Intermittent fasting is the latest trend around just now. Headlines such as ‘Diet for only 2 days and lose weight’ ‘Eat whatever you want 5 days per week and still lose weight’ have all contributed to its increasing popularity. Add into this, celebrities and others in the public eye all endorsing its success, and more and more people are getting on board. The principle of the intermittent fasting diet is that by significantly reducing your energy intake for 1,2 or 3 days per week, you can (in theory) eat what you like for the rest of the week, while still losing weight.
Intermittent fasting refers to a specific pattern of eating, rather than guidance on exactly what to eat. Different versions of this way of eating exist with the alternate day fasting, 1 day per week fast or most popular 5:2 diet.
The 5:2 diet claims that you can:
– Eat whatever you like 5 days per week
– Reduce calorie intake to ~ 25% of your energy needs (roughly 500 – 600 calories/day) for 2 days (doesn’t need to be consecutive days)
One of the attractive things about this diet is the lack of ‘rules’ to follow. There are no points or calories to count everyday and you don’t need to live on meal replacement shakes or exclude ‘treat’ foods. It also benefits from the fact that a 2 day diet sounds a lot easier than watching what you eat every day.
Many people struggle with making the right choices when trying to lose weight. Thoughts such as..
What should I have for breakfast?’
Are cereal bars OK?’ ‘
I’m feeling really hungry but I really shouldn’t have this chocolate biscuit’ are common and it’s this decision making which can cause some to lapse into old habits. By removing the need to decide what to eat for 2 days per week can seem easier to cope with. Some people find that this is less challenging than employing calorie restriction every day.
But what about the other 5 days?
In reality, you still need to be following a sensible diet regime on the non fasting days. Eating ‘whatever you like’ is likely to mean excessive calories which, even with 2 days fasting, will limit your results. Success with intermittent fasting relies on changing your thoughts around eating on non fasting days, subconsciously reducing intake, so not to exceed basic energy needs.
Is it practical?
Thinking about your current lifestyle and the impact of fasting for 2 days every week is vital before deciding if this is the right approach for you. Anyone taking part in regular exercise or competitive sports should be cautious with deciding to follow this plan. On fasting days you are not providing your body with adequate fuel and can limit training gains and interrupt the recovery process.
Claims of health benefits of intermittent fasting:
– Weight loss
– May help prevent diseases including heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, type 2 diabetes and cancer
Up to this point, there have been limited studies carried out in humans to suggest recommending eating in this way. Short term research exists to indicate a weight loss effect, but there is little evidence for its long term success. It should be noted that the above health benefits are not exclusive to this diet. A 5% reduction in body weight is proven to result in significant health improvements.
Is it safe?
If you are generally fit and well, following this eating pattern should not cause any side effects. However, certain people, including children and teenagers, Type 1 + 2 diabetics, pregnant ladies, those with immune disorders or any other medical condition should consult their doctor prior to starting. In addition, there is a risk of becoming deficient in certain vitamins and minerals if adequate intake is not consumed during non fasting days.
Intermittent fasting is still an emerging trend and although there have been some good results reported, we still need to learn more about its effects on the body long term.
As with all weight loss plans, success is determined by individual motivation and compliance. Lifestyle and behaviour changes have proven to elicit the greatest, sustainable loss.
If you have tried intermittent fasting diet, we would love to hear about your experience. Please share with us in the comment below…