Intermittent fasting is one of the biggest trends in nutrition. Although it may sound like a fad, more and more research is suggesting that it has real benefits. There are several important things to know before trying it, however. Below we'll break down the essentials for you.
What is intermittent fasting?
In general, it means you cycle between periods of eating and fasting each day. You should also know that scientists call it time-restricted eating. If you happen to read a research paper about it, that's the term you'll see.
What are the claimed benefits?
You might see social media influencers or health bloggers say that intermittent fasting does the following:
Reduces insulin resistance
Improves blood sugar control
Improves cholesterol and blood pressure
Prevents cognitive decline
Supports weight loss
What the science says
One form of time restricted eating, which involves eating your meals within an 8-10 hour window each day (e.g., 10 am and 6 pm), has been shown to support weight loss and improve health markers such as blood sugar and cholesterol in some people.
However, intermittent fasting and other types of fasting have been shown to be no more effective than a Mediterranean diet or other healthful diets after the initial 6-12 months. The quality and quantity of foods you eat still matter too. Fasting can't undo a poor diet.
Much of the other research related to cognitive decline, cancer, and lifespan have primarily been done in mice or in cell studies, and not yet in humans. That means the jury is still out.
Part of the challenge of researching intermittent fasting is that there are many different ways to plan a fast. A lot of regimens don't take into account what and how much people eat in between fasting. This is why it's difficult to gain a consensus from the research. It's like comparing apples to oranges.
The Apeiron Life perspective
We’re here to help you reach your goals and support your long-term health. Research shows that a diet only works for as long as you can stay consistent, and some fasting regimens can be very difficult to stick to. If you veer back to old habits, your weight and blood markers can bounce right back, too.
Additionally, some people find that it's harder to control appetite after fasting. After breaking their fast, they feel "hangry" and make poor food choices, consuming more calories and unhealthy foods than they normally would. Obviously, this is counterproductive to their goals.
We recommend a balanced, moderate eating plan that you can stay consistent with over the long haul. The Mediterranean diet is our eating philosophy of choice because there's high quality research showing that it has long-term health benefits.
Will intermittent fasting benefit you?
Most likely not. (Either way, it’s still not a good idea to snack at night.)
Still curious to try it?
Ask yourself these questions:
Why am I drawn to the fasting trend?
What am I wanting to achieve?
Is fasting truly realistic for me?
What will I eat when I am eating?
Understanding your why and the how is an important step before you start any new plan.
If you want to try fasting, work with your Client Advocate to incorporate fasting into your plan in a realistic way that sets you up for long-term success. Then, monitor whether you’re achieving your fasting-related goal (e.g., weight loss, improved blood sugar, etc.). If not, there may be a better route for you.