Lynchburg dietitian debunks intermittent fasting

I recently posted on social media inquiring about friends’ experiences with intermittent fasting. Having chalked the whole concept up to a fad used by celebrities and health gurus, I was floored by the responses I received. Not only had dozens of neighbors, former classmates and coworkers tried intermittent fasting, but many reaped major health benefits in the process. We reached out to Susan Williams, RD and fill-in dietitian at Liberty University, to learn more about the ins and outs of intermittent fasting.

Williams explains that intermittent fasting gained traction nearly seven years ago by virtue of two British journalists and has since adopted numerous methodologies centered around extended periods of fasting. “Intermittent fasting, simply put, is a diet where you eat normally some days and [eat]little to nothing the other days,” says Williams. “The 16-8 [method]involves eating only during an eight-hour window and fasting for the remaining 16 hours. The 5:2 [method]is where for two days a week you limit yourself to 500 calories if you’re female and 600 calories if you’re male, and [then eat normally]for the other five days. Lastly, Eat-Stop-Eat is a twist on intermittent fasting. You don’t eat at all for 24 hours two days per week and the other days you eat normally.”

The 16-8 intermittent fasting proved especially beneficial for Virginia-based Marine, Quinton Cookis. Cookis completed three cycles of intermittent fasting with the goal of avoiding weight gain while also upping his carb intake to maintain an intensive regimen of running and weightlifting. “With 16-8 fasting, coupled with healthy diet choices and sufficient time allocated to working out, I not only had no issue maintaining weight, but I was also losing weight seemingly without effort,” he says. “The results were visible by the end of the first week. [By then], my body adapted to the fasting cycle and was no longer hungry outside of the eight-hour eating window.”

For other athletes exploring intermittent fasting, Williams adds, “It is recommended that you exercise on eating days. There are windows of opportunity to refill the nutrient stores used up in exercise, so it is not recommended to do intense levels of exercise when there is not a meal after to refill these stores.” She also encourages novice fasters to be aware of the extreme hunger, headaches and decreased blood sugar levels that may result from fasting days.

Like most crash diets, intermittent fasting focuses on cutting calories to lose weight. Williams notes that fasting is likely more effective in the weight loss arena as it restricts caloric intake for just a few days a month rather than chronic calorie reduction. “Every body is different. [Physical results] depend on body type, genes, body weight at the start of the diet, exercise habits, etc.,” says Williams. “The recommendation for healthy weight loss is usually one pound per week.”

Regardless of your fasting goals, Williams strongly recommends seeking medical expertise before trying any variation of intermittent fasting. “If given the green light, then seek advice from a registered dietitian who can create a plan specifically tailored to your lifestyle and circumstances,” advises Williams.


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