Fasting has been around for all of human history but it’s predicted to be a major trend for 2018. Just like every other diet, it has its benefits and its drawbacks.
Fasting can be total or partial. You might simply choose to reset with a juice cleanse. Intermittent fasting, however, is the latest diet to hit the love handles.
How does it work, and is it right for you?
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Prevention Magazine’s Allison Young describes intermittent fasting, sometimes known as 5:2, as “eating 500 calories 1 to 2 days a week, or going 12 to 18 hours a day without food.” Other fasters vary the structure. But essentially, you greatly restrict food intake at particular times.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
For many, intermittent fasting comes easier than cutting carbs and tracking calories every day. You can still eat whatever you want — when you do eat. The testimonials over at Crossfit Impact convincingly reveal a lot about the process and the results: “Intermittent fasting allows you to have those meals and it won’t affect you that drastically because you are simply putting fewer calories in your body throughout the day,” Derek W writes.
Of course, these people are also using the intense exercise lifestyle called Crossfit. Their testimonies are more promotions of a diet specifically for Crossfit. (I wrote about a potential danger of Crossfit in 2015.)
Research, mostly on animals, finds that fasting improves blood sugar levels and decreases heart disease along with cancer risks. Meanwhile, brain degeneration slows or even reverses, improving memory, mood, and concentration. Switching to intermittent fasting is easier, many find, by working up to the 18 hours without food. Food tastes more flavorful after going without it, and exercise is more effective by burning your body fat rather than your food fat.
Many intermittent fasters swear by the boost of concentration and mental acuity. One version is what those in Silicon Valley call “biohacking.” In this fast, the participants refuse food anywhere from two to eight days in a row, drinking only non-food liquids like water and tea. With the same number of days, participants then eat like they usually do. The process is one similar to the keto diet, which explains why participants receive the mental boost in concentration.
The Downside to Intermittent Fasting?
While quite a few people swear by fasting, some people, especially nutritionists, denounce it.
The Psychological Effects of Fasting
Fasting can create unhealthy attitudes towards food, including guilt, hate and gluttony. Often, instead of sticking to a schedule and keeping it, dieters fall back into their habits. Sometimes, they eat even more on a regular basis. They might see unhealthy food as a reward for their aggressive scheduling. The mental focus that the intermittent fasting participants claim may also be merely mental persuasion, similar to psychosomatic symptoms. You think you’re sharper, so therefore you are.
Does Fasting Really Cause Extreme Weight Loss?
Last year, as Harvard Medical School notes, JAMA Internal Medicine published a study, which concluded that intermittent dieting gave no better results for weight loss than simply reducing caloric intake.
Harvard’s Dr. Hu also says in the same article that “there’s no strong evidence that fasting adds health benefits beyond any other weight-loss strategy.” As usual, this diet should be paired with an exercise routine to make it effective.
Before trying out a fasting diet, check with your doctor. If you have serious medical conditions, especially ones that involve your food intake, such as diabetes, the fasting diets may not be okay to try.
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