The Pros and Cons of Intermittent Fasting
Braais, beer and holiday cheer: indulging over the festive period may have left your clothes feeling a few sizes smaller. Luckily, your New Year’s resolution to lose those love handles is there to help you get back into shape. But what is the best way to shake off the weight?
Fasting or Not so Fasting?
One of the biggest dieting trends at the moment is intermittent fasting, which comprises set cycles of fasting between periods of eating. There are various ways to follow this diet:
- The 16/8 method: fasting for 16 hours with an 8-hour window to eat
- The eat-stop-eat method: fasting for a 24-hour period at least once a week.
- The 5:2 method: eating between 500 and 600 calories twice a week, but on non-consecutive days. The other five days, you eat regularly.
People might be in it for the weight loss, but intermittent fasting has benefits beyond fat reduction, curbed hunger and fewer cravings:
- Energy: Some nutritional experts have suggested that positive side effects of intermittent fasting include feeling energised and clear-headed. This could be because the body no longer relies solely on food intake for energy and begins burning fat for fuel.
- Increased Strength: Many people may feel an increase in strength and endurance during their workouts. However, some changes need to be made to one’s fitness routine so it works with (and not against) their new diet.
- Increased Health: Intermittent fasting can help to regulate blood sugar, cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure. This leads to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a greater chance of surviving should one experience a heart attack.
Even with its many benefits, intermittent fasting may not work well for some people, especially in cases where the patient has less experience in specialised dieting:
- Adjustment Period: Initial side effects can include increased hunger, cravings, low energy, light-headedness, nervousness, poor concentration, and trouble sleeping. These symptoms should be short-term, but if they don’t ease up after a week or two, intermittent fasting may not be a suitable option.
- It’s Not Right for Everyone: Patients who are underweight, pregnant, recovering, experience a lot of stress, participate in intense exercise or have any pre-determined health conditions (such as diabetes) are recommended to seek medical advice before starting this method of dieting.
The answer? Every person’s body is different and reacts differently to dieting methods. We recommend speaking to a certified dietician about a healthy eating and exercise plan, as well as getting dietary advice that best suits your wellbeing.