Ever heard of intermittent fasting? It’s an eating plan that has become increasingly popular over the past few years. Fans of the method say it’s a helpful weight-loss tool, while critics note a host of potential side effects. If you’re interested in learning more about intermittent fasting, here’s everything you need to know.
Here’s the basic idea behind intermittent fasting: There are certain periods of the day when you don’t eat anything…
But the details of when you do and don’t fast are really up to you.
“Technically, everybody intermittent fasts when they go to bed at night, because you don’t eat while you are sleeping,” registered dietitian Amy Kubal explained to HelloGiggles. “That’s a fast. But what people are doing [on the intermittent fasting diet] is extending that window, and there are so many different versions of intermittent fasting.”
For example, some people will stop eating before they go to bed and start again with a late breakfast around 11 a.m. Others will not eat after 6 p.m., not eat before 2 p.m., or practice alternate-day fasting where they fast for an entire day, every other day.
According to Kubal, people who successfully use intermittent fasting for weight loss find that they consume less calories when they are fasting. And studies show that people can successfully use intermittent fasting to lose weight. But some people may be so hungry during their non-fasting hours that they cancel out the calorie deficit from fasting by overeating.
Intermittent fasting may have some benefits unrelated to weight loss, too.
In an article for the Mayo Clinic, cardiologist Francisco Lopez-Jimenez explained that there’s a link between fasting and better heart health.
Other research suggests that fasting could contribute to longevity, and lessen the risks of things like asthma and heart disease.
But intermittent fasting is definitely not a good choice for certain groups of people: Kubal says that if you are pregnant, nursing, struggling with an eating disorder, or have had eating issues in the past, intermittent fasting can do more harm than good — for example, it could promote binge-eating, which would be harmful to people with a history of binge-eating disorder. She also says that it’s not a great idea for athletes looking to improve their performance, anyone with hormone issues, and of course people with conditions like diabetes. She also notes that fasting can contribute to stress.
If you think you might want to try intermittent fasting, you should start slowly and make sure you are still meeting your body’s nutritional needs.
“Start slow and don’t do it every single day,” Kubal advises. “If you want to experiment with it, try holding off on breakfast a couple more hours on one day and see how you feel. Or stop eating at 6 p.m. and don’t start again until the next morning.”
Ultimately, Kubal says, some people may try to fast and find they are totally miserable — and there’s nothing wrong with that. She says you should listen to your own body, and don’t beat yourself up about intermittent fasting success stories you read online.
“Just because it says it’s good somewhere on the internet doesn’t mean it’s good for you,” she says. “Everybody is different, and your body knows more than the internet ever will.”