Is Intermittent Fasting The New Weight Loss Diet?

There is always a new diet out there claiming to be the next best thing.  With almost 70% of the population struggling with being overweight and with obesity, people are constantly on the lookout for something to help them get back to where they want to be and are willing to grab onto what they hope is the next best thing.

In recent years, intermittent fasting (IF), has come into the forefront as a method of eating that helps people lose weight and maintain it. Not only that, it is touted as offering additional health benefits, such as reducing blood pressure and cholesterol, reducing inflammation, improving the metabolism and fat-burning process, improving appetite control and blood sugar levels, as well as decreasing the risk of cancer and improving cardiovascular function.

With all of these proposed benefits, you have to wonder why everyone isn’t following this plan of IF, which can be done in many different ways so that it fits into various lifestyles.  When we think of fasting, we think starvation, which we know is NOT the best way to go about weight loss as it is a sure fire way to tank your metabolism and promote weight regain afterwards.  However, supporters of IF claim this not the case.

The reason for the current hesitation to embrace this form of intermittent fasting is because the research is very mixed and has mostly been conducted on animals, such as rats or monkeys, in the lab, so this data can’t be applied directly to humans.

There is a lot of variety over how to follow an IF diet. There are thousands of articles and studies that support eating 5 to 6 small, healthy, balanced meals daily, while incorporating exercise into your daily routine. These habits are known to work and have been proven over and over again. And yet, some people just don’t lose weight when they follow these plans. This is often when people turn to IF as an option. As a naturopathic physician, I would want to look into other factors that could be playing a role there in inhibiting the weight loss process. However, many of these individuals have achieved success when transitioning to an intermittent fasting program.

With intermittent fasting, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all program to follow and the fasting options are entirely variable. Essentially, you choose a program where you are restricting calories in a specific way, but in a method of your choosing and one that fits into your lifestyle too.

Let’s look at the different options:

  1. Lean Gains (14- to 16-hour fast, 6 to 8  hour feed). This option is great for individuals who exercise regularly and want to lose fat and build muscle.
  2. This fasting programs involves a 14-hr fast for women and a 16-hour fast for men, every day, followed by a 6 to 8 hour feeding time. The fast generally occurs overnight, with a consistent daily feeding window. Exercise occurs during the fasted time. There is an emphasis on healthy foods and protein and cycling carbohydrates around the individual’s workout schedule.
  3. Eat-stop-eat (24-hour fast, 1 to 2 times weekly).  This fast is for those who just want to give a boost to their healthy eating plan. You can choose which 24 hours you want to fast and then continue to eat well, and normally, on every other day. The rationale is that this will reduce your overall caloric intake without limiting what you eat. Exercise is also encouraged. You can start small on this program and gradually increase fasting time up to 24 hours.
  4. Alternate Day Fasting.  This method is all about weight loss. It involves eating very little one day (between 400 to 500 calories), and eating normally the next, and alternating the days continually. Workouts are best kept to the non-fasting days.
  5. Warrior Diet (20-hour daily fast).  This diet calls for a 20-hour fast every day and eating one large meal every night.
  6. Meal Skipping.  This fasting protocol is quite random and involves randomly cycling daily caloric intake, as well randomly skipping breakfast or dinner once or twice weekly.

Supporters of intermittent fasting encourage starting small and working up to the larger fasting windows.

Problems with Intermittent Fasting :
These kinds of fasting diets are hard to wrap your head around, as the majority of research indicates eating in balanced methods to optimize blood sugar, hormones and function. You would be right to question if fasting is the best method to lose weight. There is never a “one- size-fits-all” kind of diet, however like any new diet, the use of intermittent fasting to lose fat can be effective, but this doesn’t necessarily mean it will be healthy, sustainable or beneficial for you, especially if you are an athlete.

Here are some cons to this type of diet:

  1. Those who are hypoglycemic, diabetic or pregnant/breastfeeding should avoid any kind of fasting until blood sugar and insulin levels are normalized, or babies have weaned.
  2. Research from animal studies on intermittent fasting is not conclusive. Trends seem to show that it is more beneficial in men, enhancing reproduction, but may be linked to reproductive problems in woman, causing masculinization and menstrual irregularities, as well as disrupting sleep.
  3. Obsession with food may develop, due to prolonged fasting periods.
  4. Over-reliance on stimulants can occur, as coffee is permitted during fasted times.
  5. There are reports of insomnia, especially among women, as well as acne, food and body image obsession and metabolic disruption.
  6. Optimal cognitive performance requires regular food intake.
  7. There is concern that this form of eating can lead to adrenal stress.

I don’t believe there is one single, perfect diet that every person should follow. Each person has individual needs and dietary responses and needs to determine what works best for him/her when it comes to achieving weight loss goals. However, when deciding what kind of diet is best for you, what is of utmost importance is following a diet that encourages a hormonally balanced plan, places emphasis on consuming healthy foods of high quality and includes positive lifestyle changes and exercise.  If you chose to embrace IF, do so under the guidance of someone who knows how to implement it correctly and safely and ensure you are still obtaining all the nutrients you need and are using supplements, if necessary. The diet has to be something you believe you could maintain indefinitely and that encourages health and fat loss in positive way.

Don’t forget about supplementation when it comes to weight loss either. Supplements can offer significant assistance in achieving your goals. If you are looking to enhance your weight loss progress, try incorporating TrueBASICS with LEAN Extreme and TrueBASICS for Men / Women,TrueTHERMO and TrueA.B.S.

By: Dr. Andra Campitelli, ND