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Intermittent fasting pros and cons: Should nurses try it?

Nurses are accustomed to working long shifts as they try to grab a bite to eat here and there. They're used to going long periods of time without eating, so intermittent fasting may be a way for them to keep their weight in check and gain some other health benefits in the process.

» RELATED: 9 weight loss tips for busy nurses

The general idea behind intermittent fasting is to eat normally for some days of the week and drastically reduce what you eat on the remaining days. There are many variations of the diet, and in some, you can eat for a specific number of hours and then stop eating for the day at a set time.

This plan may be compatible with some nurses' schedules. Sarah Gray, a day shift nurse who works 12-hour days three days a week, told trustedhealth.com that intermittent fasting helped her sleep, digestion, focus and energy levels.

» RELATED: What you need to know about the intermittent fasting diet

As with many diets or eating plans, intermittent fasting has its pros and cons. The following can help you decide whether this way of eating can fit into your nursing shifts:

Pros

Works for reducing body fat

University of Florida researchers looked at 10 clinical trials and found that in all 10, people who followed alternate-day intermittent fasts lost a significant amount of body fat. Three out of four studies of time-restricted intermittent fasting also showed significant fat loss.

Doesn't cause loss of lean tissue

Unlike other forms of dieting, intermittent fasting didn't cause significant loss of lean tissue along with the fat, according to the same University of Florida researchers who analyzed studies.

» RELATED: The truth about alternate-day fasting diets: Are they better than traditional diets? 

May provide other benefits, such as slowing the aging process

During fasting, your body starts burning fatty acids and ketones for energy. Ketones produce fewer molecules that can harm cells, so using them for energy may slow the aging and disease process and optimize physiological functioning, the University of Florida researchers found.

Appetite may be reduced

In a University of Alabama study of intermittent fasting, a small group of men with prediabetes ate from either 7 a.m.-3 p.m. or between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Their appetites were significantly decreased and had lower insulin levels and blood pressure after five weeks. However, they reaped these health benefits without losing weight.

Cons

May be hard to sustain

Intermittent fasting has a higher dropout rate than some other type of diets, according to NBC News. It might be hard to sustain intermittent fasting over time.

May have social implications

If your friends have a habit of going out to eat in the evenings or your family gets together for dinner every Sunday, their schedules may suddenly conflict with your dieting plan.

Can lead to poor food choices

As you're fasting, you could find yourself obsessing about dessert, burgers and fries and other fatty foods. When you're at the part of your day or week when you're free to eat, you may overindulge in foods that aren't the best nutritional choices as a "reward," Harvard Health Publishing said.

» RELATED: Nursing and nutrition: How do you take care of yourself when you take care of others most of the time?

Not appropriate for everyone

As with any diet, talk with your doctor before you start changing your eating habits. Intermittent fasting may not be suitable for people who have diabetes or take medicine for blood pressure or heart disease, according to Harvard Health Publishing.

To find out more

  • Beginner's Guide to Intermittent Fasting: Everything You Need to Know – U.S. News & World Report
  • Intermittent Fasting 101 – The Ultimate Beginner's Guide - Healthline

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