Do you have doubts about intermittent fasting benefits and its possible risks? This simple guide addresses the most common advantages and disadvantages of IF.
(This is a chapter of a bigger guide on intermittent fasting guide.)
Have you heard people raving about the health benefits of intermittent fasting lately?
More than a fad, intermittent fasting has become a popular – even easier – way for people to meet their weight loss as well as health goals.
Not just cross-fitters and muscle buffs, but people with severe chronic illnesses are looking at fasting as a way to rid themselves of current and potential lifestyle-related health issues.
There are many intermittent results posted on social media claiming mind-blowing benefits from IF.
But first let’s understand the science behind IF.
When we eat, the food consumed is converted into energy with the help of the hormone insulin. Part of it is stored as glycogen in the liver or the muscle – in a limited capacity – and can be accessed easily. The rest is converted into fat and deposited in various parts of the body.
If you are constantly eating from the time you wake up until you go to bed, your body will be constantly producing energy and reserving the excess as fat. Your insulin level will be forced to be high because of it too.
With intermittent fasting, you give your body a well deserved break, regulate your insulin level and allow your body to burn up the stored fat for energy.
Understanding this process will help us make sense of the intermittent fasting benefits and side effects too.
What are the advantages of intermittent fasting?
When you balance eating and fasting, your body fat composition will change and stabilize and that is a primary benefit from IF.
Intermittent fasting weight loss results are astonishing. When done right, you can lose weight and attain a leaner frame without looking malnourished.
If intermittent fasting 3 months results posted on social media indicate anything, people notice drastic changes in a shorter time frame.
Along with benefits of intermittent fasting for weight loss, IF is associated with other claims such as:
- Reduces cancer risk and slows aging process
- The more you burn excess body fat, cardiovascular risk decreases and your metabolism improves
- Regulates your blood glucose and insulin levels
- Improves health of diabetic patients and those at risk of being diabetic
- Cleanses and detoxifies your body
- Protects against neuro-degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s’
These staggering benefits are possible because fasting encourages cellular activities that improve immunity and reduce inflammation.
Intermittent fasting results are linked to a process called autophagy.
In this process, the body repairs diseased or less-than-ideal cells and restores them. Autophagy is activated during fasting and is a method used to treat many conditions in clinical trials.
All this science will make you wonder:
Are there any disadvantages to intermittent fasting?
These clear cut benefits of IF make a convincing case to try intermittent fasting. But there could also be some potential risks or cons to take into account.
- Intermittent fasting is a discipline.
Not everyone is able to follow through or maintain it consistently. This disadvantage is more psychological in nature.
- It can affect your social life.
With most social activities taking place after hours, it might get difficult to observe a proper 14 or 16 hour fast. Late night binge fest could also mean you won’t get to tap into the full benefits of IF if you eat close to your bedtime.
- Excessive hunger is also common in the start.
Years of poor eating habits are difficult to change right away. In the start, your fasting state may feel more like starving. But if you’ve eaten well during the 6-8 hour eating period, it is unlikely that you are depriving your body of food.
- You might have headaches initially.
Fasting may cause electrolyte imbalance. But you can fix it easily by drinking salted water or taking supplements.
- Some claim hormonal imbalance while doing IF.
Common in women, many have raised concerns over hormonal imbalance and attributed it to intermittent fasting. It can affect menstrual cycles or cause insomnia. This is one reason why doctors advise most women to avoid the 16 hour fast and opt for a shorter 12-14 hour fast.
- IF might also cause constipation in some.
It could be part of the adaptive phase and doctors who recommend IF would suggest
magnesium supplements to counter this issue.