3 Things Missing From Intermittent Fasting Studies
There's no shortage of studies or headlines proclaiming the benefits of intermittent fasting. A quick Google search will leave you believing that's absolutely the answer to all your health woes. While there are absolutely appealing potential benefits of IF, there's still a lot we need to learn. Today we're talking about 3 things that I wish were addressed more with the studies being done on intermittent fasting (IF). (For the video version, skip to the end!)
1. Happiness levels
The most important thing to me is that you actually enjoy the process of getting the results that you want in your body and mind. One thing I want you to be aware of with the IF studies is that there are often a lot of participants who drop out. Of course, that means they aren't included in the overall results of the study. This isn't specific to IF. This is something to keep in mind with any research! When you see the headlines that IF leads to weight loss, what's not getting factored in all of the time is how sustainable or realistic this diet is.
What factors could be contributing to participants dropping out?
Are you feeling "hangry"?
During these long periods of time when people aren't eating, are they feeling really cranky or having trouble focusing? The way that you feel during these periods of restricted eating is something to really keep in mind when deciding if this is a good long term solution for you. If you're irritable while IF then it's not likely going to be something you want to keep up long term. You don't want to turn into one of those people on the Snicker's commercials.
Are you missing out on social gatherings and sources of joy?
If there are special events with family or friends that are falling within your fasting period, think about how that will impact the way you feel.
- Will you feel like you're missing out and depriving yourself not being able to participate in the joy that food can bring when celebrating with loved ones?
- Will you feel guilty if you decide to participate in the festivities because you're not strictly adhering to your "diet"?
Any time you're thinking about how you're going to be fueling your body, don't forget to factor in the level of enjoyment it will bring. You don't have to be miserable in order to get the results you want. Hint: If you are hangry or depriving yourself, you may love the way you look but you certainly aren't going to love the way you feel.
2. Energy Levels
Your energy levels are everything! While you're working to achieve your health goals your energy levels should be amazing. If you wake up exhausted or you're ready for a nap in the afternoon, how are you supposed to be motivated or excited for anything?
Here are a few things I see with IF and low energy:
Waiting until noon to start eating. Your brain weighs only 2-3 pounds but uses up 20% of your total energy. If you're spending a huge portion of your work day without giving your brain the fuel it needs, that's not really setting you up for for success. Instead, people are often "feasting" or getting the majority of their calories right before bed. Not only is that not when your body needs the most fuel, it also could contribute to poor sleep quality.
IF can lead to a decrease in overall activity throughout the day. Exercising is so amazing for your body. It helps to slow aging, burn fat, aids in weight loss, and on top of that it boosts your mood and energy. If you're doing something that's making you less likely to be moving (because you don't have the energy), that's an important thing to factor in when looking at the big picture and your overall success.
3. Food Choices
A major thing I would like to see addressed more is HOW intermittent fasting is affecting the food you are choosing to eat. One very appealing thing about IF is that you don't have to change what you're eating at all. Sometimes the eating window is even referred to as "feasting period". That's not really setting up a nourishing, truly healthy relationship with food.
I want to see studies comparing intermittent fasting to a nourishing diet composed of real, nutrient-dense food. I would be shocked if the results from IF were more impressive than the latter. The second way of eating is going to leave you so much more satisfied, energized, and HAPPY while getting you results you want that are truly sustainable.
What happens when you go to the grocery store starving? Or at the end of the workday when you haven't had time to eat, what happens? Do you take the time to prepare a really nourishing meal or do you inhale a bag of potato chips?
Intermittent fasting is a period of time when you are going to feel hungry. There's also a good chance you're thinking about food at least some of the time. Once you enter your eating window, are you turning to less nourishing options? This is a very important factor to pay attention to.
Even though intermittent fasting doesn't require a decrease in calories, I often see a decrease in these two nourishing categories:
Protein is filling and satisfying. With a shorter eating window, there's a tendency to eat fewer meals leaving less opportunity to get optimal amounts of protein to fuel your body. Along with a decrease in activity, this could be why some studies showed that a significant amount of weight loss from IF was from muscle loss. Not exactly what you want...
Same deal here. Vegetables are packed with nutrients and antioxidants that help your body to thrive. They help you to feel full and satisfied. And you know the IF claims about helping to lose weight, burn fat, protect against cancer and cognitive decline, and boost longevity? Yeah, vegetables do that, too. A smaller eating window often leads to less opportunity for optimal vegetable intake. Not to mention once you enter your eating window, veggies may not be the first thing on your mind...
If you're considering intermittent fasting, think about your ultimate goals.
While weight loss may be one goal, think about what and WHY you ultimately want that. You likely want to enjoy your life, to feel energized, healthy, happy, and satisfied. If that's the case, we need more evidence that IF is a good option to achieve all of those. Right now, there's a lot more supportive evidence that learning how to fuel your body with real food is going to give you the most bang for your buck in terms of overall happiness, health, satiety, and achieving sustainable results.
Want to start getting results? Use my free guide to uncover what's really getting in the way of sustainable weight loss success and how to finally start getting results (in an enjoyable way).