- Research found that people lost the same amount of weight on an intermittent fasting diet as they did on a calorie-counting diet.
- People in both groups were able to maintain their weight after one year.
- Nutritionists say there are a few factors to consider when choosing one over the other.
Intermittent fasting has been an effervescent way to lose weight for years, with followers swearing that eating for a certain period of time has helped them reach their goals and stave off excess weight. But new research has shown that fasting diets may not be better than counting calories when it comes to losing weight.
The small study, which was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, followed 77 obese people and randomly assigned them to one of three groups for six months. One group followed an intermittent fasting diet, where they only ate between noon and 8 p.m., another ate what they wanted but reduced their total calorie count by 25%, and the third didn’t. changed his eating habits.
After six months, the researchers tweaked things slightly: They had the intermittent fasting group eat over a 10-hour window, and the calorie-counting group ate enough food to feel satisfied. People in both diet groups lost weight in the first six months and kept it off after the initial six months, resulting in a 5% reduction in body weight after one year.
By the end of the year, the intermittent fasting group consumed an average of 425 fewer calories per day than the control group and lost about 10 pounds more. The calorie counting group had about 405 fewer calories per day than the control group and lost 12 pounds more.
“Time-restricted eating is more effective in producing weight loss compared to control, but no more effective than calorie restriction,” the researchers concluded.
“Despite the popularity of a time-restricted diet, there are only a few long-term studies on the effect of time-restricted eating for weight loss,” says the lead author. study, Shuhao Lin, MS, RD, Ph.D. candidate at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “Many previous studies have combined time-restricted eating with calorie counting and compared that to calorie counting alone. However, the strength of the time-restricted diet is that it’s simple and people don’t have to count calories. Therefore, we are interested in how the time-restricted diet only would compare to calorie counting over the long term. Studying the ability to maintain weight loss was also important, Lin says.
It is important to note that both methods are restrictive and may not be suitable for everyone. Check with your healthcare provider before starting a new diet to find out if it’s right for you.
But why can intermittent fasting and calorie counting have the same impact, and how do you know which is right for you if you’re looking to lose weight? Nutritionists explain.
Why can intermittent fasting and calorie counting give you similar results?
It’s important to note that this isn’t the first study to find that intermittent fasting and calorie counting lead to similar weight loss results. A study of 139 obese people published in The New England Journal of Medicine last year, one group limited their daily calories, while another had to limit their calories and eat between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. The researchers found that people in both groups lost about 14 to 18 pounds, and those in the calorie counting group lost no more weight than those in the calorie counting group.
But the latest study found that people lost similar amounts of weight to calorie counters on an intermittent fasting diet, even when they were not count calories.
Experts say there may be several reasons why the two diets give similar results. “One thing I’ve seen with clients who do intermittent fasting is that it can make someone more aware of what they’re consuming in their eating window, like calorie counting,” says Jessica Cording, RD, author of the Little Book of Game-Changers. “When someone does this in a constructive and supportive way, it can make them more intentional about choosing nutrient-dense foods as part of their goals.”
Calorie counting also encourages people to think a lot about food, points out Albert Matheny, RD, CSCSco-founder of SoHo Strength Lab and advise of Promix Nutrition. “With intermittent fasting, you’re not focused on the little things. Everyone can tell the time. You can think about other things during your day and not be so focused on food. This can lead to someone to consume fewer calories by default, he says.
Is one better than the other?
Not necessarily. “When we talk about weight loss methods, it always depends on people’s preferences,” Lin says. “Some people may find time-restricted eating easier and more effective than counting calories, while others may find it less effective.”
The string is okay. “It’s really individual,” she says.
But Matheny points out that intermittent fasting is often easier for most people to follow. “If it’s a lot easier and you get the same results, great,” he says. “Simplicity in health and fitness is the number one thing for people. Worrying about portion control is hard.
Intermittent fasting vs calorie counting for weight loss
Experts say it’s important to look at your lifestyle and eating habits to see how each type of diet can fit into your life. “What we see in studies is that people lose the same amount of weight on average in both groups,” Lin says. “However, there are many variations in how each person reacts to their diet.”
Cording suggests looking at past experiences you’ve had with weight loss efforts and thinking about what worked and what didn’t work for you. “It will give you clues as to what might or might not work for you in the future,” she says. “If you’ve tried counting calories in the past and it made you obsessed with it, this isn’t the right approach for you. If you want the freedom of not counting calories but want some sort of structure, intermittent fasting can be a good choice.
Cording also recommends paying attention to when you tend to be most and least hungry during the day, which can also tell you if an intermittent fasting regimen may be feasible for you.
If you want to lose weight and aren’t sure where to start, Lin recommends consulting a dietitian. They can help you determine your weight loss goals and achieve them in a personalized way.
Korin Miller is a freelance writer specializing in general wellness, health and sex, and lifestyle trends, with work appearing in Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Self, Glamour, and more. She has a master’s degree from American University, lives near the beach, and hopes to one day own a teacup pig and a taco truck.