While these five methods are the most well-known in terms of integrating periods of fasting into your eating schedule, there are many other similar philosophies based on meal timing. For those who prefer a more fluid, less rigid method, there’s also the concept of eating intuitively. Primal Diet proponent Mark Sisson is a supporter of the Eat WHEN (When Hunger Ensues Naturally) method, where dieters simply eat whenever their bodies ask them to. However, some believe this can also lead to overeating or overconsumption of calories, since our bodies’ hunger-induced choices may be more caloric than otherwise.

16-hour fast (aka 16:8): The most popular type of intermittent fast, the 16-hour fast encourages you to eat all of your meals in an 8-hour window, such as noon to 8pm. To activate the full benefits of intermittent fasting, try an 18-hour fast, once you’ve adapted to 16 hours. This would mean eating between noon and 6pm or between 2pm and 8pm. Simply avoid eating after dinner, and skip breakfast in the morning. Limit carbs to dinner.
That’s what I suggest you do when you start fasting. It should happen naturally, and you shouldn’t have to force it. If you’re still a sugar burner instead of a fat burner, it’s going to be much harder…so if you’re serious about trying out this whole fasting thing, I suggest slowly transitioning to a high-fat low-carb diet. You can read about the benefits here.
As with any diet, you’ll get the best results if you’re consistent. At the same time, you can certainly give yourself a break from this kind of eating schedule on special occasions. You should experiment to figure out which kind of intermittent fasting works the best for you. Lots of people ease themselves into IF with the 12-12 plan, and then they progress to 16-8. After that, you should try to stick to that plan as much as possible.

Intermittent fasting is a technique that involves restricting your food intake to a certain time window each day and then fasting for a specific period. There are several different fasting methods, with many variations that can fit nearly any personal preference or routine. A few of the most common types of intermittent fasting include alternate day fasting, 16/8 fasting and the 5:2 diet, each of which varies based on the amount of time you spend fasting during the week.
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Also, if you eat a big dinner the night before, I think you’ll be surprised by how much energy you have in the morning. Most of the worries or concerns that people have about intermittent fasting are due to the fact that they have had it pounded into them by companies that they need to eat breakfast or they need to eat every three hours and so on. The science doesn’t support it and neither do my personal experiences.
I don’t recommend that you go straight for a 1-2 day fast, but begin by restricting yourself to certain eating windows. Typically people restrict themselves to the hours of 5pm – 11pm. People often refer to their fasting windows by numbers: 19/5 or 21/3, for example, means 19 hours of fasting and 5 hours eating or 21 hours fasting and 3 hours eating, respectively.
Your body contains proteins and other structures that constantly become dysfunctional or die. This isn't a bad thing; it's a necessary process for optimal health. However, if these dead tissues aren't cleared out from the body, they can cause cell death, contribute to poor cell and organ function and even become cancerous. Enter a process called autophagy.
How It Works: Fast for 14 (women) to 16 (men) hours each day, and then “feed” for the remaining eight to 10 hours. During the fasting period, you consume no calories. However, black coffee, calorie-free sweeteners, diet soda and sugar-free gum are permitted. (A splash of milk in your coffee won’t hurt, either.) Most practitioners will find it easiest to fast through the night and into the morning. They usually break the fast roughly six hours after waking up. This schedule is adaptable to any person’s lifestyle, but maintaining a consistent feeding window time is important. Otherwise, hormones in the body can get thrown out of whack and make sticking to the program harder, Berkhan says.
The five most common methods of intermittent fasting try to take advantage of each of these benefits. But different methods will yield better results for different people. “If you’re going to force yourself to follow a certain method, it’s not going to work,” says trainer and fitness expert Nia Shanks. “Choose a method that makes your life easier,” she says. Otherwise, it’s not sustainable and the benefits of your fasting may be short-lived.

An intermittent fast is a brief fast where, for 12–16 hours or more, you don’t eat anything except water (a few exceptions apply). And while that may sound incredibly difficult to achieve, you might already be fasting without knowing it if you eat dinner at, say, 7 p.m. and break your fast in the morning between 7—10 a.m. — and if you only have water and black coffee or tea between. 

On the flip side of that, eating keto can make your periods of fasting more manageable. For example, someone who is eating a diet higher in carbs will likely have more discomfort with intermittent fasting as the body constantly switches between glucose for fuel and ketones for fuel. By continuing to eat keto even during feeding periods, you can keep your body constantly running on ketones.
Zero-calorie beverages are okay.  I drink green tea in the morning for my caffeine kick while writing. If you want to drink water, black coffee, or tea during your fasted period, that’s okay.  Remember, don’t overthink it – keep things simple! Dr. Rhonda Patrick over at FoundMyFitness believes that a fast should stop at the first consumption of anything other than water, so experiment yourself and see how your body responds.
So very interesting, I was captivated reading your results—thank you! I would also love to see added to this research the keto effect of just water over those 120 minutes, and then the keto effect of adding collagen powder to your coffee. So appreciative of all that wincing-sticking-your-fingers that you both endured to help give us clarity in what goes on with our ketones and glucose when drinking our coffees with different add-ins. Great read!
Understanding the potential adverse effects of intermittent fasting is limited by an inadequate number of rigorous clinical trials. One 2015 review of preliminary clinical studies found that short-term intermittent fasting may produce minor adverse effects, such as continuous feelings of weakness and hunger, headaches, fainting, or dehydration.[29] Long-term, periodic fasting may cause eating disorders or malnutrition, with increased susceptibility to infectious diseases.[29]

Amy Shah, MD, is double board-certified doctor who received her medical training from Cornell, Harvard and Columbia Universities. She has a thriving medical practice in the Phoenix area, where she sees more than 5,000 patients each year. In 2015, Dr. Shah was named one of the “Top 100 Women in Wellness to Watch” by MindBodyGreen and was a guest on the Dr. Oz show.
Hello Maria, I can honestly say I look forward to my morning black coffee now, just as much as I enjoy a cup with a little cream, once my eating window opens late afternoon. My easiest “go-to” tip is adding just the smallest pinch of pink Himalayan salt to my coffee. It really works to smooth out the black coffee bitterness! Good luck with your IF journey, Maria!
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Because of the massive amount of sugar that Americans eat on average, most people have become dependent on glucose, instead of fatty acids, for energy. Every supermarket, grocery store and coffee shop sells an abundance of sugary foods and drinks. When you eat a lot of sugar, and that sugar isn't utilized for energy, your body breaks it down and eventually stores it as body fat.
Autophagy is spring cleaning for your cells. It’s Latin for “self-eating,” which is spot-on: when autophagy turns on, your cells sift through their internal parts, get rid of anything that’s damaged or old, and install shiny new versions.[8] Autophagy is like a tune-up for your car: afterward everything runs more smoothly. It reduces inflammation and even boosts longevity. Intermittent fasting triggers, to quote researchers, “profound” autophagy, especially in your brain.[9]
Jerimiah, the linked study in the article (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1550413118302535) specifically studied “eTRF”(Early Time-Restricted Feeding) from 8am – 2pm, and implies that eating earlier is better than later. I haven’t read the study (it’s behind a damn Elsevier pay-wall), so I don’t know how strongly they feel about early vs late, though. For me, personally, 12-8 is doable, and skipping dinner (given the existence of a family and the desire to have dinner with said family) isn’t doable, so I’m pleased to hear from you and April above that it’s working. Just starting!
That’s what I suggest you do when you start fasting. It should happen naturally, and you shouldn’t have to force it. If you’re still a sugar burner instead of a fat burner, it’s going to be much harder…so if you’re serious about trying out this whole fasting thing, I suggest slowly transitioning to a high-fat low-carb diet. You can read about the benefits here.

Fasting ramps up your stem cell production.[6] Stem cells are like biological playdough — your body turns them into any kind of cell it needs and uses them to replace old or damaged cells, keeping you younger on a cellular level. Stem cells are great for your skin, joints, old injuries, chronic pain, and more. You can try stem cell therapy…or you can just fast.

With this information in hand, you should know exactly how to schedule meals when starting an intermittent fasting plan. And while it might seem complicated at first, once you get into the habit of fasting, it will feel like second nature and fit pretty seamlessly into your days. Just remember to always start slow and gradually work up to more advanced plans.
I would like to know what led you to the conclusion to recommend eating in the morning and fasting in the evening instead of the other way around. You do not link any studies here that show TRF in the morning is better than TRF in the evening. You do state “Nighttime eating is well associated with a higher risk of obesity, as well as diabetes.” but I would hazard a guess that alot people that snack into the evening have many other factors at play that could effect their risk of obesity and diabetes and are possibly not fasting at all. I have been doing TRF from 12-8pm every day for almost a year and have seen vast improvements in my health, not least of which is a loss of 70 lbs, so it seems odd to read items 3 and 4 on your 4 ways to use this information for better health. If you have evidence that supports the idea that TRF in the evening is bad then I would like to see it and perhaps change my dieting habbits.
I’ll share some of my experiences, now doing heavy strength training for 3 years in a fasted state: For my first “fasted” workout or two after starting an IF protocol, it was very weird to not eat before training. However, after a few sessions, I learned that my body could certainly function (and even thrive) during my training sessions despite not eating a pre-workout meal.
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