How’s this for a good Cosmo headline: “I STARVED MYSELF FOR 14 HOURS STRAIGHT BECAUSE THE INTERNET TOLD ME TO DO SO”? As a national newspaper journalist often tasked with considerations of responsible publishing, I know for a fact that the above wouldn’t get past most editors. So how, may I ask, is this: “SIX PACK ABS VIA INTERMITTENT FASTING”, viewed as an acceptable headline? I might be missing something – but there doesn’t seem to be much difference in content between the title this particularly insightful article, courtesy of www.amanifestedlife.com, and my invented Cosmo headline.
I am so sick of personal trainer types informing me that depriving myself of basic necessities is the key to optimum ‘health’. Despite what you might think, Mr ‘I take steroids coz I secretly hate myself’, that “clear head” you achieve through blatant starvation isn’t a sign of increased brain function or a cleansed aura; you’re just really fucking hungry. As always, we don’t expect you to just take our word for it with regards to brandishing diets a load of shit. I mean, you should, but wtv. Here’s a couple of dietitians on the intermittent fasting phenomenon to address any doubts you had in our bullshit detecting ability…
Rachel Clare, Dietitian and Intuitive Eating specialist says: “As with all, weight management strategies – intermittent fasting too lacks evidence of being a long term, sustainable and danger free weight loss method. Studies have shown small amounts of weight loss, however, results are non-significant when compared to other non-fasting but calorie restrictive methods.
“In addition to the promises of weight loss, advocators also claim benefits to cardiovascular health and a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes by following a fasting regime. When one looks at the evidence, however, those quoted are often rat studies, small sample sizes or inconclusive findings. In contrast, a report from PEN (Practice-based Evidence in Nutrition) in 2013 concluded that intermittent fasting could cause insulin resistance and a decrease in liver detoxifying enzyme functions as well as loss of muscle mass and important nutrients.
“Furthermore, fasting strategies could lead to disordered eating behaviours as we know that restriction often leads to binge eating. Particularly on the 5:2 fasting diet, it could be argued that the risk of binge behaviours is increased on the non-fasting days given what we know of the restriction/binge cycle.”
In other words, there actually a fat lot of nothing when it comes to evidence to support the health benefits of intermittent fasting (unless you’re a rat, that is). Interestingly, the only reliable evidence in the field seems to suggest that fasting could present serious complications for liver functioning and may even increase the risk of developing Diabetes.
To ensure that zero speckles of bullshit slip through the net, I approached dietitian number two, Helen West of The Rooted Project (below, right), for a second opinion. “Intermittent fasting is a hugely popular dietary strategy,” she says, “this is probably because at its core it’s very simple to follow, as it only dictates ‘when’ and not ‘what’ you should eat – more like an eating pattern than a diet which prescribes foods. It also promises health benefits aside to weight loss, such as helping you live a longer and healthier life, which sounds very appealing!
“However, at the moment we really don’t know much about the long term health effects of intermittent fasting, so it’s really difficult to say if it’s a good thing or not. Similarly to other diets, weight loss happens in the short term due to calorie restriction, not because of fasting per se. Given that most diets are ineffective over the long term, it’s long term success as a weight loss strategy is also unclear. Additionally, while it may be safe for some people to fast, there’s evidence it could be harmful for others, particularly people with underlying health conditions, women or those who have experienced an eating disorder.”
What’s more, fitness expert Cedric Bryant, PhD, recently wrote for USnews.com expressing his concerns for the negative effect that intermittent fasting may be having on the body’s ability to reap the benefits of exercise.
“Under normal circumstances,” he writes, “the body uses stored carbohydrates to fuel exercise. When those stores are depleted, the body searches for other energy sources and will turn to both fat and protein stores. Many proponents of intermittent fasting cite the fact that the body burns more fat during exercise than during a fast, but they fail to mention that the body will be burning – and losing – more muscle as well.”
Dr Bryant also notes that working off the protein will affect muscular strength and slow your metabolism – which makes long term weight loss even more difficult. After all, it’s an accepted scientific fact that building muscle via exercise is essential for sustained weight loss/all over good health, and that’s near impossible if you’re running on empty half the time.
The moral of the story? Don’t be a dick. Eat breakfast, lunch and dinner whenever you get hungry and STOP THINKING ABOUT IT.