Intermittent Fasting or Regular Dieting which one is the best

Not many nutritional trends have had such a lasting and profound impact as… intermittent fasting.

Intermittent fasting, as the name suggest, is a nutritional strategy where you deploy intermittent periods of intentional fasting. The length of fasting and eating windows can vary. Some people prescribe to rotating windows of 24-hour fasting and 24-hour eating, aka alternate day fasting. Some prefer a 5/2 schedule, where 2 days of the week is dedicated to fasting and 5 to eating.

But perhaps the most popular of all intermittent fasting protocols is the 16/8 approach: a daily 16 hours of fasting and 8-hours allotted to eating. During fasting periods, you’re not allowed to eat or drink whatsoever with exceptions for water and MAYBE black coffee or tea. As you can see, intermittent fasting is far removed from traditional eating patterns, namely the breakfast, lunch, and dinner scheduling. But why would you want to intermittently fast?
The biggest claim by fasting proponents is that intermittent fasting is most effective for weight loss. There have been, however, even more recent claims of benefits beyond weight loss, branching into multiple aspects of health. But has intermittent fasting actually shown within research to provide these advantages, or any advantage? Or are the advocates simply peddling another weight loss fad?

Well, in short, no, it’s not exactly like other fads. There might be some use for it. That being said, it’s also nothing special. Let’s dig into the research. In terms of general health, intermittent fasting does not seem to fare any better than traditional eating. In a 2011 study, an intermittent energy restricted intervention, i.e. intermittent fasting, yielded similar results in multiple health markers compared to continuous energy restriction, aka regular eating patterns with a calorie deficit.

Both showed improvements in health markers for insulin resistance, total cholesterol, lipids, inflammation, and blood pressure, but neither had an advantage over the other. An older 2003 study reflected similar findings, particularly in the case of lipids and fasting insulin. Fasting or not, they concluded that the most important factors are eating fewer calories and getting professional health support. Not too surprising. Now on to the big fish: weight loss.
One of the most extensive research on this matter is a 2015 systematic review, where investigators examined 40 studies on fasting, continuous calorie restriction, or comparison of the two. When taking all this data into consideration, they found that fasting was no better for losing weight than continuous calorie restriction. On top of that, they found lean body mass, fat mass, and waist-to-hip measurements were also similar between fasting and continuous eating trials.

Thus, in a total body composition perspective, fasting showed zero advantage. Same can be said about strength adaptations, where another study paired resistance training with either fasting or continuous eating and found no difference in their results. Furthermore, a 2016 meta-analysis, which focused solely on studies lasting 6 months or longer, found, again, that neither intermittent fasting nor continuous eating were superior to one another in the respect of weight loss.
Disclaimer though: This 2016 analysis only had six trials. We’ll see if future research finds any differences. But now, taking the entirety of the current research into consideration, intermittent fasting is clearly not a magical weight loss tool. The common consensus within the findings is that the most important factor is your calorie intake. You wanna lose weight?

Then eat fewer calories and/or burn more. But then, why is it that intermittent fasting is not like other fads?
Well, unlike other fads, with fasting, people actually get results. And that might have to do with fasting’s unique capability of making it easier for people to actually eat fewer calories. After all, you’re given a very limited amount of time to eat. As long as you remain strict with your eating window, it’ll be pretty tough to overeat. There’s also another potential benefit. For some, myself included, hunger levels are much more manageable after adapting to intermittent fasting.

And luckily, this is not entirely based on anecdote. If we go back to the 2015 systematic review, we’ll find 10 trials that investigated measures of appetite. Out of the 10 trials, 6 showed that intermittent fasting led to either no changes or better yet, a DECREASE in appetite compared to baseline, all the while losing weight. Now, in fairness, the other 4 studies did report an increase in appetite with intermittent fasting. This still tells us that fasting MIGHT help you eat less through changing your mental approach to food.
A potentially big win for those struggling with appetite management for most of their lives. But clearly… not EVERYONE experiences this benefit, so give it a shot and see for yourself. Now before closing out, there’s one more thing to talk about… There have been recent developments in other health factors related to intermittent fasting. Notably, improved biomarkers indicating potential reductions in cancer development, protection against neurodegenerative diseases, and even increasing lifespan.

All of these biomarker improvements stem from the effects of a single mechanism… known as… autophagy. Autophagy is a cellular process where dysfunctional organelles and protein aggregates are destroyed within the cell. The material from the destruction are then reused to construct new and improved organelles or other macromolecules. This type of repairing process improves overall cellular function, which might explain the neuroprotective and anti-cancer elements. It also avoids cellular apoptosis, or cell death, which supports longevity. However, autophagy is NOT exclusive to intermittent fasting.

In fact, much of the early research on autophagy was substantiated through, funny enough, calorie restriction. That’s right, restricting calories can induce autophagy. Even high intensity endurance training has shown to increase autophagy. As well as coffee. Also keep in mind that many of the findings  from fasting were done in mice and have yet to be consistently replicated in human trials. The few trials we have seen suggest that elevated autophagy requires four to five days of fasting, which isn’t exactly something many people would want to do. But the same can be said about staying in long-term calorie deficits.
For now, waiting for more research on autophagyto unravel is probably best, and that’s before even considering best practices for optimizing it. Nonetheless, it sure is fascinating and it’ll be interesting to see how things develop. And that’s about it. Now what’s better? Intermittent fasting or traditional eating?

As far as we currently can say, both seem to do the trick just fine. Both exert similar health benefits and similar weight management. In the end, choose the diet schedule that works for you. The one you can stick to the best, the one you enjoy doing the most, and, of course, the one where you personally can achieve the best results.

Post a Comment