diets: you burn more energy for the activity you do each day. When calories are severely restricted during certain times of the day or on certain days, the process is supposed to speed up. In theory, intermittent fasting reduces appetite by slowing down the body’s metabolism.
In recent years, the 5:2 diet has become quite popular. This equates to eating normally for five days while fasting for the other two days, with a minimum intake of 500 to 600 calories.
Alternatively, fasting can be practiced in phases, with restrictions to more than half of your basic nutritional requirements on “fasting” days.
It sounds easy?
Types of fasting
Fasting has taken many forms throughout history. Although it is now promoted for health or aesthetics, it has also been of a religious nature. Fasting can be classified into:
- Alternate days: Alternate fasting days with eating days.
- Modified: two days of severe restriction and five days of eating “whatever you want”.
- Time restriction: fasting throughout the day with food consumption outside of the fast as often as desired.
- Religious: fasting for spiritual or religious reasons.
It is not clear to what extent each of these types of fasting may be beneficial. It is possible to see that this practice can lead to patterns similar to disordered eating.
Do you want to lose weight through fasting?
In reality, it cannot be 100% guaranteed that anyone will lose weight through fasting. All organisms are different and can see benefits with a certain type of fasting, or without this restriction. That is, there is no guarantee of weight loss, compared to a balanced and constant diet (the normal thing to eat every day, three to five times a day).
For this reason, it is important to emphasize that this is not a practice that should be taken on its own. If you want to know if your body is suitable for intermittent fasting, you need to go to a nutrition professional to do the corresponding tests and discover what is best for your current state of health.
Disadvantages of intermittent fasting
- It may seem easy to simply break the fast, either because of feelings of fatigue or intense hunger.
- As a weight loss method, fasting leaves you vulnerable to mental and social pitfalls.
- You can adopt unhealthy dietary habits on non-fasting days. People are prone to reward themselves after a lot of effort.
- Fasting is biologically related to overeating. By depriving yourself, appetite hormones go into overdrive.
The organism receives alarms that it has not entered enough energy in the form of food. So through starvation, it seeks to save energy by storing up fat for the future. Thus, the metabolism gets used to working slower.
Advantages of fasting
- There are people who don’t want to deal with the psychology of dieting. Calorie tracking and food logs are not for everyone. By comparison, following a 5:2 fasting approach would be easier for some organisms.
- It may work to create an eating pattern that supports weight loss in the short term, but perhaps not in the long term.
- There are companies that have started marketing packaged meal plans specifically for intermittent fasting.
- It may be more affordable than a strict diet with a strict selection of foods.
- There are studies that ensure that fasting can reduce the risk of cancer and delay aging in animals. This is also part of the fascination with intermittent fasting.
- It can boost immune function and reduce inflammation associated with chronic disease.
- It is also possible that it activates beneficial cellular mechanisms.
However, there is still not enough strong evidence that fasting provides any additional health benefits beyond reducing body fat and improving metabolism.
Research on Intermittent Fasting
There is limited research on the effects of fasting on human organisms. Although there are studies that support long-term benefits, they are not exactly conclusive.
Fasting is associated with short-term weight loss. However, with this benefit, there is also the risk of losing weight and gaining it back just as quickly.
There are no long-term benefits when there is short-term weight loss. Even if fasting is not done under professional supervision, it could negatively affect health. Also, most of the studies showed only short-term benefits, due to their very nature.
However, it is important to stress that all body systems are affected by the prolonged restriction, as it could result in malnutrition and slow down the metabolic rate for long-term survival.
Diet, sleep, and physical activity has also not been shown to be positively affected by fasting. There is not yet enough data to properly link human health and intermittent fasting.
Possible dangers of fasting
Compared to regular, healthy eating patterns, intermittent fasting is not one of the most optimal diets.
The most appropriate way to achieve long-term results would be to change the lifestyle in general, with small and gradual changes adopted to the current life. The most opportune thing would be to analyze sustainable approaches, not just affirm that a type of fasting is feasible or not.
It has also been proven that eating late increases the probability of overeating and a higher caloric load.
Therefore, a constant intake of food and a normal circadian rhythm is recommended. In this way, it is easier to maintain optimal metabolic functions.
That is, you must sleep at night and eat during the day.
Although at night the body is in a state of natural fasting, it is only to promote healing and cell regeneration. This is why shift work is so detrimental, as it disrupts this circadian rhythm and can lead to long-term health complications.
Just to achieve a sustainable approach, it may be necessary to seek support in terms of regular and consistent eating habits. With this, you can have three meals and two snacks a day, which aligns much better with the body’s biological signals.
It is not about controlling the body, but about developing sustainable eating patterns. The body detoxes naturally if you want to detoxify your body.
Intermittent fasting is not for everyone
It is necessary to consult with a doctor and a nutritionist to consider intermittent fasting, especially to choose the best one for your body.
Conditions such as diabetes are often made worse by skipping meals and restricting calories without prior measures. Fasting can also cause electrolyte abnormalities in those taking medication for blood pressure or certain heart conditions.
As if that were not enough, our food environment is known to be toxic and obesogenic. It’s hard to endure low-calorie days without strong social support.
When you fast, your body adjusts to reduce your appetite, so you may initially feel less hungry. But, as soon as you stop fasting, your appetite returns with more force. So it may be that you overeat as a result and the restriction was not worth it.
Is it safe to fast?
Under care to avoid dehydration, it is not harmful to most healthy people to help for a few days.
However, it is necessary to consider that a healthy body needs vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Not getting all of this can cause fatigue, dizziness, constipation, dehydration, and being unable to withstand low temperatures.
Also, under no circumstances should pregnant and lactating women, people with chronic illnesses, the elderly, and children fast.
You should always consult with a health specialist when adopting a new diet, especially if it involves major restrictions, such as fasting.
Intermittent fasting has been shown to offer several health benefits, including managing chronic diseases in humans. However, such studies have only been done for a short period of time. Diets are not what the nutritionist recommends, they are life plans that continue for life, so it is not clear if the benefits will last if fasting is done long-term.
An intermittent fasting diet (fasting) appears to be effective in shedding excess weight initially, but it is no more effective than previously prescribed daily caloric restriction diets.
The long-term benefits of this diet have not yet been scientifically determined. An intermittent fasting diet may be an alternative. It is viable if it is suitable for your body and your lifestyle.
If you’re considering this restriction, try to first seek medical advice from a qualified health professional who understands the risks of intermittent fasting, especially if you have a medical condition.
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