Intermittent fasting: A yay or nay for healthcare professionals?
Tuesday, January 07, 2020
Intermittent fasting (IF) is trending in the health and fitness industry. As a style of eating, it involves cycling between periods of eating and fasting. But should healthcare professionals use it as a way to manage their weight? For shift workers, it may have some appeal.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
At its most basic level, IF involves periods of eating and fasting. However, there are several ways to schedule periods of eating and fasting. For example, you can choose between the Eat:Stop:Eat Method, The 5:2 Method, and the 16/8 Method.
The Eat:Stop:Eat Method involves 24-hour fasts once or twice a week. Using this method, you stop eating after dinner and fast until dinner the next day.
The 5:2 Method involves eating approximately 500 calories a day twice a week and eating normally on the other five days.
The 16/8 Method restricts when you eat to an eight-hour time period. Many people choose to start their fast after breakfast and fast for 16 hours. Sometimes, this style of IF is referred to as the Leangains Protocol.
What Does the Research Say about Intermittent Fasting?
A lot of the research on IF involves short-term animal studies. We don’t know much about how IF affects humans in the short- or long-term. Therefore, results from intermittent fasting studies should be considered carefully.
Most people try IF for the weight loss benefits.
- Fewer meals means a lower total caloric intake, assuming you don’t binge during eating periods.
- Hormonal changes produced by IF can increase metabolic rate.
- IF has resulted in less muscle loss compared to other weight loss methods.
- IF has been an effective weight loss strategy for overweight and obese individuals.
- IF may help lower the risk of Type 2 diabetes in overweight and obese people.
Many of the hormonal and cellular changes that occur with IF encourage weight loss.
- Fasting produces an increase in human growth hormone, facilitating muscle gain, and fat loss.
- Fasting may have a favorable effect on brain aging and longevity.
- Fasting initiates cellular repair processes.
- Fasting may have favorable effects on cancer treatments.
A Yay or Nay for Healthcare Workers?
Intermittent fasting has pros and cons. Speak to your doctor before trying IF.
Simplicity: Fasting during an evening or night shift may simplify life for healthcare workers. Not having to shop, prep, or pack food for those shifts is a plus; and, because coffee is allowed on IF, shift workers can still rely on their favorite caffeinated beverage.
Comfort’s also a factor — eating large meals at night can feel unnatural and unpleasant. Night shift workers may enjoy the feeling of an empty stomach at work.
Weight loss: It’s not uncommon for healthcare workers to struggle with weight issues. Long hours, stressful work environments, and compassion fatigue are real hindrances to a healthy lifestyle. Intermittent fasting has shown it can help people drop unwanted pounds.
Flexibility: Intermittent fasting is flexible. With at least three versions to choose from, healthcare workers can adopt intermittent fasting to fit their lifestyles and rotating work schedules. IF may also be an excellent way to transition to recurring schedule changes.
IF may be different for women: Intermittent fasting may not be as effective for women. IF may result in amenorrhea in some women. It’s also not recommended if you’re pregnant or trying to become pregnant. Some research indicates IF may worsen blood sugar control in women.
Hunger: Hunger can be hard to get used to and may bothersome. Hunger can also make this style of eating challenging to sustain.
Tiredness: Fasting can make you feel tired and spacey, which may increase the likelihood of medical errors.
Intermittent fasting may offer a convenient way for healthcare professionals to lose weight. It may also appeal to them as a life hack. However, medical professionals need to be careful about becoming overly when fasting.
Always speak to your health professional before beginning a lifestyle change, especially if you’re taking medications or have been diagnosed with a condition or disease.
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