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Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss: Possible But Feasible?

Fasting diets are trending, but are they right for you? Discover the truth behind the hype.

Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss: Possible But Feasible?

From social media to the science world, intermittent fasting is the talk of many conversations.

Many people suggest fasting diets, not only as the best eating schedule to lose weight but also for other health problems—but human studies are lacking. Time-restricted eating for weight loss may feel like a good fit for some but may not be a wise diet choice for others. 

Continue reading if you’re considering intermittent fasting for weight loss and for answers to common questions, such as “How much weight can you lose intermittent fasting?” 

What Is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that limits food intake to specific periods. Technically, intermittent fasting refers to a category of fasting diets, including: 

• Alternate-day fasting: rotating days of fasting and eating, with unrestricted eating occurring every other day and restricted eating (no calories or minimal calories) occurring on the days in between

• Periodic fasting: restricting eating for multiple days in a row (such as a period of 3-5 days every month), with eating unrestricted on the other days 

• Time-restricted feeding: only eat within a limited period (such as 8-hour eating window) each day, and not consuming food during the other hours (may amount to simply skipping breakfast, depending on your eating plan)

• 5:2 eating pattern: normal eating pattern for 5 days per week, then calories are restricted for the other 2 days of the week

Although it’s sometimes treated like a fad diet, intermittent fasting is not intended to be a temporary weight loss plan. Many proponents of the diet treat it like a lifestyle.

Does Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss Work?

Lately, intermittent fasting has been linked to everything from weight loss to stress resistance to alleviating inflammation, but the science may be lacking. Naturally, fasting diets shorten the eating window, which can restrict calories. This can cause weight loss in the short term, but the amount of weight loss sustained over the long term can differ from person to person. Generally, fasting diets are about as effective as low-calorie weight loss plans. 

The truth about intermittent fasting is that the research is relatively limited. Although there are a growing number of human studies, many common claims about health benefits—such as longevity or boosts in endurance—are based on animal studies. No matter how promising the animal studies are, it’s essential to proceed cautiously when considering fasting as a personal diet.

The existing evidence supporting intermittent fasting suggests it may work as a diet approach based on a shift in metabolism. Fasting may cause a change in the type of fuel the body chooses to burn, resulting in a shift to burning body fat. 

While intermittent fasting may lower the risk of certain health conditions, like heart disease or diabetes, the findings on long-term risks are uncertain. Specific side effects of fasting diets have been observed, such as lowered libido and difficulty tolerating cold temperatures. 

If you do choose to embark on this eating adventure, it’s important to weigh the risks and benefits beyond weight loss. 

What’s the Best Eating Schedule to Lose Weight? 

Since every individual and body is different, the best eating schedule is the one that works for you. Ideal eating periods may even change from one life to the next. For example, following a diagnosis, you may choose to go from eating three bigger meals daily to six smaller, more frequent meals daily. Fasting may already be part of your monthly or annual religious practice— and that’s okay, too! 

The best diet for you is the one that is nutritionally complete and realistic for you to adhere to. Listen to your body to better understand how it responds to certain eating styles. If you get “hangry” (hungry + angry), intermittent fasting may not be for you. Weight loss may be your big goal, but it’s crucial to consider facets of your health beyond the physical when deciding when to eat food. 

If you are set on following a formal eating schedule for weight loss, some experts suggest the following tips: 

• Eat your last meal (dinner) earlier, if you can, about 2-3 hours before bed
• Make breakfast and lunch larger and dinner smaller
• Remember, your body already has a natural fasting period (when you’re asleep!) 
• Try timing breakfast and dinner 12 hours apart 

Whether or not you are trying intermittent fasting, it’s worth considering bistroMD as a solution. Until further evidence arises, eating a well-balanced diet and maintaining healthy lifestyle habits—like exercising regularly and ensuring a good night’s sleep—is recommended. 

Should You Try Time-Restricted Eating for Weight Loss?

Fasting diets may not be appropriate for people with certain health conditions. For instance, intermittent fasting can be dangerous for people with diabetes, who rely on a certain eating schedule to keep their blood sugar levels steady. 

It’s important to note that some fasting diets intentionally or unintentionally recommend calorie restriction due to restricting eating to a specific period. For this reason, the diet is not recommended for people with a history of eating disorders (it may feed into an obsession with calorie counting). Additionally, since the diet may cause you to eat fewer calories, it may not be recommended for people who need to maintain or gain weight. 

If or when you try the diet, make sure to focus on adjusting the frequency of eating rather than simply radically restricting calories for rapid weight loss. In other words, check your “why” throughout the process to ensure your goals align with your long-term values for better health. 

Intermittent fasting can also be challenging and may prompt you to eat more than you usually eat on non-fasting days (counteracting your weight loss goals). It’s also an eating plan that may not be sustainable in the long run and may put you at risk for nutrient deficiencies if you don’t consult a dietitian on how to participate safely along the way. 

TL;DR—While it can be helpful, intermittent fasting is not necessary for weight loss nor right for everyone. 

Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss: Final Thoughts

Not enough evidence supports intermittent fasting for weight loss at this time. However, promising studies could place it at the top of lists naming diets to try in years to come. 

Under medical supervision, fasting diets may be appropriate for certain people. If unsure about risks and benefits, you can always ask a dietitian for guidance.

Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss: Common Questions

What intermittent fasting schedule is best for weight loss?

The “best” fasting schedule may depend on you, but some studies suggest alternate-day fasting may be as effective as a low-calorie weight loss plan. 

Is intermittent fasting a rapid route to weight loss in 2024?

Although intermittent fasting may cause rapid, short-term weight loss, dietitians recommend focusing on lifestyle changes that can be sustained long-term. 

Is intermittent fasting a healthy way for weight loss?

Whether intermittent fasting is “healthy” depends on your personal diet needs. Consulting with your healthcare professionals can help you decide if a fasting diet is right for you, and they may be able to provide tips for proper implementation.

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