There’s plenty of research that backs up the benefits of intermittent fasting, but people are still sceptical and justifiably concerned about its safety.
So is intermittent fasting safe? The short answer is yes. When you consume the right nutrition for your health and fitness goals, intermittent fasting is completely safe.
Here, we break down the facts and how you can use intermittent fasting to benefit your health.
Table of Contents
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
First things first, what in the world is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is a process that combines regular eating with cycles of brief fasting.
These fasting periods consist of no calories and can also consist of reduced caloric intake (for example, only allocating 500 calories).
The main reason why people try intermittent fasting is to lose weight. But intermittent fasting boasts other health benefits. In addition, fasting is a regular part of cultural and religious activities.
Why do people wonder if Intermittent Fasting’s safe?
Lots of people follow an intermittent fasting diet, so it’s not an uncommon biohack.
There are various ways of intermittent fasting, which we’ll come on to, but there are also things that it’s not, and this is normally where confusion occurs.
Intermittent fasting is not completely cutting out food, skipping meals, or not eating for a dangerous number of days on end, it’s about eating at specific times and not eating at other times, or as it’s also known, eating in “cycles”.
With intermittent fasting you’re limiting the calories you eat specific times of the day or on certain days. You make up for the lack of nutrition during a fasted cycle by enhancing your nutrition with certain meals and potentially supplements during a cycle where you do eat.
Intermittent fasting’s also not a calorie-focused diet. Low-calorie diets have a reputation for being effective at first and then failing when the individual starts developing cravings.
Intermittent fasting’s also not all about not eating, this is more like an eating disorder, and eating disorders such as anorexia are a potentially serious problem – just reducing the food you eat may not make you healthy.
As long as you’re consuming, through food or drink, the appropriate nutrition for your health and fitness goals, intermittent fasting is, as we said before, completely safe for most people.
Does Intermittent Fasting Help You Lose Weight?
If you’re wondering if intermittent fasting helps you loose weight then you’ll be happy to know the answer is: Yes.
Intermittent fasting has been shown in
In short, intermittent fasting causes stress on your body, which may sound bad, but this stress causes metabolic changes. These metabolic changes have many benefits, including a reduction in body fat.
Not only do you lose fat, but the metabolic changes help keep fat off in the medium to long term — as long as you keep following your intermittent fasting routine.
Intermittent Fasting Benefits
Intermittent fasting causes your biology to change and this can be beneficial, for example intermittent fasting has these benefits:
- Reduction of overall calories consumed: this is likely as you are eating less frequently (but not guaranteed as you may overeat at other times)
- Cause ketosis: using body fat as an energy source
- Increase in metabolic rate
- Insulin Level Drop: this facilitates fat burning in the body and can also help reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes through the reduction in blood sugar levels
- Human Growth Hormone (HGH) Increase: this can reduce the risk of disease and also helps the body burn fat while also helping to build muscle
- Cell Cleansing: during a fasted state the body carries out various tasks in the cells that remove toxins and waste material
- Reduction in Oxidative Stress
- Reduced inflammation and in inflammatory markers
Improvements in blood pressure
- More efficient cellular repair through Autophagy
- Reduced risk of developing or multiplying mutated cells (these can cause cancer)
- Increased growth of new nerve cells that also have a positive impact of the brain hormone Brain-Derived Neurotropic factor (BDNF)
- Improvements in the symptoms show to be a factor in neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s Disease
How to Do Intermittent Fasting — The Healthy Way
The best part about intermittent fasting is there are multiple ways to fast. However, you need to ensure you’re going out it in a healthy manner.
Here are 15 common (and effective!) intermittent fasting strategies:
- Whole Day or 24 Hour Fasting
- 20/4 (also called Warrior Diet)
- 23/1 (also called One Meal A Day Diet or OMAD)
- 36 Hour Fasting
- 48 Hour Fasting
- Extended Fasting (normally 3 to 7 days)
- Alternate Day Fasting
- Juice Fasting
- Fat Fasting
- Dry Fasting
- 5:2 Diet
- ProLon Fasting Mimicking Diet
- Protein-Sparing Modified Fasting (PSMF)
Let’s explain two basic principles of these in more detail.
Whole Day Fasting
This method consists of fasting for one or two days out of the week. The goal is to reduce 25% of your weekly caloric intake.
Whole day fasting doesn’t mean you don’t eat anything during your fasting days.
Beginners should try only eating 500 calories two days a week to see how their body responds (this is the 5:2 Diet). From there, you can see if you’re comfortable cutting out all food for a day or two out of each week.
Does fasting for a whole day sound awful? Many people find it more beneficial to fast for certain hours each day, splitting your eating in to cycles. This way, you can follow a daily meal plan while still reducing your daily caloric intake at certain times.
The 16:8 method is one of the most popular ones. You’re fasting for 16 hours each day and eating for 8 hours, so maybe you eat between 12 midday and 8pm and fast between 8pm and 12 midday, or whatever version of this works best for your lifestyle.
Who Shouldn’t Do Intermittent Fasting?
While intermittent fasting is safe, it’s not a nutrition method that everyone should use.
First and foremost, always talk to an expert about intermittent fasting before starting your regimen, especially if you have known medical conditions.
If you’re unsure if intermittent fasting is right for you, this list may highlight reasons to maybe not try it.
Those With Eating Disorders
If you suffer from an eating disorder or have had an eating disorder previously, it may be best you avoid intermittent fasting.
Those with eating disorders could have a dieting obsession, and it may stem from psychologically factors and not from anything that’s physiologically wrong with you.
Even though intermittent fasting reduces insulin, which can be beneficial for those preventing diabetes, it may not be a good approach in some cases.
If you already have diabetes it’s best to talk to your doctor as the differences between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes and your specific situation could mean intermittent fasting isn’t right for you.
Serious Fitness Fanatics and Athletes
What if you’re already set in a serious workout routine? Intermittent fasting may benefit you — and it can also put your progress at a real disadvantage.
Athletes need calories and they’re already working their body to burn fat and train their muscles. This intensity causes nutrition to be a major factor in their success; they need to heal their body by rest and the right nutrition, looking at their macros, not just calories.
Athletes tend to naturally need more calories than the average person who isn’t as active. While intermittent fasting is possible on a strict workout routine, it requires careful planning to ensure you’re not overworking your body.
Need More Dieting and Fitness Advice?
Intermittent fasting is all the rage. But is intermittent fasting safe? When done responsibly, you can expect positive weight loss results and other great benefits. But intermittent fasting isn’t for everyone.