Aaron Chy, BSc, PharmD. Candidate
What is Intermittent Fasting?
It’s no surprise, losing weight is associated with a surplus of health benefits, including lower blood pressure, reduced cholesterol, and less risk of diabetes to name a few.1 However, the act of actually losing weight is what so many struggle to achieve, and it can often be overwhelming to make all those changes to your diet and lifestyle, and sometimes see no benefit at all. Frustrating right?
Enter Intermittent Fasting, the latest hot topic on the weight loss scene. Supposedly backed by research, Intermittent Fasting is intended to be an easier form of caloric restriction (reducing how much you eat) compared to traditional dieting. There are many variations on Intermittent Fasting, but they’re all focused on the same concept, that is, watching when you eat instead of what you eat.2
How Does it Work?
Research is still ongoing, but in a general sense, Intermittent Fasting may work introducing a small amount of stress to the body. By being exposed to brief periods of fasting, cells in the body respond by increasing sensitivity to insulin and breaking down body fat.2 It’s almost like giving your body a rough wake-up call every once in a while.
The truth is, though, that the main effect of Intermittent Fasting may be no different than with any diet: caloric restriction. Reducing excess calories has been long been associated with a reduction in inflammation, symptoms of chronic disease and improved quality of life overall.2 It could be said that Intermittent Fasting is only unique in that it’s easier to follow. That is, some may find it easier to alternate just a few days of cutting down on meals with eating normally the rest of the week.
What kinds of diets are there?
There’s an abundance of different plans out there, and we couldn’t hope to do them all justice by listing them here. But, they all typically boil down to a few concepts, including but not limited to:
- Eating normally for most of the week, and designating 1-2 days to cutting down on calories
- Eating the same every day of the week, but only during certain hours, and fasting the rest of the day
So does it work? What should you do?
The evidence out there is mixed. On the one hand, Intermittent Fasting has been linked to weight loss and improved heart health in the obese.3 On the other hand, though, a study that compared alternate-day fasting with daily caloric restriction found no difference between the two.4
What does this mean for you? It means that Intermittent Fasting may not necessarily be better or worse than any of the other diets out there. What is essential though is consistency. No matter what diet, workout regime, or magic formula you may see on the market, reducing calorie intake in a controlled and balanced manner, combined with increasing calorie use is the key to any weight loss method. Incorporating a balanced diet and regular exercise can help anyone achieve this goal.
A note on safety
One thing should be made clear: balance is important. There’s a very fine line between a controlled diet and starving your body. Over-restriction of calories can potentially be dangerous too. As always, consult your healthcare provider if you have any doubts or concerns.
Sound like too much? Everything starts with small steps. You can start with just one extra workout a week, or pass on that fast-food lunch the next time you’re feeling hungry. By building on this a step at a time you too can reach your weight loss goals. As always, feel free to reach out to us at email@example.com
- Collier, R. (2013). Intermittent fasting: the science of going without. CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association Journal, 185(9), E363–E364. http://doi.org/10.1503/cmaj.109-4451
- Brown, J. E., Mosley, M., & Aldred, S. (2013). Intermittent fasting: a dietary intervention for prevention of diabetes and cardiovascular disease?. British Journal Of Diabetes & Vascular Disease, 13(2), 68-72. doi:10.1177/1474651413486496
- Trepanowski, J. F., Kroeger, C. M., Barnosky, A., Klempel, M. C., Bhutani, S., Hoddy, K. K., & … Ravussin, E. (n.d). Effect of Alternate-Day Fasting on Weight Loss, Weight Maintenance, and Cardioprotection Among Metabolically Healthy Obese Adults A Randomized Clinical Trial. Jama Internal Medicine, 177(7), 930-938.