A popular trend as of late is how so many people are jumping on intermittent fasting diets to lose weight quickly. And although some of these work exceptionally well, the side effects and problems that come are just not worth it for me.
For one thing, most studies were done on lab animals and small organisms. And studies on humans were over a very short amount of time. So far, there is no valid data I can find to show what the long-term affects are in humans.
Well, aside from hearsay from intermittent fasting supporters.
I’m not saying that fasting diets do not work. Many people have had a degree of success losing weight quickly. But for me, the drawbacks are just not worth the risk.
How Fasting Diets Work
Essentially, fasting diets work by making your body use stored fat for energy. This is done by denying yourself food. It’s a trait most mammals share as it keeps us alive when the food is scarce.
Think of fat as a form of reserve fuel tank for the body. When the tank is empty, ie. your stomach and intestines, then your body will use its reserves to maintain functionality.
This means fasting diets have incredible potential for burning fat relatively quick. It also means there is incredible potential for health hazards…which I’ll go into in a bit.
Why Fasting Diets Are Popular
While fasting diets are often controversial, there’s no denying short-term results. Many people have dropped off weight incredibly quick thanks to starving themselves.
We live in an instant-gratification world. Everyone wants results now. And this often inspires people to make some poor decisions, especially when it comes to health.
Don’t get me wrong, a lot of people have experienced great results while using intermittent fasting. But without scientific data over the long-term, I cannot support something that has potential for physical damage. 2
Let me explain.
Side Effects of Fasting Diets
The most common of intermitten fasting benefits include fast fat loss. However, it’s not without its own pitfalls and problems. In fact, several of the following side effects are reason enough for me to avoid fasting diets like the plague.
However, each person is different. If you’re capable of doing this in a safe manner, then that’s what works for you. I can already tell, however, that this isn’t going to be something I’ll dive into at any point.
I Like Food
First and foremost, I like food. I like the tastes and sensations that follow a well-prepared chicken or a nice vegetable salad. I also like chocolate, peanut butter and cake.
The reasons I can have these things and still lose weight is because I limit what I eat. I monitor portion sizes and make sure I balance my day with healthy options.
Fasting means I deny myself some of those things even for a short period of time. And if there is one thing that does not work for me is telling me I can’t have or do something.
Creating Eating Disorders
Humans have a long list of different kinds of eating disorders. And some point out to how strict intermittent fasting can lead to things like full-blown bulimia and other eating disorders. 3
Some of these are prompted as you’re training yourself to feel guilty when eating. And some of these issues can include elements such as self-loathing and depression.
Without proper nutrition during a fasting period, these mental conditions are easily amplified. This is because of how nutrients affect how the brain processes information and emotions. 4
In reality, some people have been known to develop unhealthy obsessions regarding food while fasting. It becomes all they think about, which often leads to binge eating some terrible things when it comes time to fill the stomach.
Breaking Down Muscle Mass
When you starve yourself of nutrients, you run the risk of going into a catabolic state. This means the body will begin to break down more than just fat. It can also start breaking down muscle mass. 5
For one thing, fat stores do not provide all the vitamins, proteins and minerals the body needs to maintain itself. Sure it’ll convert fat to energy easy enough. But this also means you’ll essentially start cannibalizing yourself.
For example, humans cannot store B-complex vitamins in such a manner. Now a lot of these nutrients are available in various drinks and supplements while on a fasting diet. However, the risk is pretty great that you’ll lose more than just fat mass.
Increasing Acidic Buildup
Fasting diets have potential to increase uric acid output. This means you’ll have more trouble with things like gout over the long-term. In fact, a 1925 study also demonstrates how fasting affects the retention rate of uric acid. 6 7
Sometimes, uric acid can be addressed by consuming more water. However, this isn’t necessarily a preventative measure. Depending on your physiology, gout can strike rather quickly regardless.
This says nothing about the buildup of stomach acids when you’re not eating. If this isn’t addressed, acid reflux could be a significant problem.
Blood Sugar Complication
For instance, I have to stop and take a break to eat a fruit bar or drink some juice when working out at the gym. This is because my glucose levels will plummet when working out to the point where I nearly pass out, am irritable, start shaking and feel extreme fatigue.
And that right there is probably the biggest reason why I will never use fasting diets. I want to lose weight, not my life!
Speaking of hypoglycemia, it’s common for many people to suffer headaches from not eating regularly. While there is a bit of debate as to what causes the problem, there’s no mistaking that many people are affected by this result. 10
Personally, I am confident my headaches are caused by low glucose levels. This is because I know I already suffer from hypoglycemia anyway. However, some people will have good glucose levels and still have headaches during fasting diets.
In many instances, eating just a small bit of food has potential to get rid of these types of headaches.
Lack of Prolonged Energy
A common problem many people have while on fasting diets is a lack of energy. You see, burning fat isn’t going to give you everything you need to keep going. It’s easy to feel exhausted.
Are Fasting Diets Right for You?
I’m not saying that fasting diets are completely bad. However, the complications that come with them and the fact there is no solid long-term evidence supporting success keeps me from doing these diets myself.
Frankly, I would rather work to build muscle density and eat in moderation. But each to their own.
If you want to explore fasting diets more, just make sure you’re aware of the complications that can come. There’s no doubt you can shed the fat quickly, but it can also lead to a myriad of physical conditions if not managed correctly.
The Bottom Line…
The basic key factor to losing any fat is to burn more than you consume. While fasting diets take this to the extreme, they’re not necessary to lose weight in a healthy manner.
Personally, I drop about half a pound per day just playing Xbox Kinect games and making sure I don’t overeat. It’s what works for me to live a happy and healthy lifestyle.
The best diet plan is one that works for you. But make sure it’s something you can sustain in a healthy way. Something that may prove to burn fat quickly may also cause long-term damage to your body.
- NIH – https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/calorie-restriction-and-fasting-diets-what-do-we-know
- Diet Doctor – https://www.dietdoctor.com/intermittent-fasting
- Psychology Today – https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/hunger-artist/201411/the-fast-diet-fast-route-disordered-eating
- NCBI – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2805706/
- BodyBuilding.com – https://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/catabolic_crushers.htm
- Gout and You – https://goutandyou.com/gout-and-fasting/
- JBC.org – http://www.jbc.org/content/66/2/521.full.pdf
- Mayo Clinic – https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hypoglycemia/symptoms-causes/syc-20373685
- NCBI – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1838950/
- Very Well Health – https://www.verywellhealth.com/how-fasting-can-cause-a-headache-1719448
- Dr Eric Berg DC – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yvO4GC2fA_M