Fasting vs Calorie Restriction – Which Offers More Health Benefits?

Health is a privilege. Good health matters the most for a body to survive for a long time. Just like that some dietary strategies such as fasting and calorie restriction are much necessary to raise living health standards. Fasting vs. calorie restriction, which is better?

 

Actually, both of them are to make changes in the food intake, quantity and hours of consumption. But they differ in their methods and range of benefits. Therefore, there is a dire need to learn about whether fasting or calorie restriction can fulfil your health and wellness goals. Let’s learn it together.

 

Fasting vs Calorie Restriction

In the text, fasting is saying no to foods and drinks but for specific hours. It can be intermittent fasting, where you have to eat within few hours. The rest of the hours in a day should be spent on fasting. You can simply extend the fasts to several days as well, the so-called extended fasting.

 

Fasting Types

  • Intermittent fasting (IF) – eat and fast
  • 16/8 IF method, where you fast for 16 hours and eat during an 8-hour window
  • 5:2 IF method, where you eat normally five days a week and restrict calories to 500-600 for the other two days.
  • Alternate-Day Fasting – days of eating and days of fasting
  • Time-restricted feeding (TRF) – eat within a window of time each day and fast for the remaining hours

 

How Fasting Works?

In fasting you are hungry, this way your body turns on a metabolic switch. It stops using glucose for energy. Instead, it consumes ketones. This process is ketosis. It occurs while your body breaks down stored fat to gain energy in the absence of food.

 

 

Calorie restriction CR is a ‘Quality over Quantity’ method. It means you can reduce overall calorie intake without changing your usual timing of meals. The main focus is on eating nutritious foods where fewer calories are consumed than expended while consciously limiting total calorie uptake. Calorie restriction is often paired up with portion control and mindful eating.

 

Calorie Restriction Methods:

  • Continuous calorie restriction (CCR) – reduce daily calorie intake by 15-40% for a long period
  • Calorie cyclingzig-zag dieting periods of high and low-calorie
  • Meal skipping – intentionally skip meals regularly or as needed

 

How Calorie Restriction (CR) Work?

CR reduces the total energy intake of the body which further slows down the metabolic rate. Plus, there is an increase in autophagy (self-eating). This process maximizes the cellular repair and maintenance in the body.

 

Fasting vs Calorie Restriction: Similarities Between Two

Both methods:

  • Improve Insulin sensitivity and reduce inflammation
  • Help in weight loss and increase metabolic rate
  • Involve consuming fewer calories than usual
  • Promote cellular repair and maintenance
  • Have a risk of nutrient deficiencies
  • Regulate blood sugar levels
  • Create calorie deficit

 

Fasting vs Calorie Restriction: The Major Differences

FastingCalorie Restriction
Abstain from eating and drinking for a set hours Reduce daily calories by between 20 to 40%
No need to note the nutritional contentRequire knowledge of the nutritional value of food
Can be more accessible for many peopleNot for many people
May prompt nutritional imbalance (hunger + Cravings)Micro and macro-nutrient deficiencies are common
Focuses on when you eatFocuses on consuming fewer calories
Offers various schedules with specific eating windowsRequires tracking calorie intake and adjusting portion sizes
Often induces ketosisLead to a sustained calorie deficit
Requires adjustments to meal timing Involves meal planning and portion sizes

 

Comparing the Health Benefits of Fasting and Calorie Restriction

Here are the health benefits of fasting vs calorie restriction. Actually, both have quite similar effects and benefits. Anyhow, the major focus is on weight loss, metabolic health, longevity, cognitive benefits, and immune system effects.

 

Weight Loss Effects:

Fasting increases the breakdown of the fat stored in the body for weight loss. In fact, there is a shift to ketosis, a metabolic state where body fat is used for energy. Additionally, fasting increases the body’s ability to burn fat rather than muscle mass loss. Calorie restriction also reduces calorie intake by a specific percentage. But, it decreases muscle mass too which is not good. Both processes have similar weight loss effects as clear from a study.

 

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Metabolic Health Benefits:

The speed of metabolism determines the health status of a body. By keeping fasting or restricting calories you can gain metabolic health benefits. So, fasting improves insulin sensitivity which means there is a reduction in diseases like type 2 diabetes. Plus you can improve lipid profiles to have a perfect working heart. Calorie restriction also decreases insulin resistance to improve glucose metabolism. It may lower blood pressure and reduce unnecessary swelling to stir up metabolism.

 

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Longevity and Aging Benefits:

Living a long life feels like a dream right? Therefore stay hungry for a while and let your body do the work. When you are fasting, your body works speedily to increase the repair work and maintain cells. This decreases the signs of aging. Also, human growth hormone is secreted to keep your body updated. Calorie restriction can take part in longevity and anti-aging. It activates genetic pathways to DNA repair. Research also says that reducing calories for a day decreases oxidative stress, which prevents age-related diseases.

 

Cognitive Benefits:

The brain has to be healthy for good body performance. Fasting has cognitive benefits that can cause improvement in memory. It also increases the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which keeps the brain in check. Moreover, calorie restriction too decreases the risk of cognitive decline like one feels in Alzheimer’s disease. It can be a brain booster to perform learning and adapting to new situations. Furthermore, it uplifts the mood and keeps the motor neurons active to carry out the limbs or other physical functions.

 

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Immune System Effects:

The immune system helps us fight negative thoughts and battle diseases, viruses and other infections. Not eating for a few hours can give worthy support to the immune response. The fasting body can fight off bacterial infections and cut off unwanted inflammations. Also, fasting produces adiponectin hormones to boost immunity. Restriction in a day’s calories changes the immune responses to decrease autoimmune diseases and inflammatory conditions. Plus, it promotes immune cell turnover to guard against pathogens.

 

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How Does Fasting Promote Calorie Restriction?

You can not directly restrict calories by fasting. Actually, there is a unique form of fasting, intermittent fasting (IF) which is more like calorie restriction. It has the advantage over normal calorie restriction because it prevents malnutrition and is more suitable for most people.

But fasting can achieve calorie restriction in a few ways:

  • Reduced Eating Window – limit the eating timeframe because there’s less opportunity to eat.
  • Appetite Control – regulate hunger hormones like ghrelin to make you feel fuller.
  • Metabolic Shift – burn fat for energy instead of glucose to reduce calorie needs.

 

What Researchers Comment On the Benefits Of Fasting vs Calorie Restriction?

Science has made a lot of progress and collected information on fasting. Here are some comments from researchers on the benefits of fasting vs calorie restriction:

 

  • Valter Longo‘s experiments on fasting and calorie restriction show that it is good for weight loss, can deal with metabolic restrictors, reduce insulin levels and speed up autophagy.

 

 

  • Another study in Medical News Today found that intermittent fasting has similar results for weight loss as calorie restriction has. Also, it was rather less potent for burning body fat.

 

Is Intermittent Fasting Good Or Calorie Restriction?

Both methods are good in their own place. There is a lot of ongoing research and debate. As always, the best solution is the method that works for your longevity. If you can stick to it for a long time to increase your lifespan, just choose it.

 

Most people find intermittent fasting easier because calorie restriction can be difficult to track at times. But calorie restriction is suitable for the person who likes to have structured eating plans. Another thing to note is your personal goals, preferences, and your metabolism.

 

Fasting or Caloric Restriction For Losing Weight

As findings by Healthline, both of them contribute equally to weight loss. But weight loss is seen to be more prominent in persons who follow strict eating plans.

 

Style of eating is easy to choose if you can keep up with it for a long time, says Megan Hilbert, a certified dietitian at Top Nutrition Coaching. She also added that one must look at their body state before starting weight loss. Also, calorie restriction is not a good suggestion if you are pursuing it long-term because it decreases the basal metabolic rate (calories required for daily function) to a dangerous level. This makes you hungry and you end up eating more, ruining your weight loss journey.

 

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Ending Remarks

So who wins in the fasting vs calorie restriction battle? No one actually! Of course, both have tons of benefits. While they may be similar but have different focuses and implementations. But we have seen that both are all-rounder in keeping your body healthy and extending your lifespan. You can either go intermittent fasting or calorie restriction but you have to balance it with what your body needs.

 

If you can’t come up with your go-to stop, find a good dietitian and plan with them.

 

So are you adapting to the rapid effects of fasting or the steady progress of calorie restriction? Either can be your answer. Just remember one thing forever; being healthy is a priority. Go, explore and enjoy!

 

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