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Nutrition & Lifestyle

Intermittent Fasting – Is it for you? (Part 3, The Decision)

Intermittent fasting is a nutrition strategy which many people have used with great success to help maintain a lean, muscular physique, whilst also improving their health and wellbeing. It does come with a challenging eating structure which some people find hard to balance with their fitness goals and working lifestyle.

When it comes to health and wellbeing, we can see there are several hypothesized drawbacks relating to hormonal disregulation and adrenal fatigue. However, that said, studies have found that in healthy, normal weight, overweight, or obese adults, there is little evidence that intermittent fasting regimens are harmful physically or mentally (i.e., in terms of mood) (1). Therefore, once you have adapted to the change in feeding window and satiety, it should not affect your focus and motivation.

When it comes to chronic disease, findings show that in the case of diabetes it has favourable adaptations for men (however not for women). It has both a positive effect on reducing tumour growth in cancer patients, and reduces the negative effects induced by chemotherapy (2).

Finally, studies have found participants have successfully seen reductions in bodyfat levels without any significant changes in fat free mass, a huge positive. Although strength levels have also shown positive signs of improvement, it could be theorized that due to long term reductions in anabolic hormones, this would not be optimal for continuous progression. This is due to evidence showing that total testosterone and IGF-1 take a huge hit over time when intermittently fasting (3). To stress its importance, testosterone is in fact considered the major promoter of muscle growth and subsequent increase in muscle strength in response to resistance training in men (4).

I would conclude that from a health standpoint intermittent fasting shows strong benefits which exceed any potential drawbacks from the change in feeding times. Therefore to reduce/combat chronic disease it would be a great tool to improve the lifespan of the overall population.

From a fitness perspective those who are looking to improve body composition (lose fat, while maintaining muscle) it is also a beneficial strategy. However, I would add that anyone looking to make progress in terms of increasing muscle mass, especially those with already high levels of fat free mass (specifically muscle), this would not be a good option due to its effect on paramount anabolic hormones.

 

References

1. Patterson, R., Laughlin, G., LaCroix, A., Hartman, S., Natarajan, L., Senger, C., Martínez, M., Villaseñor, A., Sears, D., Marinac, C. and Gallo, L. (2015). Intermittent Fasting and Human Metabolic Health. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 115(8), pp.1203-1212.

2. Sun, L., Li, Y., Yang, X., Gao, L. and Yi, C. (2017). Effect of fasting therapy in chemotherapy-protection and tumor-suppression: a systematic review. Translational Cancer Research, 6(2), pp.354-365.

3. Moro, T., Tinsley, G., Bianco, A., Marcolin, G., Pacelli, Q., Battaglia, G., Palma, A., Gentil, P., Neri, M. and Paoli, A. (2016). Effects of eight weeks of time-restricted feeding (16/8) on basal metabolism, maximal strength, body composition, inflammation, and cardiovascular risk factors in resistance-trained males. Journal of Translational Medicine, 14(1).

4. Vingren, J., Kraemer, W., Ratamess, N., Anderson, J., Volek, J. and Maresh, C. (2010). Testosterone Physiology in Resistance Exercise and Training. Sports Medicine, 40(12), pp.1037-1053.

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