Intermittent Fasting: Types, Pros and Cons

Many of the weight-loss schemes are coming up as obesity epidemic has spread all over and spawned a cottage industry. Intermittent fasting is in trend these days, which involves changing intervals and periods of extreme calorie reduction with periods of healthy eating. People who propose the concept of intermittent fasting regimen claim that it helps shed weight faster than other diet plans, as well as reduce the risk of inflammation and other heart diseases[1]

Intermittent fasting doesn’t let the cholesterol to deposit and thereby prevents both – weight gain & heart disorders. Intermittent fasting is prescribed by most of the dieticians these days as it is one of the most effective ways of reducing weight and with less possible side effects. Almost all of the diets suggested and prescribed by dieticians work on a similar phenomenon, which is the fewer intakes of food calories than the calories are burnt by our body for the regular activity. In the case of intermittent fasting, a similar kind of goal is achieved by limiting the calories during specific days in a week or even during certain hours in a day. The theory works on the fact that intermittent fasting shall operate on a decrease in appetite by slowing the body’s metabolism.

One pattern that has become a bit popular is the so-called 5:2 diet. With this kind of system, one usually eats for five days of the week, but the food intake is restricted to just 500 to 600 calories on the two fasting days. There is another variation in the case of intermittent fasting which calls for alternating “fast” days, in which one consumes a quarter or less of his/her essential calorie requirement, with “feast” days, during which one eats anything they wish to eat.[1] It has been claimed that intermittent fasting diets which involve the prolongation of the fasted state have a plethora of benefits on health and body. Improvement of glucose homeostasis, boosting energy, increasing the production of growth hormone, decreasing oxidative stress and inflammation, lowering the levels of triglycerides (TG) and cholesterol, lowering blood pressure, protecting the brain function and increasing brain functionality, increasing the resistance to the age-related disorders like auto-immune diseases, cancer, cardiovascular disorders and also promotes longevity.

Types of Intermittent Fasting

Types of Intermittent Fasting:

There are various types of intermittent fasting diets.

  1. Alternate-Day Fasting
  2. Whole-Day Fasting
  3. Time-Restricted Feeding

Alternate-Day Fasting: The most studied and used type of intermittent fasting is ‘Alternate-Day Fasting.’ This involves the requirement of meal intakes on alternating days. On a day when the typical fasting is required, there is one meal at lunch that consists of approximately 25% of the calories that are needed by an individual’s body.[2]

Whole-Day Fasting: This type of fasting is more severe and extreme as this involves the restriction of calories severely or even one has to abstain from food completely.[2]

Time-Restricted Feeding: This is comparatively easy and the most lenient type of intermittent fasting that involves fasting for only specified hours of a day.[2]

Pros of Intermittent Fasting

Promoting Health and Weight Loss: Intermittent fasting on alternate days and whole days have proven to be associated with a significant decrease in the body weight, body fat, and circumference of waist for both short term and long term. Along with the weight reduction, intermittent fasting has proven to be helpful in the improvement in the symptoms of individuals with asthma. This happens by lowering the airway resistance, oxidative stress as well as inflammation.[2]

Increment in the Brain Functioning: Time-Restricted diets have proven to be effective in the case of cognitive performance. One of the most common benefits of intermittent fasting is attributed to increased brain functions. Cognitive performance, such as in the case of memory of athletes, is found to improve with the help of intermittent fasting.[2]

Intermittent Fasting is Simple to Comprehend and Execute: People who like routine, discipline can be adhered to this kind of eating pattern and implement intermittent fasting in their lives very easily. For some people, it may even be easy to incorporate into their current routine and regime. They don’t have to worry about limiting the amount of food they eat on the feasting days.[2]

There is No Restriction In The Calorie, And There Is No Change In The Diet As Well: People don’t have to switch on to different calorie patterns or change their food choices onto the type which they don’t like. Even the complete balanced diet, when taken with a proper intake pattern, can fetch better and effective result than not eating food that belongs to the major four groups.[2]

Larger Portions in a Shorter Period: Some people get to consume more food at once than what they eat. This is why; some people might like this part more. People are left more full and satisfied, and since they don’t feel hungry, they don’t have to worry about eating later. Thereby, intermittent fasting can prevent people from typically binging at night after not eating food for the whole day at work.[2]

Cons of Intermittent Fasting

People Get Hungry, Low In Energy And Very Unproductive: Life is unpredictable and throws anything at us out of the blue. When any change to our agenda occurs, we can get hungry and can get much less productive than we were before, especially then, when we are used to eating lots of snacks or meals throughout the day and stop eating all of a sudden.[2]

Intermittent Fasting Interferes With The Social Aspect Of Eating: This new style of eating is very different from our typical eating habits. This will hamper social hangouts, which typically involve tons of food. All because of the shortened time frame, people who carry on intermittent fasting regimes shall stand out of the crowd awkwardly among the people who are sipping beverages and eating good food. These people tend to miss out on so many things in life and also avoid fun sessions.[2]

Issues with Digestion: Many people also may face digestion problems with such larger portion-sized meals that they have to consume within a shorter period. A larger volume of food translates to more time needed to digest, which causes more stress on the gastrointestinal tract leading to indigestion and bloating. People with sensitive gut and inflammation of the GI tract, disturbed bowel movements can have more complications. Such people are more susceptible to cramping, abdominal pain, and bloating. That is why; people with digestive issues are suggested to eat well in time and should not skip meals to have regular bowel functions.[2]

Unclear Impact On Heart: Some mixed results are also observed in the alternate-day fasting regarding certain cardiovascular markers such as cholesterol, triglycerides. With alternate day fasting, both of the HDL (Good Cholesterol) and LDL (Bad Cholesterol) increase while the level of triglyceride decreases. Alternate day fasting is also seen to reduce total plasma cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations.[2]

Potential Long Term Health Consequences For Women: Risk of nutrient deficiencies, electrolyte abnormalities, and issues with fertility and reproduction are seen in women if intermittent fasting is taken too seriously as it excessively energy and protein. Intermittent fasting is possibly linked to issues with menstruation, fertility, metabolism disruptions, and early menopause in women. It not only leads to the reduction in the bodyweight but also leads to the reduction in the blood glucose levels along with a reduction in the ovary size, which is very shocking to hear. This significantly impacts fertility.[2] Women typically eat less protein as compared to the men and fasting women, even less than that. So, if reproductive health is at stake, overall health is at risk and hormones become out of order, which results in the decline in overall body function.[2]

There are many potential health benefits of intermittent fasting, but it is important to keep in our mind that currently, there are quite a few limitations in this type of diet pattern and food intake patterns. As of now, intermittent fasting can be seen as a more flexible alternative to the old school diet with restriction and limitation to the calories. However, each person has a different eating style and habits. Everyone has different food routines and regimes. Everyone has one’s diet personality. What is more important is that one assesses his eating habits and finds about what approach works best in accordance to individual body type.[1]

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