Here's What You Should Know Before You Try Intermittent Fasting

Updated 01/17/18
Lucy Williams

None of us are strangers to dietary trends, especially in January. Even if we haven't switched around our habits to accompany these eating shifts—from counting points to mirroring the meals of cavemen to going full vegan—we at least know about them. And if you're considering trying one for yourself, you wouldn't be alone.

The Washington Post reports that 45 million Americans go on a diet each year, most specifically as a New Year's resolution. Whether you've already committed to weight loss or you're still considering your options, let's chat about the buzz of a relatively new eating routine that's making the rounds: intermittent fasting.

Obviously, none of us are strangers to the word "fasting," but intermittent fasting is different. This is when you eat 500 calories one to two days per week while opting to go without food for 12 to 18 hours per day in the interim, according to Prevention. In other words, intermittent fasting makes eating into a strategy, allowing for food to be consumed within a small window so that the overall calorie intake for a given period is small.

Because there are no hard-and-fast rules for when and what to eat, participants can figure out a schedule that works best for them. For instance, some put restrictions on eating in the mornings and at night, getting most of their calories in the middle of the day. And when it comes to stretches of no eating at all, they charge their bodies with coffee and juice.

It may sound extreme, but followers of intermittent fasting say that it has its benefits. Mark Mattson, a senior investigator for the National Institute on Aging, told the Canadian Medical Association Journal that this type of eating routine can protect memory and learning functions in the brain, improve disease biomarkers for conditions like diabetes, and, of course, contribute to a smaller frame. But, it should be noted that these studies were done on animals, not humans.

On the other hand, intermittent fasting can lead to binge eating, or consuming foods that aren't healthy in that allotted time frame. It could also push you in the opposite direction, where you get used to not eating at all. So if you get a recommendation for intermittent fasting because it's said to boost focus and shed pounds, be critical. It's always a good idea to do your homework before you embark on a new diet trend.

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