How To Intermittent Fast For Weight LossWondering how to intermittent fast for weight loss? One of the most effective methods for burning fat is intermittent fasting. This means, skipping meals or simply eating less for a certain time period. That time period can last from 1 day up to 20 days (check out our article on jeunese). Intermittent fasting has become a popular method of weight loss in recent years. Now, I’m not saying it works for everyone because it doesn’t. However, there is a lot of research showing that IF could be very beneficial for some people and here’s how to get started!
What is intermittent fasting?Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern during which you refrain from consuming any calories for an extended period of time. Usually, this period lasts between 12 and 40 hours Water, coffee, and other calorie-free beverages are allowed during the fast, but no solid foods or calorie-containing drinks are permitted. For example, if you finish dinner at 7 p.m. Monday and don’t eat again until 7 p.m. Tuesday, you’ve completed a 24-hour fast. Some people choose to fast from breakfast to breakfast or lunch to lunch. But which time frame works best depends on the individual. A full 24-hour fast every other day can seem extreme and may be difficult for many people to maintain, so it’s usually not recommended for beginners. However, you don’t have to go all-in right away, and many intermittent fasting routines start with shorter fasting periods. Here are 5 of the most popular eating patterns for adding intermittent fasting to your diet:
- Time-restricted eating. Involves fasting every day for 12 hours or longer and eating in the remaining hours. A popular example is the 16/8 method. It features a daily 16-hour fast and an 8-hour eating window wherein you can fit in 2, 3, or more meals.
- The 5:2 diet. The 5:2 diet involves eating as you normally do 5 days of the week and restricting your calorie intake to 500–600 on the remaining 2 days.
- Eat Stop Eat. Eat Stop Eat involves a 24-hour fast once or twice per week.
- Alternate-day fasting. With alternate-day fasting, the goal is to fast every other day.
- The Warrior Diet. The Warrior Diet was among the first popular diets to include a form of intermittent fasting. It involves eating small amounts of raw fruits and vegetables during the day and eating one large meal at night.
3 pros of intermittent fastingResearchers have already linked numerous health benefits with intermittent fasting and continue to examine them. Plus, for some people, intermittent fasting fits well into their model of a healthy and sustainable long-term diet. If you’re wondering if intermittent fasting could be right for you, here are a few benefits that might pique your interest.
1. Might support weight loss and improve metabolic healthTwo main reasons why people try intermittent fasting are to manage their weight and metabolic health. Metabolic health is a marker of how well the body processes, or metabolizes, energy. It’s often measured by blood pressure, blood sugar, and blood fat levels. Fasting or abstaining from food can create a calorie deficit, meaning that your body has fewer calories than it needs to maintain its current weight. That’s why diets that rely on calorie restriction, like fasting, are the hallmark of most weight loss diets. Research shows that some types of intermittent fasting can be as effective for weight loss — though not necessarily more effective — as other diets that also rely on limiting your daily calorie intake (., 9Trusted Source). Time-restricted eating routines similar to the 16/8 method are one type of intermittent fasting that has been linked directly with weight loss. Alternate-day fasting and the 5:2 diet may also be effective . Besides naturally eliminating your calorie intake during the fasting period, intermittent fasting may support weight loss by regulating your appetite to increase feelings of fullness while suppressing feelings of hunger (14Trusted Source, 15Trusted Source, 16Trusted Source). .
2. Can be a sustainable lifestyle changeIntermittent fasting might sound complicated and intimidating, but it can be simple at times. In fact, you might even find that fasting helps simplify your day since you need to plan fewer meals. What’s more, it doesn’t typically require calorie counting, watching your macros, eating certain foods that you might not be used to eating, or eliminating certain foods that you otherwise enjoy. For example, having an early dinner followed by a late breakfast the next day is one way to fast intermittently. If you finish your last meal at 8 p.m. and don’t eat until noon the next day, you’ve technically fasted for 16 hours. For people who get hungry in the morning and like to eat breakfast, or for those who can’t eat until later in the evening due to work schedules and other obligations, this method may be hard to get used to. However, other people instinctively eat this way already. They may be more prone to trying out an intermittent fasting eating pattern.
3. Works well with a nutritious, whole foods dietBecause intermittent fasting is focused more on when rather than what you eat, it’s generally easy to implement in conjunction with your current diet. You won’t necessarily need to buy any special foods or diverge much from what you typically eat. If you’re already content with the state of your current diet but looking for other ways to continue boosting your overall health, fasting might be something you want to explore. For example, intermittent fasting might work particularly well for someone who wants to pair it with a resistance training program and a high protein diet (25Trusted Source). Still, this isn’t meant to imply that what you eat doesn’t matter. There’s no doubt that you’ll reap the most benefits from intermittent fasting by eating a variety of nutritious foods and limiting ultra-processed foods during your eating window. SUMMARY Intermittent fasting is often used to manage weight and metabolic health. The eating routine might help lower blood pressure, blood sugar, and blood fat levels. For some people, it also works as part of a healthy long-term diet pattern.
3 cons of intermittent fastingIntermittent fasting is one way to regulate your calorie intake and work toward improving your metabolic health. Though the eating pattern can certainly be part of a healthy diet, it will likely take some adjusting to in the beginning. Plus, simply put, intermittent fasting is not right for everyone. Here are a few downsides you could encounter when first trying intermittent fasting.
1. Might go against your intuitionIntermittent fasting requires discipline, restraint, and planning ahead. For some people, using those tactics to keep your calorie intake within a designated time frame is no problem, but for others, it might feel unnatural at first. This may be especially true if you’re used to relying on your intuition to decide when to eat. Further, if you prefer not to follow a strict schedule, you might find intermittent fasting frustrating. What’s more, if your schedule tends to vary from day to day because of work, family, or other obligations, keeping your calorie intake to a designated time frame could be challenging.
2. You’ll likely feel hungryEven an 8- or 12-hour fast might feel like a long time when you’re not used to fasting. You may go to bed hungry several times per week. That may naturally feel unpleasant and unsustainable in the long term (26Trusted Source). Plus, at times, it might be necessary to override your natural hunger and fullness cues in order to not break your fast earlier than planned. This doesn’t mean that fasting isn’t a schedule you can get used to. Once you’ve adjusted to intermittent fasting, you might even find it makes you feel less hungry (14Trusted Source, 15Trusted Source). Many people adjust to the routine, and some even find they enjoy it after a few months. Yet, hunger and frustration are certainly something to expect and be aware of initially.
3. The side effects could affect your moodWhen you first try intermittent fasting, one of the first things you may notice — aside from feeling more hungry — is ups and downs in your mood. This is understandable. Besides initially increasing hunger levels, fasting can have side effects, including headaches, constipation, fatigue, sleep disturbances, and more . What’s more, irritability and anxiety are classic symptoms of low blood sugar levels. This is a common bodily response to fasting or restricting calories (30Trusted Source, 31Trusted Source, 32Trusted Source). Still, like hunger, your emotional well-being may be another side effect of intermittent fasting that will improve with time and practice (15Trusted Source). Once you’ve had time to adjust, intermittent fasting may even bring you a sense of achievement or pride (32Trusted Source). SUMMARY Especially in the beginning, intermittent fasting can have side effects like hunger, headaches, and fatigue. The combination of low blood sugar levels from fasting and the stress of adjusting to a new routine could affect your mood and mental health, too.
How to begin intermittent fastingIntermittent fasting is not a diet — it is a timed approach to eating. Unlike many other dietary plans, intermittent fasting does not specify which foods to eat or avoid. Intermittent fasting may be beneficial for health and weight management but is not suitable for everyone. Intermittent fasting involves cycling between periods of eating and periods of fasting. At first, people may find it difficult to eat during a short window of time each day or to alternate between days of eating and not eating. This article offers tips on the best way to begin fasting, including identifying personal goals, planning meals, and establishing calorie needs. Intermittent fasting is a popular method that people use to:
- simplify their life
- lose weight
- improve their overall health and well-being, such as by minimizing the effects of aging
1. Identify personal goalsTypically, a person who starts intermittent fasting has a goal in mind. It may be to lose weight, improve overall health, or improve metabolic health. A person’s ultimate goal will help them determine the most suitable fasting method and work out how many calories and nutrients they need to consume.
2. Pick the methodA person may try multiple potential methods when fasting for health reasons. They should pick a plan that suits their preferences and that they think they can stick to. A few of the more popular fasting plans are:
- periodic fasting
- time-restricted eating
- alternate-day fasting
Periodic fastingThis structure involves fasting within specific time periods, such as twice per week, as with the Eat Stop Eat plan and the 5:2 method.
Eat Stop EatBrad Pilon developed Eat Stop Eat, a fasting method that involves eating nothing for 24 hours twice a week. It does not matter on which days a person fasts or even when they begin. The only restriction is that fasting must last for 24 hours and occur on nonconsecutive days. People who do not eat for 24 hours will likely become very hungry. Eat Stop Eat may not be the best method for people who are unfamiliar with fasting. A person should consult a doctor or registered dietitian before starting a fasting plan like this one.
5:2 methodA person on the 5:2 method eats 500–600 calories 2 days each week, on either consecutive or nonconsecutive days, depending on the specific plan.
Time-restricted eatingPlans such as the Warrior Diet and the 16/8 or 14/10 method are considered time-restricted eating, in which a person consumes calories only within specific periods of time throughout the day.
Warrior DietOri Hofmekler is the creator of the Warrior Diet, which entails eating very little for 20 hours each day. A person fasting in this way consumes all their typical food intake in the remaining 4 hours. Eating a whole day’s worth of food in such a short time can make a person’s stomach quite uncomfortable. This is a more extreme fasting method. As with Eat Stop Eat, a person new to fasting may not want to start with this method and should consult a doctor before trying it.
LeangainsMartin Berkhan created Leangains for weightlifters, but it has become popular among other people who are interested in fasting as well. Unlike Eat Stop Eat and the Warrior Diet, fasting for Leangains involves much shorter periods. For example, males who choose the Leangains method fast for 16 hours and then eat what they want for the remaining 8 hours of the day. Females fast for 14 hours and eat what they want for the remaining 10 hours of the day. During the fast, a person must avoid eating any food but can drink as many no-calorie beverages as they like.
16:8 method of intermittent fasting16:8 intermittent fasting allows for a fast lasting 16 hours per day, with all foods eaten during the remaining 8 hours. The following time frames for eating are popular with this fasting plan, with nighttime hours included in the fasting time:
- 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- noon to 8 p.m.
Alternate-day fastingSome people fast on alternate days to help improve blood sugar or cholesterol levels or to help manage their weight. Some alternate-day fasting regimens add a third day of fasting each week. For the rest of the week, a person eats only the number of calories they burn during the day. Over time, this creates a calorie deficit that allows the person to lose weight if that is their goal.
3. Figure out calorie needsThere are no inherent dietary restrictions when intermittent fasting, but this does not mean that calories do not count. People who are working with a doctor or dietitian to manage their weight need to create a calorie deficit, which means consuming fewer calories than they use. People who are looking to gain weight need to consume more calories than they use. Many tools are available to help a person work out their calorie needs and determine how many calories they should consume each day to gain, lose, or maintain weight. A person could also consult a healthcare professional or dietitian for guidance on how many calories they need. A professional can help a person determine the best foods for them and find an overall healthy way to lose weight.
4. Figure out a meal planA person interested in losing or gaining weight may find it helpful to plan what they are going to eat during the day or week. Meal planning does not need to be overly restrictive. It considers calorie intake and incorporating proper nutrients into the diet. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source recommends the MyPlatePlan, which focuses on showing a person food group targets for each day. Meal planning offers many benefits, such as helping a person stick to their calorie count and ensuring they have the necessary ingredients on hand for recipes, quick meals, and snacks. As a potential bonus, meal planning could save money if it helps people waste less food.
5. Make the calories countNot all calories are the same. Although these fasting methods do not limit the number of calories a person consumes during eating periods, it is essential to consider the nutritional value of the food. In general, a person should aim to consume nutrient-dense foods, or foods with a high number of nutrients per calorieTrusted Source. They may not have to abandon less nutritious food entirely, but they should still practice moderation and focus on more nutritious options to gain the most benefits.
How effective is intermittent fasting?Fasting has several effects on a person’s body:
- Fasting levels of insulin, making it easier for the body to use stored fat.
- It lowers blood sugar, blood pressure, and inflammation levels.
- It may change the expression of certain genes, which can help the body protect itself from disease and promote longevity.
- It increases human growth hormone levels, which can help the body use body fat and grow muscle.
- According to a 2018 review, calorie restriction and intermittent fasting can help the body activate a healing process called autophagy, which essentially means that the body digests or recycles old or damaged cell components.