Intermittent Fasting: Understand the Diet Strategy and How It Works

Updated on February 27, 2019
Olivia Philips profile image

Olivia is a nutritionist and diet, fitness, and weight-loss consultant based in Texas. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Food and Nutrition.

Fruits and Foods for Dieting
Fruits and Foods for Dieting

The Science Behind Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting is alternating periods of fasting and eating on the same day, so you have a restricted time during which you eat. People who practice it adjust their eating schedule to align with the natural rhythms of hormonal cycles as well as the sleep-wake cycle of the body. This cycle can be one of your own planning. It can also be a more established pattern like 12 hours of fasting followed by 12 hours in which you can eat normally.[1]

There are numerous ways to fast intermittently. The type you choose depends on your specific health goals and energy needs. Just for a simple example, the intermittent fasting to improve physical fitness is completely different from intermittent fasting for weight loss. This difference is created by the foods you eat and the schedule you plan.

It’s easier to follow as compared with dieting or eating small amounts of food throughout the day for weeks or months. Eating things in moderation isn’t for everyone. Hence, most people find dieting difficult. If you take an “all or nothing” approach, it might help you get the results quickly and with lesser efforts.[2]

Here are Six Intermittent Fasting Methods Explained.

  1. The 16/8 Method: 16 hours a day.[2]

The 16/8 Method involves fasting every day for 16 hours, and restricting your daily eating time to only 8 hours a day. In this time divide your meals into 2-3 parts. To make it simple just don't eat anything after dinner, and skip the breakfast as well. A simple example is, just finish your last meal at 8 pm and then don't eat until 12 noon the next day. Hence you are technically fasting for 16 hours between meals.

It is generally recommended that women fast for not more than 14-15 hours a day because of the fact that they seem to do better with slightly shorter fasts. It's hard for those people who get hungry in the morning and like to eat breakfast. However, many breakfast skippers, mostly college going students actually instinctively eat this way. You can drink water and other beverages(non-caloric) during the fast. This can help reduce hunger levels to a great extent. Make sure that you don’t eat junk food or excessive amounts of calories. Eat what's less in carbs and fats and more in proteins and other sources of energy.

2. The 5:2 Diet: 2 days a week.[3]

It involves eating 5 days of the week without dieting while restricting 500-600 calories on two days of the week. It's also called the Fast diet. For women, it's recommended that they eat 500 calories. For men, it’s 600 calories. An example for this is that you might eat normally on all days except Mondays and Thursdays. You should eat 2 small meals (250 calories per meal for women, and 300 for men). There are plenty of studies on the benefits of this type of intermittent fasting.

3. Eat-Stop-Eat: Just opt for a 24-hour fasting plan. Once or twice a week would be more than enough.[4]

The best method to adopt this kind of intermittent fasting is to fast from dinner one day to dinner the next. This amounts to a 24-hour fast. Just for a simple example, if you finish dinner on Monday at 7 pm, you shouldn't eat until dinner the next day at 7 pm. In this way, you've just completed a full 24-hour fast. You can also fast from any of the other two meals. That is, you can opt to skip meals between lunch to lunch or also from breakfast to breakfast.

Water, coffee and other beverages(non-caloric) are allowed during the fast, but make sure that you don’t eat anything solid. If you are doing this to lose weight, then it is very important that you eat normally during the eating periods. Eat as if you aren't fasting at all(in terms of quantity). The problem with this method is that a full 24-hour fast can be fairly difficult for many people. Remember that you don't need to plan it very rigidly. You can simply start with 14-16 hours and then move upwards from there. You may find the first part of the fast very easy, but in the last few hours, you might become ravenously hungry.

4. Alternate-Day Fasting.[5]

There are several different versions of this. Some of these methods allow about 500 calories during the fasting. A full fast every other day seems rather extreme, so it is not recommend for beginners. With this method, you will have to sleep hungry several times a week. It is not very pleasant and probably very difficult to follow in the beginning. The alternate day fasting is just a way in which you can regularly and intensively fast for effective results quickly.

5. The Warrior Diet: Fast during the day followed by a huge meal at night.[6]

It involves eating small amounts of fruits and vegetables during the day and then eating one huge meal at night. Basically, you "fast" all day and "feast" at night within a 4 hour eating time. The Warrior Diet was one of the first popular diets to include a form of form of this fasting. Since it’s a tough form of fasting, it's suggested that you shift to that form after other forms of fasting. Once you’re used to easier forms of fasting, you can adopt this diet.

6. Spontaneous Meal Skipping: Skip meals whenever you feel like skipping. [7]

You don't actually need to follow a structured plan to get benefits from it. One good option is to simply skip meals from time to time when you don't feel hungry or are too busy to cook and eat. It is a myth that people need to eat every few hours or they will starve and lose muscle. The human body is well equipped to handle long periods of famine and skipping one or two meals won’t affect it in any way. So if you're really not hungry one day or are traveling somewhere and can't find anything you want to eat, just skip breakfast and eat a healthy lunch and dinner.

These are some of the ways you can follow intermittent fasting. Make sure you make the best use of the eating time after a session of fasting. Never opt for junk food. Eat lots of fruits and drink lots of liquids, except carbonated drinks. Most of us may question about the meal of the fasting plan. The only thing you need to know is that you can eat anything you want unlit it's not very high in carbs and fats. Just eat what you eat normally, avoiding the foods that give excess fats and excess calories. The ultimate thing you need to know about this type of fasting is that it doesn’t require any specific diet plan. Just fast, and eat healthy food when it’s time to eat.









This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2018 Olivia Philips


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