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Can intermittent fasting make you gain weight if done wrong?

/ 06:03 PM September 28, 2020
20200928 Intermittent fasting stock

People who want to lose weight are often attracted to intermittent fasting. However, care should be taken when applying this method which can result in an opposite effect, warns physician nutrition specialist Arnaud Cocaul. Image: Shutterstock/Marcin Malicki via AFP Relaxnews.

Although it has been around for some time, intermittent fasting remains one of the most popular energy restriction diets today. As the name suggests, it involves following a precise schedule with intervals of fasting and specific times in the day when you are allowed to eat. Often adopted by people aiming to lose weight, if misapplied, the method may have the opposite effect, warned Parisian physician and nutrition specialist Dr. Arnaud Cocaul.

A 16-hour stretch of not eating, preferably in the morning or evening, followed by an eight-hour period in which you can have meals and even the occasional snack: this is a typical schedule for intermittent fasting, an energy restriction diet that has been shown to offer numerous benefits including an enhanced immune system and a faster metabolism.

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Unsurprisingly, the trend for this method has attracted increasing numbers of people eager to lose weight, not least because it is reputed to encourage feelings of satiety. Care, however, must be taken to carefully follow the guidelines, pointed out Dr. Cocaul, who summarized the right habits to adopt and pitfalls to be avoided.

Is intermittent fasting suitable for everyone?

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Dr. Cocaul: Actually, no. Some people will find it easy not to eat for 16 hours, while others will quickly have attacks of the munchies, or even suffer from vertigo or nausea. In the latter case, it is important to heed your body and not overdo it or at least to limit the amount of time you spend on the diet.

People who have a more or less “normal” weight should be especially careful. Fasting can pave the way for all sorts of eating disorders. There are less radical options to try: just eating more slowly, for example, is one of these.

Fewer kilos on the scales [do] not necessarily translate into less body fat 

Dr. Cocaul: No, it does not. The distinction between losing fat and losing muscle is an important one. People whose bodies do not tolerate being deprived of food may find that they lose muscle mass before shedding fat.

It follows that when they lose weight they are first and foremost losing muscle, and this can result in very strong urges for food, which can actually result in weight gain.

Are there other risks associated with intermittent fasting?

Dr. Cocaul: Strictly speaking, they aren’t really risks because not eating for a limited period is not in itself a problem as long as you have adequate nutrition. That is where proper medical supervision comes in or at least guidance from a person who has a good understanding of the method. In short, it is important not to embark on an intermittent fasting regimen alone without an adequate knowledge of the subject. CC

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TOPICS: Diet, healthy lifestyle, intermittent fasting, weight loss
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