In this article, I’m going to be going through some of the pros and cons of intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting has been a hot topic over the last few years.
I see a lot of different things out there often with misinformation that creates confusion around the topic. I’ve had several clients come in wondering if intermittent fasting is good for you or not.
Today I'm going to try to simplify the pros and cons of intermittent fasting. Plus, I’ll clear up a couple of misconceptions around fasting.
If you would prefer a video over reading an article we’ve provided that at the bottom of this article.
Pros of Intermittent Fasting
First, the pros of intermittent fasting.
One of the biggest draws to this form of dieting is that it’s really simple to follow.
#1 Simple Rule for Intermittent Fasting
So one of the things that a lot of people tend to struggle with is getting bogged down with all the different rules and confusion around trying to eat healthier or eating to lose weight.
Although there are all different types of intermittent fasting, the rules of intermittent fasting are pretty simple. Don’t eat between for a set prolonged period of time.
The simplicity of the rules of intermittent fasting helps with weight loss in terms of consistency. Consistency is one of the biggest factors in how successful someone will be with weight loss.
#2 Larger Food Quantities with Intermittent Fasting
Second, larger food quantities make intermittent fasting work well for a lot of people.
Often with many intermittent fasting plans, it gets people eating a larger quantity of food at their meals.
I’ve found over the years when working with clients who are trying to lose weight, they often don't eat large enough serving sizes of quality foods to help keep them feeling satisfied.
This lack of enough quality whole foods can lead to binging. When someone tries to decrease their calorie consumption by too much too quickly it can often lead to triggering binge or out of control eating.
Often with the intermittent fasting, people go through that long stretch where they're not eating, and they're focused around not eating anything at all, and then they often wind up consuming a much larger food quantity when their feeding window opens.
So if they're getting enough full foods, then this can be a positive thing and help some people with overindulging or overeating or binge eating.
#3 Less Prep Time with Intermittent Fasting
Next, intermittent fasting can help to reduce the amount of time required to prepare food.
It can take a lot of time to prep food and you have to be organized to make food prep work.
If you're eating less frequently or less often, this can make life easier in terms of just having to prepare fewer meals.
Often people are eating 5-6 times per day, then when they switch to intermittent fasting they are decreasing how many times per day they’re eating.
If you are reducing the frequency you’re eating with intermittent fasting it will reduce how much time you need to prepare food.
Less time spent preparing food can make life a lot easier for some people who are rushed and strapped for time.
#5 Fasting and Insulin Resistance
Interestingly, another potential pro of intermittent fasting is for people struggling with insulin resistance.
There are some studies on intermittent fasting that indicates intermittent fasting might help with insulin resistance. (1)
However, it’s important to note that there is conflicting intermittent fasting research out there (2). Different things work well for different people.
If you have concerns around insulin resistance I’d strongly suggest speaking to your doctor before beginning any fasting programs or protocols.
#6 Fasting and Inflammation
Finally, there are some intermittent fasting studies indicating that types of fasting can potentially help reduce markers for inflammation. (3,4)
Inflammation is related to several major diseases such as heart disease, certain autoimmune conditions, and others.
Pros of Intermittent Summary
So as you can see, there are quite a few pros towards intermittent fasting, this is just a few of the main ones.
If you are thinking about using intermittent fasting for weight loss these are a few of the things to consider.
However, there are cons to this type of dieting too.
Cons of Intermittent Fasting
What about the cons?
Well, there's quite a few of those as well.
Again, I want to stress this. These are only a few of the cons of intermittent fasting there are lots of other potential issues.
#1 Intermittent Fasting and Binge Eating
Earlier I mentioned, it could help some people with their binge eating. But, it can also have the opposite effect and actually increase your chances of a binge on food for some people.
The reason intermittent fasting can be problematic for binge eating is that you're going for prolonged periods of time without eating which for some people will make it easier for them want to overeat.
Again, you need to identify what works well for you. Different things work well for different people.
#2 Intermittent Fasting and Relationship Problems
Intermittent fasting can also create problems for some people with their relationship with food.
We’ve found over the years a lot of clients struggle with having a healthy relationship with food.
A lot of clients look at foods in simple terms of either being “good food” or “bad food.”
This can create serious problems with the feeling of guilt and shame around eating certain foods.
Actually, this is one of the biggest problems we see with our clients who struggle to create new habits that last with their nutrition.
With intermittent fasting, some people may have a tendency to binge on foods then go prolonged periods of time without eating. Although this may help with balancing out the excess calorie intake from the binge, it may continue to perpetuate the root problem of the binge eating.
Fasting can wind up actually reinforcing the binge eating pattern. Again, it depends on the individual.
#3 Intermittent Fasting & Hormones
Hormones, I've seen some information out there that indicate there can be some challenges, especially for women around hormones and intermittent fasting.
This can potentially create challenges around weight loss for females who are trying intermittent fasting. There have been intermittent fasting studies indicating that it may create challenges with hormones for women.
I have seen clients who are females struggle with weight loss once they began using versions of the intermittent fasting.
For example, Healthline notes
“When calorie intake is low — such as from fasting for too long or too frequently — a small part of the brain called the hypothalamus is affected.
This can disrupt the secretion of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), a hormone that helps release two reproductive hormones: luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH)
When these hormones cannot communicate with the ovaries, you run the risk of irregular periods, infertility, poor bone health and other health effects.” (1)
If you are a female looking to try intermittent fasting I would highly recommend researching more into the topic before jumping in.
#4 Intermittent Fasting & Overeating
The next con of intermittent fasting is related to habitually overeating.
With intermittent fasting, if you're going for long periods without eating, so like I said earlier there is a tendency to eat larger amounts of food, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.
However, a lot of people will use intermittent fasting for a period of time as a diet to lose weight. Then they go back to their usual eating routine with more frequent meals/snacks. There is the potential to carry the habit of eating larger meals back into their regular eating pattern.
#5 Intermittent Fasting & Muscle Loss
Another con of intermittent fasting is the potential for muscle loss when you’re trying to lose weight.
First, I want to make sure this is clear. When you’re losing weight with any diet or program your chances of losing lean muscle is high. You want to try and prevent or limit this as much as possible.
The best way to do this is by getting lean protein spread out throughout your day.
The prolonged period of fasting with intermittent fasting will mean no protein for several hours at once. This has the potential to increase your chances of decrease lean muscle while trying to lose weight with intermittent fasting.
If you’re using intermittent fasting as a strategy for weight loss make sure that you're getting enough lean protein or lots of lean protein throughout the times you are eating.
Here’s a video I did on how much protein you need per day.
#7 Intermittent Fasting Is NOT Magic
Finally, a lot of people look at intermittent fasting or other diets that are going to fix everything. Although, once in a while someone will find a diet that is just right for them it is rare that a diet will fix all of someone's problems with weight loss.
Most diets, programs and strategies to lose weight are overhyped. I believe intermittent fasting is no different and often gets more hype than it deserves.
Like anything, there can be a time and place to use the strategy. But, weight loss is hard work regardless of how you're doing it.
There is research out there that shows intermittent fasting is no better than other methods for losing weight (2)
In my opinion, intermittent fasting is anything special that creates faster results or better results than any of the other alternatives they're used to control calories.
Misconceptions about Intermittent Fasting
Next, I'll talk about a few of the misconceptions I see out there and intermittent fasting.
First is to understand just like any plan to lose weight gets you into a calorie deficit.
If your plan is causing you to lose weight you are in a calorie or energy deficit.
With intermittent fasting, the strategy to accomplish this is not eating for long periods of time.
But at the end of the day, it's still is revolving around reducing how many calories you’re eating.
Another misconception about intermittent fasting is that it will cause you to lose weight.
This branches off of the last point. If you want to lose weight you will have to be in an energy debt. You can perform intermittent fasting without being in an energy debt.
I've had lots of clients come in who started following intermittent fasting and weren't losing weight. This left them confused, frustrated and feeling like nothing was working.
Often, this leads to someone concluding that they must have a problem with their metabolism, hormones or other barriers. In reality, they weren’t in a calorie deficit debt.
Another misconception is intermittent fasting with make you healthier.
You can't just start doing intermittent fasting expect that to make you healthier, you need to be having other important components with your nutrition and lifestyle. You need to make sure you’re getting healthy whole foods and having some type of balance in your diet.
Finally, the last misconception I’ll talk about today has to do with science.
Often I see people who are pro fasting, talk about research that proves fasting causes INSERT AWESOME RESULT.
For example, fasting has been scientifically proven to boost your metabolism, or fasting has been scientifically proven to reset your immune system or other very bold claims.
I think it’s important to understand oftentimes, there's research done on fasting and the article doesn't prove that anything. Instead, the article may indicate that there could be a relationship between fasting and the outcome.
However, people often draw the conclusion that “science has proven.”
There are a lot of problems with many of the conclusions that lay people draw from research.
For example, in the study were the participants fasting for 16 hours, 24 hours, 72 hours?
Was the intermittent fasting research done with animals or human beings?
Was the intermittent fasting research a controlled study or an observational study?
There's are so many different factors that impact research it’s hard to draw any firm conclusion from one or two studies. But, this is exactly what most people do.
iSo be very careful when people are saying that science proves something oftentimes people seem to use that when there's a study or two that indicates that happened or might not be happening as well.
Pros & Cons of Intermittent Fasting Wrap Up
So hopefully I've given you a kind of an overview of the pros, the cons, misconceptions out there around intermittent fasting.
I've tried to keep the article fairly short. Hopefully, you have a clear picture that it isn’t a simple answer to the question “is intermittent fasting good for you?” It really depends on the individual to determine if intermittent fasting is good for them.
There's lots of other information out there. But if you have any more questions, you need clarity, just comment below and I'll be happy to answer those for you.