Advantages and Disadvantages of Intermittent Fasting
Whenever we need to identify a particular thing as good or bad, we simply explore its merits as well as demerits and decide which of the two outweighs the other, right?
Intermittent fasting is all about deciding when to eat and when to abstain from eating, and it does not deal with what kind of food you eat. Like most things, intermittent fasting has its good points and it not-so-good points. In this post, we give you a taste of each so that you can decide whether or not intermittent fasting is right for you.
Getting rid of those extra pounds......
Let's explore the scenario on a lighter note. It seems an extremely attractive opportunity for losing weight without missing out on delicious food. It includes multi-day fasts and avoiding what you would consider to be main meals a few times per week. Intermittent Fasting is a comfortable method that can be readily used to get rid of some of the extra pounds you could be carrying. It reduces the quantity of insulin and raises the amount of growth hormone as well as Noradrenaline. All this renders the body to use up fats to generate energy. Statistical evidence has buttressed the significance of Intermittent fasting and showed that you could lose around 3-8% of your body fat between just 3-20 weeks of doing this.
Battling Type 2 Diabetes
Aside from the very valid first point made in this post about weight loss, intermittent fasting can also be examined as a powerful soldier that shields our poor body from the serious Type 2 Diabetes. This condition is a consequence of insulin resistance accompanied by a high blood sugar level. Intermittent Fasting minimises Insulin resistance and hence regulates blood sugar levels. Research shows that regular intermittent fasting results in insulin resistance being reduced by about 30% and fasting blood sugar by about 5%. With figures like this, surely it is worth considering!
LDL and triglyceride levels have been shown to decrease over a fasting period, particularly in overweight study participants. An 8 week study trial of 3 days per week fasting (450cals consumed per day) showed a 32% reduction in cholesterol levels and an average of 5.6kg weight loss.
Intermittent fasting can also help in enhancing the overall health of a person. It gives periodic rest to our poor digestive systems which are continuously in working mode. It reduces oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. It also aids in promoting cellular repair which occurs because, during fasting phases, the cells undergo a waste removal process. Intermittent fasting plays a major role in protecting the body against two major diseases, Cancer and Heart Attack; this is predominantly due to the various beneficial effects on the metabolism. However, does this mean that it should be used all of the time? Not necessarily...
The Not-So-Good Bits
Unfortunately, good, old Intermittent Fasting has a dark side too. One of the most obvious disadvantages is becoming highly obsessed with following the intermittent fasting pattern precisely. A person would become rigid in eating particularly at times he/she has fixed earlier. For example, if you have planned to take the first meal of the day at 12:00 pm, and you are starving by 11:50 am, you might prolong eating for 10 minutes. Such obsessive eating habits are detrimental to one's psychological well-being.
Oh No! Overeating, Lethargy...
Another important factor associated with the harmful effects of intermittent fasting is the appetite not being effectively satisfied. Although a person is physically full, he/she will be tempted to eat more. This behavior leads to over-eating, and it almost kills the underlying purpose of losing weight by starting intermittent fasting in the first place.
Another chapter of this unfortunate dark side of intermittent fasting is the (reportedly) drastically reduced energy levels during the earlier parts of the day. This results in a person feeling lazy and lethargic during work and also causes reduced concentration levels that can affect one’s ability to carry out day to day activities.
A regular side-effect of fasting diets is that they can alter the balance of your hormones. Specifically, the reduction in leptin (which makes you feel full), and the increase in cortisol (which can result in your body being under more stress, and thus a halt in weight loss). A University of Virginia Study on fasting showed female students leptin decreased by as much as 75% and their cortisol increased by as much of 50% after the fasting period of the study. Increased cortisol can also result in changes in the menstrual cycle for women.
Leaner individuals (who have less weight to lose), and those with already active lifestyles are the ones most likely to experience this con to intermittent fasting. As mentioned in the previous point, the disruption in hormones can lead to irregular menstrual cycles for women, reduced testosterone in men, and also to more cases of insomnia and higher reported stress levels in all study participants of any gender. Obese individuals who take part in intermittent fasting are more likely to experience benefits and have a larger percentage of fat loss over the fasting period.
It can be inferred from the examples above that we cannot declare weather Intermittent Fasting is 'good' or 'bad', it is entirely up to your situation, current health, and body fat percentage. If you're planning to take on an intermittent fasting routine, it should be manipulated in such a way that it's negative consequences are as minimal as possible. There are different types of intermittent fasting available, for example, fasting only on weekends, fasting alternative days, it does not have to be something you do every day of the week!