Many people who want to lose weight think fasting can help. But will fasting work? Is it true that eating little to no food will help weight loss?
Fasting can be done in many ways and not all fasts are created equal. Some fasting methods can be completely safe, such as medical fasts that are instructed by a physician. Fasts undertaken for religious and cultural reasons may last from 24-48 hours and are not intended for weight loss. Fasting for more than a day or two is unlikely to be dangerous for most healthy adults. However, high-risk people, older adults, people with chronic diseases, pregnant women and children are strictly advised against any type of fasting.
Here are some things you should know about the risks of fasting for weight loss:
- Fasting may help you lose weight, but reducing calorie intake can lead to many health problems including muscle loss.
- Most people who lose weight through a fast will regain weight lost when they start eating again because a slower metabolism makes it easier to gain weight. Moreover, they will have to exercise harder to regain lost muscle.
- The body goes into conservation mode when you start fasting and calories are burned slowly. The initial weight loss on a fast is primarily fluid or “water weight” and not fat. That’s why when you go back to eating, weight lost usually returns.
- Fasting is associated with side effects such as dizziness, headaches, low blood sugar, muscle aches, weakness, and fatigue.
- Prolonged fasting can lead to liver and kidney problems, anemia, irregular heartbeat, and a weakened immune system. It also result in vitamin and mineral deficiencies, muscle breakdown, and diarrhea.
- The risks and dangers of fasts get more complicated and severe the longer you stay on the fast, or if you repeatedly go on fasts.
According to WebMD, nutrition experts say that fasting is a potentially dangerous strategy and not a particularly effective way to lose weight. Instead, they advise that the best way to lose weight is to adopt a healthy eating plan and make it part of your lifestyle along with regular exercise. In November 2016, Medical News Today reported on a study which recommended intermittent fasting or periodic fasting without a reduction in calorie intake as a preventative and therapeutic approach against obesity and metabolic disorders. However, consult your physician before you make any changes to your diet or begin any type of fast, including intermittent fasting.