Over the years, we've had thousands of AENpeeps achieve their weight loss goals, improve their relationship with food and feel great while following the Complete Intermittent Fasting Bundle meal plans. Just check out some of the amazing transformations with the pictures below.
But one question that often pops up within the community is "is Intermittent Fasting safe for my teenager?"
Today, we're diving into those details.
Disclaimer: The information in this article is for educational purposes and is not meant to replace medical advice. Always speak with your doctor before making changes to your diet or your teenagers diet.
Is Intermittent Fasting Good For Teenagers?
Intermittent Fasting has a variety of studied benefits such as:
improved insulin sensitivity (1)
balanced cortisol levels (with eTRF) (2)
better muscle mass retention than calorie restriction (3)
increased gut cleaning with the Migrating Motor Complex
These benefits often translate to weight loss, improved gut health, increased energy levels and decreased bloating. So is Intermittent Fasting right for teenagers?
The first question we need to discuss is whether or not Intermittent Fasting is even safe for teenagers. If you do a quick google search (which is likely how you stumbled across this article!), then you'll quickly see statements from various websites saying Intermittent Fasting is not recommended during periods of rapid growth. The thought process is that Intermittent Fasting drastically reduces energy intake and therefore shouldn't be recommended.
However, there are two issues with this:
Intermittent Fasting isn't inherently a calorie restrictive diet. In fact, it doesn't tell you to eat less, just less often.
Pediatric websites, like this one from a hospital in Kansas City, will tell teenagers to "cut down on calories" and decrease portion sizes in order to lose weight.
So it's a bit of an interesting double standard. Cutting portion sizes and calories is apparently fine, but incorporating a 12-16 hour daily fast is not?
Truth be told, there isn't really any research done on Intermittent Fasting and teenagers, so no one can really say for sure if Intermittent Fasting is good for them or not.
But what we do know is that getting adequate nutrients for a teenagers growing body is crucial for development. And thankfully, it's quite easy to get all of the daily nutrient needs with certain forms of Intermittent Fasting. (We'll be diving into this later in the article, but you can also checkout my free Intermittent Fasting By Age quiz below).
The other concern is the potential for disordered eating patterns. And especially during teenage years, this is an important consideration. But it's also important to note that any lifestyle change can result in an unhealthy relationship with food: calorie restriction, an extreme focus on "clean eating" and excessive exercise to name a few.
In fact, Intermittent Fasting hasn't been found to cause an eating disorder. As one study performed on 18 year olds following a 24 hour fast notes (4):
"Participants did not demonstrate significant increases in disordered eating behaviors following the fast."
Anecdotally, there are interesting stories of those discussing how Intermittent Fasting helped them to heal their relationship with food. I receive these messages on a daily basis and you can find them in the comments section of nearly every YouTube video discussing Intermittent Fasting.
However, those who are currently struggling with an eating disorder may often use fasting in the same way they might use calorie restriction. But it doesn't mean that Intermittent Fasting causes someone to have an eating disorder.
So if you or your teenager is struggling with an eating disorder, Intermittent Fasting would not be a good choice. Otherwise, current research is showing that Intermittent Fasting likely does not cause an eating disorder.
Intermittent Fasting Tips To Consider
If you and your doctor decide that Intermittent Fasting is a good fit for your teenager, then there are a few things to consider:
#1 Maintain a shorter fast
Shorter fasts, such as 12-16 hour fasting lengths allow a wide enough eating window to get all of your teenagers daily nutrient needs in. These shorter fasts also allow for a normal eating pattern of breakfast, lunch and dinner.
#2 Don't Cut "Meals"
People often think of Intermittent Fasting as simply skipping breakfast. Because teenagers require nutrients needed for growth, it's crucial to not skip a meal. Instead, focusing on three meals eaten during a smaller period of time (such as a 12 hour eating window) can allow for a full daily intake of nutrients.
#3 Get Adequate Protein
Growth requires a lot of protein. Each meal within the eating window should contain high quality, complete sources of protein that match the individuals protein needs.
#4 Focus On Meals
Each meal within the eating window should be intentional and created to meet the nutritional needs of the teenager. I personally love making smoothies that are packed with protein, fat and fiber for a delicious and convenient way to meet my nutrient needs. You can check out one of my favorite smoothie recipes with the video below.
#5 Widen The Window If Necessary
If your teenager starts with a 16 hour fast and they aren't able to get all of their daily needs in, it might be time to widen the window. Instead of a 16 hour fast, try bringing it down to a 14 or even 12 hour fast. Feel free to experiment with the window length that works best for your teenager.
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Autumn Elle Nutrition