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Intermittent fasting is a trendy diet approach that changes everything we thought we knew about dieting.
Most diets are intensely focused on what to eat, and how much to eat. Even more confusing, a lot of diets promote constant eating, whether it’s regular meals, or healthy snacks.
Intermittent fasting has dieters doing the exact opposite.
We’ve always been told breakfast is the most important part of the day, but could you actually be healthier, and skinnier, by skipping it?
This beginner’s guide to intermittent fasting will break down what exactly this approach to dieting is, and whether it might be right for you.
What is Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting is a dieting pattern that involves purposefully skipping meals according to a specific schedule.
It’s important to note that intermittent fasting is NOT starving yourself, or refusing to eat at all. Instead it’s a controlled approach to food intake that allows your body to process new foods or use existing stores of energy at different points in the day.
Fasting isn’t new. It’s a tool that has been around for centuries. It’s often used for spiritual, health, and other reasons.
Intermittent fasting is simply a dieting approach that uses fasting as way to control caloric intake, and encourage your body to burn through existing fat and energy.
How Does Intermittent Fasting Work
Intermittent fasting takes characteristics of things we are already doing in our daily life and expands them for optimal health and weight loss benefits.
If you think about it, you already fast every day. Unless you wake up and eat periodically throughout the night, your body is taking a long break from eating while you sleep.
Are you someone who typically skips breakfast? You might be pretty close to an intermittent fasting schedule without even realizing it.
Intermittent fasting takes a controlled approach to when you eat. This is beneficial to your body because when you are eating, your body processes and uses that food immediately for energy. When you are fasting, your body starts to use stored fats for energy.
See how this could be beneficial work weight loss?
Intermittent fasting is essentially increasing the amount of time that your body is burning off stored fat for energy.
Intermittent Fasting Benefits
The most sought after benefit from intermittent fasting is usually weight loss. But that’s not the only positive that comes from this diet.
For a long time people have used fasting as a way to cleanse, detox, or purify their bodies.
Fasting has a different effect on each individual person therefore a lot of the types of benefits, and significance of benefits vary.
Some of the potential benefits from fasting include:
- Weight loss
- Body fat loss
- Mental clarity
- Better concentration
- Increased energy
- Cellular cleansing activation
- Reduction of inflammation
- Type 2 diabetes reversal
- Better fat burning rate
- Increased growth hormone
- Lower blood cholesterol
- Lower blood insulin & sugar levels
Intermittent Fasting Schedules
A lot of trendy diets require intense amounts of planning, cooking, and measuring. One of the benefits of intermittent fasting is that it’s relatively flexible, and easy.
Instead of trying to figure out exactly what and when you can eat, you’re simply not eating for a bit. You may actually find yourself saving time by not having to shop for, prep, cook, eat, and clean up after extra meals.
You can also choose the intensity of your fast, and when it happens.
Like we mentioned above, some people who skip breakfast are pretty close to viable intermittent fasting schedule without having to change a thing.
16/8 Intermittent Fasting Approach
There are several different approaches to intermittent fasting, but probably the most common is the 16/8 approach.
The 16/8 intermittent fasting approach involves fasting every day for 14-16 hours, and eating over a period of 8-10 hours.
This approach is the easiest to fit into an existing schedule without having to make crazy adjustments, like fasting for two days straight.
Fasting for 14-16 hours can be as simple as not eating anything after an earlier dinner, and skipping breakfast. Don’t worry, you can still have liquids like water and coffee while you’re in the fasting portion of your day.
16/8 Intermittent Fasting Sample Schedules
Skipping breakfast can be an easy way to start intermittent fasting, but if you love breakfast, you may choose a different route.
The great thing about this diet plan is that it’s flexible to what works for your lifestyle.
A few examples of 16/8 intermittent fasting schedules are:
- Breakfast Lover: Start eating at 7 a.m., stop eating at 3 p.m.
- Breakfast Skipper: Start eating at 11 a.m., stop eating at 7 p.m.
- Dinner Lover: Start eating at 2 p.m., stop eating at 10 p.m.
- Night Owl: Start eating at 6 p.m., stop eating at 2 a.m.
Your hourly schedule can also change based. Some intermittent fasters reduce their eating window to only 6, or even 4 hours. While others start with a fasting period of 12-14 hours when they are getting started.
Other Popular Intermittent Fasting Schedules
While the 16/8 fasting schedule is the most popular, there are definitely other approaches to this diet.
- 5:2 Diet: The 5:2 diet involves fasting for 2 full days per week, and eating for the other 5. On fasting days it’s usually still recommended to consume a small amount of calories.
- Eat-Stop-Eat: The Eat-Stop-Eat method involves a 24 hour fast period once or twice a week.
- Alternate-Day Fasting: Alternate-Day fasting involves fasting every other day. Some allow a small amount of calories during fasting days.
- The Warrior Diet: The Warrior Diet schedule promotes fasting during the day, and eating a huge meal at night. This approach typically gives a 4 hour eating period and suggests paleo foods for meals.
- Spontaneous: Some intermittent fasters use a spontaneous approach and simply skip meals when it’s convenient for them.
Eating While Intermittent Fasting
While you are encouraged to consume filling meals during your eating period, that doesn’t mean eat whatever you want.
As with any diet, especially if your goal is weight loss, the types of foods and calories you consume are important.
Fasting for 16 hours out of the day and then eating huge cartons of donuts isn’t going to give your body the nutrients it needs. And it’s definitely not going to help you lose weight.
Intermittent fasting doesn’t have any specific restrictions regarding what, and how much to eat during your eating windows. Instead, it’s recommended to simple focus on a well-balanced diet that focuses on nutrient-dense food.
Basically you’ll want to consider foods that would normally be suggested for healthier living.
For the best results stick with whole foods, high-fiber, unprocessed options. This should included options like fruits, veggies, whole grains, potatoes, nuts, beans, seeds, eggs, nuts, dairy, fish and proteins.
And don’t forget water. You’ll want to stay hydrated and use water or other liquids like coffee as a way to curb hunger during your fasting periods.
Is Intermittent Fasting for Everyone?
While intermittent fasting can be a great option for a lot of people, it’s not for everyone.
If you fall into any of these categories, you may want to consider consulting with a medical professional before jumping into fasting:
- Pregnant or nursing
- History of disordered eating
- Chronically stressed
Getting Started with Intermittent Fasting
If you’re interested in giving intermittent fasting a try, it’s best to ease your way in.
Look at your current schedule and see what type of a fasting period might work best with your life. When starting a new diet, it’s easier not to reinvent the wheel.
Do you typically skip breakfast, or prefer to eat a super early dinner? Look at your habits to find natural opportunities for fasting periods. Then, choose a length that’s comfortable to start with.
That may mean starting with 12 hours and easing your way into the 16/8 approach.
Then, write out your schedule. Being able to see your schedule will help you stay on track and keep motivation you need.
Stock up your pantry with healthy, filling foods, and then dive in!
Intermittent fasting isn’t as intimidating as it sounds. Yes, only eating for four hours out of the day is a little intense, but that’s not what you need to do!
Find something that will work for your daily schedule then give it a try and adjust as needed.