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.
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Although there's no specific dietary recommendation when intermittent fasting, many people choose to combine it with a low-carb, ketogenic diet. When it's time to eat, include foods that are high in good fats and low in carbohydrates. That means eating nuts, seeds, vegetables, avocado, olives, meat and fish, while avoiding whole grains, fruits, starchy vegetables, sugary drinks and anything processed.
The four-hour eating window — which Hofmekler refers to as the “overeating” phase — is at night in order to maximize the Parasympathetic Nervous System’s ability to help the body recuperate, promoting calm, relaxation and digestion, while also allowing the body to use the nutrients consumed for repair and growth. Eating at night may also help the body produce hormones and burn fat during the day, according to Hofmekler. During these four hours, the order in which you eat specific food groups matters, too. Hofmelker says to start with veggies, protein and fat. After finishing those groups, only if you are still hungry should you tack on some carbohydrates.
Islam is the only major religion that engages in a fasting practice reflective of intermittent fasting in terms of both food consumption and diet consistency. The duration of the Ramadan fast is between 28 and 30 days, depending on the year, and consists of not eating or drinking from sunrise until sunset. During the holiday, Muslims eat twice per day: once in the morning before dawn and once in the evening after dusk. A meta-analysis on the health of Muslims during Ramadan shows significant weight loss during the fasting period of up to 1.51 kilograms (3.3 lb), but this weight was regained within about two weeks of Ramadan ending. The analysis concluded that "Ramadan provides an opportunity to lose weight, but structured and consistent lifestyle modifications are necessary to achieve lasting weight loss." Negative effects of Ramadan fasting include increased risk of hypoglycemia in diabetics as well as inadequate levels of certain nutrients.
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.
The 5:2 diet, also known as the “Fast Diet,” involves restricting calories two days a week to 500 calories per day (with two 250 calorie meals), while eating normally for the other five days. For example, you might eat all of your regular meals Saturday through Wednesday, and eat 500 calories per day on Thursdays and Fridays.There isn’t a ton of research to back up this diet, although it was publicized by Michael Mosley, a British journalist and doctor. Since it doesn’t completely restrict food on the fasting days, it may also be an effective way to ease into fasting without shocking your system. The Fast Diet is considered safe for men and women.
So here’s the deal. There is some good scientific evidence suggesting that circadian rhythm fasting, when combined with a healthy diet and lifestyle, can be a particularly effective approach to weight loss, especially for people at risk for diabetes. (However, people with advanced diabetes or who are on medications for diabetes, people with a history of eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia, and pregnant or breastfeeding women should not attempt intermittent fasting unless under the close supervision of a physician who can monitor them.)
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.
Also, be aware that when you exercise, your body directly burns away glycogen (a form of glucose stored in the muscles). Fasting depletes these stores, which can mean less available energy for the muscles to use when they need it. This can lead to extreme fatigue and decreased performance. The best fasting tips for athletes are to precede each workout with a low-calorie protein shake designed to deliver creatine, BCAAs, beta-alanine, and other amino acids directly to the muscles as they work them, and then to follow each workout with a whey-protein supplement to replenish depleted nutrient stores in order to speed up the recovery process. These workout supplements won’t add much to your overall calorie count, and will help ensure that your intermittent fasting schedule and your workout regimen aren’t getting in each other’s way.
Second, fasting seems foreign to many of us simply because nobody talks about it that much. The reason for this is that nobody stands to make much money by telling you to not eat their products, not take their supplements, or not buy their goods. In other words, fasting isn't a very marketable topic and so you're not exposed to advertising and marketing on it very often. The result is that it seems somewhat extreme or strange, even though its really not.
AN IMPORTANT CAVEAT: Intermittent Fasting can be more complex for people who have issues with blood sugar regulation, suffer from hypoglycemia, have diabetes, etc. If you fit into this category, check with your doctor or dietitian before adjusting your eating schedule. It also affects women differently (there’s a whole section dedicated to that below)