Intermittent fasting is having a moment right now. It was one of the most popular diets in 2018 and its popularity hasn’t waned. But what, exactly, is intermittent fasting?
Have you heard this term and wondered what it was all about? Heard about celebrities eating only one meal a day or eating only during certain hours? Interested in how this might help you lose weight?
You’ve come to the right place if you want to know more about the different types of intermittent fasting and how it all works. Keep reading to learn more.
4 DIFFERENT TYPES OF INTERMITTENT FASTING YOU CAN CHOOSE
At the most basic level, intermittent fasting (IF) is a type of diet that designates certain days or times for eating and others for fasting. There are many different ways you can do IF, such as 16/8 (that’s 16 hours of fasting and 8 hours to eat), a few days on and then a few days off, meal skipping, weekly fasts, or one day a week to fast.
The science behind IF is that 10-16 hours of fasting forces your body to turn the excess fat that is stored into energy, which promotes weight loss.
This method is probably the most common. For 16 hours (for men) or 14-15 hours (for women), you fast. You can have coffee, water, or other calorie-free beverages during the fast, but that’s all.
If you tend to skip breakfast and don’t eat after dinner, this method may be quite easy for you to adopt. You would simply skip breakfast, have your first meal around noon or 1, and then make sure you are done with dinner and any other snacking by 8 p.m.
12-HOUR FAST METHOD
The 12-hour fast is similar to the 16:8 method, but you fast for 12 hours and then allow eating for 12 hours. This is a great option for beginners, as the fasting window is shorter and much of it is during sleeping hours. If you finish dinner by 8 p.m. and fast until 8 a.m. the next day, you can fit in 3 meals during the fasting period.
The 5:2 method calls for fasting for two days a week and eating healthy the other days. On the fasting days, you restrict your calories to either 500 for women or 600 for men.
Most people who use this method don’t fast two days in a row. Rather, you might pick a Tuesday and a Friday to allow for two non-fasting days in between regular eating days. At a minimum, there should be at least one non-fasting day in between each fasting day.
ALTERNATING DAYS METHOD
The alternating days method is like the 5:2 method, but you have more fasting days when doing IF this way. On fasting days, you limit yourself to 500 calories and on non-fasting days, you eat normally.
This method may be more difficult to follow since there is a long period of fasting with minimal calories. It’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor before jumping into something like this, especially if you have existing health conditions.
CAN I EAT WHATEVER I WANT?
During your eating window, however long it may be, you need to be eating healthy. It shouldn’t be a free for all, full of high-fat, high-sugar, and calorie-laden foods. You should be eating fresh foods, minimizing processed items, and filling your meals with proteins, good fats, complex carbohydrates, and fresh fruits and vegetables.
Don’t ruin all the work you do during your fast by filling your eating period with junk. You don’t need to completely deprive yourself, however. If you want a small piece of pizza during your eating period, go for it. In moderation, it’s fine to splurge occasionally.
BENEFITS OF INTERMITTENT FASTING
Intermittent fasting requires some dedication on your part and a commitment to maintaining your fast. If you can manage this, your hard work will pay off. There are many benefits of IF, from weight loss to improved health.
IF can help you lose weight, as it is a method of calorie restriction. By forcing your body to dip into your fat stores and convert them to energy, you are burning fat, resulting in weight loss.
Because there are no “off-limits” foods during your eating periods (just more of a general recommendation to eat a balanced and healthy diet) IF may be more satisfying because you can have something that you’re really craving if you can eat it in moderation.
LOWER BLOOD PRESSURE
There is evidence to suggest that IF can lower your blood pressure in the short term. There isn’t yet evidence to show that it can lower it over the long term, but if you need to make drastic changes to get your blood pressure down, IF can do that for you.
More research is needed, but early evidence suggests that alternate-day fasting can lower your LDL (the “bad” cholesterol) when combined with exercise. IF can also reduce the presence of triglycerides, which can contribute to heart attacks, heart disease, and strokes.
REDUCED RISK OF INSULIN RESISTANCE
IF can help people who have type 2 diabetes because it can help stabilize blood sugar levels. Insulin resistance is a marker of type 2 diabetes and IF results in declining insulin levels, reducing the risk of this type of diabetes.
This is not something you should try without consulting your doctor first, however, especially if you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes.
INTERMITTENT FASTING: IS IT RIGHT FOR YOU?
The different types of intermittent fasting provide many options if you want to try to incorporate IF into your lifestyle. Start small and work your way up so you don’t jump right in, find it difficult, and quit after a few days.
Remember to always consult a doctor before you start fasting as well, particularly if you have existing health problems.
If you want to learn more about other diets and eating plans, explore some of our other resources, including our guide to the keto diet.