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Tipping the Scales: Intermittent Fasting vs. the Ketogenic Diet

Natalie Allen works with student athletes on dietary changes.
Kevin White
Natalie Allen and Lexington Dobbs working with student athletes providing them with nutrition education on September 27, 2021. Kevin White/Missouri State University

Food fuels us. Unfortunately, too many people have unhealthy relationships with food. This has contributed to an epidemic of obesity in the United States.

Natalie Allen, a registered dietitian who shares duties between the biomedical sciences and athletic departments at Missouri State University, shares about recent trends in dieting. 

One of the most prevalent diet trends right now is intermittent fasting, Allen said. In this diet, people limit the duration during a day that they allow themselves to eat.

Listen to the interview

In some cases, she said, people set a timetable for when they can eat (ex. between 10 a.m.-4 p.m.). Others on this diet eat more calories in one day and severely restrict their calories the next.

“It doesn’t appear to promote more weight loss than a healthy eating plan with exercise,” Allen said.

“Intermittent fasting can be helpful for people who are late night eaters. That tends to be a time people overindulge and eat when we’re not hungry. So, if that’s you, it might be helpful to say, ‘I’m not going to eat after 6 p.m.’

“But as far as sticking to a strict regimen about hours that you eat, that doesn’t seem to be beneficial for the body. It’s not harmful either, but for a lot of people, it creates a lot of stress, and a lot of energy is wasted on it.”

The other major trend Allen mentioned was the ketogenic, or “high fat” diet.

She says it’s very hard to follow long term.

“Your body is not naturally in a state of ketosis. That’s where you’re using fat for energy instead of carbohydrates,” she said. “I would not recommend that for the general public.”

She said this diet has a low success rate for several reasons:

  • It’s a lot of time and effort. 
  • Meat can be very expensive.  
  • People get frustrated and don’t do it. 
  • Very easy to overeat without reaching ketosis. 

Allen notes that the ketogenic diet was originally developed to help children with epilepsy. She explains it is not as sustainable, therefore, and maybe not as effective for the average person. 

Some studies are underway to explore the diet's effect on the heart, blood pressure and blood sugar, she added.

“On the flip side, if somebody is able to lose weight on the ketogenic diet, all of those things generally improve,” Allen said. “The bottom line: Does the ketogenic diet help people lose weight? And the answer is yes, if you can maintain it.”

Instead of trying to lose weight via a “diet,” Allen offers simple suggestions to improve your likelihood of making smarter eating decisions:

  • Make a meal plan for your week. 
  • Pick a day to meal prep four meals to eat throughout the week. 
  • Use a smartphone app to keep a grocery list. 
  • Keep recipes in one place to easily access them. 

By making these small lifestyle changes, you will be less likely to gravitate toward unhealthy choices.
“Also, if you are trying to eat a little bit more protein or you want to add more fruits and vegetables, or more whole grains, whatever your goal is, you have control of that as you’re planning throughout the week.”

Nicki received a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Business Administration from Missouri State in marketing, in 2002 and 2004 respectively. After gaining experience in writing, marketing, special event planning, fundraising and public relations, she returned to the university to work in the office of strategic communication. There she tells the university’s story by sharing the stories of individuals at Missouri State.