Written on February 3, 2023 by Amy Harris, MS, RN, CNM. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
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After hearing so much buzz about intermittent fasting (IF) in the news, in your feeds, or from your friends, did you decide to give this new diet trend a try? Are you now wondering how long should you do intermittent fasting? In this post, learn more about whether intermittent fasting should be a life-long switch or a short-term fix.
Instead of focusing on what you eat like many popular diets, intermittent fasting focuses on when you eat. That's because it is an eating pattern that includes hours or days with no or minimal food consumption (called fasting) interspersed with hours or days when you eat a regular diet . There are several popular variations of intermittent fasting:
Studies indicate that alternate-day fasting is about as effective as a typical low-calorie diet for weight loss .
People lose weight on IF diets because they reduce the total calories they take in. However, some overly-restrictive diets that severely limit calories can backfire, causing your body to adapt to the calorie restriction and prevent further weight loss . Intermittent fasting attempts to work around your body’s unhelpful adaptations by cycling in and out of a low-caloric intake level for a brief time, followed by normal eating.
Other people may lose weight following intermittent diet plans because it is easier for them to control when they eat than what they eat . Not everyone loves to count carbs or track their macros on the latest app. Others are happiest following a schedule of timed eating. If this describes you, then you may be more successful at making intermittent fasting a regular habit and not just a short-term diet fix.
We think so, but it might be too soon to tell. According to the National Institute on Aging and research published in the New England Journal of Medicine, “decades of animal and human research points to wide-ranging health benefits of intermittent fasting” .
Identified benefits of intermittent fasting diets include :
Research shows that these changes can help you live a longer, healthier life . But, unfortunately, we need longer-running studies of people using intermittent fasting diets to say they are safe enough to stay on indefinitely .
We know that the most successful diets are those that stop being diets and become the way you eat on the regular. Early studies show that people stick with IF longer than they do with other more restrictive or harder-to-follow diets . So, if people stick with IF longer, they may be more likely to lose weight and keep that weight off. If this is true, it may be healthier for many people to continue with intermittent fasting indefinitely and never stop.
There are several specific medical or health circumstances where it could harm your health to continue (or start) intermittent fasting. These include [1,3]:
It is always a good idea to review any diets you are following with your healthcare provider whenever you are diagnosed with a new condition or illness or prescribed a new medication.
The simple answer to the question of how long to do intermittent fasting is that you should stop when it no longer works for you. Examples of such situations could be :
It can be frustrating and disheartening to feel like a diet failure. So rather than giving up altogether, turn to Everlywell for support along your healthy weight journey.
Whether or not to stop intermittent fasting should be a personalized decision made in consultation with a licensed healthcare provider, nutritionist, or dietitian.
Everlywell’s telehealth offering includes weight management consultation services, all from the privacy and comfort of your own home. Our nurse practitioners make it easier for you to decide whether intermittent fasting is working for you and whether or not you should stop.
At Everlywell, we provide the tools you need on your weight loss journey, including vitamins, medications, at-home diagnostic testing, and virtual healthcare. Our full range of services can help give you the knowledge and power to take control of your health.