At its core, fasting isn’t any more complicated than simply taking a break from eating, and intermittent fasting can be thought of as occasionally taking a break form eating.
However, there are nuances to fasting, and these nuances determine whether or not fasting is right for you or will ‘work’ for you.
In this sense I think fasting is very similar to weight training.
I think we can all agree that there are numerous benefits to weight training, and that different styles or approaches to weight training create different results.
We can also agree that not all weight training programs are created equal.
The variables of weight training are what determine its effectiveness and appropriateness for any individual, and these variables are highly dependent on an individual’s specific needs and abilities.
Frequency (how often you work out), Volume (how much work you do when you work out), and Intensity (how difficult or how much effort is put forth when you work out) are the core variables in your workout program, and they are all interrelated.
As a general rule, you can pick 2 of these 3 variables to focus on at any one time.
Your workouts can be frequent and intense but with low volume.
They can be frequent with a high amount of volume, but at lower intensity.
They can be infrequent with a high amount of volume and intensity.
[[ Sometimes people follow workout programs designed to focus on only one variable – Maximal intensity low frequency and volume or Maximal frequency with low volume and intensity are two common examples. ]]
No approach is more correct than the other; the key is that it has to be matched to the needs and goals of the individual… The person actually doing the workout.
Each of these approaches can either be highly effective or highly ineffective depending on whether or not they were properly matched to the individual and their abilities and goals.
The same can be said for fasting.
Not all fasting is created equal.
The variables of intermittent fasting are what determine its effectiveness and appropriateness, and these variables are highly dependent on you and your own specific needs and abilities.
Frequency (how often you fast), Volume (how long your fasts are), and Intensity (are your fasts zero calories, a little bit of food, do you exercise during your fasts?) are the variables in your fasts, and yes they are also interrelated.
Your fasts can be frequent and intense but with low volume (daily 12-16 hour fasts).
They can be frequent with a high amount of volume, but at low intensity (daily to every-other-day 16-20 hours, but modified to allow for a small amount of food during the fasting period).
They can be infrequent with a high amount of volume and intensity (from 24 hours once or twice per week, to longer fasts done monthly etc).
The point is that not all fasting is equal and that the different modalities have different effects and need to be matched to the goals, lifestyle and abilities of the person actually doing the fasting.
Saying fasting does or doesn’t work is like saying working out does or doesn’t work – We know it works, but it can be implemented incorrectly for a person’s needs and wants. You need to have the right fasting style for you, and specifically for you right now as your wants, needs and abilities may change depending on what is going on in your life.
…and just like working out, you have to constantly adjust the variables to best fit you and your needs.