Many people have found weight loss success with intermittent fasting (IF), but that doesn’t mean weight loss is guaranteed. Here are seven things you need to know before you start an intermittent fasting program:
Want To Try Intermittent Fasting For Weight Loss? 7 Things You Need To Know First
1. Weight loss isn't the only benefit.
Intermittent fasting has many health benefits. IF has been shown to protect against type 2 diabetes by reducing insulin resistance; improve heart health; protect against Alzheimer’s, slow the aging process; reduce inflammation; and increase mental clarity. I go into this more in my beginner's guide to IF, on my website.
2. There is no one best intermittent fasting program.
There is no "one" way or "right" way to do intermittent fasting. In fact, there are numerous techniques you can follow. Some fasting protocols include every other day fasting, two days of fasting (or extreme calorie reduction) followed by five days of regular eating, 14 to 16 hours of fasting followed by an 8- to 10-hour eating window, and so on. Want to know the best plan to follow? It’s the plan that works best for you. Choose a program that works best with your schedule, your personality, and even your eating habits.
3. Weight loss isn't a guarantee.
If you think intermittent fasting could be a great way to lose weight, you’re right. Several studies, including a 2014 study conducted at the University of Illinois at Chicago, showed intermittent fasting to be as effective as calorie-restrictive diets. However, it works only if done correctly. That is, just like any other weight loss program, you need to adhere to certain guidelines or rules to make it work. Following the designated eating and fasting windows is important, but more important is not overcompensating for lost calories during one’s fasting window. See below for more on overcompensation.
4. Overcompensation can be a big problem.
Intermittent fasting aids weight loss because it helps you reduce your daily or weekly calorie consumption. But if you start overcompensating for those missed calories by consuming more food throughout the rest of the day or on your non-fasting days/hours, you can sabotage any hope of weight loss. If you stick to regular meals and healthy snacks during your eating window and don’t overcompensate by gorging yourself following your fast, you have a better chance of having weight loss success.
5. Intermittent fasting isn't for everyone.
Certain people shouldn’t attempt intermittent fasting, including women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, children or teens, people with diabetes or hypothyroidism, or who are underweight, malnourished, or have an eating disorder. As with any new eating regimen, always ask your health care professional before you begin.
6. It's uncertain whether women should do intermittent fasting.
There is still some controversy around whether or not intermittent fasting is right for women due to the risk of hormone imbalance. Although studies on rats have shown hormone imbalance and even infertility, the jury is still out on the risks for women. Until more concrete evidence is available, it may be best to start with an intermittent fasting schedule that is less extreme. For example, women should aim for a 13- to 14-hour fasting window rather than a 15- to 16-hour window or an all-day fast. If you are adhering to a program that calls for calorie restriction on multiple days, be smart and don’t restrict your calories to an extreme level or for consecutive days.
7. Intermittent fasting isn't a diet.
Intermittent fasting is a schedule, not a diet. A typical diet states what you can and can’t eat. Intermittent fasting doesn’t restrict any foods but rather provides a schedule or pattern for eating with windows of eating or fasting.
Want to try it out? Here's a definitive guide to intermittent fasting.