Is Intermittent Fasting safe and effective?
You’ve probably heard of intermittent fasting (IF) but may not know much about it. What is it? Might it be the right choice for you?
This diet plan involves going for extended periods without food. It’s not that complex of a concept, and all of us do some form of it each day: We don’t eat during the hours we’re sleeping.
The idea of fasting has been around for a long time. Some people can’t eat as frequently as they’d like because of food shortages. Others use this practice for religious reasons.
People who adhere to IF consciously choose to extend the amount of time when they aren’t eating. They seek to improve their health by increasing the number of hours without food.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
While this practice is nothing new, research is finally catching up and showing the advantages of fasting. Studies show it can bring the following benefits:
- lower insulin levels
- weight loss
- reduction in belly fat
- more efficient cellular repair and waste removal
- lower risk of heart disease
- protection against neurodegenerative diseases
- positive changes in molecules and genes that affect disease protection and longevity
- increase in human growth hormone levels
- lower risk of type 2 diabetes
- reduction in inflammation and oxidative damage
- possible anti-cancer effects
- improvement in brain health
Would It Work for Me?
You can ask your doctor or a dietician to help you understand whether intermittent fasting is a good match for your lifestyle. These professionals can help evaluate your needs and indicate a plan that’s likely to work for you.
That said, there are also certain types of people who tend to do better with IF. You can find the details in the next section.
Who Has the Best Chances of Positive Results?
One doctor with extensive experience in this method published his observations about who’s most likely to do well with intermittent fasting.
You fall into this group if you:
- are single or have no children
- are experienced with dieting and controlling your food intake
- maintain a regular exercise routine
- work a job that allows for low-performance periods while adapting to the plan
- have a very supportive partner
- are male
The first five conditions help you change your food habits more easily. They allow you to focus your time and energy on a new way of eating. The last item is there because this diet type seems to work better for men than for women.
The Gray Area
If you’re not in the first group, you may fall into the category described below. Your adaptation to intermittent fasting will probably be more difficult if you:
- are married or have children
- work in a field requiring high performance or customer service
- play competitive sports
- are a female
The first three factors make it more challenging to follow an IF plan. It might become so complicated that you decide it’s impractical. If you play sports, fasting for extended periods may hurt your performance.
Unfortunately for the women reading this, research suggests that females may suffer more adverse side effects when fasting. These include anxiety, insomnia, menstrual irregularities, and hormone dysregulation.
The stricter the fasting regime, the worse it seems to be for women. So, if you’re a female intent on trying this diet plan, it’s best to start with a relaxed version.
Intermittent Fasting Isn’t for Everyone
Some people will likely do well with this approach, while others may choose to try it even if they face difficulties. However, there’s a third group of people that are probably better off not starting IF.
You fall into this category if you:
- are pregnant
- have a history of eating disorders
- suffer from chronic stress
- have trouble sleeping
- don’t exercise regularly
- have little experience dieting
When you’re pregnant, your body needs extra energy, not less. Fasting could deprive you and your unborn child of the nutrients necessary for good health.
If you’ve had an eating disorder, you likely understand why this plan might not be ideal. It could lead you back into the same struggles you’ve already faced.
People with insomnia or chronic stress need to nurture their bodies rather than deprive them. Fasting while under these conditions can worsen health problems.
If diet and exercise are a mystery to you, you may have nutritional deficiencies that need attention first. Take time to learn how to eat a balanced diet before you think about trying fasting protocols.
People who fall into this third group need not despair. IF isn’t the only way you can lose weight and improve your health. Check out the suggestions below.
Alternatives to Intermittent Fasting
If your current situation isn’t a good match for fasting, you can find another diet and exercise plan that fits your lifestyle. You’ll need to consider the following aspects:
- your body type
- foods you typically eat
- budget limitations
- your preferences regarding natural, organic, or processed foods
- how much you know about nutrition
- the amount of time you can spend on health and fitness
Many diets have a lot in common. They can help you:
- pay more attention to what you eat
- focus on the quality of your food
- get enough nutrients to correct deficiencies
- control how much you eat
- make exercise a habit
Take the time to find a diet that fits your needs. In this way, you’ll be more likely to follow it and get the results you want.
Intermittent fasting can have significant benefits, but it’s not the right choice for everyone. It tends to work better for men than women. Flexible job and family responsibilities often lead to more favorable results, too.
If you decide this plan isn’t ideal for you, there are many other options. Select a diet that fits with your body type, preferences, and lifestyle. By doing so, you’ll have the best chance of reaching your health goals.