How To Do Intermittent Fasting? – 8 Tips From An Expert
Intermittent fasting has been here for thousands of years and this age-old tradition has made a major comeback recently. Fasting has been practiced all around the world as a part of religious and spiritual practice in Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Christianity, and Buddhism. Intermittent fasting can be a healthy weight loss program and one can adopt healthy habits through this.
Have you ever noticed that dogs and cats do not eat anything on certain days? They are well aware of their body. On certain days, our body says no to food, and it’s a detox day. On such days animals refrain from eating. Since we humans don’t have that level of consciousness, we must allocate a few days per month for this purpose. Animals also abstain from eating solid foods when they are ill or injured. Animal instincts know that eating will add up to a burden when our body resources need to be devoted to healing rather than digesting the food. So the first instinct of an animal that’s sick is to stay away from solid food.
How To Do Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is a pattern of eating that cycles between eating periods and fasting periods. Unlike most diets, intermittent fasting does not specify which foods to eat but rather stresses when to eat. This goes to say that it is not a diet, but an eating pattern. Here are 8 popular ways to do intermittent fasting:
- 16/8 intermittent fasting
- 5:2 diet aka The Fast Diet
- Eat stop eat
- Alternate day fasting
- Warrior diet
- Spontaneous meal skipping
- 12:12 intermittent fasting
- 14:10 intermittent fasting
8 Popular Ways To Do Intermittent Fasting For Weight Loss
Intermittent fasting helps you maintain a healthy life. However, for that, you would have to devote your efforts to learning how to do it properly. It’s not just eating on a few days and then starving yourself on the other days. The process is much more complex than that. Let’s set aside any of your confusion and learn how you could add intermittent fasting to your life.
16:8 Intermittent Fasting
This mode of intermittent fasting involves fasting for 16 hours, eating for 8 hours a day. One can consume foods and calorie-containing beverages only in that eight-hour window. You can try this method once, twice a week, or every day. This form of fasting is the most opted one among all. It is less restrictive and more flexible as it can fit into any lifestyle. Simply put, it is easy and sustainable. With minimal effort, one can lose weight and achieve fat loss by decreasing fat mass in the body.
Pick an eight-hour window to limit the consumption of food to that period. Many prefer to eat between noon and 8 pm, which means you will only need to fast overnight and skip breakfast and eat a healthy and balanced lunch and dinner. Moreover, you can also snack throughout the day. Many breakfast skippers go with this method of fasting.
On the other hand, some opt for an eating period from 9 am to 5 pm. This allows for a healthy breakfast around 9 am and lunch around noon and a light early dinner around 4 pm before starting to fast. However, you can pick any time frame that fits you.
5:2 Diet, a.k.a The Fast Diet
It is named the 5:2 diet because it involves eating normally for 5 days a week and restricting to 500 – 600 calories a day for the rest of the two days. This form of intermittent fasting has no particular requirements about the foods to eat but rather when to eat them. It is more like a lifestyle than a diet. For five days, you can eat normally and don’t have to worry about restricting calories. For the rest of the two days restrict calories to a quarter of your daily calorie requirements. It is 600 calories per day for men and 500 for women.
You can choose any two days of the week as long as there is one non-fasting day in between. A popular way is to keep Mondays and Thursdays as fasting days with few small meals and eat regularly for the rest of the week. The 5:2 diet offers health benefits like weight loss, lowering blood sugar levels, reducing inflammation, improving blood lipids, and preventing heart diseases.
Eat Stop Eat Fasting
Eat stop eat diet involves a 24-hour fast or fasting twice a week. It is fasting from dinner this day to dinner the next day, it is a 24-hour fast. You can also choose to fast from breakfast to breakfast or lunch to lunch. Zero-calorie beverages, water, and black coffee can be consumed during the fast, but not solid foods. When following this lifestyle, eat normally during eating periods. Like consuming the same amount of food as if you were not on a fast at all.
The major downside of this treatment is that a full 24-hour fast is quite difficult to sustain. You can start with a 16/8 method and gradually move to a 24-hour fast. This method can help people lose weight due to its continuous calorie restriction. It may also support weight loss because of the reduced calorie intake. The changes in metabolic function may burn the stored body fat.
Alternate Day Fasting
This method of intermittent fasting calls for fasting every other day and eating anything that you desire on the non-fasting days. Modified fasting is the common one where one can eat around 500 calories on fasting days. While you are fasting, you can only drink calorie-free beverages like water, unsweetened coffee, and tea. Although the true meaning of this diet is completely fast on alternate days.
Modified fasting which involves eating 500 calories is considered more sustainable than the complete fasts on fasting days. Studies showed that alternate-day fasting does not increase compensatory hunger. Moreover, hunger decreases as one adapts to this diet. The health benefits of this method are not only weight loss, but it also helps conserve muscle mass while you lose weight. Furthermore, normalizing blood sugars and reducing insulin sensitivity and risk factors associated with them are the benefits of ADF.
The warrior diet of intermittent fasting involves periods of reduced calorie intake for a defined period. It involves eating small portions of raw vegetables and fruits during the day and enjoying one large meal at night. This diet gets its name from the eating pattern of ancient warriors. These strong ancestors of ours consumed less during the day and then ate heavy meals at night. According to the creator of this diet, it is designed to improve the way we eat, perform, look, and feel by stressing our bodies. Putting through continuous calorie restriction, which tends to trigger survival instincts. People on this diet tend to undereat for 20 hours a day and then consume as much as they want at night.
This diet should be completely avoided by children, pregnant people, people with type-1 diabetes, heart disease, cancers, and people with eating disorders. Moreover, the warrior diet may increase the risk of developing disordered eating.
Spontaneous Meal Skipping
This is one of the easiest forms of intermittent fasting. We can make skipping meals into benefits. Obviously, we sometimes skip meals. For example, skipping breakfast if we are late to work. When we are too tired to cook, we tend to skip that meal. In this method, there’s no structured intermittent fasting diet plan to follow. Moreover, you can simply skip meals here and there when you are not hungry. Our bodies can manage long periods of famine. Missing one or two meals once in a while will do more good than harm.
So it’s a myth that hitting starvation mode can make you lose muscle. If you are hungry as soon as you wake up, eat breakfast and skip any of the meals later in the day. If you are too tired and hungry after work, eat dinner. Skipping one or two meals when you don’t feel hungry is spontaneous intermittent fasting. It’s a way of responding to our body only when it’s hungry. Simply put, eating when you are hungry and skipping when you are not. But make sure to eat healthy whenever you eat. In this way of intermittent fasting, one tends to consume at least 500-1500 fewer calories in a week. So you will not see any radical weight loss with this intermittent fasting eating pattern.
12:12 Intermittent Fasting
In this diet, there are 12 hours of eating and 12 hours of the fasting period. According to this study, 10-16 hours of fasting can burn the stored body fat and convert it into energy, which in turn releases ketones into the bloodstream and promotes weight loss. This is an ideal intermittent fasting plan for beginners, due to the relatively small fasting window. It’s wise to include a 12-hour fasting period during sleep time.
For example, one can choose the fasting period between 7 PM and 7 AM. They should eat dinner before 7 pm and eat breakfast at or after 7 AM. It’s easier to fast during the night since you will be asleep for most of the fasting hours, which is a great way to avoid thinking about food. However, if you choose to fast during the day, It is best to keep yourself busy and away from food to avoid thinking about food, or your diet might end up in a relapse.
14:10 Intermittent Fasting
This is similar to the 16:8 IF method. However, in 14:10 intermittent fasting, you can eat anything you desire in a 10-hour eating period and fast for the rest 14 hours. For example, if you are an early riser, you can eat your first meal at 8 am, and then eat your last meal at 6 pm, followed by a fasting window which will last until 8 am the next day. You can eat your usual meals during the eating window, but you can’t consume any calories during fasting periods.
What Happens During Intermittent Fasting Schedules?
In terms of body weight, once our body enters the fast, it has zero caloric intake, thus no glucose to burn into energy. But our body still needs the energy to carry out body functions like physical and mental activities. This is when our body enters the state of ketosis. And due to the absence of glucose, the body starts to burn fat and uses it to meet energy needs. This process will aid in weight loss, improving blood glucose, lowering blood pressure, and thereby preventing heart disease.
Who Should Avoid Doing Intermittent Fasting?
According to wellness professionals, If you are underweight or under the age of 18. Also, if you are a pregnant or lactating woman, stay away from IF. And if you have a history of disordered eating, or suffering from eating disorders, or sleeping problems, it’s best for you to avoid intermittent fasting. Furthermore, athletes who are under training or people trying to build muscle mass. And people with digestive problems like irritable bowel syndrome and metabolic disorders like type 1 diabetes. Those with weak immune systems should not try intermittent fasting. If you fall under any of these categories, it is advised to stay away from intermittent fasting.
Health Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting
If you are trying to lose weight and have tried every fad normal diet that’s out there, Intermittent Fasting only helps you lose weight, but also brings you a fortune of health benefits.
- As mentioned earlier, intermittent fasting helps you lose weight and also belly fat without consciously restricting calories.
- Intermittent fasting can reduce insulin resistance, and lower blood sugars by 3-6%, and fasting insulin levels by 20-31%. Improved insulin sensitivity will protect you from type 2 diabetes.
- Some studies reported a reduction in oxidative stress and inflammation markers, which are the main drivers of many chronic diseases.
- Studies show that fasting improves human growth hormone levels. This hormone is known to reduce obesity and improve fat utilization and overall body composition.
- Intermittent fasting may improve heart health by reducing all the risk factors like bad cholesterols such as LDL and triglycerides, blood sugar, insulin resistance, and inflammatory markers.
- Animal studies show that intermittent fasting can help prevent cancer.
- Intermittent fasting increases the levels of BDNF, a brain-related hormone, and may promote the growth of new nerve cells. It may also protect you against Alzheimer’s disease.
- Intermittent fasting can bring changes in the levels of hormones to promote weight loss like lowering insulin levels and increasing the levels of the fat-burning hormone, epinephrine. Due to these hormonal changes, intermittent fasting can increase metabolic rate by 3.6 – 14%.
- Overall, Intermittent fasting unlocks cellular and molecular mechanisms of the body that leads to increased expression of antioxidants, thereby, resulting in DNA repair, controlling the protein quality, mitochondrial biogenesis, and autophagy, decreased inflammation. All of these will lead to improved organ functions and overall health.
Tips To Achieve The Maximum Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting
- Eating normally means eating whole foods and avoiding junk. Do not overeat during your eating window. Eat the same amount of food as if you were not fasting.
- To maximize the benefits of intermittent fasting, make sure to adopt healthy habits like consuming nutritious whole foods during the eating window.
- Consume a balanced meal with healthy whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, good sources of protein, probiotics, and complex carbohydrates. This can help you speed up the process of weight loss while intermittent fasting.
- During the intermittent fasting schedule, you are only allowed to drink zero-calorie beverages, green tea, black tea, and black coffee. These can boost your metabolism while you fast.
- Binging on junk may result in you gaining weight. Moreover, one can develop an eating disorder over time. So cut on any junk and salty processed foods, saturated fats, and sugars.
Lastly, When done properly, one can lose up to 2 pounds each week with intermittent fasting.
This lifestyle alone can help the body burn fat, but when combined with some forms of physical exercise and a healthy diet, one can maximize the benefits of an intermittent fasting program. It is sustainable to go on daily fasting for 14 hours rather than going with extended periods of fasting for 16 hours or more. However, it is best if done under medical supervision. With your body condition and health in mind, dieticians or wellness professionals can create a precise diet plan that suits you. Intermittent fasting should be done only under the proper guidance of a doctor.
+ 8 sources
Health Canal avoids using tertiary references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic researches from medical associations and institutions. To ensure the accuracy of articles in Health Canal, you can read more about the editorial process here
- Moro, T., Tinsley, G.M., Bianco, A., Marcolin, G., Pacelli, Q.F., Battaglia, G., Palma, A., Gentil, P., Neri, M. and Gentil, P. (2016). Effects of eight weeks of time-restricted feeding (16/8) on basal metabolism, maximal strength, body composition, inflammation, and cardiovascular risk factors in resistance-trained males. [online] 14(1). doi:https://doi.org/10.1186/s12967-016-1044-0.
- Klempel, M.C., Bhutani, S., Fitzgibbon, M.L., Freels, S. and Varady, K.A. (2010). Dietary and physical activity adaptations to alternate day modified fasting: implications for optimal weight loss. [online] 9(1). doi:https://doi.org/10.1186/1475-2891-9-35.
- Collier, R. (2013). Intermittent fasting: the science of going without. [online] 185(9), pp.E363–E364. doi:https://doi.org/10.1503/cmaj.109-4451.
- Johnson, J.R., Summer, W.R., Cutler, R.G., Martin, B., Hyun, D.-H., Vishwa Deep Dixit, Pearson, M., Nassar, M.R., Tellejohan, R., Maudsley, S., Carlson, O.D., John, S., Laub, D.R. and Mattson, M.P. (2007). Alternate day calorie restriction improves clinical findings and reduces markers of oxidative stress and inflammation in overweight adults with moderate asthma. [online] 42(5), pp.665–674. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2006.12.005.
- Ho, K.-M., Veldhuis, J.D., Johnson, M., Furlanetto, R.W., Evans, W.J., Alberti, M. and Thorner, M.O. (1988). Fasting enhances growth hormone secretion and amplifies the complex rhythms of growth hormone secretion in man. [online] 81(4), pp.968–975. doi:https://doi.org/10.1172/jci113450.
- Descamps, O.S., Riondel, J., Ducros, V. and Roussel, A.-M. (2005). Mitochondrial production of reactive oxygen species and incidence of age-associated lymphoma in OF1 mice: Effect of alternate-day fasting. [online] 126(11), pp.1185–1191. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mad.2005.06.007.
- Lee, J., Duan, W., Long, J.R., Ingram, D.K. and Mattson, M.P. (2000). Dietary Restriction Increases the Number of Newly Generated Neural Cells, and Induces BDNF Expression, in the Dentate Gyrus of Rats. [online] 15(2), pp.99–108. doi:https://doi.org/10.1385/jmn:15:2:99.
- Mansell, P., Fellows, I.W. and Macdonald, I.A. (1990). Enhanced thermogenic response to epinephrine after 48-h starvation in humans. [online] 258(1), pp.R87–R93. doi:https://doi.org/10.1152/ajpregu.1990.258.1.r87.