Forget about diets that require counting calories or swearing off carbs – this diet doesn’t put limitations on what you eat. Rather, it focuses on when.
This way of dieting is called an intermittent diet, and lately, it has risen through the ranks of popular diets. Intermittent diet is now one of the most searched diets on Google, with hundreds of thousands of searches on average each month. Traditional lifestyle changes to diets rely a lot on calorie counting or adhering to certain rules. For some people, especially people with hectic schedules, that feels like a lot of work and effort.
Intermittent diet feels as if all they have to do is skip a meal, which is much easier to maintain. In this article, we answer 5 burning questions about intermittent diet.
What is an intermittent diet?
Intermittent fasting refers to a form of time-restricted eating and drinking1. The primary goal of intermittent fasting is to utilize short-term fasts to improve overall health, weight loss, and well-being. Various forms of fasting are seen in cultures from around the world. As such, the concept of fasting is not new.
The Different Types of Intermittent Diet
Intermittent fasting is a broad term that contains a variety of programs within it. Most popular periodic fasting programs are mainly of 3 types:
- An alternate-day fasting program
- A whole-day fasting program
- A time-restricted eating program.
An alternate-day fasting program (ADF)
This program involves alternating between eating days and fasting days2. The basic idea is that you fast one day and eat what you want the next day. On days when you’re fasting, you should eat about 500 calories or 20 to 25% of your daily energy requirements. This can be further modified based on an individual’s schedule and convenience.
A whole-day fasting program
With whole-day fasting or the ‘Eat Stop Eat’ program, the fasting periods are essentially 24 hours (dinner to dinner or lunch to lunch), whereas, with other intermittent fasting approaches, such as with 5:2, the fasting period is actually 36 hours.
The protocols can be as simple as observing just a single 24-hour fast per week. However, its disadvantage is that it’s difficult to get all the nutrients your body needs to function optimally.
A time-restricted eating program
Time-restricted eating is a form of daily fasting in which the time of the day during which a person eats is limited or compressed. It essentially refers to limiting eating to a certain period of time each day4.
A popular example is the 16 8 intermittent fasting method. It features a daily 16-hour fast and an 8-hour eating window.
The 5:2 method, an intermittent fasting approach that suggests 5 days of eating normally and cutting back 20% of your normal daily caloric intake for the other 2 days, is also a popular time-restricted eating program.
Now that we’ve walked through the most popular eating patterns, let’s address the burning questions that you might have about this fad diet.
1. Is it healthy to do an intermittent diet every day?
Intermittent fasting is relatively safe and healthy. Clinical trials and research have shown that intermittent fasting produces mild to moderate weight loss as early as 8 to 12 weeks5. Many studies were done on intermittent fasting that has shown that it can have powerful benefits for weight control and the health of your body and brain.
Here are the main health benefits of intermittent fasting:
- Weight Loss: Help you lose weight and belly fat, without having to consciously restrict calories6.
- Insulin resistance: Reduce insulin resistance, lowering blood sugar by 3% to 6% and fasting insulin levels by 20% to 31%, which should protect against type 2 diabetes7.
- Inflammation: Some studies show reductions in markers of inflammation, a key driver for many chronic diseases.
- Cardiac Health: Reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol, blood triglycerides, inflammatory markers, blood sugar, and insulin resistance, which are all risk factors for cardiac disease.
- Brain Health: Increases the brain hormone BDNF and may aid the growth of new nerve cells. It has also been shown to protect against Alzheimer’s disease7.
In short, this form of dieting is safe for many people. However, it may not be for everyone. For people who are pregnant, breast-feeding, or have other chronic health conditions, skipping meals may not be the most effective method for weight loss.
2. How is this intermittent diet from Starvation?
The key difference between fasting and starving is that fasting is purposely refraining from eating. Starving is a severe deficiency in energy and calorie intake below the level necessary to maintain regular bodily functions.
Fasting refers to consuming no food for less than a 48 hour window while starving refers to consuming no food for several days or extremely low-calorie consumption for more than two weeks. While fasting can be beneficial for the body, starving is harmful to health.
|Definition||Fasting is deliberately refraining from eating and sometimes drinking||Starving is the deficiency in energy and calorie intake below the level necessary to maintain bodily functions|
|Time||No food for less than 48 hours or low-calorie for less than 2 weeks||No food for more than 48 hours or extremely low-calorie for more than 2 weeks|
|Effects||Does not lose muscles mass||Lose muscle mass|
|Energy||Have energy||Very low energy|
|Mechanism||The body generates hormones that breakdown fat and maintain blood sugar levels||Thyroid production and fat burning are decreased, and blood sugar is very low|
|Hunger||Feel hungry once in a while||Feel hungry all the time|
Dr Wendi’s Health. 2022. Fasting vs Starving – Dr Wendi’s Health. [online] Available at: <https://dr-wendihealth.com/2020/01/26/fasting-vs-starving/> [Accessed 11 April 2022].
Intermittent diet is not starving but an occasional planned break-in food intake for relatively short time periods. This method of fasting is therefore generally safe and will not put your body into starvation mode.
3. Can I exercise when I’m fasting?
Exercising in a fasted state has pros and cons that vary between different individuals. Some studies have shown that exercising while fasting affects muscle biochemistry and metabolism that is linked to insulin sensitivity and the steady management of blood sugar levels.
Other studies have also shown that an upside while fasting is that your stored carbohydrates, also known as glycogen, is most likely already depleted. This means that you might be burning more fat to fuel your workout8.
However, it is also possible that your body might start breaking down muscle to use protein for fuel when exercising in a fasted state. The body is also more susceptible to hitting a wall – which means that you have less energy and will not be able to work out as hard or perform as well.
Despite that, it’s not to say that exercise is completely discouraged. The most critical advice to heed when exercising in a fasted state is listening to your body. While exercising and intermittent fasting may work for some people, others may not feel comfortable doing any form of exercise while fasting.
4. What can I eat and drink during fasting times?
Intermittent fasting only defines the time interval of your fasting and eating. It does not define what you should and should not eat. There are no specifications or restrictions about what type or how much food to eat while following intermittent fasting.
Although fasting doesn’t emphasize what you eat as much as when you eat, it is not designed to be an excuse to binge on fast foods and potato chips during your eating window. It can also be easy to overeat during fasting periods.
Consuming a healthy, varied diet is very beneficial for your overall health. Focus on foods that are nutrient-dense, high in fiber, unprocessed and whole foods that offer variety and flavour.
5. Is intermittent diet good for fat loss?
The main reason that intermittent fasting works for weight loss is that it helps you consume fewer calories. All of the different protocols for the intermittent fasting program involve skipping meals during the fasting periods. Unless you compensate by eating more during these periods, you’ll be consuming fewer calories.
According to a 2014 review, intermittent fasting reduced body weight by 3% to 8% over a period of 3 to 24 weeks9. Study subjects also experienced a 4% to 7% reduction in waist circumference after embarking on intermittent fasting.
However, while numerous studies have shown this diet to be an effective tool for shedding pounds, there are simply some stubborn pockets that are resistant to any type of diet adjustment.
The Bottom Line
Intermittent fasting has shown to have many benefits, some even extending beyond weight loss.
However, some people are simply genetically predisposed to have a high number of fat cells in specific areas of the body, such as the abdomen, thighs, or chin. For these individuals, no amount of dieting and exercise will get rid of those areas of fat.
Alternative non-invasive fat removal treatments such as CoolSculpting and SculpSure are ideal options that can effectively target the stubborn pockets of fat and eliminate them naturally from the body. For more information on these solutions, click here.