Pros and Cons of 5 Intermittent Fasting Methods
What it is
Bottom line


Intermittent fasting for weight loss has been one of the most popular health trends of the past decade. It involves only eating within a specific time window and fasting for the rest. However, it may not be right for everyone.

Some people swear by intermittent fasting, finding that it helps manage their appetite and weight and support their health.

Others may not find this diet a good fit, either for medical reasons or because it doesn’t match their picture of a nutritious and sustainable diet.

This article takes a closer look at some of the most popular ways to do intermittent fasting, as well as a few pros and cons. The information may help you decide if intermittent fasting is something you want to try for your health and happiness.

Intermittent fasting is generally considered safe. However, it is best to use caution when beginning or following the eating routine.

Restricting your calorie intake for an extended period of time could be dangerous for:

children and adolescents
people who are pregnant or breastfeeding
people who have diabetes
people taking certain medications
people with a history of eating disorders
Before embarking on intermittent fasting or making any other drastic changes to your diet, consult a trusted healthcare professional to help you get started safely.

What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern during which you refrain from consuming any calories for an extended period of time. Usually, this period lasts between 12 and 40 hours (1Trusted Source).

Water, coffee, and other calorie-free beverages are allowed during the fast, but no solid foods or calorie-containing drinks are permitted.

For example, if you finish dinner at 7 p.m. Monday and don’t eat again until 7 p.m. Tuesday, you’ve completed a 24-hour fast. Some people choose to fast from breakfast to breakfast or lunch to lunch. But which time frame works best depends on the individual.

A full 24-hour fast every other day can seem extreme and may be difficult for many people to maintain, so it’s usually not recommended for beginners. However, you don’t have to go all-in right away, and many intermittent fasting routines start with shorter fasting periods.

Here are 5 of the most popular eating patterns for adding intermittent fasting to your diet:

Time-restricted eating. Involves fasting every day for 12 hours or longer and eating in the remaining hours. A popular example is the 16/8 method. It features a daily 16-hour fast and an 8-hour eating window wherein you can fit in 2, 3, or more meals.
The 5:2 diet. The 5:2 diet involves eating as you normally do 5 days of the week and restricting your calorie intake to 500–600 on the remaining 2 days.
Eat Stop Eat. Eat Stop Eat involves a 24-hour fast once or twice per week.
Alternate-day fasting. With alternate-day fasting, the goal is to fast every other day.
The Warrior Diet. The Warrior Diet was among the first popular diets to include a form of intermittent fasting. It involves eating small amounts of raw fruits and vegetables during the day and eating one large meal at night.
Intermittent fasting is a dietary routine that regularly alternates between periods of eating and fasting. There are many different methods of doing so, with many requiring you to fast for 12–40 hours at a time.

3 pros of intermittent fasting
Researchers have already linked numerous health benefits with intermittent fasting and continue to examine them.

Plus, for some people, intermittent fasting fits well into their model of a healthy and sustainable long-term diet.

If you’re wondering if intermittent fasting could be right for you, here are a few benefits that might pique your interest.

1. Might support weight loss and improve metabolic health
Two main reasons why people try intermittent fasting are to manage their weight and metabolic health. Metabolic health is a marker of how well the body processes, or metabolizes, energy. It’s often measured by blood pressure, blood sugar, and blood fat levels (2Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source, 4Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source).

Fasting or abstaining from food can create a calorie deficit, meaning that your body has fewer calories than it needs to maintain its current weight. That’s why diets that rely on calorie restriction, like fasting, are the hallmark of most weight loss diets.

Research shows that some types of intermittent fasting can be as effective for weight loss — though not necessarily more effective — as other diets that also rely on limiting your daily calorie intake (6Trusted Source, 7Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source, 9Trusted Source).

Time-restricted eating routines similar to the 16/8 method are one type of intermittent fasting that has been linked directly with weight loss. Alternate-day fasting and the 5:2 diet may also be effective (10Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source, 12Trusted Source, 13Trusted Source).

Besides naturally eliminating your calorie intake during the fasting period, intermittent fasting may support weight loss by regulating your appetite to increase feelings of fullness while suppressing feelings of hunger (14Trusted Source, 15Trusted Source, 16Trusted Source).

The eating pattern has also been linked with other improvements in health, such as:

lowering blood pressure (15Trusted Source, 17Trusted Source, 18Trusted Source, 19Trusted Source)
improving blood sugar (4Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source, 15Trusted Source, 20Trusted Source)
repairing damaged cells (21Trusted Source)
protecting brain health (22Trusted Source, 23Trusted Source, 24Trusted Source)
2. Can be a sustainable lifestyle change
Intermittent fasting might sound complicated and intimidating, but it can be simple at times. In fact, you might even find that fasting helps simplify your day since you need to plan fewer meals.

What’s more, it doesn’t typically require calorie counting, watching your macros, eating certain foods that you might not be used to eating, or eliminating certain foods that you otherwise enjoy.

For example, having an early dinner followed by a late breakfast the next day is one way to fast intermittently. If you finish your last meal at 8 p.m. and don’t eat until noon the next day, you’ve technically fasted for 16 hours.

For people who get hungry in the morning and like to eat breakfast, or for those who can’t eat until later in the evening due to work schedules and other obligations, this method may be hard to get used to.

However, other people instinctively eat this way already. They may be more prone to trying out an intermittent fasting eating pattern.

3. Works well with a nutritious, whole foods diet
Because intermittent fasting is focused more on when rather than what you eat, it’s generally easy to implement in conjunction with your current diet.

You won’t necessarily need to buy any special foods or diverge much from what you typically eat.

If you’re already content with the state of your current diet but looking for other ways to continue boosting your overall health, fasting might be something you want to explore.

For example, intermittent fasting might work particularly well for someone who wants to pair it with a resistance training program and a high protein diet (25Trusted Source).

Still, this isn’t meant to imply that what you eat doesn’t matter. There’s no doubt that you’ll reap the most benefits from intermittent fasting by eating a variety of nutritious foods and limiting ultra-processed foods during your eating window.

Intermittent fasting is often used to manage weight and metabolic health. The eating routine might help lower blood pressure, blood sugar, and blood fat levels. For some people, it also works as part of a healthy long-term diet pattern.

3 cons of intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting is one way to regulate your calorie intake and work toward improving your metabolic health.

Though the eating pattern can certainly be part of a healthy diet, it will likely take some adjusting to in the beginning. Plus, simply put, intermittent fasting is not right for everyone.

Here are a few downsides you could encounter when first trying intermittent fasting.

1. Might go against your intuition
Intermittent fasting requires discipline, restraint, and planning ahead.

For some people, using those tactics to keep your calorie intake within a designated time frame is no problem, but for others, it might feel unnatural at first. This may be especially true if you’re used to relying on your intuition to decide when to eat.

Further, if you prefer not to follow a strict schedule, you might find intermittent fasting frustrating.

What’s more, if your schedule tends to vary from day to day because of work, family, or other obligations, keeping your calorie intake to a designated time frame could be challenging.

2. You’ll likely feel hungry
Even an 8- or 12-hour fast might feel like a long time when you’re not used to fasting.

You may go to bed hungry several times per week. That may naturally feel unpleasant and unsustainable in the long term (26Trusted Source).

Plus, at times, it might be necessary to override your natural hunger and fullness cues in order to not break your fast earlier than planned.

This doesn’t mean that fasting isn’t a schedule you can get used to. Once you’ve adjusted to intermittent fasting, you might even find it makes you feel less hungry (14Trusted Source, 15Trusted Source).

Many people adjust to the routine, and some even find they enjoy it after a few months. Yet, hunger and frustration are certainly something to expect and be aware of initially.

3. The side effects could affect your mood
When you first try intermittent fasting, one of the first things you may notice — aside from feeling more hungry — is ups and downs in your mood.

This is understandable. Besides initially increasing hunger levels, fasting can have side effects, including headaches, constipation, fatigue, sleep disturbances, and more (15Trusted Source, 27, 28Trusted Source, 29Trusted Source).

What’s more, irritability and anxiety are classic symptoms of low blood sugar levels. This is a common bodily response to fasting or restricting calories (30Trusted Source, 31Trusted Source, 32Trusted Source).

Still, like hunger, your emotional well-being may be another side effect of intermittent fasting that will improve with time and practice (15Trusted Source).

Once you’ve had time to adjust, intermittent fasting may even bring you a sense of achievement or pride (32Trusted Source).

Especially in the beginning, intermittent fasting can have side effects like hunger, headaches, and fatigue. The combination of low blood sugar levels from fasting and the stress of adjusting to a new routine could affect your mood and mental health, too.

The bottom line
Intermittent fasting is a weight loss tool that works for some people, but not everyone.

It’s not recommended for individuals who once had or currently have an eating disorder. It may also be unsuitable for children, people with underlying health conditions, and people who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

If you decide to try intermittent fasting, remember that just like with any eating pattern, diet quality is key.

To gain the most from intermittent fasting, be sure to eat a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods during your eating window and limit ultra-processed foods.

Furthermore, before embarking on an intermittent fast, be sure to consult a trained healthcare professional to ensure that it’s safe for you to do so.

Just one thing
Try this today: If you think intermittent fasting could work for you, have a look at our favorite practical tips to eat on schedule and get started with your own routine today.

Last medically reviewed on February 14, 2022

How we reviewed this article:

Our experts continually monitor the health and wellness space, and we update our articles when new information becomes available.

Current Version

Feb 23, 2022

Written By

Cecilia Snyder, MS, RD, Kris Gunnars

Edited By

Daney Helgadóttir

Copy Edited By

Anne Arntson

Feb 14, 2022

Medically Reviewed By

Grant Tinsley, Ph.D., CSCS,*D, CISSN


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Medically reviewed by Grant Tinsley, Ph.D., CSCS,*D, CISSN, Nutrition — By Cecilia Snyder, MS, RD and Kris Gunnars, BSc — Updated on Feb 23, 2022

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What Is Intermittent Fasting? Explained in Human Terms
A phenomenon called intermittent fasting is currently one of the world’s most popular health and fitness trends.

It involves alternating cycles of fasting and eating.

Many studies show that this can cause weight loss, improve metabolic health, protect against disease and perhaps help you live longer (1, 2Trusted Source).

This article explains what intermittent fasting is, and why you should care.

What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern where you cycle between periods of eating and fasting.

It does not say anything about which foods to eat, but rather when you should eat them.

There are several different intermittent fasting methods, all of which split the day or week into eating periods and fasting periods.

Most people already “fast” every day, while they sleep. Intermittent fasting can be as simple as extending that fast a little longer.

You can do this by skipping breakfast, eating your first meal at noon and your last meal at 8 pm.

Then you’re technically fasting for 16 hours every day, and restricting your eating to an 8-hour eating window. This is the most popular form of intermittent fasting, known as the 16/8 method.

Despite what you may think, intermittent fasting is actually fairly easy to do. Many people report feeling better and having more energy during a fast.

Hunger is usually not that big of an issue, although it can be a problem in the beginning, while your body is getting used to not eating for extended periods of time.

No food is allowed during the fasting period, but you can drink water, coffee, tea and other non-caloric beverages.

Some forms of intermittent fasting allow small amounts of low-calorie foods during the fasting period.

Taking supplements is generally allowed while fasting, as long as there are no calories in them.

Intermittent fasting (or “IF”) is an eating pattern where you cycle between periods of eating and fasting. It is a very popular health and fitness trend, with research to back it up.

Why Fast?
Humans have actually been fasting for thousands of years.

Sometimes it was done out of necessity, when there simply wasn’t any food available.

In other instances, it was done for religious reasons. Various religions, including Islam, Christianity and Buddhism, mandate some form of fasting.

Humans and other animals also often instinctively fast when sick.

Clearly, there is nothing “unnatural” about fasting, and our bodies are very well equipped to handle extended periods of not eating.

All sorts of processes in the body change when we don’t eat for a while, in order to allow our bodies to thrive during a period of famine. It has to do with hormones, genes and important cellular repair processes (3).

When fasted, we get significant reductions in blood sugar and insulin levels, as well as a drastic increase in human growth hormone (4Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source).

Many people do intermittent fasting in order to lose weight, as it is a very simple and effective way to restrict calories and burn fat (6, 7, 8).

Others do it for the metabolic health benefits, as it can improve various different risk factors and health markers (1).

There is also some evidence that intermittent fasting can help you live longer. Studies in rodents show that it can extend lifespan as effectively as calorie restriction (9Trusted Source, 10).

Some research also suggests that it can help protect against diseases, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and others (11, 12Trusted Source).

Other people simply like the convenience of intermittent fasting.

It is an effective “life hack” that makes your life simpler, while improving your health at the same time. The fewer meals you need to plan for, the simpler your life will be.

Not having to eat 3-4+ times per day (with the preparation and cleaning involved) also saves time. A lot of it.

Humans are well adapted to fasting from time to time. Modern research shows that it has benefits for weight loss, metabolic health, disease prevention and may even help you live longer.

Types of Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting has become very trendy in the past few years, and several different types/methods have emerged.

Here are some of the most popular ones:

The 16/8 Method: Fast for 16 hours each day, for example by only eating between noon and 8pm.
Eat-Stop-Eat: Once or twice a week, don’t eat anything from dinner one day, until dinner the next day (a 24 hour fast).
The 5:2 Diet: During 2 days of the week, eat only about 500–600 calories.
Then there are many other variations.

There are many different intermittent fasting methods. The most popular ones are the 16/8 method, Eat-Stop-Eat and the 5:2 diet.

Take Home Message
As long as you stick to healthy foods, restricting your eating window and fasting from time to time can have some very impressive health benefits.

It is an effective way to lose fat and improve metabolic health, while simplifying your life at the same time.

You can find much more info on intermittent fasting here: Intermittent Fasting 101 – The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide.

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By Kris Gunnars, BSc on June 4, 2017

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9 Potential Intermittent Fasting Side Effects
Intermittent fasting offers many health benefits, but it can also cause unpleasant side effects like greater hunger, headaches, fatigue, and mood issues. It’s important to follow it correctly, or it could lead to malnutrition.

Intermittent fasting is a term people use to describe patterns of eating that include regular periods of fasting in which they consume very few or no calories (1Trusted Source).

Studies have linked intermittent fasting to a number of health benefits, including (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source):

weight loss
decreased risk factors of heart disease
lower blood pressure
improved insulin sensitivity
reduction in markers of oxidative stress
improved blood sugar control
These findings have led to the increased popularity of intermittent fasting regimens like:

time-restricted feeding (TRF)
alternate-day fasting (ADF)
periodic fasting
If you’re interested in trying out intermittent fasting, you’re probably curious to know whether it has side effects.

The short answer: Intermittent fasting is safe for most people. However, studies have shown that intermittent fasting does have some minor side effects. Plus, it’s not the right choice for everyone (3Trusted Source).

This article covers 9 potential side effects related to intermittent fasting.

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1. Hunger and cravings
It may be no surprise that hunger is one of the most common side effects related to intermittent fasting.

When you reduce your calorie intake or go long periods without taking in calories, you may experience increased hunger.

A study including 112 people assigned some participants to an intermittent energy restriction group. They consumed 400 or 600 calories on 2 nonconsecutive days every week for 1 year.

These groups reported higher hunger scores than those who consumed a low calorie diet with continuous calorie restriction (4Trusted Source).

Studies suggest that hunger is a symptom people typically experience during the first days of a fasting regimen.

One 2020 study looked at 1,422 people who participated in fasting regimens lasting 4–21 days. They tended to experience hunger symptoms only during the first few days of the regimens (3Trusted Source).

So, symptoms like hunger may resolve as your body adapts to regular fasting periods.

2. Headaches and lightheadedness
Headaches are a common side effect of intermittent fasting. They typically occur during the first few days of a fasting protocol (5Trusted Source).

A 2020 review looked at 18 studies of people undergoing intermittent fasting regimens. In the four studies that reported side effects, some participants said they had mild headaches (6).

Interestingly, researchers have found that “fasting headaches” are usually located in the frontal region of the brain and that the pain is typically mild or moderate in intensity (7Trusted Source).

What’s more, people who commonly get headaches are more likely to experience headaches during fasting than those who don’t (7Trusted Source).

Researchers have suggested that low blood sugar and caffeine withdrawal may contribute to headaches during intermittent fasting (7Trusted Source).

3. Digestive issues
Digestive issues — including constipation, diarrhea, nausea, and bloating — are symptoms you might experience if you do intermittent fasting (3Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source).

The reduction in food intake that comes along with some intermittent fasting regimens may negatively affect your digestion, causing constipation and other side effects. Plus, changes in diet associated with intermittent fasting programs may cause bloating and diarrhea (8Trusted Source).

Dehydration, another common side effect related to intermittent fasting, can worsen constipation. For this reason, it’s essential to stay properly hydrated while practicing intermittent fasting.

Choosing nutrient-dense foods rich in fiber may also help prevent constipation.

4. Irritability and other mood changes
Some people may experience irritability and other mood disturbances when they practice intermittent fasting. When your blood sugar is low, it may cause you to feel irritated (9Trusted Source).

Low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, can occur during periods of calorie restriction or over periods of fasting. This can lead to irritability, anxiety, and poor concentration (8Trusted Source, 10Trusted Source).

A 2016 study in 52 women found that participants were significantly more irritable during an 18-hour fasting period than they were during a nonfasting period (10Trusted Source).

Interestingly, the researchers found that, although the women were more irritable, they also experienced a higher sense of achievement, pride, and self-control at the end of the fasting period than they reported at the start of fasting (10Trusted Source).

5. Fatigue and low energy
Studies show that some people practicing various methods of intermittent fasting experience fatigue and low energy levels (11Trusted Source, 12Trusted Source).

Low blood sugar related to intermittent fasting can cause you to feel tired and weak. Plus, intermittent fasting may lead to sleep disturbances in some people, which can cause tiredness during the day.

However, some studies show that intermittent fasting can actually reduce fatigue, especially as your body becomes adapted to regular fasting periods (13Trusted Source).


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6. Bad breath
Bad breath is an unpleasant side effect that can occur in some people during intermittent fasting. This is caused by lack of salivary flow and the rise of acetone in the breath (14Trusted Source, 15Trusted Source, 16Trusted Source).

Fasting causes your body to use fat for fuel. Acetone is a by-product of fat metabolism, so it increases in your blood and breath during fasting (17Trusted Source).

What’s more, dehydration — a symptom associated with intermittent fasting — can cause dry mouth, which may lead to bad breath (18Trusted Source).

7. Sleep disturbances
Some research suggests that sleep disturbances, such as being unable to fall asleep or stay asleep, are among the most common side effects related to intermittent fasting (19Trusted Source).

A 2020 study observed 1,422 people who participated in fasting regimens lasting 4–21 days. The study found that 15% of participants reported sleep disturbances related to fasting. They reported this more frequently than other side effects (3Trusted Source).

Fatigue may be more common in the initial days of an intermittent fasting regimen as your body excretes large amounts of salt and water through the urine. This can lead to dehydration and low salt levels, too (19Trusted Source).

However, other studies have shown that intermittent fasting had no effect on sleep.

A 2021 study looked at 31 people with obesity who participated in an alternate day fasting regimen while also following a low-carb diet for 6 months. The study found that this regimen did not affect sleep quality or duration, or insomnia severity (20Trusted Source).

Another 2021 study had similar results (21Trusted Source).

8. Dehydration
As mentioned above, during the initial days of fasting, the body releases large amounts of water and salt in the urine. This process is known as natural diuresis or natriuresis of fasting (19Trusted Source).

If this happens to you and you don’t replace the fluids and electrolytes you lost through urine, you could become dehydrated.

Additionally, people practicing intermittent fasting may forget to drink or may not drink enough. This may be especially common when you’re first beginning an intermittent fasting regimen.

To stay properly hydrated, drink water throughout the day and monitor the color of your urine. Ideally, it should be a pale lemonade color. A dark-colored urine may indicate you’re dehydrated (22Trusted Source).

9. Malnutrition
If not done properly, intermittent fasting can lead to malnutrition.

If a person engages in very long fasting periods and doesn’t replenish their body with enough nutrients, this could result in malnutrition. The same goes for poorly planned continuous energy restriction diets (23Trusted Source).

People are generally able to meet their calorie and nutrient needs on various types of intermittent fasting programs.

However, if you don’t plan or practice your fasting program carefully over a long time period or you deliberately restrict calories to an extreme level, you might experience malnutrition along with other health complications.

That’s why it’s essential to consume a well-rounded, nutritious diet while practicing intermittent fasting. Make sure you never overly restrict your calorie intake.

A healthcare professional who’s experienced in intermittent fasting can help you come up with a safe plan that provides an appropriate number of calories and the right amounts of nutrients for you.

Who should avoid intermittent fasting?
Although intermittent fasting may be a smart choice for some people, it’s not appropriate or safe for others.

Some people may be at risk of dangerous side effects if they participate in intermittent fasting.

Healthcare professionals generally advise that the following people avoid intermittent fasting (23Trusted Source):

people who are pregnant or breastfeeding/chestfeeding
young children and teens
older adults who experience weakness
people with immunodeficiencies
people with current or past eating disorders
people with dementia
those with a history of traumatic brain injury or post concussive syndrome
This list is not exhaustive and there are exceptions. For example, healthcare professionals have used fasting to treat epilepsy in children (24Trusted Source).

If you have a medical condition or are currently taking medications, it’s important to discuss the benefits and risks of intermittent fasting with a trusted healthcare professional.

Certain people may be more at risk of adverse side effects related to fasting, so it’s important to determine whether intermittent fasting is the safe choice for your specific needs (23Trusted Source).

Additionally, if you experience prolonged side effects when practicing intermittent fasting, this may be a sign that it isn’t working for your body. These side effects could include:

extreme hunger
Don’t continue intermittent fasting if the program makes you feel miserable.

Even though this way of eating has been tied to health benefits, there are many other things you can do to benefit your health that don’t involve fasting.

Follow a balanced and nutritious diet, get proper sleep, engage in regular physical activity, and manage stress — these are much more important for promoting overall health.

The bottom line
Studies have linked intermittent fasting to a number of health benefits, including improved heart disease risk factors, weight loss, increased blood sugar control, and more (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source).

Though intermittent fasting is generally considered safe, studies show that it may result in side effects including hunger, constipation, irritability, headaches, and bad breath.

Plus, healthcare professionals advise some people to avoid intermittent fasting. These include pregnant and breastfeeding or chestfeeding people and those with eating disorders.

If you’re interested in trying out intermittent fasting, check with a healthcare professional first to ensure it’s a safe and appropriate choice for you.

Last medically reviewed on April 23, 2021

How we reviewed this article:

Our experts continually monitor the health and wellness space, and we update our articles when new information becomes available.

Current Version

Apr 23, 2021

Written By

Jillian Kubala MS, RD

Edited By

Stephanie Orford

Medically Reviewed By

Grant Tinsley, Ph.D., CSCS,*D, CISSN

Copy Edited By

Chris Doka

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Medically reviewed by Grant Tinsley, Ph.D., CSCS,*D, CISSN, Nutrition — By Jillian Kubala, MS, RD on April 23, 2021


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How to Handle the Stress Between Now and Election Day
Experts say reducing your exposure to social media as well as daily news are two ways to help cope with stress from the November 3 presidential election. Getty Images
Mental health experts say people are feeling especially stressed about this year’s presidential election.
The feelings of stress are compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as economic pressures.
Stress can cause mental health issues as well as bring on physical ailments.
Some helpful ways to cope include talking to others about your feelings as well as unplugging from social media and the news.
In a little more than 8 weeks, Robert Moorehead may celebrate.

Or he may be packing to leave the United States.

It depends on who his fellow citizens decide should be president the next 4 years.

“Lately it’s been a general feeling of anxiety,” Moorehead, an associate professor of sociology at the College of DuPage in Illinois, told Healthline. “What if [President Trump] wins? I feel like I can’t even begin to think about it. It’ll freak me out.”

“Do we move to Canada?,” added Moorehead, who has previously lived overseas while teaching in Japan and said he’s been having election-related nightmares. “Back to Japan? Our kids aren’t little anymore… and I’m sort of saving toward a pension. If we leave, what will we live on when we can’t work anymore?”

Moorehead isn’t alone, and it’s not just his side of the political ledger that is feeling stressed over the November 3 election.

Compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, racial unrest, natural disasters, and a struggling economy, this election year is like none in recent memory as Americans try coping with problems many of them have never faced.

Choosing Therapy, a professional counseling service, recently published an article saying more than half of adults in the United States feel elections are “somewhat” or “very significant” sources of stress.

And that stress can manifest into poor health, according to Eric Patterson, LPC, a licensed therapist who authored the article.

“Any level of stress and anxiety can affect someone’s mental and physical health, but because this election feels so significant, the stress is higher,” Patterson told Healthline.

“More stress results in more severe impacts on the individual.”

And it’s not just one side or one polarizing candidate, Patterson said.

This year each side sees the other as more of an enemy than most other elections.

“People from all points on the political spectrum feel that this is a different election because they see the ‘other side’ as an existential threat to their way of life, their freedoms, and the very foundations of the country,” Patterson said.

“Extremism, on both sides, may represent a small proportion of people, but it makes those in the middle feel worried about how others will react come November,” he added.

“Will there be violence, anger, protests, and roving groups in the streets, or will peace and calm prevail?”

A story of stress
Kymberlie Ingalls is a writer in the San Francisco Bay Area, who says her moods are greatly affected by what she absorbs on the social media platforms she needs to view for her job.

Her family is the political polar opposite of her friends, giving her a constant barrage from both sides.

“Given everyone’s stress levels this year, let alone the past few, maintaining myself has been pretty much a failure,” Ingalls told Healthline.

“Every day is a serious struggle. I actually can’t afford my psychologist right now, so it’s all on me. My doctor and I are working on how to control the effect from outside environments. Symptoms have included depression, physical pains that have no evidence or explanation, hair loss, mental fatigue. It’s brutal.

“Also, my work is affected because my anxiety has increased at the thought of writing or saying the wrong thing, and the ‘cancel culture’ that comes with it in regard to politics,” she added.

How stress affects mental health
People automatically associate stress with mental health issues, which can represent just part of the effect, according to Dr. Ashley Zucker, the chief of psychiatry at Kaiser Permanente’s Fontana Medical Center in Southern California.

“People react differently to stress, but if that stress or anxiety goes untreated over a long period of time, it can affect a person’s total health — mind, body and spirit,” Zucker told Healthline.

“Research has shown that when the stress hormone is activated, that ‘fight or flight’ response initially helps a person cope with the situation, but in the long run, it can impact their psychological and physical health.”

She added, “Emotionally, stress and anxiety can cause people to feel overwhelmed, confused, sad, or irritable. They may withdraw socially. Chronic stress and anxiety can also trigger physical health problems such as tension headaches, stomach aches, insomnia, and elevated blood pressure.”

The stress can also produce physical illnesses.

“Untreated stress, anxiety, and depression can also suppress the immune system, which can cause a person to get sick more often,” Zucker said. “Therefore, it’s very important for people to recognize the signs of mental health issues and get help or help a loved one or friend.”

How to cope
Beyond two sides of the political gulf, there are also nonpolitical factors adding stress to the 2020 election, said Dr. Julian Lagoy, a psychiatrist with Community Psychiatry in California.

“This election season will be even more stressful than normal due to the current pandemic and the plan to have most people conduct mail-in voting,” Lagoy told Healthline.

“I remember being very stressed during the 2000 election and the Florida recount, and only imagine this election will be much worse, as most of the country will vote by mail.

“I think the election results will take longer than normal since normally it takes longer to count the mail votes than ballot votes. All of this will have a big effect on people’s mental and physical health.”

Lagoy added, “We need to have some healthy detachment because worrying about the result is not going to change anything. The most we can do is vote and know we did everything we could and leave it at that.”

While Americans don’t have as much control over the election as they’d like, there are ways to deal with the massive stress bomb counting down to November, according to Ken Yeager, PhD, LISW, the director of the Stress, Trauma and Resilience Program at The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center.

“Across the United States, there’s been an increase in cases of depression, anxiety, suicidality, and substance abuse over the past several months,” Yeager told Healthline.

“One of the best things you can do is talk to each other. As you share with them the tensions and negative emotions you’re feeling, it’s important to also focus on positive emotions and try to neutralize the negative ones.

“Try to limit your exposure to news about the election,” he added.

“If you feel yourself glued to the TV or radio all day for fear of missing a vital detail, you’ll start to feel overwhelmed. Instead, engage in the mindfulness practice strategy to ground yourself in the here and now.”

Some medical experts suggest setting boundaries for political conversations. Self-care can also be key — eating healthy, drinking enough water, and getting enough sleep helps.

Dr. Ben Medrano, the medical director of Field Trip Health’s clinic in New York City, suggests being proactive with exercise, nature, and therapy.

“All of these have been proven to make our emotional and mental health more resilient, particularly in stressful times,” Medrano told Healthline.

“They may even make us more open-minded to opposing perspectives. For many of my patients, I find that this current climate is a profound opportunity to contemplate a deeper sense of meaning in their lives. This could be spiritual, philosophical, or scientific.”

How we reviewed this article:

Our experts continually monitor the health and wellness space, and we update our articles when new information becomes available.

Current Version

Sep 7, 2020

Written By

Tony Hicks

Edited By

David Mills

Fact Checked By

Dana K. Cassell

Copy Edited By

Ami Knox

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By Tony Hicks on September 7, 2020 — Fact checked by Dana K. Cassell


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Does Intermittent Fasting Work for Weight Loss?
What it is
Weight loss
Other benefits
Bottom line
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that has become popular among people looking to lose weight.

Unlike diets and other weight loss programs, it doesn’t restrict your food choices or intake. Instead, all that matters is when you eat.

While some people claim that intermittent fasting can be a safe and healthy way to shed excess weight, others dismiss it as ineffective and unsustainable.

This article explains whether intermittent fasting works for weight loss.

What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting involves cycling between periods of eating and fasting.

Most types of this dietary pattern focus on limiting your meals and snacks to a specific time window — typically between 6 and 8 hours of the day.

For example, 16/8 intermittent fasting involves restricting food intake to just 8 hours per day and abstaining from eating during the remaining 16 hours.

Other types involve fasting for 24 hours once or twice per week or significantly cutting calorie intake a few days per week but eating normally during the others.

Although most people practice intermittent fasting to enhance weight loss, it has been associated with many other health benefits as well. In fact, studies show that intermittent fasting may improve blood sugar levels, decrease cholesterol, and boost longevity (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source).

Intermittent fasting is a popular eating pattern that restricts your food intake to a specific time window. It doesn’t limit the types or amount of food you eat.

Does it work for weight loss?
Several studies show that intermittent fasting may boost weight loss via several mechanisms.

First, restricting your meals and snacks to a strict time window may naturally decrease your calorie intake, which can aid weight loss.

Intermittent fasting may also increase levels of norepinephrine, a hormone and neurotransmitter that can boost your metabolism to increase calorie burning throughout the day (3Trusted SourceTrusted Source).

Furthermore, this eating pattern may reduce levels of insulin, a hormone involved in blood sugar management. Decreased levels can bump up fat burning to promote weight loss (4Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source).

Some research even shows that intermittent fasting can help your body retain muscle mass more effectively than calorie restriction, which may increase its appeal (6Trusted Source).

According to one review, intermittent fasting may reduce body weight by up to 8% and decrease body fat by up to 16% over 3–12 weeks (6Trusted Source).

Synergy with keto
When paired with the ketogenic diet, intermittent fasting can speed up ketosis and amplify weight loss.

The keto diet, which is very high in fats but low in carbs, is designed to kick-start ketosis.

Ketosis is a metabolic state that forces your body to burn fat for fuel instead of carbs. This occurs when your body is deprived of glucose, which is its main source of energy (7Trusted SourceTrusted Source).

Combining intermittent fasting with the keto diet can help your body enter ketosis faster to maximize results. It can likewise mitigate some of the side effects that often occur when starting this diet, including the keto flu, which is characterized by nausea, headaches, and fatigue (8Trusted Source, 9Trusted Source).

Research indicates that intermittent fasting can increase weight loss by boosting fat burning and metabolism. When used in tandem with the ketogenic diet, it may help speed up ketosis to maximize weight loss.

Other benefits
Intermittent fasting has also been linked to several other health benefits. It may:

Improve heart health. Intermittent fasting has been shown to decrease levels of total and LDL (bad) cholesterol, as well as triglycerides, all of which are risk factors for heart disease (10Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source).
Support blood sugar control. A small study in 10 people with type 2 diabetes noted that intermittent fasting helped significantly decrease blood sugar levels (12Trusted Source).
Decrease inflammation. Several studies have found that this eating pattern may reduce specific blood markers of inflammation (13Trusted Source, 14Trusted Source).
Increase longevity. Although research in humans is lacking, some animal studies suggest that intermittent fasting may boost your lifespan and slow signs of aging (15Trusted Source, 16Trusted Source).
Protect brain function. Studies in mice reveal that this dietary pattern may improve brain function and combat conditions like Alzheimer’s disease (17Trusted Source, 18Trusted Source).
Increase human growth hormone. Intermittent fasting may naturally increase levels of human growth hormone (HGH), which can help improve body composition and metabolism (19Trusted Source, 20Trusted Source).
Intermittent fasting is associated with numerous health benefits, including decreased inflammation, increased heart and brain health, and better blood sugar control.

Potential downsides
Most people can practice intermittent fasting safely as part of a healthy lifestyle. However, it may not be the best choice for everyone.

Children, individuals with a chronic illness, and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should consult a healthcare professional before starting this dietary pattern to ensure that they’re getting the nutrients they need.

People with diabetes should also exercise caution, as fasting can lead to dangerous drops in blood sugar levels and may interfere with certain medications.

While athletes and those who are physically active can safely practice intermittent fasting, it’s best to plan meals and fast days around intense workouts to optimize physical performance.

Finally, this lifestyle pattern may not be as effective for women. In fact, human and animal studies indicate that intermittent fasting may negatively affect women’s blood sugar control, contribute to menstrual-cycle abnormalities, and decrease fertility (21Trusted SourceTrusted Source, 22Trusted Source, 23Trusted Source).

Although intermittent fasting is generally safe and effective, it may not be right for everyone. Notably, some studies suggest that it could have several adverse effects in women.

The bottom line
Intermittent fasting has been shown to boost metabolism and fat burning while preserving lean body mass, all of which can aid weight loss.

When combined with other diets like the keto diet, it may also accelerate ketosis and reduce negative side effects, such as the keto flu.

Although it may not work for everyone, intermittent fasting can be a safe and effective weight loss method.