Nutrition The Value of Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent Fasting

The value of intermittent fasting | Photo by insung yoon on Unsplash

With new evidence coming out on IF, is it worth continuing?

Intermittent fasting has grown in popularity in recent years. Nutritionists and physicians have prescribed it to clients looking to lose weight and manage their caloric intake.

New research has come out questioning intermittent fasting’s effectiveness and overall effect on health.

These findings beg the question, what should you do with seeming contradictory evidence? How should you adjust your diet, or not, when opinions change?

Vocabulary used in this article

Intermittent fasting or intermittent energy restriction: the practice of eating in a specified window of time and fasting for the remainder of the day. Typically 16:8 or 12:4, the larger window being the time in a fasted state and the shorter window available for eating.

Continuous energy restriction: Eating at a caloric deficit without restrictive windows of time.

Caloric Deficit: Eating fewer calories or consuming less energy than your body uses daily.

The Research

The articles below compare intermittent energy restriction (IER) with continuous energy restriction (CER). In plain language, they compare intermittent fasting (IF) with an overall calorie deficit without the eating windows provided by IF.

The first study from 2018 is favorable toward IER. The benefits of a routine and building habits of eating at a caloric deficit helped lose weight. Participants in the study were asked to perform IF five days a week, typically on weekdays, and then given the freedom to eat how they wanted the other two days of the week.

It was interesting to see that an overwhelming majority of the participants continued in an energy deficit on their off days. Average energy deficits of 19% were reported on the days not restricted by intermittent fasting.

The more recent article published in May of 2022 examined the value of IER compared to continuous energy restriction (CER). Findings showed little to no difference between the two approaches.

Fat mass was decreased, and both groups sustained that loss over the long term. Likewise, there was no difference in “anthropometric, cardiometabolic, inflammatory, or appetite outcomes.”

Anthropometry refers to the size of individuals and can include height, weight, and body composition.

Cardiometabolic health is related to the cardiovascular system (our hearts) and the metabolic system, which regulates how we process energy and digest food.

Inflammation is connected to the stress we put on our bodies and how we repair damaged cells and tissue. Inflammation is normal and healthy but can be problematic when it occurs for too long; this is called chronic inflammation.

Appetite is most often felt in hunger or cravings and is related to satiety. When our appetite matches our caloric needs, we can maintain a healthy weight and perform well.

These four factors are not exhaustive, but they give a good idea of a person’s well-being. The latest research does not discredit the practice of IF but does report that it is not more effective than CER.

This is Normal

It was only a matter of time before competing research came out about intermittent fasting. Before you throw out your program, consider a few things.

Firstly, studies can be tailored to obtain any results the researcher wants. This is not to say the results are not valid or worth considering, but it does mean we need to evaluate studies critically and ask what they are honestly saying.

Second, it is normal to see various opinions on nutrition. What is promoted as a panacea one day is dragged through the mud the next. The truth is found somewhere in the middle.

With the increased ability for anyone to have a platform and label themselves as experts, this trend will only continue. Be careful who you listen to online and whose advice you choose to take. Anyone promoting an all-or-nothing approach to nutrition or training should be viewed with a healthy amount of skepticism. Or avoided altogether.

What works for you?

I assume that you, the reader, have invested time and energy into your nutrition. I assume you have a plan or program that you are following to help you achieve your nutrition goals.

My question for you would be, is it working? Regardless of whether it includes fasting or not, is it effective? Are you happy with it? Yes, you can, and should be, happy with your diet and nutrition plan.

My second question then is whether or not your program promotes your total health? You may be losing weight, but at what cost if you are losing weight but don’t have the energy to train or exercise. If your nutrition plan isolates you from your community or causes excessive stress, it’s not working, no matter what the scale reads.

Intermittent fasting might be great for you and give you the structure you need to maintain a caloric deficit while still fueling your life. You might need to eat more during the day than IF allows.

If you exercise in the morning and only eat in the afternoon, there is a good chance you deny your body what it needs to properly recover.

Bottom line

To lose weight, you need to be in a caloric deficit. How you go about doing that is primarily a matter of preference, and this is where many people benefit from working with a nutrition coach.

Intermittent fasting provides limits and external structure for people either lacking self-discipline or wanting to simplify their routine.

There is no right or wrong choice. Nutrition is not a black and white science. There is no perfect diet and no one way to eat. Anybody prescribing a meal plan or nutrition program without taking the time to know you as an individual needs to be ignored.

Find a coach who will help you figure out the best plan for you personally. Work together, and keep an eye on your results. Your well-being should improve alongside your nutrition.


MG Nutrition

Comments are closed