The weight loss industry is worth $58 billion. The industry continues to push out new diets every year. Currently, people are jumping on another fad diet: intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting is a scheduled eating plan. Dieters alternate between intervals of severe calorie reduction and periods of normal eating. Advocates of the diet claim people can lose weight quicker, reduce inflammation, and limit other heart disease risk factors.
Critics claim the dietary fad is dangerous. Many health professionals worry about the physiological and psychological effects of prolonged intermittent fasting programs, and some suggest there are short-term risks.
Who is right about the diet, and is there only one correct answer? Some people seem to do well in the program, and others seem to fail quickly. While commitment to an intermittent fasting program is challenging, is it worth it?
The Risks of Intermittent Fasting
The reality is researchers still don't have a lot of information about the pros of intermittent fasting. On the positive side, medical professionals are all too familiar with the risks of fasting, especially when it becomes a habit.
Fasting can cause sleep disruptions. Several studies show that fasting reduces REM sleep, meaning you wake feeling less rested. REM sleep is also responsible for memory, learning capacity, and mood improvements.
Poor sleep can affect concentration and leave you feeling more irritable. Also, insufficient sleep can cause problems with blood sugar. It can also lead to obesity and toxin buildup in your brain.
Loss of Awareness
Fasting can cause your body to enter starvation mode, depending on the duration of the fast. The diet can reduce energy levels to conserve calories if you stick to intermittent fasting. Depending on how deprived your body is, you may feel adverse symptoms, such as:
- Lack of focus
If you are experimenting with fasting and feel or experience any of the above symptoms, you should eat something. The above symptoms are your body's way of telling you it needs food.
Loss of Muscle
When listening to advertising for intermittent fasting and similar dietary fads or products, you will often hear claims about how fasting can break down fat reserves. Sure, everyone wants to lose those few extra pounds, but the advertisements don't tell you that fat is not the only thing your body breaks down.
The human burns a combination of fats and carbohydrates. However, fat stores and carbohydrates only last about six hours before your body looks for alternatives. If you fast too often or too long, your body begins converting lean tissue into carbohydrates. Lean tissue is muscle.
While you will lose weight and look leaner, burning muscle and fat, you will also look frailer. This is because losing too much lean tissue is not healthy.
Increase in Stress
Fasting for too long and too often increases the body's cortisol production. Medical professionals refer to cortisol as the stress hormone.
When cortisol builds up in the system, it can negate any good intermittent fasting might be doing. For example, high cortisol levels can increase fat storage. As a result, many people might experience some weight loss in the first few months of fasting, but it will not last. Also, the body will begin storing as many calories as possible to prevent starvation and prepare for other moments of fasting.
The additional cortisol can wreak havoc on your system. You will probably feel tired, angry, depressed, anti-social, etc.
Intermittent fasting isn't a good choice for weight loss. While some people may find temporary success with it, the success is often short-lived. It is better to talk to your doctor about healthier options.