Intermittent Fasting 101
Wondering what the hype is? Here are answers to common questions about this eating style.
Looking for a new way to lose or maintain weight? If so, you may want to jump on the intermittent fasting bandwagon. This style of eating has become very popular lately. That may be because many people find it easier to follow than other types of diets.
Not sure what intermittent fasting is or how it can help you manage your weight? Here are answers to some common questions about this eating style.
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is less about what you eat and more about when you eat. This eating style focuses on only eating during certain times of the day or on specific days. During the other times, you don't eat anything, which is why it's called fasting. During the times you fast, it's important to still stay hydrated, so water, black coffee and unsweetened tea can be consumed.
Are there different ways to do intermittent fasting?
Just as there are many types of diets, there are also many ways to follow intermittent fasting. Here are some common options:
- The 12/12 method. Eating during a 12-hour window and fasting during a 12-hour window every day. For example, eating between 8 am and 8 pm daily.
- The 16/8 method. Eating during an 8-hour window and fasting during a 16-hour window every day. For example, you only eat between 12 pm and 8 pm daily.
- The 5/2 method. Eating sensibly 5 days of the week and then fasting for 24 hours or severely restricting calories (usually only eating one meal) on 2 non-consecutive days during the week.
The 16/8 method is the most popular method of intermittent fasting, but registered dietitians typically recommend the 12/12 method as the best intermittent fasting option.
How does intermittent fasting help with weight loss?
People who practice intermittent fasting tend to consume fewer calories when they can only eat for a set number of hours. But it's important to note that you still need to follow a healthy diet to meet your nutritional needs or this eating style won't provide much benefit. During the times you eat, it's recommended that you focus on foods such as vegetables, fruit, lean protein, healthy fats and whole grains and that you limit junk food, excess carbs and too much sugar.
Another way intermittent fasting may help with weight loss is that the body produces less insulin when you eat less often, which makes it easier for stored fat to be burned for energy. Intermittent fasting may also change how certain hormones are released, which can in turn increase your metabolic rate. This causes your body to burn more calories.
Are there are other benefits to intermittent fasting?
Many people find this eating style easier than other methods of weight loss because they don't have to eat or restrict certain foods. There's also no need to count calories or macros. Another benefit some intermittent fasters cite is that it makes their life easier because they do not have to make as many meals throughout the day.
Is intermittent fasting healthy?
Some studies have shown that in addition to weight loss, intermittent fasting may also improve certain aspects of health, such as insulin resistance and inflammation in the body, although more research needs to be done on the subject. But this style of eating isn't generally recommended for people who are under a lot of stress and have imbalanced cortisol levels or for anyone with an eating disorder. Some diabetics also don't do well with intermittent fasting. You should talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian before changing to this style of eating, because intermittent fasting may not be a good option for everyone.
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Date Last Reviewed: April 13, 2023
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
Medical Review: Jane Schwartz, RDN, CLT