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Intermittent fasting: Is restrictive eating right for you?

Can intermittent fasting help you lose weight? There are a few ways to do it — here's how well each worked.

by Gabrielle Frank /  / Updated  / Source: TODAY

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There's nothing new about the concept of intermittent fasting, but it's been a hot topic in the news lately as more celebrities like Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Lopez and our own Hoda Kotb have touted its benefits (she lost 2 pounds in one day).

Intermittent fasting is just what it sounds like: An eating plan that recommends you restrict calories for optimal weight loss.

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There are a few different ways to try it. Kotb is trying the time restrictive approach, but NBC's Kerry Sanders worked with nutritionist Joy Bauer to put the three most popular methods to the test. He tried each plan for a week — here are the results!

1. The 5:2 plan

Eat normally five days a week, and consume fewer than 600 calories two days a week. Bauer recommended Sanders split those 600 calories into two, 300-calorie meals. This posed a challenge for Sanders, who noted that he's on the road 200 days a year.

What was OK to eat? Two hard-boiled eggs, a slice of tomato and a cup of berries.

"I haven't had much to eat, and while I haven't been hangry yet, I'm beginning to get a little upset. This is not fun," Sanders stated, on one of the 600-calories days.

But it worked — in the first week he lost 3 pounds.

2. Alternate days

Eat normally one day, then fast (eat fewer than 600 calories ) the next — and repeat for the rest of the week.

Another example of a 300-calorie meal: Peanut butter on a rice cake, banana and a cup of plain Greek yogurt. At the end of week two, Sanders had lost another 3 pounds.

3. Time restrictive

This type of fasting recommends that you only eat between 12 and 8 p.m. After following this plan for a whole week, Sanders was down another 4 pounds. That means at the end of three weeks, he had lost a total over 10 pounds.

Though these methods worked for him, does that mean it will work for you? Not necessarily, warned Bauer.

"You reduced your calories and therefore you lost weight — that's going to happen with any calorie-controlled plan," said Bauer. In other words, fasting is no miracle cure.

Though aside from the considerable weight loss, there were also a few benefits: "Kerry was much more mindful of eating. I only gave him small, little meals on the fasting days. He really experienced his food, slowed down his chewing," said Bauer.

There are some major cons to consider: According to Bauer, a lot of people wind up binging on their non-fasting days, and also experience low blood sugar and crankiness on fasting days. The bottom like? It's a hard plan to maintain for most people.

Before trying it, visit your physician and see if it's something that could potentially work for you.

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