Intermittent fasting (IF) has been around for a while. It took a big leap in popularity back in 2013 with “The 8-Hour Diet” by David Zinczenko and Peter Moore.
Zinczenko and Moore claimed that eating all your daily food within an 8-hour period would result in dramatic weight loss.
Soon enough, celebrities like Hugh Jackman, Beyoncé, Nicole Kidman, Miranda Kerr, and Benedict Cumberbatch all reportedly adopted some form of the IF diet.
The diet consists of restricting the time period in which you eat food. In other words, you go through alternating cycles of fasting and eating. Unlike most other diets, it’s about limiting when you eat rather than what you eat.
Currently, IF is one of the most popular eating styles out there.
Various studies have shown that by adopting this eating pattern, you might experience benefits like:
- weight loss
- improved metabolic health
- protection from disease
- a longer life span
If you’re interested in trying this trending eating plan, you may be a little worried about just how you’ll manage it.
It’s one thing to enter into a restrictive diet as a celebrity with a personal nutritionist. It’s a lot harder when you have things like your job or your kids to juggle at the same time!
Read on to discover some practical tips and tricks that anyone can use to start eating on an IF schedule.
You know you want to try IF, but maybe you aren’t sure where to start.
First thing’s first: Do your research. As nutritionist Stephanie Rofkahr from Fit Four Five explains, IF can be dangerous for people with low blood sugar. Talk with your doctor before you make any changes to your diet.
Next, decide which type of IF schedule you want to try. There are six popular fasting patterns to choose from, but this list is by no means exhaustive.
According to Rofkahr, the most popular option is the 16/8 method. In this pattern, you fast for 16 hours, then eat within an 8-hour period. Rofkahr tends to advise that people eat between noon and 8 p.m.
Once you’ve done your research and decided on the schedule that works best for you, you’re ready to go.
IF can be tough, especially in the beginning.
In addition to the telltale grumbling of your stomach, you may also experience fatigue, irritability, and stress while you try to manage your new eating schedule.
Here are some tips to make your life a little easier:
- Start with a modified schedule. “Start with a schedule that’s realistic for you and then add onto the intensity and duration,” says Dr. Amy Lee, head nutritionist for Nucific. No need to dive straight in! Build your tolerance to eating in a smaller time window each day, and do the full schedule when you’re ready.
- Stay well hydrated. Lee explains that you should keep hydrating with “noncaloric fluids” during your fasting period. This can include water, herbal teas, and calorie-free flavored drinks.
- During the eating period, eat slowly and frequently. Rofkahr recommends that you aim to eat every 3 hours within the 8-hour window so that you can “get your calories in.” Remember that IF can become dangerous if you don’t get your recommended daily calorie intake.
- Plan healthy, nutritious meals ahead of time. While you may be tempted to treat yourself to your favorite snacks and comfort foods as soon as your fasting period is finished, try to stick to a healthy diet with proteins, fruits, and vegetables.
- Prep your meals in advance. If your schedule is incredibly busy, set aside time on the weekend or a few nights a week to prepare some meals in advance. This will save you time and help you keep your diet balanced.
- Add 2 to 3 tbsp. of healthy fat to your evening meal. Alicia Galvin, RD, a resident dietitian for Sovereign Laboratories, recommends including a healthy fat like olive oil, coconut butter, or avocado in the last meal of the day to keep blood sugar levels steady overnight.
- If you have trouble sleeping, IF might not be for you. According to IF expert Cynthia Thurlow, “If you can’t sleep through the night, do not attempt to use this strategy. Work on sleep first.”
As you begin your IF journey, these common concerns may be on your mind.
Are there any potential downsides to intermittent fasting?
IF isn’t recommended for people with a previous history of eating disorders, like anorexia or orthorexia.
In some people, IF may impair sleep patterns and alertness. It can also cause an increase in stress, anxiety, and irritability for some.
Intermittent fasting isn’t recommended for those with a history of disordered eating.
Are certain foods better for intermittent fasting?
In general, health professionals recommend you stick to healthy, whole foods. Still, it’s important that you ensure you get enough calories every day to fuel your body.
Focus on “nutrient-dense foods that are higher in fat, protein, and fiber, which will help keep blood sugar steady,” Galvin says.
What is the best type of intermittent fasting for weight loss?
There are plenty of different ways to implement IF.
While the 16/8 model is the most popular and the easiest to implement, other types include the 5/2 model, which involves limiting calories twice a week, and the alternate-day model, which involves limiting calories every other day.
As of yet, the studies are pretty inconclusive as to whether one type is more effective than any other, so try a range of methods to figure out which one works best for your body and your lifestyle.
While most people try IF as a weight loss tool, it’s been shown to have other potential benefits.
What does the research say?
In terms of weight loss, there have been several studies showing the benefits of IF.
A small 2019 study showed that people who ate only between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. had lower appetites and increased fat burning after practicing IF for 4 days.
IF may have the potential to manage blood sugar and insulin levels, according to a 2018 study.
A few rodent-based studies suggest fasting can extend the average life span and improve the aging of the brain.
- heart disease
- type 2 diabetes
- Alzheimer’s disease
What do the experts say?
Experts are divided when it comes to IF.
Amanda A. Kostro Miller, RD, LDN, serves on the advisory board for Fitter Living.
“The current research about fasting is limited and inconclusive,” she says. “There isn’t enough research to show that fasting yields better weight loss than a general calorie-restricted diet.”
Miller explains that IF may have some negative effects like:
Lisa Richards is a nutritionist and the author of “The Candida Diet.” She notes that IF has some benefits if done safely. These include:
- weight loss
- improved insulin resistance
- improved cellular repair
- a restored hormonal balance
IF benefits may include:
- weight loss and fat burning
- longer life span
- protection against certain diseases
- improved insulin resistance
- cellular repair
- hormonal balance
There is a lot of debate about IF. Generally, there is some agreement that IF can offer benefits as long as it’s practiced safely and mindfully.
Use these tips to make your journey into scheduled eating a little more manageable.
Meg Walters is a writer and actor from London. She is interested in exploring topics such as fitness, meditation, and healthy lifestyles in her writing. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, yoga, and the occasional glass of wine.