Maybe you are one of the few people who has managed to maintain their weight or even shed unwanted pounds during the pandemic. If not, consider a weight-loss strategy that has picked up steam in recent years – intermittent fasting.
As explained by Sharon Smalling, a clinical dietitian specialist within Memorial Hermann Health System, there are several types of intermittent fasting: alternate day fasting; modified fasting, such eating normally for five days and severely restricting calories for two days; and time-restricted fasting, in which meals are eaten during 12 hours with a fast for the other 12 hours.
“The one with the highest adherence rate and probably the easiest to follow is time-restricted,” Smalling said. “(The 12-hour) is very popular and works well with most people’s work schedule as well as being easiest to maintain for a significant amount of time.”
Smalling added that the alternate day fasting model has the highest dropout rate in studies.
If fasting is done correctly, you might see the evidence on your scale.
“If it causes one to eat fewer calories then it will promote weight loss,” Smalling said. “But if you eat the same amount of calories just in a shorter time frame, weight loss most likely will not occur or not be as much.”
Besides weight loss, Smalling said intermittent fasting can contribute to improved markers of chronic disease, including improved blood glucose control, decreased insulin levels and weight as well as body fat loss, leading to decreased triglyceride levels.
“The time-restricted seems to be the most feasible with (12-hour plus) nightly fast and is associated with blunting growth of breast tumors, lowering body weight, decreasing insulin and A1c levels, and decreased inflammation,” Smalling said. “Prolonged night fasting impacts gut microbiota, which has its own circadian rhythm. Fasting may induce changes in the microbiota that reduce risk factors such as adiposity, insulin resistance and inflammation.”
Smalling also said diet restrictions decrease IGF-1, an insulin-like growth factor in which a deficiency is good because it protects us from disease, including decreased incidence of diabetes and cancer. It also improves insulin sensitivity.
“(Fasting) also increases cellular maintenance and protection, (leads to) increased activation of stress resistance pathways (and) removal and replacement of damaged or dysfunctional cells and decreased inflammation, thus protecting from aging and disease,” she said.
Smalling said a professional can best help you chart a path forward.
“Best to work with a dietitian to help establish the best time span to meet your needs as well as help in determining an appropriate calorie level to attain while meeting nutrient needs,” she said. “And how to spread your food intake, balancing macronutrients across the day to insure maintaining energy level for peak performance at work and during exercise.”
Several area residents have tried intermittent fasting, with positive things to say. Recommended books about the topic from readers include “Delay Don’t Deny” and “The Obesity Code.”
“(Fasting) can be as simple as eating only between 8 a.m. and 4-5 p.m.,” Heights resident Alison Schmieder said.
Added Garden Oaks’ Morgan Shields: “I fast every day until about 1 p.m. I usually have my last meal about 6 p.m. It has helped me feel more energetic and allowed me to not focus on food so much. Been at it for about a year now and though it was difficult at first, now I find it to be pretty flexible and easy to maintain.”