Debating if you should start a diet or stick to an exercise pattern to lose weight? It's worth considering combining the two, as a new study suggests that integrating intermittent fasting with high-intensity workouts is the most effective strategy for fat loss and improved cardiometabolic health.

Intermittent fasting or time-restricted eating controls the time frame in which individuals can eat, but does not restrict the types of food they consume. Under this popular weight loss regimen, individuals could alternate between periods of eating and fasting by following the 16/8 method (fasting for 16 hours and then eating during an eight-hour window), or the 14/10 method (a 14-hour fast followed by a 10-hour eating window).

Although both intermittent fasting and high-intensity workouts are well-known ways to lose weight, finding the right combination to produce sustainable results can sometimes be challenging.

In the latest study, a research team from the University of Sfax, Tunisia, discovered that adopting intermittent fasting with an eating period between 8 am and 4 pm, combined with high-intensity functional training during the fasting window, could lead to significant transformations in body composition and cardiometabolic measures compared to solely following a diet or exercise regimen.

For the study conducted over 12 weeks, 64 obese women were divided into three groups: one focusing solely on time-restricted eating (diet only), another on high-intensity functional training (exercise only), and a third group combining time-restricted eating with high-intensity functional training (diet + exercise).

Functional training comprised three weekly sessions led by an instructor, each lasting an hour. These sessions included 8 sets of 8 functional exercises, comprising both aerobic and resistance exercises. These workouts were conducted in the evening, an hour after the fasting window of the participants began.

To measure the cardiometabolic health of the participants, researchers looked at their cholesterol, blood glucose, and lipid levels.

At the end of the trial, all three groups showed significant weight loss, reduced waist and hip circumference, and favorable changes in lipid and glucose levels. However, there were some changes seen between the groups.

Notably, fat-free mass, which includes lean mass and skeletal muscle mass, as well as improvements in blood pressure, were seen in both the diet + exercise and exercise-only groups, whereas these measures remained unchanged in the diet-only group.

"Participants in the diet + exercise group generally experienced more profound changes in body composition and cardiometabolic parameters than either diet or exercise alone," the news release stated.

Since the study is based on a small sample size, pinpointing the precise impacts of particular exercise routines or time-restricted eating versus calorie reduction is difficult to trace.

However, researchers recommend that "combining time-restricted eating with high-intensity functional training is a promising strategy to improve body composition and cardiometabolic health."