Intermittent Fasting

By: Lilli Rozanski MS, RDN, LDN, Sports and Fitness Dietitian, Thibodaux Regional Medical Center

Intermittent fasting is one of the top trends in the wellness world right now. This eating pattern, which features cycles of fasting and eating, is making headlines as proponents’ claim it helps with everything from weight loss to lowering the risk of chronic disease.

There are several different approaches when it comes to intermittent fasting. They range from somewhat restrictive to the extreme. Here’s your cheat sheet:

  1. The 16:8 method: This is the most common type of intermittent fasting, and generally the easiest to follow. Basically, it means in a given day, a person eats during an eight-hour window and fasts the rest of the time.
  2. The 5:2 method: You fast for two days of the week on this plan. But it is not a total fast: On the fasting days, you limit your calorie intake to 500-600 per day. The other five days of the week you eat normally.
  3. The “Eat-Stop-Eat” method: This one is similar to the 5:2 method, except a person doesn’t eat at for a 24-hour period once or twice during the week. During the fast you are allowed water, coffee, and non-caloric beverages, but no solid food.
  4. Alternate day fasting: People on this plan fast every other day, eating 500 calories on their fasting days. This method is very extreme and not recommended for many people.

Some studies have found that there is virtually no difference between people who regularly practiced intermittent fasting and those who simply cut back on their calorie intake overall. There is emerging research that demonstrates a better strategy is optimizing nutritional quality of what you eat (veggies, fruit, lean protein, whole grains, and healthy fats) versus fasting or counting calories. Science also suggests that any potential benefit from fasting is quickly undone during the eating part of the cycle, in which appetite suppressing hormones switch gears to make you feel even hungrier than you felt at baseline.

Intermittent fasting is not for everyone! It may be sustainable for some people, while others find that this approach is not for them. Restricting food intake this way may lead to disordered eating in some people. Research shows that fasting for a period time followed by a limited window for eating primes you to overeat. It is a cycle that can be difficult to get out of because it impairs our body’s natural hunger cues and metabolism.

To help you find what works for you, work with a doctor or registered dietitian if you are interested in this diet. A professional should be your number one resource! Everyone is different and pros can help you with an individualized plan.

*References available on request*