Intermittent Fasting: Here are the Pros and Cons!
You have probably heard of Intermittent Fasting, also known as IF in short. The idea of this method is very simple: you regularly eat nothing or very little for a short period of time. That would then yield all kinds of health benefits. Still, many people find IF sound unpleasant. Because are you not allowed to eat anything at all? And how do you prevent yourself from getting hungry? In this blog, we list tips and the biggest pros and cons. This way you know immediately whether Intermittent Fasting could be something for you.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent Fasting, as the name implies, means that you are fasting periodically. This means that you do not eat anything during regular – short – periods. The rest of the time you eat according to your desired macro + calorie requirement, so you plan all your meals there.
That also means that you don’t necessarily have to eat less at Intermittent Fasting. It is instinctively easier to eat in a calorie deficit. For that reason, IF can be useful if you want to lose weight. But certainly, not everyone loses weight with it, and that is certainly not necessary.
Different IF protocols
Of course, “eating nothing regularly” still sounds a bit vague. So what exactly do we mean by that? There are many different IF protocols, all of which have different fasting and eating patterns. The following two are the most common:
This is probably the most popular form of IF. The idea is that you fast for part of the day every day. The standard is that you do not eat for 16 hours a day, and you do for 8 hours.
That may sound intense, but keep in mind that most people don’t eat anything between dinner and breakfast for about 12 hours anyway ! With IF you simply stretch that period a bit. You have breakfast a little later, you have dinner a little earlier, and voilà: all your eating moments are within a period of 8 hours.
A classic IF eating schedule is for example:
- 12:00: breakfast
- 4 pm: lunch
- 19.30: dinner
You can of course vary with that as you wish. For example, do you like to eat a hearty breakfast? Then you can also have breakfast a little earlier, and also push your dinner forward a bit.
There are also people who fast for example 14-10: fast for 14 hours, eat for 10 hours. This gives you just a little more space to plan your meals.
The 5-2 diet
A completely different form of Intermittent Fasting is the 5-2 diet. With this diet, you do not fast per day, but per week. In concrete terms: you eat 5 days according to your normal schedule and fast the other 2 days a week.
To be clear: fasting here does not mean ‘eating nothing at all’ for everyone; otherwise, it would be another type of fasting called dry fasting, practiced mainly by advanced fasters. Most people on the 5-2 diet still eat a little bit on fasting days. They only limit that intake to a few hundred kilos of calories. They also often plan a limited number of eating moments per day.
You can choose which two days to fast, although it is wise not to choose two consecutive days.
Advantages Intermittent Fasting
Fine, you may think now, but why on earth would you do all that to yourself? Not eating for two days? What’s the idea of that?
Intermittent Fasting has a number of health benefits that can make fasting worthwhile. Your body will behave differently if you do not eat for a short period of time. And that can have all kinds of useful consequences.
The main benefits of Intermittent Fasting are:
- More insulin sensitivity. When you eat carbohydrates, your body makes insulin. That hormone can absorb the sugars from your blood. But if you eat carbohydrates often, you become less and less sensitive to insulin and therefore have to produce more and more of it. If that goes on for too long, you can even get diabetes. However, fasting has the opposite effect: with IF the sensitivity to insulin improves.
- Better cholesterol ratio. When you fast, the unhealthy LDL cholesterol in your body decreases. That ensures that you run less risk of cardiovascular disease! Healthy HDL cholesterol is retained.
- More growth hormone. The growth hormone is important in the production of tissue, such as healthy skin and new muscle mass. When you fast for a while, you start to produce more growth hormones. It also helps to get energy reserves from fat stores.
- Less inflammation. Fasting lowers the amount of oxidative stress, i.e. inflammation, in your body. That can be very important! It seems that oxidative stress plays a major role in the development of aging diseases. Much research is still needed on this point.
Disadvantages Intermittent Fasting
Unfortunately, there are also a few drawbacks that prevent IF from being equally useful to everyone. The main ones are:
- Arriving with IF is difficult. Are you underweight or are you a fanatic strength athlete? Then IF may be a less good choice. It is difficult to get extra calories if you can only eat within a relatively short period of time.
- Suffering from binge eating. Not everyone manages to hold back when they are allowed to eat. Some people start to eat extra after they fast. If you know that you are prone to binge eating, this is particularly a risk. In that case, it might be better to use a less rigorous method.
- Not ideal for physical work or sports. For example, if you have to do intensive physical work from early to late, breakfast is probably not feasible until 12 o’clock. You are not supposed to have too little energy due to IF!
- Not with medication. Some medications don’t go well with Intermittent Fasting. This is especially true for heart medicines and cholesterol-lowering drugs. Even if you are pregnant, IF is not a good idea. Are you in doubt? Then it is best to talk to your doctor before starting IF.
Losing weight with Intermittent Fasting?
And what about losing weight? IF is often portrayed as a kind of miracle cure for weight loss. Because you plan all meals in a shorter time, you would ‘automatically’ consume far fewer calories, without extra hunger.
The good news: for some people that does seem to work. When you fast, at some point your body stops its hunger signal. If you then eat a little less during your non-fasting period, that can quickly save a lot of calories.
But beware, not everyone gets the same effect! There are also people who get more hungry when they try to lose weight with IF. There are also people who run an extra risk of binge eating when they eat something again after a fasting period.
So it’s definitely worth trying IF if you want to lose weight, but it doesn’t have to work. Some people feel better with a traditional eating schedule, and that’s no problem at all.