Intermittent Fasting Methods: Which is right for you?
At it's core, intermittent fasting is any eating pattern in which there's an established eating period and fasting period. It's come onto the nutrition & fitness scene over the past few years and exploded in popularity as a weight loss strategy.
While there's no right way to practice intermittent fasting, there are a few different methods that IF enthusiasts abide by (& swear to!). Like any other weight-loss program or strategy, the key is finding which works best for you and your lifestyle. Let's take a look at these different methods and what they consist of.
The Various Intermittent Fasting Strategies
Though different in their actual execution, each and every intermittent fast is broken down into two parts:
A feeding window (the time period in which you can eat)
A fasting window (the time period in which you commit to not eating)
We're going to outline below the most popular methods below that you can test out for yourself. The sky is the limit though, as long as you follow the two rules above!
The 16/8 Window Method
The 16/8 method is very straightforward and is the most well-known & popular of the intermittent fasting strategies.
The "16" refers to the amount of hours in a day in which you are fasting. The "8" refers to the hours in which you can eat. How does that look in practice?
Let's say you typically wake up at 7am, and try to be in bed by 11pm. For you, you might want to make your eating window from 12pm-8pm, and then fast from 8pm-12pm the next day. A majority of the fasting window is spent while you are sleeping, and then just a few hours more in the morning and early afternoon.
If you are used to eating breakfast in the mornings, it will definitely be an adjustment for you. We've found that drinking a healthy amount of water in the early morning can really help. You can also substitute coffee (black, no milk, sugar or additives) for your breakfast, as it has zero calories!
Side Note: the 16/8 method is the foundation to test out different eat/fast time windows. We wouldn't recommend doing any less, but you can test out 18/6, and 20/4 to see how you feel and if they can help you towards your goals.
This method sticks true to it's name; for this strategy of intermittent fasting, you are able to eat for a full day as you normally would, then not eat for 24 hours, then eat again. The 24 hours fast typically happens once or twice a week if you are testing this method out.
The Eat-Stop-Eat method has become more popular as of late, with some sources citing that a full day of fasting has it's health benefits. The benefits include overall reduction in inflammation in the body, an increase in metabolism, refreshing the immune system, and of course, the King, weight-loss.
Having tried this method out with success (humble brag), we recommend dipping your toe in the water before fasting the full 24 hours. Work your way up, testing out 18-20 hours with a 4-6 hour eating window, and then graduate to the big dance.
Planned Meal Skipping
Let's face it. Intermittent Fasting is just a fancy way of saying "skip meals".
Planned Meal Skipping is definitely the most relaxed version of IF, and a great way to test out the waters. This method is very simple; you pick and choose which meals you are going to skip within a given week.
Since a primary goal of Intermittent Fasting is calorie reduction, skipping meals is an easy way to achieve that. Even if you skip one breakfast, one lunch, and one dinner a week, it's about a 10-15% reduction in your overall weekly caloric intake!
The 5:2 Method
This method, like the others, is practiced just how it sounds. With the 5:2 intermittent fasting strategy, you allow yourself to eat normally for 5 days, and then reduce your total calories for 2 days each week.
How much of a calorie reduction works for those 2 days? That's totally up to you, but it should be enough to make a difference. We'd recommend reducing calories around 75% for both men and women. So, if you typically eat 2000 calories per day, taking it down to 500 for those 2 days should be enough to see a difference over time in your weight loss goals.
The Wrap Up
While there's no denying that Intermittent Fasting has it's benefits, there's no guarantee that one of the various methods are going to work for you. Testing out the various methods and seeing which feels good is key. Some people aren't meant to fast for elongated periods, and that is perfectly fine. For those folks, try out one of the less harsh methods outlined above and see if they work for you.
Also, a BIG last note:
It's important to remember the QUALITY of the food your eating during your "feeding windows" is extremely important. Fasting for 16 hours can be helpful, but then eating Arby's, Taco Bell, and McDonalds in your 8 hour eating period is not likely to guide you towards your goals. Eat healthy, nutrient rich foods that make you feel good and provide your machine (aka body) with energy.