Reviewed by Dr Jessica Gunawan and Physician Anita Pee
5 Popular Intermittent Fasting Diet Myths, Debunked!
Published | 6 min read
Intermittent fasting is a controversial topic. This article focuses on the facts and helps you decide whether IF diet is the right choice for you.
Intermittent fasting diet, or IF, provides several health benefits. This popular weight-loss option involves partial or complete abstinence from food for a set duration of time. The goal? To fast—or go without eating— sans depriving the body of essential nutrients. IF diet plans include alternate day fasting, modified fasting, time-restricted fasting, and religious fasting.
An alternate-day IF diet plan involves switching between fasting days and days where you can eat as you’d like. A modified fasting diet like the 5:2 plan involves abstaining from food for 2 non-consecutive days and eating for 5 days. In time-restricted fasting, you focus on consuming foods during a specific time window daily. Meanwhile, religious fasting involves abstinence from food for religious purposes.
Let’s debunk 5 of the most popular IF diet myths.
IF Diet Myth #1: Intermittent Fasting Will Make You Gain Weight
Many people believe that eating as much as possible during a fixed window can lead to weight gain. However, clinical trials on IF diets reveal that IF actually promotes weight loss in overweight and obese people. “It seems that short-term intermittent fasting does, in fact, boost your metabolic rate. Some people think that, during the eating window, the 8 hours of eating, that maybe you can eat anything you like, even let’s say unhealthy foods. But, if you want to use it as a weight-loss mechanism, you should stick to a healthier diet,” explains Anita Pee, a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) physician for Eu Yan Sang.
A separate study that compared the efficacy of daily calorie restriction and intermittent calorie restriction showed that both diets were effective in decreasing body weight and fat mass. The results suggest that IF diet plans can be an option to treat obesity.
IF Diet Myth #2: Women Shouldn’t Do IF
Another myth associated with IF diet plans is that it can lead to negative implications in women. This attributes to the common belief that a woman needs to consume calories consistently throughout the day to ensure the healthy functioning of her body.
However, studies on obese, post-menopausal women have shown that an IF diet is as effective as a continuous diet in inducing healthy weight loss, regulating blood sugar levels, and reducing cholesterol levels.
To reduce the severity of post-menopause symptoms whilst practicing IF, you can choose to supplement your diet. A herbal formulation, like Menoease Pills, can regulate the endocrine — a collection of glands that regulate several essential hormones in the body — and immune system.
IF Diet Myth #3: IF Can Increase Your Stress Levels
Many also believe following an IF diet plan can increase your stress levels. Yet, a study on the effects of alternate-day fasting on overweight adults shows the diet caused a significant reduction in oxidative stress levels and inflammation.
In addition, a different study on the effects of modified IF shows similar results. This indicates that IF diet plans could potentially help treat asthma and other health disorders that develop due to oxidative stress.
You may also choose to supplement your diet with a herbal concoction that uses Brazilian green propolis. Made by honey bees, propolis is an antioxidant that mitigates cell damage caused by free radicals in the body. It also has anti-inflammatory, anti-allergy, and antiviral properties, and can enable cell regeneration.
IF Diet Myth #4: IF Slows Your Metabolism Down
While some may believe that gorging on different foods during an eating window will impair one’s metabolism, clinical investigations into this theory prove that it isn’t true.
One study on the effects of partial and complete intermittent fasting diet on participants’ health finds that it could positively alter a person’s metabolism and regulate glucose levels during or after a meal. Similarly, another study on the effects of a modified IF regimen has demonstrated the ability to improve metabolic health.
IF Diet Myth #5: IF Causes Muscle Loss
Interestingly, there are claims that IF diets cause muscle degradation and loss. Several studies show that IF is linked to the retention of the lean mass; not the other way around. This is because of the hormonal and metabolic adaptations that reduce the breakdown of muscle protein.
Alternatively, combining IF with resistance training may help preserve lean body mass and promote fat reduction. To ensure healthy growth and maintenance of muscle mass, you can supplement your diet with whey protein.
TCM’s Take on Intermittent Fasting Diet
TCM focuses on balance instead of calorie intake. The general rule of thumb is to create a meal plan with all five colors — black, white, red, green, and yellow. This also directly links to the natures of food — cool, warm, hot, cold, and neutral. Lastly, consider the different flavors of your menu, categorized as sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and pungent. Balancing all the colors, natures, and flavors on your plate can nourish your organs simultaneously.
However, it’s relatively common that your everyday diet is excessive in certain areas but lacking in others. If that’s the case, you can add certain herbs to your diet to treat imbalances in the body. “For example, if your diet is generally cooling, perhaps you can use warm-natured herbs. This is to create a balance and ensure neutrality. But if you take too many cooling herbs, you might get digestive issues like cold hands and feet, diarrhea, or gastric acid. And if you go for a lot of spices, you might get symptoms like a sore throat, fever, or constipation. You cannot go overboard with these herbs because everything must be in balance,” Physician Anita says.
One important thing to note is that you should know your medical history before taking any Chinese herbs. People who have chronic diseases, liver or kidney disorders, or are on blood thinners should ask for recommendations from a TCM physician. Physician Anita adds an example, “If you’re taking herbs like ginseng or Codonopsis root (Dang Shen), avoid taking it with white radish as this may cancel out the tonic effects of the herbs. Medications and supplements are generally okay but take them two hours apart. If you’re taking blood thinners, it’s best to not use certain herbs like Salvia root (Dan Shen).”
There are multiple reasons why you should consider an IF diet to improve your well-being. This guide can help to separate the myth from the facts. This can also ensure you are equipped with the correct information before coming to a decision. Please don’t hesitate to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any diet program.
- US National Library of Medicine. 2015. Intermittent fasting and human metabolic health. [Accessed 18 October 2021]
- US National Library of Medicine. 2020. Intermittent fasting and weight loss. [Accessed 18 October 2021]
- National Library of Medicine. 2011. Intermittent versus daily calorie restriction: which diet regimen is more effective for weight loss? [Accessed 18 October 2021]
- National Library of Medicine. 2012. Short- and long-term effects of continuous versus intermittent restrictive diet approaches on body composition and the metabolic profile in overweight and obese postmenopausal women: a pilot study. [Accessed 18 October 2021]
- National Library of Medicine. 2012. Alternate day calorie restriction improves clinical findings and reduces markers of oxidative stress and inflammation in overweight adults with moderate asthma. [Accessed 18 October 2021]
- US National Library of Medicine. 2015. Practicality of Intermittent Fasting in Humans and its Effect on Oxidative Stress and Genes Related to Aging and Metabolism. [Accessed 18 October 2021]
- National Library of Medicine. 2016. Investigation into the acute effects of total and partial energy restriction on postprandial metabolism among overweight/obese participants. [Accessed 18 October 2021]
- US National Library of Medicine. 2020. The Effects of Intermittent Fasting Combined with Resistance Training on Lean Body Mass: A Systematic Review of Human Studies. [Accessed 18 October 2021]
- US National Library of Medicine. 2018. Intermittent Fasting: The Choice for a Healthier Lifestyle. [Accessed 18 October 2021]
- US National Library of Medicine. 2016. Role of therapeutic fasting in women’s health: An overview. [Accessed 18 October 2021]
- Frontiers in Nutrition. 2021. Impact of Intermittent Fasting on Lipid Profile–A Quasi-Randomized Clinical Trial. [Accessed 18 October 2021]
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