Medicine or Malarkey: Is Intermittent Fasting Worth the Hassle?

Intermittent Fasting Hassle

If you've ever had to postpone a meal for many hours or go to bed without dinner, you know how uncomfortable going hungry can be. In spite of that, Intermittent fasting is a popular weight loss trend that, reportedly, also helps improve your health. But how does it work, and is it really "worth it?" Find out more about intermittent fasting and the validity of its health benefits.

The Basics of Intermittent Fasting

Most diets claim that calorie reduction is a necessity in nearly any weight loss plan. Unfortunately, most people have a difficult time sustaining this reduction on a long-term basis. As a result, many soon find themselves discouraged by their weight loss progress; and some have turned to intermittent fasting as a more sustainable alternative.

Intermittent fasting involves restricted caloric intake, but only in short segments. The goal of intermittent fasting is to periodically fast in order to manipulate your body's metabolism. One method, for example, recommends that you refrain from ingesting anything for 14 to 16 hours with the exception of black coffee, water, or unsweetened tea. Referred to as 16:8 intermittent fasting, it can help intermittent fasting feel less intimidating for beginners. Another method: fasting for just one day. On the following day, you can eat whatever you like.

The restrictions of intermittent fasting are less severe than other diets such as the ketogenic diet and many low-carb diets. This is one of the main reasons that the intermittent fasting plan is gaining popularity. However, intermittent fasting still comes with the usual caveats. If your goal is to lose weight and get into better shape, the basics of intermittent fasting still require you to follow a fairly healthy diet during "feeding" hours. Filling up on empty and sugary calories, for example, can negate some of its effects.

How Healthy is Intermittent Fasting?

There seems to be a great deal of internet chatter leaning in favor of intermittent fasting. While the "cons" of this method tend to receive less attention, you should be aware of both pros and cons before trying this type of dieting—and we cover both below.

According to a number of researchers, intermittent fasting forces your body to convert its fat into fatty acids. These are then easily absorbed back into the body, where they produce molecules known as ketones. Your body uses these as its fuel instead of glucose. Over time, your metabolism changes so that your body uses greater amounts of ketones for energy.

Research has shown that while people who practiced intermittent fasting lost body fat, the amount of lean tissue they lost was minimal. Other studies have indicated that intermittent fasting can make your body more responsive to the effects of insulin, making it easier for you to control your hunger. It can also set you up for a reduced risk of common conditions including obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Scientists have also found that reducing your caloric consumption by 30 to 40 percent can help extend your life by one-third.

However, there is conflicting evidence that suggests this dieting can increase abdominal fat, raise insulin levels and damage pancreatic cells. Knowing the latest research can help you make the best decision for you—and always remember to discuss any questions with your preferred healthcare professional before starting any diet plan.