Updated: Aug 16, 2020
Intermittent fasting, or IF, is the idea to eat within a specific window of time. It is also referred to as time restricted feeding, which is exactly what it is. One would eat during a 6-12 hour window during the day and eat nothing or very little during the remaining 12-18 hours of the day.
What is the point of al of this? How can athletes benefit from dieting in this way? Here are five facts to consider if you are interested in Intermittent fasting:
1. There are a wide variety of fasting patterns that you can experiment with to find the right one for you. Fasting for 10, 12, 18 hours each day or even fasting on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. If one pattern isn't a good fit for you, you can always adjust and try a different fasting schedule.
2. There have been many studies examining the weight loss possibilities of fasting, and some have found that IF does indeed produce weight loss, while other studies showed that it did not. In my professional opinion, I believe what we can take away from this is that it is not worth self experimenting with to see if it can aid in your own weight goals. We do not have the data to support it.
3. I did find a study that claimed IF "has the potential to delay aging and help prevent and treat diseases while minimizing the side effects caused by chronic dietary interventions." Sounds too good to be true, so I'd love to see further research on this. The trick is that IF and calorie restriction would need to be followed for a lifetime to decrease aging.
4. My concern is staying hydrated, especially during fasting hours. I would also encourage anyone trying IF for the first time to have small snack ready for longer fasting periods. Cucumber slices or carrot sticks are fine to eat during a longer fast if you feel faint or if a headache is coming on.
5. Something to note - IF is not a recommended long term and sustainable diet practice to follow. If this is something that you treat like a crash diet (follow it for a month to loose five pounds) and then return to your normal eating habits, the weight loss will be gained back.
Personally I would like to see more research before I recommend IF for any of my athletes. However if it is done in a healthy way and necessary calories and food groups are still being consumed, IF seems safe to try.