Intermittent fasting: a fast fad or a dieting breakthrough?


Intermittent fasting (IF) has become quite the trend in the health and fitness community.

IF is an eating pattern that alternates between periods of eating and periods of fasting.

Unlike common dieting methods, it focuses less on what you should eat and more on when you should eat. In that way, it’s less restrictive than most diets.

The three most common methods of IF are:

  • The 16/8 method: Also called the Leangains protocol, it involves skipping breakfast and restricting your daily eating period to 8 hours, e.g. 1–9 p.m. Then you fast for 16 hours in between.
  • Eat-Stop-Eat: This involves fasting for 24 hours, once or twice a week. For example, skipping dinner one day until dinner the next day.
  • The 5:2 diet: With this method, you consume only 500–600 calories on two non-consecutive days of the week but eat normally the other 5 days.

Apart from the obvious weight loss benefits, IF may reduce “bad” cholesterol, inflammatory markers, blood sugar and insulin resistance — all risk factors for heart disease.

However, it isn’t the easiest option. Besides the hunger, many people who have tried it complain of sluggishness and decreased productivity during the fasting periods. It might also be risky if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding or have diabetes or low blood pressure. In such cases, it’s important to consult a doctor beforehand.

For some people, IF is not only a dieting method but a lifestyle that allows them to have greater control over their eating and thus, their health.