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Making sense of fasting and carbohydrate-restricted diets

All Areas > Health & Beauty > Looking Good, Feeling Great

Author: Will Mbanga, Posted: Monday, 24th April 2023, 09:00

Having touched on fasting previously, I thought it would be a good idea to discuss in more depth the differences between fasting versus carbohydrate (carb) restricted diets in weight management.

Both carb restriction and intermittent fasting (IF) tend to lower overall calorie intake, increase fat adaptation, lower insulin and blood sugar levels, and help people to lose weight and get healthier.

But is one better than the other? In my opinion, we should be asking which option is more suited to each person, accounting for human variability and individual difference. The answer is that frustrating phrase, “it depends”.

We all have different metabolic needs

We all share a common genetic blueprint; however we have different metabolic needs, personal goals, food allergies, and personal preferences. Even for one person, those needs, goals and preferences can change over their lifetime, or even in a week, with things like meat-free Monday, for example.

When it comes to losing body fat, outside of exercise and reduced caloric intake, the number one reason people choose fasting or carb restriction is that they work! There are, of course, other health benefits – improved brain and physiological functioning, longevity, etc. – but we tend to focus on the external.

Going by the research, carb-restricted diets (where you can eat what you like while maintaining a low carb intake) have been proven to aid in more effective fat loss than any other diets. Interestingly, study subjects spontaneously reduced calorie intake, which, allied with the lower carb intake and exercise, reduced body fat more rapidly.

What I really like about intermittent fasting is that adherence to fasting tends to be easier for people with strong discipline/motivation and for them, this can be sustainable as a healthy lifestyle choice.

The time when fasting occurs is important – skipping breakfast, for example, may not have the same effect as skipping dinner for some individuals. IF can also be tailored by including a caloric restriction, dependent on the unique needs of the individual. Studies also suggest that even alternate day IF was as effective in weight loss as calorie-restricted diets.

Of course, both methods are pathways to overall calorie restriction. Fasting removes the possibility of eating at certain times, while carb restriction removes the least satiating macronutrient (carbs) whilst increasing the most satiating ones (protein and fats).

Sustainability is key

With any weight loss-focused diet, the key is sustainability. Both these methods increase fat burning and support lean muscle mass, provided you eat adequate amounts of protein and continue to engage in some type of resistance training. If fasting makes you ravenous and creates a binge and self-hatred cycle, then it’s probably not going to help you lose weight or feel positive about yourself.

As much as I am a fan of IF, I’ve found that for most people, a basic carb restriction diet is the best-tolerated and most sustainable way of supplementing your exercise regime with a diet. Happy trials!

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