Having done intermittent fasting for probably 5–7 years I find myself quite capable of saying why intermittent fasting is not for you. Listing pros and cons as well as giving advice on whether it is a good fit or not, for a given person. You could perhaps think that having followed it for that long I would automatically recommend it to everyone. When I stuck with it for that long I must be a total advocate for it — right!? Well yes and no. There is a very good reason why I called it “Why intermittent fasting is not for you”.
I’m not bound by religion to fasting and I haven’t signed my life away to an employer legally keeping me from spending time on eating breakfast — so yes — I can abandon it anytime I see fit — which we will get to. But that does not thereby mean that I think everyone should adopt intermittent fasting. It is absolutely not for everyone. There are very good reasons for following a IF schedule, but there are as good reasons for why intermittent fasting is not for you.
The not so magic pill
The primary reason for why you should keep away from intermittent fasting is because you probably expect it to be some magic pill that suddenly will make you young, slim, muscular and energized.
Yes that is just some of the highlights from the almost mile long list of benefits of intermittent fasting I have encountered from various sites. Of course if you are looking to make money of products relating to intermittent fasting and you don’t care that much about your integrity, then you should by no means present a balanced view on intermittent fasting by shedding light on both sides of the arguments. But as I don’t stand to gain anything from your choosing of lifestyle I have no need to present anything else than what I have experienced and believe in myself.
Some of the things advertised as effects of intermittent fasting are true. BUT if you are looking at intermittent fasting only because of those, then most likely you are looking for a quick fix for a problem you don’t really want to face. A lot of the things ascribed to intermittent fasting comes from “regular” fasting. As research in this area has been more thorough than in intermittent fasting in particular. Regular fasting where you fast for several days has been used quite a lot to help heal different types of ailments. But exactly how many of those benefits you can have by say fasting 16 hours out of each day isn’t really that well documented.
Define intermittent fasting
Perhaps it is a good idea to somewhat loosely define what constitutes intermittent fasting. The fasting part is quite easily defined — no calories. You can drink water, coffee or tea with nothing in it, that adds calories.
There are some strong proponents of what they call “bulletproof” coffee fasting where you put like 5–700 kcal worth of butter in your coffee and still call it fasting because you aren’t eating anything. Well it might be good for you and fit your goals and schedule perfectly, but fasting — it is not. Intermittent implies cycling on and off. You could imply that over a long enough timeframe all fasting is intermittent, it is not like anyone keeps fasting and not gets back to eating — or if they do they won’t be redoing that experiment..
But exactly how you implement this “intermittent” part, is up for debate. You could again argue that we already have some sort of intermittent fasting as we don’t eat from dinner till breakfast. Which as the name implies breaks the nightly fast. But implementing anything that could be considered daily intermittent fasting probably starts at around a 16 hour fasting window. That is the schedule I have been doing for the past 5 years. There are other implementations where you fast for 1 whole day each week or 2 days a week etc. All in all, many ways to do this. Do your research and determine for yourself what you might want — or just ask, I’ll be happy to answer any questions.
Hard-gainers beware — intermittent fasting is not for you
The second reason why intermittent fasting is not for you is if you are considered a “hard-gainer” and are looking to put on weight. If you have problems eating enough by having 16 hours a day to eat, then it sure as hell won’t help to only have 8 hours. That is not to say that you cannot put on weight while doing IF — I have done so several times. But I am by no means considered a hard-gainer — I have the appetite of a full pack of grown up lions, putting their teeth in a zebra after 6 weeks of licking salt from rocks in the baking sun.
I have seen way to many skinny guys wanting to do intermittent fasting because they have seen guys doing intermittent fasting that are very muscular and lean and they want to look like them. The problem here is linking correlation with causation without taking all factors into play. Yes, they may look that way because of doing intermittent fasting. But most likely they will have had a different starting point than a skinny kid. Most likely they will already have build quite a bit of muscle mass, doing just regular bulking paradigms. Again not to say it is impossible for them or anyone to put on weight with intermittent fasting, but have a honest look on yourself in the mirror and tell whether you have a hard time putting on weight or not. If you do, then intermittent fasting is not for you.
The environment you live in
The final point I will bring in this post is probably one I will cover more in detail later on, as I am not really totally settled on the answer myself to be honest. But it still deserves a mention. Namely what I will term “environment”. Not the one you try to save from global warming — as I’m pretty sure intermittent fasting has no play in that — but environment as in work, school, family etc. The environment you live in everyday.
The consequences/concerns here are somewhat split into two parts. One is explaining to the outside world.
If you do 16/8 fasting you could time it to have your feeding window when everyone else eats lunch and therefore just not mention you don’t eat breakfast. Unless of course you want to talk about it. But you will most likely end up in situations where you will have to explain why you aren’t eating breakfast. This can sometimes be hard. Food is such a big part of most cultures so if you live in one where fasting is not normal, you will probably be looked upon with awe when explaining that you do not eat for 16 hours a day. You will also end up in situations where you perhaps should consider breaking your fast and just eat. I have mentioned this before both in terms of competitions and in “family-situations” where for instance your grand mother has spend a lot of time on preparing a nice breakfast for you. Then just break your fast and eat. Don’t be a over-religious prick. But if you have a hard time standing up for yourself or explaining yourself to the outside world then intermittent fasting is not for you.
The other concern is also to do with family. If you live with a girlfriend/boyfriend then he or she should be understanding. Of course you could — and should — take some days off to serve breakfast in bed etc. But — it gets more complicated if you have kids. Because on the one hand you could just keep up your lifestyle and don’t eat breakfast. But my concern would be how this would impact the kids general view on food and eating. It could be positive but it could might as well be negative. You are exposing them to issues around food and eating that are different from what they see/experience around them with friends and family. How that will impact them is hard to tell.
As said earlier I don’t have all the answers and won’t go into further detail. But just to say that there are some things you should consider before deciding upon intermittent fasting as the answer to your dieting questions.
All in all it is a great protocol for the right types of people. Otherwise I wouldn’t have kept it for all these years. It keeps me lean, sane and performing as I want to — so no complaints here. But once I find myself in a family setting with kids, I might take it up for consideration. At that point I may write an article that is not called “Why intermittent fasting is not for you” but instead “Why intermittent fasting is no longer for me”. We will see.
But hopefully I have made you a little more aware of the pros and cons of intermittent fasting and perhaps even convinced you that intermittent fasting is not for you. And all that without even going into detail with the hardships of going without food, for extended periods of time . But that is well documented elsewhere.
As always — feel free to ask if you have any questions that you think I may be able to answer.