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Many people utilize intermittent fasting without concern for food quality. For example, they still enjoy pizza, pasta and bread.
Other people who utilize IF also focus on the quality of the calories, aiming particularly for whole, real food that’s also naturally low in the glycemic index (GI). This is one of the primary traits to eating the Paleo Diet.
So, we can divide users of intermittent fasting into two general groups: one that consumes the standard western diet, and one that eats whole, real food.
Does one group enjoy an advantage over the other? Let’s break it down.
Intermittent Fasting on Standard Western Diet
IF’ers who eat the standard western diet encounter fewer restrictions and enjoy a greater range of food and deeper connection during social celebrations traditionally centered around food.
And studies show personal preference and flexibility in diet may facilitate long-term adherence and weight loss success.
These IF’ers, however, tend to consume food that’s more dense in empty calories while providing less satiety.
Intermittent Fasting on Whole, Real Food
IF’ers who consume whole, real food (paleo/primal) face food-choice restriction — e.g. limited or no grains, legumes, processed foods, sugar, etc.
While many wonderful recipes utilizing whole, real food are plenty, food-choice restriction still curtails the essence of culture in its celebration of traditional meals during special occasions.
Also, the paleo diet eliminates most of the food that has been sustaining some of the world’s most healthy and long-lived people.
However, IF’ers who eat whole, real food also enjoy nutrient density while minimizing calories, a factor in weight loss and management. And adequate nutrient intake may be more important than calorie restriction for health and, in one study of fruit flies, longevity.
Whole, real food tends to be low GI, which has been shown to produce a state of hunger-resistance. This may help especially people who are new to IF.
Comparison Between Both Groups
Perhaps interesting is the reporting by both groups of IF’ers receiving nearly identical health benefits (weight loss, vitality, etc.), while one study on mice shows slight favor toward the IF group eating low GI food.
As mentioned, while low GI food tends to produce less hunger, it does not necessarily produce greater weight loss compared to higher glycemic index food, calorie-per-calorie. Perhaps this is why both IF groups often report the same weight loss; it has more to do with total calorie intake.
It seems IF, no matter the food type consumed, is ultimately effective for weight loss, weight management and health. The inclusion of standard western food may help with adherence, while consuming mostly whole, real food is helpful for the control of hunger.
However, those who have done intermittent fasting for a while experience fewer frequency and less magnitude of hunger.
Practice in The Real World
From this information, my usual recommendation of IF’ing with mostly whole, real food while enjoying some non-paleo food can be a sustainable way to manage weight and stay healthy.
Basically, if you use intermittent fasting, you can play around between 100% Paleo and Standard Western diet. Beginning IF’ers may do better closer to 100% paleo to control hunger, while the more experienced can slide back and forth on this scale to enjoy the essence of culture and help with adherence, while averaging closer toward paleo.
Of course, the increased nutrients in the paleo diet is always a good thing, but enjoyment, adherence, and keeping things simple are keys to being lean year-round.