There are only three things that are certain in this world. Death, taxes, and the popularity of fad diets. We are constantly bombarded with promises that X or Y diet is a fast track to losing weight and feeling fantastic.
Oftentimes, fad diets must be approached with caution. Nutritionists and healthcare professionals hate them, concerned that such eating plans create unsustainable and dangerous habits and expectations. Of course, there is also the risk of falling off the wagon in spectacular fashion after a while.
One dietary choice that has retained popularity, however, is intermittent fasting. Many people have boasted excellent results from following such a diet. Naturally, success breeds saturation. There are now countless different types of intermittent fasting eating plans, each of them boasting their own advocates.
If you’re planning on taking up intermittent fasting, read on. We’ll discuss the three most popular approaches, and reveal which is the best solution to seek for your needs.
The 5:2 Diet
The 5:2 diet is the brainchild of Dr. Michael Mosley, a British journalist and TV presenter. If that sets alarming bells clanging, it would be noted that Dr. Mosley has no formal training in medical health. His honorific comes courtesy of a background in psychiatry.
The idea behind the 5:2 diet is simple. You would choose two days of seven, and during these days, limit yourself to 500 calories. On the other five days, you can eat normally, provided you do not exceed your daily calorie allowance.
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition confirms that followers of the 5:2 diet can enjoy weight loss. There are other benefits, too, including a reduction of cholesterol and blood glucose. This makes the diet a good idea for anybody diagnosed as pre-diabetic. The British Journal of Nutrition explains how fasting on concurrent days removes fat from the blood.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of the 5:2 diet is that you can still eat on fasting days. This will not just help with hunger pangs. It also protects the muscles in the body. You’ll need to focus on lean, low-calorie protein foods during fasting days.
Like all fad diets, the 5:2 is not without critics. It’s advisable to seek medical advice before embarking upon such an eating regime. If you’re looking to shed weight and keep it off, however, it’s a potentially sustainable way to do so.
Fasting on Alternate Days
Alternate day fasting, or ADF, is a more extreme version of the 5:2 diet. Think of it as the 4:3 diet if that helps.
Essentially, ADF involves eating as much as you’d like on Monday, then fasting on Tuesday. You’ll be permitted up to 500 calories, as with the 5:2. When Wednesday rolls around, you can feast again – provided you get back to your fast on Thursday. You get the picture.
ADF is believed to promote fast weight loss, so it’s worth considering if you’re trying to drop weight for a holiday or a special occasion. Nutrition Journal claims that AFD can see substantial results in around twelve weeks.
It’s also arguably what our bodies are made for. Our Neanderthal ancestors would eat their fill whenever possible, unsure when the opportunity would arise to eat again.
The biggest problem with ADF is its sustainability. Sooner or later, it’s likely that the calorie intake on fasting days will start to creep up. This can minimize the calorie restriction. In fact, if you continue to eat with abandon on non-fasting days, you may even consume more calories than you usually would.
Finally, we have time-restricted fasting. This involves consuming all of a day’s calories in a single eight-hour window. This allows for sixteen hours of fasting every day. The time that you eat is referred to as a feeding window.
This sounds easy on paper. It may be tempting to skip breakfast and maybe even lunch and save all food intake for an evening meal. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise confirms that this will certainly lead to a smaller calorie intake. Unfortunately, you’ll also burn fewer calories through exercise if you skip breakfast.
Scientific research into time-restricted fasting is comparatively limited compared to the 5:2 diet and ADF. However, Nutrition Research Reviews does suggest that a morning feeding window can be impactful. The body processed blood sugar and glucose better at this time of day.
Pre-diabetics, in particular, should consider time-restricted fasting by eating in the morning and fasting at night. As a weight loss tool for anybody else, however? There is little to suggest that time-restricted fasting is a fast-track to dropping a jeans size. One exception to this will be the appeal of cutting out food completely, rather than merely minimizing intake. If you have an ‘all-or-nothing’ persona, this diet may be more comfortable.
So, which fasting diet is best?
“Best” is a subjective term. It really depends on what you are trying to achieve with your fasting diet.
Alternate day fasting will typically get the fastest results, but the 5:2 diet is usually more sustainable in the longer term. Alternatively, if you prefer to skip food completely rather than just restrict it, consider a window feeding approach.
Ultimately, as confirmed by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, intermittent fasting is no more effective than basic, calorie-controlled dieting. If you prefer not to restrict your options, however, this eating plan could work for you. Just choose wisely and ensure that you’re eating safely.
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