Intermittent fasting diets are getting all the hype. However, a new clinical study shows counting calories is better than fasting diets for weight loss.
Individuals who simply reduced their daily calories by 25% lost more weight and fat in 3 weeks of dieting, compared to those following intermittent fasting diets.
Also, there were no hidden benefits of fasting such as metabolism or heart health. This is surprising to me because I thought that fasting would have more health benefits than simple calorie counting.
“Standard dieting may be more effective than intermittent fasting for reducing body fat,” said senior researcher James Betts. He is a professor of metabolic physiology with the University of Bath’s Center for Nutrition, Exercise and Metabolism in England.
What is fasting?
Fasting requires people to eat within a specific time frame or skip days eating. Participants in the trial would fast for one day, and then he or she would eat as much as twice their daily calories on the next.
You can find this study published June 16 in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
In the study, 36 lean individuals were placed into groups of 12. One group consumed 25% fewer calories each day. The second fasted one day and then consumed 150% of their normal calories the next. The third ate 200% of their daily calorie intake every other day, fasting on alternate days.
At the end of three weeks, the participants following a simple diet, had lost the most weight, with an average fat loss of about 3.5 pounds.
The participants that consumed 150% of their regular diet every other day lost an average fat loss of around 1.5 pounds. The ones that fasted and then ate twice their normal amount showed no significant drops in weight.
The fasters did not have any benefits when it came to their levels of cholesterol, blood sugar or insulin, results showed.
Counting calories versus fasting
There were two nutrition experts that agreed with the findings.
“When it comes to weight loss, modest reduction of calories is what counts regardless of how you achieve that,” said Lona Sandon. She is a professor of clinical nutrition with the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. “In other words, reduce portion sizes by about 25% and limit overeating. Lona said it doesn’t sense to get caught up in complicated rules and that regimens around eating may not be worth it.
Researchers found that those who were on a fasting diet came to be less active than when they started dieting. This could be a weight loss issue as well.
Physical activity is important
“People seemed to drop their activity levels a bit, which is certainly something to be consciously aware of on a diet,” Betts said. If you use intermittent fasting, then try to consciously insert opportunities to be physically active into your lifestyle.”
In fact, some of the weight loss in the fasting groups came from losing muscle mass as opposed to burning fat, according to study findings.
It seems that getting physical activity and burning calories appears to be most important weight losing weight.
Intermittent fasting is not easy to adopt as we are accustomed to eating when we feel the urge. This requires a lot of discipline but watching what you eat and counting calories seems to be much easier. To say the least, counting calories is better than fasting for weight loss.
Source: James Betts, PhD, professor, metabolic physiology, University of Bath Center for Nutrition, Exercise and Metabolism, United Kingdom; Lona Sandon, PhD, RDN, professor, clinical nutrition, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas; Connie Diekman, MEd, RD, registered dietitian, St. Louis, and former president, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; Science Translational Medicine, June 16, 2021 www.webmd.com