Your best friend won’t stop talking about it, your fave fitfluencer swears by it, and even Jennifer Aniston lives by it. “It” is intermittent fasting (IF)—the latest diet to make its rounds in the limelight. And with purported benefits like impressive weight loss, boosted energy, improved metabolism, better gut health, and decreased inflammation, it doesn’t seem to be leaving the wellness spotlight any time soon.
But before you try IF out for yourself, it’s important you know more than just how the intermittent eating plan can affect your body but also your mind. Here, experts discuss the possible psychological effects of IF.
What is intermittent fasting, again?
“Intermittent fasting cycles between periods of complete fasting, modified fasting (often very low in calories), and ‘feasting’ (days with no food restriction),” says Yasi Ansari, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Intermittent fasting is also defined as periods of calorie restriction between periods of normal calorie intake.”
Unlike, say, keto and other popular diets, IF is best described as an eating pattern or schedule that dictates when you eat rather than what you eat. Intermittent fasting also comes in a variety of different forms that you can modify based on your schedule and needs. Here’s a breakdown of the most common types of intermittent fasting:
Alternate day fasting: Alternating between days of eating and days of fasting, during which you do not consume any food or beverages except for calorie-free drinks, such as water, coffee, and tea sans-milk.
Time-restricted daily fasting: Limiting intake to waking hours, normally without any restrictions. Fasting for 8-12 hours per day, most of which takes place during the time you’re sleeping.
- 16:8 method: One of the more popular intermittent fasting diets, this involves eating whatever you want for eight hours, then fasting for 16.
Modified weekly fasting: There are many different combinations of ways that you can choose to fast, such as…
- 5:2 method: This method involves eating normally for five days of the week and then fasting for the other two days, during which you cut back your caloric intake to 500-600 calories a day.
- 6:1 method: Similar to the 5:2 approach, but you cut back your calories or fast for only one day a week.
- 24-hour fast: This protocol requires fasting (except for sipping on calorie-free drinks) for two non-consecutive 24-hour windows twice a week.
No matter which method you choose, IF can, and likely will, impact more than just your grocery list. (Odds are all those hours sans-food will lead to fewer goodies during your next Trader Joe’s run.) While you might anticipate some physical results of intermittent fasting, you should know that IF may also have an impact on your mind.