Intermittent fasting is a diet fad that has been going in and out of popularity for years. The process of fasting from foods for specific periods dates back to when humans were hunter-gatherers, where access to food was inconsistent and sometimes scarce. Due to this, humans learned to fast for more extended periods without food and then eat larger quantities of food later.1
Other research suggests that the diet's popularity stems from scientific research that revealed animals who intermittently fasted had a longer lifespan.2 Ultimately, regardless of the origins, foregoing food for 16 hours of the day and eating only within an 8-hour timespan seemed very attractive and accessible for many people, mainly because of its ability to help you burn fat.3
It’s worth noting that there are many different forms of fasting, including Alternate Day Fasting, Modified Fasting Regimens (which involve restricted eating for only two days out of the week), and Time-Restricted Feed—the most popular. Each diet has different outcomes and should be chosen based on your wellness needs and goals.4
So, with time, we learned: It's not about what you eat. It's about when you eat.
Intermittent fasting is commonly associated with many health benefits, like treating symptoms related to obesity5 or cardiovascular disease.6 It's worth noting that your body's response to the diet is contingent on other biological factors and existing health conditions.
Research shows, for example, that women who fast experience a beneficial increase in sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) but see no impact on estrogen levels. In contrast, men saw a reduction in testosterone levels without experiencing decreased strength or muscle mass.7 This is perhaps why familiar narratives surrounding the diet suggest that it may be more beneficial for men, simply because women may be more sensitive to these hormonal changes.
When I first started intermittent fasting, I enjoyed it because it effectively promoted my weight loss. As I continued, I felt a depletion in my energy levels due to long periods between meals (tending to eat my first meal around 12 or 1 p.m.) and consistent workouts. I noticed it was harder to complete my exercises due to dizziness and low energy, meaning my overall productivity took a huge hit.
After the initial, minimal weight loss, I returned to my average weight, and I grew tired of my body being in fight or flight and wondering when its next meal would be. Based on the research above about how diet can spark hormonal imbalances in women, it made much more sense why I felt like I could sleep all day.
Personally, based on my experience, I wouldn't recommend this to another woman; we struggle enough regularly with hormones and low energy, so why add to the mess? However, I cannot speak for men and how the diet may impact their well-being.
Therefore, the answer to whether or not you should try it is: Well, did you do your research?