The Myths and Facts of Intermittent Fasting

Would you like to know the truth about intermittent fasting and be able to cut through all the Internet clutter of half-truths, myths and urban legends? I wanted to find out about short-term fasting to see whether it might be a smart way to lose weight, add muscle mass, and generally ramp up my overall health.

Fortunately, there is plenty of solid research on the subject, unlike many other health practices. In other words, scientists and health researchers have been studying all forms of fasting for quite a while, and have built up a large base of reliable information about the subject.

That’s the good news. The big questions that remain are whether intermittent fasting is for everyone, whether it can bring about long-term weight loss, and whether it has any disadvantages.

Before starting a fast or diet of any kind, it’s important to get “clearance” from your doctor. That might mean a complete physical exam or something as simple as a routine office visit. The bottom line on dieting and fasting is not to “go it alone,” but to have official medical approval beforehand.

Anyone who wants to try intermittent fasting should be armed with the basic facts. Know about the different types of fasts, what they can and can’t do, and understand at least a little bit of the science behind the entire “fasting” concept. Here’s what I discovered after delving into the topic:

The Many Faces of Intermittent Fasting

In the world of health and dieting, people call intermittent fasting those in the know call intermittent fasting the “IF” diet, with the letters standing for the words “intermittent” and “fast.” But professionals note that there are different kinds of IF diets, some of which are more restrictive than others.

Some people use IF along with calorie reduction on non-fasting days to achieve rapid weight loss.

Terminology to Know:

  • ADF plans are “alternate-day fasts” that call for one day on the fast, followed by a day of non-fasting. Some people modify the ADF by fasting for 23 hours and eating just one balanced meal during the 24th hour of the fast.
  • WDF is the abbreviation for whole-day fasting, in which the goal is to follow a restricted eating plan (just 400 or 500 calories per day) for perhaps 2 days in a row, followed by 5 days of normal eating. WDF adherents would call this setup a “5:2” fast, because they fast for 2 days and then eat normally for the following 5 days. Of course, there are endless variations to the WDF plans, some being much more restrictive than others. The so-called “five-two” diet or “5:2” fast, is one of the better known variations of intermittent fasting in the U.S. and Europe.
  • TRF is time-restricted fasting, which many of us were subjected to as children without even knowing it! “Don’t snack between meals,” was a common bit of advice to children who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s. Nowadays, TRF practitioners typically avoid food for 16 hours, and then consume an entire day’s calories during the 8 hours left in that day.
  • Modified vs strict fasting: Note that many fasting enthusiasts do eat a small amount of food and/or low-calorie drinks like tea and coffee, while strict fasters consume absolutely nothing but water during the restricted time periods.

Research has been Mostly Positive

Here are the key points that recent research has revealed about IF eating plans:

  • There were numerous studies done on fasting from 2014 onward, most of which concluded that children, old folks, and people who are underweight should not engage in any kind of fast, short-term or otherwise.
  • For people who need to lose a few pounds and are generally in decent health, researchers say that intermittent fasting (with cycles of 24 hours or less) can help bring about weight loss but probably won’t help treat other health conditions.
  • Beware of intermittent fasting plans that promise to “cure” arthritis, skin problems or serious diseases. As with all other areas of health and fitness, there are unscrupulous people out there trying to make a buck on an otherwise sensible practice.
  • Anyone who wants to fast for more than 24 hours should, experts advise, be under the direct supervision of a doctor because of stomach and heart rhythm problems that can occur.
  • Other recent studies have shown that while IF plans are one way to lose weight, most people will have more success, and lose more weight, with long-term changes to their food intake.
  • Warning: Health professionals are careful to point out that on non-fasting days, people should adhere to normal food intake. Unfortunately, a lot of misunderstanding has arisen about intermittent fasting. Some people incorrectly believe they can eat “anything they want, in whatever amount” on non-fasting days. Non-fasting days should include a balanced diet, not junk food or high-calorie eating.

It Helps to Read at Least One Book on the Topic

There are dozens of books on intermittent fasting. Two of the better, more readable offerings are listed below. Either one makes for a solid introduction to the topic, includes recipes, exercise advice, and describes the science behind the idea of short fasts.

Intermittent Fasting: Burn Fat Incredibly Fast, Gain Muscle and Live Longer With Intermittent Fasting

Even though Jonathan Bukowski’s book is very basic and is meant to be no more than an introduction to the topic if intermittent fasting, its main goal is to help people find the best fasting method for their particular health aims. Whether you want to build muscle, drop a couple of pounds quickly, or just learn the key facts about intermittent fasting, this book will get the job done.

Intermittent Fasting: Everything You Need to Know About Intermittent Fasting For Beginner to Expert – Build Lean Muscle and Change Your Life

James Sinclair’s “Intermittent Fasting” is like a giant FAQ on the subject, with chapters that cover every conceivable question a beginner might have about fasting in general, and intermittent fasting in particular. He delves into the myths, advantages, spirituality, science and holistic health concepts surrounding fasting. For readers who have never done a fast before, this is an ideal first book on the subject.

Bottom Line: Intermittent Fasting Can be Effective

Doctors note that intermittent fasting can be an effective way to lose weight, even though fasting all by itself probably won’t bring about any additional health improvements. There have been studies that showed overall health improvement when short fasts were combined with Mediterranean diet programs. Overall, though, intermittent fasting is just one of many ways to drop several pounds safely in a short period of time.

Let us know about your experiences with IF, whether positive, negative or neutral. Either leave a comment below or visit our Facebook page and tell us your thoughts on this fascinating topic that seems to be gaining millions of followers worldwide.

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