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Fasting vs. Dieting: What’s Better for Weight Loss?

Dieting has been a popular weight loss strategy for many years, with various plans and approaches available. However, in recent years, intermittent fasting (IF) has also gained popularity as a healthy and sustainable way to lose weight.

Which method is better for long-term weight loss? And what kind of benefits come with each of these methods? Keep reading and find out.

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What Is the Difference Between Fasting and Dieting?

Let’s examine what intermittent fasting and dieting have to offer independently of each other.

What is fasting?

Intermittent fasting, sometimes referred to as a fasting diet or periodic fasting, is a time-restricted eating pattern during which you abstain from foods and beverages for a prolonged time without interruption.

It’s important to note that IF is not a diet and doesn’t restrict you from consuming any foods. However, a healthy and well-balanced diet is heavily encouraged for the best results.

There are different types of intermittent fasting, going from more accessible methods to advanced, day-long fasting periods. Let’s look at some examples of the most popular fasting variations, starting from a basic one—the 14:10 method.

This fasting style consists of a 10-hour eating period during which you are allowed to eat, and a 14-hour fasting period where you consume a minimal amount of calories. 14:10 is an excellent option for beginners, as most of your fast happens while sleeping.

Another popular type of fasting is alternate-day fasting. As the name indicates, while following this variation, you will be fasting for alternate days—cycling between days of regular eating (following your average daily caloric intake) and not eating anything at all (restricted caloric intake).

However, it is important to note that alternate-day fasting is an advanced fasting method that can be strenuous on the body. If you’re not used to going for prolonged periods without food, it could be better to start your fasting journey with beginner-friendly types of fasts, such as 12:12 or 14:10.

Intermittent fasting may sound simple, but before learning how to fast, it’s essential to understand what fasting does to your body and its potential risks. While the core concept of IF is straightforward, it’s vital to do proper research before diving headfirst into it.

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What is dieting?

Dieting is defined as an intentional change in the amount or type of food consumed, usually to lose weight and improve physical appearance.

People often choose to diet as a means to lose weight, while others start dieting to increase their energy levels or improve their overall health.

Dieting has been around for a couple of centuries, during which thousands of different diet plans have popped up, promising to be the next big thing in weight loss and adapting to the latest health trends. Let’s discover two popular diets with proven benefits:

  • The keto diet — a low-carb, moderate-protein, and high-fat diet proven to be effective for weight loss. The goal behind keto is to get your body into a state of ketosis, which enables you to burn fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates.

Combining IF and the keto diet may accelerate weight loss, as low-carb intermittent fasting is a keto-based variation of fasting that helps you trigger ketosis faster. Before starting, check with a physician  or registered dietitan to see if keto is right for you.

  • The Mediterranean diet — rather than a program specifically developed for weight loss, the Mediterranean diet is a way of eating based on the traditional cuisines of countries bordering the sea with the same name. It’s mainly a plant-based diet that prioritizes fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and whole grains over red meat and dairy products. The Mediterranean diet has been shown to improve the markers of heart disease and human health.

Some evidence suggests that combining the Mediterranean diet with intermittent fasting may help with weight management and significantly improve the markers for heart disease.

But now, back to the main question—the main difference between dieting and fasting is that dieting mainly revolves around calorie restriction, while fasting focuses on the timing of your meals. We already know both methods can be used to lose weight, but is one of them superior to the other when it comes to weight loss?

Fasting or Dieting: Which Is More Effective for Weight Loss?

There is no simple answer here, as research has yet to come to a clear conclusion about which of these two methods is better suited for weight loss.

Intermittent fasting promotes weight loss by putting your body into a state of ketosis—a metabolic process that occurs when your body starts running on stored fat instead of carbohydrates.

When you’re fasting, you limit your calorie intake to zero for a specific time, which can put you into a calorie deficit as you have less time to eat.

Dieting, on the other hand, helps you lose weight exclusively through a calorie deficit.

A study compared the results of fasting and dieting over periods going from 3 to 24 weeks. The outcome was quite interesting: intermittent fasting helped participants reduce body weight by up to 8% in the given amount of time. In comparison, calorie restriction resulted in drops between 4 and 14%, with some cases taking even longer.

It’s worth noting that the effectiveness of IF for weight loss depends on several factors, including the type of fast, dietary habits, and lifestyle choices.

Fasting is made easy with DoFasting. Choose your fasting plan, log your calorie intake, and update your body weight—DoFasting will help you monitor your progress and keep yourself accountable.

All in all, both intermittent fasting and dieting can be effective for weight loss, but neither of them is a quick fix. 

It’s important to mention that, while it’s possible to push yourself to the limit and lose more pounds than recommended, extreme calorie restriction is not a sustainable way to lose weight—it’s very likely that those lost pounds will come back as soon as you stop your diet.

Fasting or Dieting: Health Benefits

It’s clear that both intermittent fasting and dieting are excellent methods to lose weight. Let’s find out what else they bring to the table aside from weight loss.

Benefits of fasting

Weight loss is the main reason people start IF, but there are many other benefits associated with this habit. Here are 5 significant advantages of intermittent fasting:

While intermittent fasting gained popularity as a weight-loss method, it’s clear that it offers many more benefits than just reducing body fat. It can be an effective way of improving overall health when practiced under the guidance of a healthcare professional.

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Benefits of dieting

A well-balanced diet has many benefits, but these may vary based on the program of your choice. However, adding nutrient-dense foods to your diet can:

  • Boost heart health — research suggests that following DASH or OMNI Heart diets lowers blood pressure, “bad” cholesterol, and triglycerides, which are risk factors associated with heart disease.
  • Improve immune function — when done correctly, dieting can actually strengthen your immune system. This is because it provides your body with all of the essential nutrients and macronutrients necessary for a strong immune system.
  • Strengthen bones and teeth — a well-balanced diet means you’re getting all of your essential nutrients. Calcium-rich diets have been shown to contribute to strong bones.

It’s important to note that a diet that severely limits intake of protein, fats, and carbohydrates will likely bring more problems than benefits in the long term, as it cuts out essential nutrients.

On the contrary, fasting diets that restrict food intake for specific hours of the day appear to bring more benefits beyond dropping weight than dieting. Moreover, intermittent fasting will always offer the same positive effects, while the benefits of dieting depend directly on your chosen plan.

Fasting or Dieting: Risks and Drawbacks

Both intermittent fasting and dieting promote calorie restriction in some sense, which can come with a few side effects.

Let’s take a look at the potential risks posed by intermittent fasting and dieting.

Risks and drawbacks of fasting

While IF can offer many advantages, it is not a one-size-fits-all approach. It may be especially challenging for beginners, as abstaining from food and beverages other than water for long periods is not easy to get used to.

Some of the most common challenges that people may encounter when starting an intermittent fasting diet include feelings of hunger and food cravings, which can make the fast more difficult to manage, and in some instances, lead to overeating. Thankfully, you can avoid binges by choosing natural appetite-suppressant foods with which to start or break your fast.

Furthermore, some people may be at risk of developing eating disorders after trying IF. If you feel that fasting is becoming an obsession or is impacting your mental health negatively, seek professional help as soon as possible.

Another potential risk of intermittent fasting is electrolyte imbalance resulting from inadequate hydration and a restrictive diet during eating hours. This can cause symptoms such as irritability, headaches, and fatigue.

It is also important to note that there are certain groups of people for whom intermittent fasting is not recommended, as they have specific dietary requirements that may not be met with this habit:

  • People under 18 years old
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding women
  • People with a history of eating disorders
  • Those who are taking prescribed medication

In any case, it’s always advisable to consult a healthcare professional before starting any new weight loss plan, including intermittent fasting. They can help you to determine whether it’s a good fit for you and create a personalized plan that fits your individual needs and goals.

Risks and drawbacks of dieting

Dieting, when done in an extreme or unbalanced way, has severe consequences on your health.

Some diets may be low in essential nutrients and lead to nutrient deficiencies, which can have a significant impact on your overall health and well-being. Certain popular diets have been shown to increase the risk of developing micronutrient deficiencies, so it’s crucial to research and fully understand your chosen plan before making any changes in your habits.

Extreme dieting can also cause an unhealthy relationship with food, which can manifest itself in obsessive behaviors such as excessive calorie counting and obsession with losing weight. Unfortunately, many people who diet end up with an eating disorder.

In sum: intermitting fasting and dieting can negatively affect your health if done incorrectly. Also, both methods require consistency in order to obtain results, either in the short or long term.

In either case, it’s important to remember that weight should be lost gradually, focusing on overall health and well-being rather than just numbers on a scale. A well-balanced diet, regular physical activity, and good habits are essential components of a healthy lifestyle.

As always, it’s recommended to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new weight loss plan or modifying your habits drastically.

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Fasting vs. Dieting: Key Takeaways

Calorie restriction is a foundational principle of both intermittent fasting and dieting.

Intermittent fasting is a time-restricted eating pattern in which you abstain from foods and beverages for a prolonged period without interruption. Dieting, on the other hand, limits the amount or type of food you can, but allows you to eat at any time of the day.

Both methods have been shown to be effective for weight loss, as they both lead to a calorie deficit. However, there are some key differences between intermittent fasting and dieting.

Dieting primarily focuses on calorie restriction, while IF emphasizes the timing of meals. And while dieting can lead to losing some body fat, it does not offer many additional benefits. Intermittent fasting, on the other hand, has been shown to bring various advantages, including improved blood sugar management, boosted metabolism, and anti-aging properties.


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This is an evidence-based article that includes scientific citations. DoFasting’s professional writers and editors prepared the content, which a team of medical experts verified to be accurate.

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