What’s the deal with intermittent fasting?

Nov 4, 2020 | Tara Schmidt, RDN, LD | @taraschmidt

Clock with hands made out of eating untencils

Written by Madison Hemer, Mayo Clinic Dietetic Intern

Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that has set time periods of eating and set periods for not eating (fasting). It is often described as “cycles” of fasting, and has been used as a method for weight loss. There are several different types of intermittent fasting.

  • 5:2 Method – eat a normal, healthy diet for five days a week and the other two days eat a small meal (about 500 calories per day).
  • Alternate day fasting – this involves fasting every other day. On non-fasting days, eat a normal healthy diet.
  • Time-restricted eating – only eat during a set time period. For example, you may only eat during an eight-hour period by skipping breakfast, then eating lunch at noon, and supper before 8 p.m.

Some research has shown that intermittent fasting can be been beneficial in short-term weight loss, and could lower blood pressure, however little research has been done on any long-term health benefits or risks.

Wanting to start intermittent fasting?

  • Consider starting slow with time-restricted eating by cutting out nighttime snacking. Then start to limit your eating period each day. For example, start with an eating period from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Experiment and personalize the diet to what works best for you.
  • When you do eat, make sure you are eating a well-balanced diet of fruit and vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein.

Intermittent fasting is not for everyone. Eating a calorie-controlled, well-balanced diet with regular exercise can be just as beneficial to promote weight loss. Intermittent fasting is not recommended for anyone who is pregnant, under 18, or has certain medical conditions, such as diabetes.

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