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Intermittent Fasting Diet: The Basics

Intermittent Fasting Diet: The Basics

Have you ever wondered what intermittent fasting is? Recently, intermittent fasting has become a buzzword on the social media scene. Take a minute to read through it and see what your thoughts are on intermittent fasting and if it is something for you!


What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting (IMF) is a diet regimen that cycles between brief periods of fasting in-between normal food and drink consumption. This is to achieve the main objective of improving one’s overall health. The foundation is simple; consuming less calories than the body is burning will promote weight loss, normalize lab values and increase energy (1). This type of dieting can be implemented in many different ways. Below discusses the most popular implementation methods. IMF may work because it is thought that the body burns fat as the main energy source (2). Keep in mind that research indicates that some participants have a difficult time adhering to the fasting regiment.

Why is Intermittent Fasting trending?

IMF has been around since the B.C. era and has been used for centuries for healing and religious rituals. In recent years, it has been researched to aid in weight loss and to improve a person’s health. There are several human and animal studies that have shown that calorie reduction/restriction can lower triglycerides, LDL, blood pressure, weight, fat mass, insulin resistance, and blood glucose levels.

According to a recent study, some individuals who follow a IMF diet can lose up to 11 lbs over a 10 week period (3). Also, studies have shown that IMF can also help regulate sleep cycles and improve gut bacteria (4). Life can get busy, so many look for an easy weight loss diet like IMF that can work into everyday life. Because of this fact, it is important to discuss the variety of types of IMF diets out there. The 3 most popular types of IMF that can be adapted to everyday life are:


#1 Alternate Day Fasting

This is when individuals schedule certain days of fasting every other day. On non-fasting days, people consume regular meals and snacks. Typically a fasting day consists of 1 meal that provides ~25% of daily calorie intake each day according to a meta-analysis study that looked at a variety of intermittent fasting diet articles. Limited research indicates improvements in lipids, triglycerides, and successful weight loss. Alternate day fasting can be adapted to current lifestyles and personal schedules.


#2 Whole Day Fasting

During the week, only 1-2 days are fasting days. Most individuals typically consume one meal providing up to ~25% of daily calorie intake. Limited research has shown decreased lipids, triglycerides, and fasting insulin levels. Many people prefer following whole day fasting since it only requires 1-2 days of fasting compared to 3-4 days a week in alternate day fasting. Whole day fasting is a great option for people who work full time.


#3 Time Restricted Feedings

Time restricted feedings involve a meal plan throughout the week with a defined time frame of fasting during each day of the week. There are limited research studies on time restricted feedings and the effects that it has on body weight, body fat, total cholesterol, and triglycerides (2,5). Therefore, caution should be taken when adapting to this diet.

Option 1

Only eat between the hours of 8 am-3 pm

What are Potential Complications of IMF?

Like any dieting regiment, one should consult with their doctor to address any concerns and approve a diet plan. Since fasting is depriving the body to energy, there is potential for side effects including headache, nausea, heartburn, fatigue, muscle aches, and low blood pressure. Many people also at an increased risk of overeating, which can lead to weight gain instead of weight loss. The Do’s and Don’ts of IMF can help prevent some complications of IMF.

Did you know?

Many people can develop a fixation for food.
Development of disordered eating is common.
An unknown complication is limited research.

The Do’s and Don’ts

Overall Conclusions

It is still unclear that IMF is superior to other weight loss methods/diets (2,3). The amount of weight loss, biological changes, compliance rates, and decreased appetite varied in the most up to date but limited research on IMF. Individuals who typically do not eat for long stretches of time, tend to have better compliance. Everyone’s body is different, what works for one person might not work for another. Therefore, an IMF diet is not for everyone.

The Benefits of Healthy Eating Vs. IMF

The most up to date research has shown that healthy eating habits lead to better weight loss results overtime when compared to IMF. Most people are unable to follow an IMF diet for a long period of time. When individuals come off an IMF diet, many gain the weight they originally lost (4). In addition, some people do not experience any weight loss and health benefits on an IMF diet (4). It is up to you to decide if IMF is right for you.

Even though IMF can result in rapid weight loss in ~10 weeks, many individuals are not able to lose more weight after the initial weight loss (3). This has been shown in current research on IMF. It is important to note that current research on IMF is limited. There is a lot more research on the long-term benefits of following a well balanced diet and lifestyle. Healthy eating leads to better overall health outcomes. Current research on healthy eating shows that individuals can lose weight by incorporating more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables into their everyday diets and eliminating processed foods. It is important to choose a diet that is enjoyable and easy to adapt to everyday life.

An Alternative to IMF

While IMF can aid in quick weight loss, it can be challenging and it does not fit into everyone lifestyle. An alternative is to create a healthy realistic lifestyle that can be long-term. The weight loss may be slower, but can yield similar results over time.

There are several benefits to working with a Registered Dietitian Nutrition(RDN) to learn what the energy needs are and what foods will work best with the body. RDNs are experts in nutrition and with years of experience can help individuals achieve healthy lifestyle habits that can help achieve the lifestyle goals. Since there is a variety of research on IMF out there, it is important to talk to a healthcare professional (RDN, MD’s, etc.) before making lifestyle/diet changes.

To aid in facilitating behavior change, motivation and accountability a health coach may be a perfect pairing. Health coaches are trained in the psychology of stages of change and work with individuals to hone in on their wellness vision and how to achieve it through goal setting and accountability sessions.

If you want to learn more clean and healthy eating tips, schedule a one-on-one session with one of our Registered Dietitians– Make an appointment today! Click Here.

Resources –

  1. I Templeman, D Thompson, J Gonzalez, JP Walhin, S Reeves, PJ. Rogers, JM. Brunstrom, LG. Karagounis, K Tsintzas, & JA. Betts. Intermittent fasting, energy balance and associated health outcomes in adults: study protocol for a randomised controlled trial. BMC Trials. 19:86.
  2. Tinsley, GM. La Bounty PM. Effects of intermittent fasting on body composition and clinical health markers in humans. Nutrition Reviews. 2015 Oct; doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nuv041
  3. Seimon RV, Roekenes JA, Zibellini J, Zhu B, Gibson AA, Hills AP, Wood RE, King NA, Byrne NM, Sainsbury A. Do intermittent diets provide physiological benefits over continuous diets for weight loss? A systematic review of clinical trials. Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2015 Dec 15;418:153-72
  4. Patterson RE, Laughlin GA, Sears DD, et al. Intermittent fasting and human metabolic health. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2015;115(8):1203-1212.         doi:10.1016/j.jand.2015.02.018
  5. Harvard TH, Chan School of Public Health. Diet Review: Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss. Retrieved on June 11,2018 from