Jul 17, 2023
Intermittent Fasting: The Benefits and the Downsides
Intermittent fasting is a term used to describe various eating patterns that alternate periods of fasting — or abstinence from food — and eating as normal. Fasting periods may last anywhere from 12 hours to a few days. The patterns are consistent and typically occur over the course of one week.
There are several intermittent fasting patterns people follow, but three are more common than others. Those are as follows:
- Alternate Day Fasting: With alternate day fasting, individuals consume foods and beverages, as normal, without restrictions, but only on the days they are allowed to eat. On non-eating days, they do not eat.
- Modified Fasting: With modified fasting, individuals fast for two non-consecutive days and eat as normal the other five.
- Time-Restricted Fasting: With time-restricted fasting, individuals can only eat between a four to 12-hour window. Within this period of eating, they can eat until satiety.
Regardless of the fasting schedule, you should carefully weigh the pros and cons of intermittent fasting before using this tactic.
Pros of Intermittent Fasting
For intermittent fasting to have any potential benefits, studies suggest that individuals must fast for at least 12 hours at a time, though some findings suggest that fasting for 16 hours or more is necessary. If individuals fast for the ideal length of time, they may experience the following benefits:
- Better blood sugar control
- Improved cholesterol levels
- Changes in body composition
- Reduced inflammation
- Reduced risk of certain chronic conditions
That said, intermittent fasting is not for everyone.
The Pitfalls of Intermittent Fasting
For many people, intermittent fasting does come with several adverse side effects. The most common side effects include the following:
- Increased feelings of hunger
- Worsened mood
- Heightened irritability
- Extreme fatigue
- Overeating during window periods of “allowable” eating
- Feelings of being out of control around food
- Trouble concentrating
Not only that but intermittent fasting is often associated with poor relationships with food and eating disorders. Such disorders include those involving anxiety about food, anorexia, bulimia, feelings of guilt associated with eating, preoccupation with food, body weight and body image, and inability to control compulsive eating habits.
The Bottom Line
Given that intermittent fasting has more harmful side effects than good — and given that you can achieve the same benefits of intermittent fasting with a healthy, well-rounded diet — it makes little to no sense for you to partake in the trend. If you are worried about your food intake and weight control, take steps to develop a healthy, wholesome and balanced diet today.