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Intermittent Fasting: What is it and what are its benefits

Each day more nutritional strategies appear with the goal of providing easier weight loss, treatment of chronic degenerative diseases, or increase in sports performance through the control of food intake. One of the most recent and popular is intermittent fasting, consisting of a total or partial restriction of energy intake on weekdays or periods of the day. This method has been used for hundreds of years, mostly due to religious beliefs such as Ramadan, and was not created for the purpose of weight loss.

Intermittent fasting is always done in the same way?

As described above, there are several protocols that can vary from fasting for periods of the day or complete days throughout the week, there are protocols that recommend 8 to 24 hours of fasting, depending on the individual capacity of those who perform them, without significant differences in the results, as the total energy value of the food eaten daily will define it.

Most common intermittent fasting protocol types

Fasting / eat periodTime of fastingEating period
12-16/ 6-812-16 hours6-8 hours
5-22 days (48h)5 days
Eat-Stop-Eat/24 hours6 days

The fasting protocol that allows 6 to 8 hours of eating period is the one that is most suitable for beginners, as it usually allows lunch/snack/dinner meals to take place, and that the longest fasting period is at night, facilitating appetite control.

What will be the possible improvements in my health when fasting?

Studies are showing its beneficial association with improvements in the intestinal flora, circadian cycle, glucose metabolism, cardiovascular health, and maintenance of muscle mass. However, it is important to note that these studies were carried out for short periods, and it is not safe to consider its effect already long-term. More studies are still needed to know for sure what the possible benefits of this nutritional strategy are.

Is intermittent fasting the best weight loss method?

Intermittent fasting has been discussed a lot because it is believed to provide greater weight loss. However, it is important to emphasize that the only method that guarantees weight loss is an energy deficit. Intermittent fasting can only be useful for weight loss if it ensures less food intake throughout the day.

Weight loss comes a lot from behavioural changes (diet, physical activity). The method we use to achieve the energy deficit necessary for this goal can vary according to the individual’s lifestyle, being practically equal to the level of results ingest the necessary calories daily at an interval of 3, 8, 16, 18, 24h.

This strategy may be great for individuals who are already used to spending long periods of the day without an appetite. However, it is not recommended for all individuals, such as pregnant or diabetics.

Any individual can and should adjust their diet to their lifestyle and goal along with the help of a nutritionist. Intermittent fasting can be a viable strategy alongside all other existing ones. Food consistency and training should always be the key to achieving a healthier lifestyle, whatever method you use.

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The information included in this article concerns the authors opinion only.

About Silvia Coelho

Silvia Coelho
Licenciada em Dietética e Nutrição com especialização em Nutrição Desportiva, exerce a sua atividade laboral essencialmente em ginásios e centros de treino personalizado. Tem larga experiência no acompanhamento de atletas de elite e recreativos de todas as faixas etárias. Nome profissional e o n° da cédula: Sílvia Costa Coelho 3756N

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