Although the act of fasting ( going for an extended period of time without food and/or drink) is essentially an ancient phenomenon, it is starting to gain a whole lot of attention these days as a trendy weight loss strategy.
You guys know how much I love to comment on all the dietary trends out there, so I could not help but to throw my hat into the intermittent fasting debate.
For those that may not have heard of it, intermittent fasting comes in a variety of forms but essentially involves fasting ( not eating) for an extended period of time.
This may mean fasting for a few days of the week and and potentially consuming significantly less calories on those days while eating more normally for the rest of the week or simply doing something similar every single day.
Intermittent fasting is often lauded as a novel (it’s not) and advanced (not really) weight loss strategy that offers a variety of additional health benefits (nothing that has really been proven in humans).
In reality though, it is just a unique manner of restricting your calorie intake, very much like any other weight loss strategy.
There are certain people that may be predisposed to success with such a technique because it provides very strict parameters to follow and it may work with their lifestyles and tendencies.
For that same reason, it may be less appealing to others and sound absolutely unbearable to some.
But, what does the available evidence say about the effectiveness of intermittent fasting?
Intermittent Fasting In A Nutshell
Intermittent fasting has the potential to produce weight loss results similar to other more conventional weight loss approaches, but there is mixed evidence as to whether or not it is better than standard weight loss plans ( ie: consistent calorie reduction) and there is certainly no strong evidence that it provides any additional long-term health benefits beyond those associated with losing weight.
Yes, Harvard recently released a study showing fasting may increase the lifespan of worms, but that doesn’t mean all that much right now.
As we continue to learn about the effects of fasting on the body over a longer period of time, this understanding will inevitably evolve.
Would I Recommend Fasting?
If not eating for an extended period of time each day sounds like a dietary approach that you would like to attempt, intermittent fasting may be effective for you.
It may be worth a shot if you have struggled to lose weight using conventional weight management strategies.
When my clients come in asking about intermittent fasting, that is EXACTLY what I tell them.
If they already are fasting, or interested in pursuing it, I do my best to ensure they carry it out in the healthiest manner possible.
I don’t spend any energy convincing an otherwise healthy person that they should NOT try it.
It does work for some people, but not everyone is cut out for it.
One thing that concerns me about fasting, however, is that much of the day is closed off from eating which may put more emphasis on meals rather than snacks and thus healthy foods which may be seen as early-day or snack options ( oatmeal, nuts, seeds, avocado, fruit etc) may be omitted or reduced in the diet.
Keep that in mind if you want to pursue fasting!
Is Fasting Safe?
Although it is considered safe for an otherwise healthy adult, individuals living with diabetes or taking medication for blood pressure or heart disease should speak to their doctor before attempting fasting of any kind.
There is little to no real high quality long term data on intermittent fasting, so obviously the long term effectiveness, practicality and the sustainability of the approach have not been verified.
At the end of the day, modest and prolonged caloric intake is a cornerstone of weight management and intermittent fasting simply offers you a unique means to achieve that end.
It is no more effective than other calorie restriction strategies, but it is certainly a different approach that may work better for some people.
I hope this helped guys!
Until next time,
Andy De Santis RD MPH