In last weeks blog post, I talked about intermittent fasting, what it entails, and the added benefits. And as promised, this week I am talking about the downsides as well as what my take is on intermittent fasting for bariatric patients. In case you didn’t read last week’s post, intermittent fasting is a pattern of eating that involves alternating between periods of fasting and periods of eating. There are several methods in which you can implement intermittent fasting into your routine and if you want to learn more about those, check out our blog on the introduction to intermittent fasting.
So overall, we do not recommend intermittent fasting for bariatric patients. The reasons why are tied to the downsides of this method of eating.
We have all heard the saying “food is fuel”. So when you aren’t eating as much, you may begin to feel less fueled. This can be especially true if you are relatively active. Intermittent fasting can lead to you feeling out of energy and tired and likely to skip your workout.
Similarly, the more tired we become, the lazier we are with our food choices therefore, intermittent fasting can lead to you making unhealthy food choices.
When you have bariatric surgery, you are advised to follow a structured eating plan that involves consuming small meals every few hours. When you aren’t eating as frequently, it is hard to reach your protein goals. For bariatric patients, it is recommended that they consume 60 to 80 grams a day.
We advise our patients to fuel up on protein and other nutrient dense foods to limit their desire to consume unhealthy foods. As I will mention below, intermittent fasting can lead to overeating or eating unhealthy foods because you aren’t feeling full after your periods of eating.
Despite the push to eat healthier and the limitation of the intake of calories, intermittent fasting does not always lead to weight loss. Some people see their days “off” or their eating periods as a time to make up for lost calories by eating anything and everything. I am not saying that all bariatric patients will fall back into old eating habits but it is a slippery slope.
When you fast for several hours, it is normal to feel ravenous by the time you are “allowed” to eat again. This intense feeling of hunger can result in patients overeating or eating foods that are not recommended.
It is important to note that many bariatric patients can not consume large quantities of food at any given time. With intermittent fasting, individuals may be tempted to eat more to make up for the lost calories during fasting periods. For bariatric patients though, this can be a challenge. Because intermittent fasting restricts the times you can eat, bariatric patients will likely be unable to consume the appropriate amount of calories for their body in a given day.
By eating fewer calories and restricting the periods in which you can eat, people may be likely to experience nutritional deficiencies. And as I mentioned above, it is hard for bariatric patients to try to “make up for” the lost calories during their eating periods.
For bariatric patients who are already at risk of nutritional deficiencies, it is not wise to push yourself to those limits by restricting your nutrient absorption—even if you are taking your supplements.
Finally, intermittent fasting is flat out inconvenient. By being “forced” to stick to designated eating periods and times, intermittent fasting can make social events as well as everyday life a challenge. If you are responsible for cooking the meals for your family, it may be inconvenient structuring your eating periods around everyone else’s (or vice-versa). Also, if you have a busy schedule, it may be hard to plan your eating periods among everything else.
So in conclusion, we do NOT recommend intermittent fasting for bariatric patients as it can lead to overeating, a drop in blood sugar, and especially nutrient deficiencies.