Fast for 16 hours of the day, and allow yourself a single eight-hour window for eating. This may be a good option for most beginners, because it represents the most subtle change from the standard three-meals-per-day lifestyle. As approximately eight of those fasting hours should be spent getting a good night’s sleep, that leaves only eight hours where participants need to be consciously avoiding food. For many, allowing themselves to eat normally from noon until 8pm gives them a stable meal schedule while also staying in a fasted state for the majority of the time.
I am a 65-year-old male who started IF seven weeks ago. I only eat between noon and 8pm. I am obese, but losing about a pound a week so far. Notably, except for time, I have not changed what I eat at all. My diet was never terrible or great, and now it is the same, a mix of raw fruit sometimes and a donut another time. But I only eat it during the appointed hours. Remarkably, I do not feel hungry. I used to eat comfort breakfasts like pancakes or waffles, and I thought I would miss them. But no, I truly am not hungry in the mornings. I often delay lunch, but I still stop eating at 8. That alone probably has cut many calories of desserts. Bottom line: works for me so far.
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.
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.
While the idea of fasting can be overwhelming, especially if you haven’t done it before, intermittent fasting can actually be a lot easier than many other types of eating plans. Since you are fasting for time restricted chunks of the day, you’ll be eating less food, which eliminates a lot of the stress around having to meal prep. During the periods of time in which you're eating, you’ll still want to focus mainly on healthy fats, clean protein, and carbohydrates from whole food sources—but this isn’t an excuse to hit the drive-thru and load up on sugar the rest of the time! Here are some of the effects of intermittent fasting:
How It Works: Not completely satisfied with the IF diets listed above? This method takes the best parts of Eat Stop Eat, The Warrior Diet and Leangains, and combines it all into one plan. You also get one cheat day each week (yay!) — followed by a 36-hour fast (which may be not-so-yay for some). After that, the remainder of the seven-day cycle is split up between the different fasting protocols.
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.
Eat one large meal per day, cutting out all other meals and snacks. For those who aren’t interested in checking clocks and calendars, this is probably the easiest option. This is also a good choice for busy individuals who have a lot going on during the day. Just skip breakfast and lunch and have a large dinner that will carry you over through until bedtime.
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.
So how long does it take to go into ketosis when fasting? On a standard keto diet, it typically takes around 2–3 days to reach ketosis, although it can take up to seven days in some cases. However, many people find that keto adaptation intermittent fasting can speed up the process and help your body burn through glycogen stores more quickly to help enter ketosis.
The benefits of intermittent fasting translate to untrained overweight and obese individuals as well. One study published in Obesity Reviews found that eating fewer calories is effective for fat loss, but it does come with some muscle loss. However, if the subjects fasted for 24 hours and ate as much as they wanted on the next day for a period of 12 weeks, they lost significantly less muscle mass.
Mackenzie has worked in several branches of a very popular national chain of coffee shops and has experience with customers trying to comply with a variety of diets. Keto, Whole30, Vegan, and many more. She says that she and her staff have learned a number of tricks to help customers who struggle with switching to black coffee after drinking their favorite “Large Caramel Cappuccino with Whipped Cream” for years!
So does that mean you should abstain from your caffeine fix when fasting? According to Dr. Josh Axe, D.N.M., C.N.S., D.C., founder of DrAxe.com, bestselling author of Eat Dirt, and cofounder of Ancient Nutrition, tea and coffee are fine to consume as long as you don't add any milk or sweeteners. He explains on his blog, "If you're on a time-restricted fast and you're in no-eating hours, it's best to stick to no- or low-calorie drinks like water, coffee, (with no milk) and tea. If you're on an alternate day diet or something similar, even during low calorie hours, you can technically drink whatever you'd like — but remember, this will count against your calories." Dr. Palanisamy also agrees that during fasting, the "appetite-suppressing effects of coffee are probably beneficial."
How It Works: Fast for 24 hours once or twice per week. During the 24 hour fast, which creator Brad Pilon prefers to call a “24 break from eating,” no food is consumed, but you can drink calorie-free beverages. After the fast is over, you then go back to eating normally. “Act like you didn’t fast,” Pilon says. “Some people need to finish the fast at a normal mealtime with a big meal, while others are OK ending the fast with an afternoon snack. Time it however works best for you, and adjust your timing as your schedule changes,” he says.
One monk, for example, set out to do a 40 day fast with medical supervision while maintaining his daily activities in the monastery. After 36 days, the medical professionals had to step in due to “profound weakness” and low blood pressure when standing. Although the monk fasted for 15 days longer than Ghandi, the medical professionals were able to stop the fast in time so that he could recover.
You’ll run out of energy. When you don’t have anything in your system for several hours, your blood sugar will eventually drop below baseline. If you’ve ever had a blood sugar crash, you know how this state feels. Sleepiness, trouble focusing, lightheadedness, intense cravings, and the occasional mood swing typically accompany low blood sugar. Your cells run low on fuel and they start demanding that you give them more carbs.
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. 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.
You drink sugary beverages, digest them quickly and store the leftovers as body fat. After the initial spike in blood sugar, you experience a dramatic drop, which prompts you to eat more, and what happens? You store more fat. Because of this, it's best to avoid sugary drinks, like soda, lemonade, fruit juices, sweetened iced tea and even some kombucha, completely, whether you're fasting or not.
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.
Expect funny looks if you spend a lot of mornings with breakfast eaters. A few weeks back I had a number of friends staying with me, and they were all completely dumbfounded when I told them I didn’t eat breakfast anymore. I tried to explain it to them but received a bunch of blank stares. Breakfast has become so enGRAINed (zing!) in our culture that NOT eating it sounds crazy. You will get weird looks from those around you…embrace it. I still go to brunch or sit with friends, I just drink black coffee and enjoy conversation.