Understanding the potential adverse effects of intermittent fasting is limited by an inadequate number of rigorous clinical trials. One 2015 review of preliminary clinical studies found that short-term intermittent fasting may produce minor adverse effects, such as continuous feelings of weakness and hunger, headaches, fainting, or dehydration. Long-term, periodic fasting may cause eating disorders or malnutrition, with increased susceptibility to infectious diseases.
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Although there's no specific dietary recommendation when intermittent fasting, many people choose to combine it with a low-carb, ketogenic diet. When it's time to eat, include foods that are high in good fats and low in carbohydrates. That means eating nuts, seeds, vegetables, avocado, olives, meat and fish, while avoiding whole grains, fruits, starchy vegetables, sugary drinks and anything processed.
Processed foods are usually packed with sugar additives and other undesirable ingredients that improve the taste but negatively affect your health. Even if "sugar" isn't listed on the label of ingredients, chances are it contains a substitute in some form. Whether it's sucrose, dextrose, high-fructose corn syrup or something similar, these ingredients can have the same (or worse) effects as sugar.
Cons: On the flip side, if you have a hard time handling cheat days the healthy way, this method might not be for you. Additionally, because the plan is pretty specific and the fasting/feeding schedule varies from day to day, this method can be a bit confusing to follow. (However, the plan does come with a calendar, noting how to fast and exercise each day, which may make it easier.)
One monk, for example, set out to do a 40 day fast with medical supervision while maintaining his daily activities in the monastery. After 36 days, the medical professionals had to step in due to “profound weakness” and low blood pressure when standing. Although the monk fasted for 15 days longer than Ghandi, the medical professionals were able to stop the fast in time so that he could recover.
In addition, the refined sugar found in most beverages digests quickly, spiking both your blood sugar and your insulin levels. It's also highly addictive. Your body doesn't just want more, it needs more. In fact, according to a review published in Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care in 2013, sugar and sweetened beverages and foods induce reward and craving responses in the brain that are comparable to the responses triggered by addictive drugs, which continue the cycle.
Low carb diets are designed to force your body to burn stored fat as its primary source of fuel. With a typical diet, carbohydrates are burned first, followed by protein, and then fat as the final source of fuel. However, because most people consume far more carbohydrates than are necessary, the excess calories are stored as fat and weight loss is difficult to achieve.
That said, I have heard that women may find a wider window of eating to be more favorable when doing daily intermittent fasting. While men will typically fast for 16 hours and then eat for 8 hours, women may find better results by eating for 10 hours and fasting for 14 hours. The best advice I can give anyone, not just women, is to experiment and see what works best for you. Your body will give you signals. Follow what your body responds favorably to.
Both the keto diet and intermittent fasting trigger something referred to as autophagy. The latter is simply the technical term for a natural bodily function called “self-eating.” Although at first this may sound a bit frightening, autophagy is merely your body’s normal detoxification process, during which it eliminates contaminants and replaces them with newly formed, healthy cells.
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Initial human studies that compared fasting every other day to eating less every day showed that both worked about equally for weight loss, though people struggled with the fasting days. So I had written off IF as no better or worse than simply eating less, only far more uncomfortable. My advice was to just stick with the sensible, plant-based, Mediterranean-style diet.
Islam is the only major religion that engages in a fasting practice reflective of intermittent fasting in terms of both food consumption and diet consistency. The duration of the Ramadan fast is between 28 and 30 days, depending on the year, and consists of not eating or drinking from sunrise until sunset. During the holiday, Muslims eat twice per day: once in the morning before dawn and once in the evening after dusk. A meta-analysis on the health of Muslims during Ramadan shows significant weight loss during the fasting period of up to 1.51 kilograms (3.3 lb), but this weight was regained within about two weeks of Ramadan ending. The analysis concluded that "Ramadan provides an opportunity to lose weight, but structured and consistent lifestyle modifications are necessary to achieve lasting weight loss." Negative effects of Ramadan fasting include increased risk of hypoglycemia in diabetics as well as inadequate levels of certain nutrients.
Two ground-breaking studies have recently been published on the effects of intermittent fasting on males. One group of researchers studied the effects that 16 hours of intermittent fasting had on males that lift weights. They found that muscle mass stayed the same, fat mass decreased significantly, and the males who fasted for 16 hours a day burned more fat for fuel compared to the control group that only fasted for 12 hours.
With all of these drawbacks, you may be wondering: could you (and would you still want to) practice intermittent fasting as a female? If you take a more relaxed approach, the answer is yes. When done within a briefer timeframe, intermittent fasting may still help you reach your weight loss goals and provide the other benefits previously mentioned, without messing up your hormones.
There are different types of intermittent fasting, but the most common involves only eating within a certain window of time each day. For example, you might only eat between 12pm and 6pm each day, giving you a 6-hour “feeding” window when you eat all of your calories for the day. That means you’ll be fasting for 18 hours in between. Your intermittent fasting ratio would then be 18/6.
The primary reason for the failure of virtually any diet is the fact that you simply become too hungry and feel too deprived to continue following the meal plan. If you are like most people, you have probably tried overpriced diet programs, during which you are expected to get through an afternoon of work on a few tablespoons of pasta and a small protein shake.
Cons: Even though it’s nice to eat a few snacks rather than go without any food for 20-plus hours, the guidelines for what you need to eat (and when) can be hard to follow long-term. The strict schedule and meal plan may also interfere with social gatherings. Additionally, eating one main meal at night — while following strict guidelines of what to eat, and in what order — can be tough. It’s especially hard for those who prefer not to eat large meals late in the day.
Yes — you read that correctly — 24 hours of intermittent fasting without any resistance training and these subjects were able to preserve more muscle mass than the subjects that ate fewer calories every day without fasting at all. This finding contradicts our common sense, but when we dig deeper into autophagy we can find the mechanism behind this result.
With this information in hand, you should know exactly how to schedule meals when starting an intermittent fasting plan. And while it might seem complicated at first, once you get into the habit of fasting, it will feel like second nature and fit pretty seamlessly into your days. Just remember to always start slow and gradually work up to more advanced plans.
Hunger suppression. A ketogenic diet suppresses hunger, too. On a keto diet, your liver turns fat into little bundles of energy called ketones, which it then sends through your bloodstream for your cells to use as fuel. Ketones suppress ghrelin, your body’s main hunger hormone. High ghrelin makes you hungry. On keto, your ghrelin stays low, even when you don’t have food in your system. In other words, you can go longer without eating and you won’t get hungry. Fasting becomes significantly easier on keto so you can fast for longer windows to reap all the benefits.
Cons: Even though there is flexibility in when you eat, Leangains has pretty specific guidelines for what to eat, especially in relation to when you’re working out. The strict nutrition plan and scheduling meals perfectly around workouts can make the program a bit tougher to adhere to. (You can learn more about the specifics — as well as when to time these meals — directly from Leangains here and here.)
Those studies above, in working with small sample sizes, and different types of fasting than recommended here, would lead me to believe that fasting affects men and women differently, and that many of the weight loss benefits associated with intermittent fasting (that affect insulin and glucose responses) work positively for men and negatively for women.