Most of us have learned of intermittent fasting in one way or another — whether it was through a book, research, or just talking to friends about their experience trying it. Intermittent fasting is defined as the process in which meal timing schedules cycle between voluntary fasting and non-fasting over a given period of time. For example, many people who choose to intermittent fast may eat between a 12 PM to 8 PM window. So, is intermittent fasting good for weight loss or your overall health?
Is Intermittent Fasting Right for You?
Intermittent Fasting Affects the Hormonal System
You should know that your diet has a tremendous impact on your hormonal systems. Intermittent fasting can be hard on your hormones, especially if you’re a woman. Dr. Alice says, “Women have menstrual cycles. Our hormones change on a monthly basis, whether its estrogen-dominant or progesterone-dominant. I have seen some patients completely reck their metabolism and cycle by doing something like intermittent fasting.”
A person with low blood sugar control due to intermittent fasting will likely experience insulin surges. Women with insulin surges will begin to convert their estrogen into testosterone — while men will convert their testosterone into estrogen when experiencing insulin surges.
Gender Plays a Factor
Men typically have an easier time intermittent fasting as there are fewer moving parts. Dr. Alice says, “When it comes to fast loss, our most challenging patients here are mostly women — and that’s because there are so many moving parts.”
The difference between men and women when examining intermittent fasting is evident when analyzing evolution. Dr. Alice says, “Speaking from an evolutionary standpoint — women typically did not go out for the hunt. Women were in more stable camps and tended to the children. Women had a much more stable food supply.” Men can still experience issues with intermittent fasting due to various factors, including logistics.
Men (or women) who work a 9-5 job might find themselves in a position where they need to squeeze in a workout at 6 AM. If that’s the case, they likely won’t find their body functions optimally when eating between 12 PM to 8 PM. They would be waiting six hours to get any energy from food — causing insulin surges and lack of energy. It’s essential for everyone to make sure their blood sugar in under control and energy levels are functioning optimally to avoid insulin surges.
Can You Eat Whatever You Want When Intermittent Fasting?
It’s a common misconception that as long as you squeeze whatever you can into an eight-hour window of eating — that you’ll maintain your ideal body composition. Stark’s Director of Operations, Amir Mofidi, says, “Sometimes when people are being sold this bag of beans, they can do ‘this’ pattern or ‘that’ pattern with a no-strings attitude. Like no plateaus, do what you want, it’s good! As long as they skip breakfast, they’ll be fine endlessly. And that’s not the case. The body is so adaptable. Even in cancer research — the cancer cells will adapt to the fuel source they’re around. That’s why we haven’t cured it yet. The body is a very adaptable machine. To a positive thing — that’s how you get stronger — because the body adapts. It’s also how you get sicker, because the body adapts. It’s a constantly moving target. Buying an ebook online for $4.99 on intermittent fasting isn’t going to solve your problems, you know?”
Most people that come into Stark asking questions regarding intermittent fasting are doing it as sort of a hack or buffering thing to negate the fact they overeat. If you are constantly overeating by 500 to 800 calories a day, or even a couple of hundred calories a day, it makes sense that lopping off breakfast will bring you back into a reasonable caloric intake. Think back the basics- if calories in are higher than calories out, you will gain weight, and if they are lower you will lose weight. If protein is high you will maintain or gain lean mass, if protein is low you will lose lean mass. If you tend eat a lot of calories in the morning but very little protein, it may be beneficial to limit eating during that time.
Here’s our point: intermittent fasting is not your golden ticket to your ideal body composition or magic number on the scale. The calories will find their way back in while the calorie expenditure will find its way back down. You’ll have more energy if you eat throughout the day and train. If you only eat during a particular window, you’ll consume fewer calories, but you’ll also burn fewer calories because you’re less active.
In the end, it’s most important to recognize that the body will get used to any diet. We should always acknowledge the power of the body’s homeostatic systems! It’s beneficial to switch our routines up so we can continue to make progress while remembering to give our bodies the time to recover and compensate when necessary. There’s no reason to view intermittent fasting as a long-term way of living.