One of the many fitness and weight loss trends swirling in the ether is something called “intermittent fasting”. Intermittent fasting means that you limit the hours of your food intake; this can be done in phases of 12-48 hours.

Most of us come fairly close to this anyway, especially if you get at least 8 hours of sleep at night. But to really do this, you need to have some of your waking hours committed to fasting. For example, in a 12 hour fast, you would eat only between the hours of 7 am and 7 pm, then not eat between 7 pm and 7 am.

One of the ideas behind intermittent fasting is that by skipping meals you will consume fewer calories, as you’re cutting yourself off from eating for a specific period of time. Also, during your “feasting” period, the theory is that you’re consuming your calories during your most active times of the day.

There are guidelines as well as pros and cons to a feasting and fasting program. You want to be very conscious of the food you do eat during the “feasting” period, as it is important to not just eat whatever you want but to consume foods that will fuel you well. During fasting periods, you are permitted to have water or tea.

Pros: restricting your food intake during key times will trigger your body to consume more efficiently, and fat will be burned as fuel, especially if you do your workout during the fasting period. Intermittent fasting has also been credited with building lean muscle mass and reducing inflammation in the body.

Cons, especially for women, deal with how a woman’s body will hormonally respond, and sometimes limiting foods can affect key bodily functions, especially those associated with fertility or inconsistent periods. Fasting can also trigger feelings of anxiety and stress and may affect sleep patterns.

Choose your fasting days wisely. You’ll want to do less intense workouts on the days when you will fast and make sure you start slow; an 8 or 12 hour fast done occasionally is a good way to see how your body will respond to this method. As you become more familiar with the technique and how it affects your body and your workout, then you might try longer periods of fasting.

There are some in the fitness world that rave about its benefits for strength training and weight loss, while others caution against being so restrictive with food, especially when it can cause disruptions to our normal body cycles. Always consult with your doctor before beginning any diet or exercise program, especially one that deals with a food restriction like intermittent fasting.