Intermittent fasting – the good, the bad, the ugly.

We might be slow off the bat to release this post but as a blogger, I didn’t feel it right to release a post about a craze in eating until I have all the facts. So here goes…

The theory is, intermittent fasting is great at teaching your body to use the foods you consume more effectively and doing so keeps your body at optimal fat burning levels, but is this true?

Most of us were brought up in believing one or both of these statements:

  • Breakfast is the most important meal of the day 
  • To keep your energy levels up it is better to eat smaller meals,  more often. 

But are these statements true? 

We all know the world is changing and we, us as humans, have evolved; but have we evolved that much that our bodies are now benefiting from intermittent fasting diets? Well I guess the cavemen did it but I’m pretty sure this wasn’t their choice, and what was the average lifespan of a caveman exactly?

What is intermittent fasting?

Simply put, intermittent fasting is an eating pattern where you go through periods of eating and not eating (fasting). There are many different intermittent fasting protocols out there, however their baselines are the same e.g. a shorter period of eating followed by a longer period of fasting. An example of this is fasting for 16 hours then eating for 8 hours and repeat each day.

How does it work?

One of the reasons intermittent fasting is a popular approach to weight loss is because your body responds differently from when you are fasting compared to when you are eating; when you eat, your body spends the next several hours breaking down that food and uses it for energy. During a fasting period your body doesn’t have anything to convert into energy and therefore seeks something else to use as energy. Your body is more than likely to use stored fat as energy because it’s the most readily available. 

Research based Pro’s and Con’s

PRO’s 

  • No matter your dietary restrictions, you can still practice intermittent fasting. 
  • You can still eat the same number of calories each day and don’t have to eliminate or change the foods you eat (although, I believe, you would achieve much better results with a healthy, well-balanced diet).
  • Intermittent Fasting has been associated with decreases in body weight, body fat, and waist sizes.
  • Diets that restrict calories are known to reduce body fat, but Intermittent Fasting may help to lose fat mass while retaining more lean mass.
  • Intermittent Fasting may help improve symptoms of asthma by lowering airway resistance, oxidative stress, inflammation and improvements in insulin sensitivity and glucose homeostasis.
  • Can lead to significant loss in total cholesterol and LDL (bad cholesterol), blood pressure and triglyceride levels, which is important for preventing, and reducing the risk of various diseases such as cardiovascular disease. 
  • This eating pattern is easily implemented
  • A 2017 review, a 12-week trial found that Intermittent Fasting did not appear to limit an individual’s ability to exercise and their performance was the same (although some individuals did mention feeling like not having the energy or motivation to be active in the early stages of intermittent fasting). 

CONs

  • Eating is very much a social activity. Since this new style of eating is very different from the typical daily eating patterns, it may conflict with your social engagements which usually involve food.
  • In the beginning, you might get hungry and be much less productive, especially if you are used to eating lots of meals throughout the day.
  • Some have mentioned that they experience minor physical side effects at the beginning including: feeling cold, constipation, headaches, lack of energy, bad temper and lack of concentration.
  • Some people may take the ‘feasting’ periods as an opportunity to eat more calories than they really need and usually would when not intermittent fasting.
  • Some of us may experience digestion problems with these larger portion-sized meals. Oh! And don’t forget common logistics; larger meals means more time needed to digest. 
  • Eating bigger meals can have side effects for those with IBS, who already have a more sensitive gut, inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, and disturbed bowel movements, cramping, abdominal pain and bloating.
  • If you have a medical condition, it is best to avoid this type of fasting because it may have the opposite effect on your health.
  • If Intermittent Fasting is taken to the extreme, over a long period of time, there can be risk of nutrient deficiencies, issues with fertility and reproduction in women. 
  • Extreme Intermittent Fasting is possibly linked to issues with menstruation, infertility and early menopause in women. 

So let’s compare…  

If you are able to follow and stick to Intermittent Fasting, it can actually aid in making successful changes in weight loss by reducing overall caloric intake over the course of a week. Some studies have shown that Intermittent Fasting is an easy method of cutting calories if made a habit, but others may develop a habit of overeating as a result of fasting. Intermittent Fasting can make you have a slower metabolism as your body goes into starvation mode and begins to use your muscle protein as a source of fuel. Even a short 24 hour fast can lower your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate), having negative health implications in the long-run!

My Opinion

Being a certified personal trainer, I know too well that your body needs food, of all kinds, to survive and strive. I personally do not think that an intermittent fasting diet is all that great. 

Sure it might be good to partake in for a while if you have the tendency to overeat and therefore are carrying around a few extra kilos but as for a long term eating pattern, I’m not convinced!

You see, I am a big believer in ‘You are what you eat’, so if you constantly overeat, you will be over sized. if you constantly eat too much sugar and fat, and don’t burn it off, well… I think you know where I’m going. 

My suggestion is, if you are going to engage in intermittent fasting, please do your research and see your GP first, stick to it (or it is a waste of time and energy) and only engage in it for periods at a time. 

Through my studies, I have learnt that starving yourself never has good results long term and intermittent fasting is essentially doing just that.

If you are curious about what intermittent fasting will do for you and are considering dabbling in the idea of this eating pattern, please, don’t take it to the extreme. Yes! It’s not brain science to know that if you severely cut down your calorie intake then you are bound to lose weight, but maybe start smaller – fast for lesser periods and slowly work up to the longer period. 

My final words are… DO YOUR RESEARCH AND LISTEN TO YOUR BODY WHEN IT’S TRYING TO TELL YOU SOMETHING!!
Keep well

~KP

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