The verdict on intermittent fasting

Diets come and go, but intermittent fasting has been having its moment for a few years now. You may have heard of the 5/2 diet. Sometimes recommended by doctors, it simply involves eating normally for five days, then having two fasting days where you consume only 500-600 calories per 24 hours.

Intermittent fasting, however, doesn’t involve two days of feeling starved, but instead restricts your eating window to a portion of the day. Most people choose the 16/8 option which allows you to eat normally for eight hours of the day – typically between 12pm and 8pm, although some people reduce their eating window to just four hours a day. The remaining hours are spent fasting.

16/8 intermittent fasting has skyrocketed in popularity in recent years, especially among those looking to lose weight and burn fat.

While other diets often set strict rules and regulations, 16/8 intermittent fasting is easy to follow and can provide real results with minimal effort.

It’s generally considered less restrictive and more flexible than many other diet plans and can easily fit into most lifestyles.

In addition to enhancing weight loss, 16/8 intermittent fasting is also said to improve blood sugar control, boost brain function and enhance longevity.

Interest has been brewing since a group of 23 obese men and women took part in a study (published in the Nutrition And Healthy Aging journal) and ate according to the 16/8 rules – only drinking water after 6pm.

Over a period of three months, the average body fat loss was 3 per cent per person and there was a significant decrease in cholesterol levels. Another control group was allowed to eat freely. The results showed that those on the 16/8 diet consumed roughly 300 calories less per day, meaning they weren’t bingeing on food during the hours when they could eat.

The 16/8 diet means you don’t have to give up any particular foods, and your body knows what to expect each and every day, hopefully avoiding any of the bloating symptoms sometimes caused by the 5/2 diet. However, if your vice is a glass of wine in the evening, you might find this eating plan tricky.

Benefits of the 16/8 diet
Fasting has been practised for thousands of years and is a staple across many religions and cultures around the globe. 16/8 intermittent fasting is a popular diet because it’s easy to follow, flexible and sustainable in the long term.

Here are some possible benefits:

  1. Accelerated weight loss: sticking to a set eating window can help cut calories over the course of the day, but studies also show that fasting can boost metabolism and increase weight loss.
  2. Improved blood sugar control: intermittent fasting has been found to reduce fasting insulin levels by up to 31 per cent and lower blood sugar by 3 to 6 per cent.

Possible drawbacks
16/8 intermittent fasting may be associated with many health benefits, but it does come with some drawbacks and may not be right for everyone.

Restricting your intake to just eight hours per day can cause some people to eat more than usual during eating periods in an attempt to make up for the hours spent fasting.

This may lead to weight gain, digestive problems and the development of unhealthy eating habits.

16/8 intermittent fasting may also cause short-term negative side effects when you’re first getting started, such as hunger, weakness and fatigue — though these often subside once you get into a routine.

The verdict
“Eating this way usually means limiting your intake to three daily meals,” says Rob Hobson, registered nutritionist and Healthspan head of nutrition. “It’s the simplest of fasting methods and once you have the timings right, you can easily fit your meals into the eight-hour window. There’s less time to eat between meals, which is obviously going to benefit your waistline.

“I think this is more realistic than the 5/2 diet,” he continues. “The fact that you can effectively be asleep for most of the fasting time on the 16/8 makes it easier to integrate into daily life.”

So, as long as you’re happy to miss out on that evening mealtime experience, the 16/8 diet really could be worth a shot. Drinking calorie-free beverages like water and unsweetened tea and coffee, even while fasting, can also help control your appetite while keeping you hydrated.

Have you tried intermittent fasting? Do you stick to a certain diet?

– With PA

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Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.

Written by Ellie Baxter

Writer and editor with interests in travel, health, wellbeing and food. Has knowledge of marketing psychology, social media management and is a keen observer and commentator on issues facing older Australians.

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