5 Intermittent Fasting Methods: Which is best for you?

By Ashley LoseMay 28th 2021

What is Intermittent Fasting?

If these COVID-19 times are reminding you of freshman 15, you might be craving a new way to shed the extra pounds. One popular weight-loss trend gaining momentum is intermittent fasting (IF). IF is an eating plan where you alternate between periods of eating and fasting. It doesn't specify which foods you should eat but rather when you should eat them. While this diet has become popular over the last several years, it’s not a new concept.

For millennia, people have practiced some form of fasting. Ancient hunter-gatherers didn’t have supermarkets, refrigerators, or food available year-round. Sometimes they couldn’t find anything to eat. Some people fast for religious reasons and some others fast unintentionally because they are so busy working they forgot to eat. There are a few popular  ways to practice intermittent fasting. All involve splitting the day or week into eating and fasting periods. During the fasting periods, you eat either very little or nothing at all. Read this article to discover which is best for you.

What Are the Different Types of Intermittent Fasting?

5 Intermittent Fasting Methods: Which is best for you?

16/8 Method (Time-Restricted Eating)

With this method, you refrain from eating for 16 hours and can eat for the remaining 8 hours of the day. This is one of the most popular IF methods as it is noticeably less restrictive. One way that people abstain from eating for 16 hours is fasting while asleep. It can make not eating more attainable. Once you wake up, you simply extend your overnight fast by skipping breakfast and not eating until lunch. That’s one option. If you tend to be hungry in the morning, this method may take a couple of days for you to get used to. How often you choose this IF method or the times you choose to eat are up to you and your personal preferences. You can choose to fast once or twice a week and only eat between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. or noon and 8 p.m, depending on what suits your schedule best.

5 Intermittent Fasting Methods: Which is best for you?

5:2 Method (The Twice-a-Week Method)

Instead of full days of fasting, this method focuses on lowering your energy intake. On two non-consecutive days of the week, you'll consume a daily average of 500 calories for women and 600 calories for men. During the rest of the week, you go back to your normal diet and aim to make healthy eating choices. The goal is to consume more foods that are high in fiber and protein to achieve and maintain satiety. . You can choose whichever two fasting days you'd like, as long as there is a non-fasting day in-between.

5 Intermittent Fasting Methods: Which is best for you?

24-Hour Fast (Eat-Stop-Eat Method)

This plan requires you to completely fast for 24 hours. Often, once or twice a week. On the remaining days, you go back to your normal eating habits. This IF option is very popular but many people find it to be more challenging than other methods because you're going for a longer period without any food. You can have water, unsweetened coffee and tea during your fasting period but that's it. You may choose to fast from breakfast to breakfast or lunch to lunch, that decision depends on your ability to adapt your fasting schedule to your daily routine.

5 Intermittent Fasting Methods: Which is best for you?

Alternate-Day Fasting

There are two variations of alternate-day fasting. For one, you are completely fasting for one entire day. The other version allows you to eat 500 calories on fasting days. Both options allow you to return to your normal daily energy intake on non-fasting days. With either method, you want to aim to consume nutrient-rich whole foods: lean meat and plant-based protein, fish, whole grains, low-fat dairy, fruits, and vegetables.

5 Intermittent Fasting Methods: Which is best for you?

The Warrior Diet

The warrior diet is a stricter type of intermittent fasting. While similar to the 16/8 method, it requires a longer period of daily fasting. On this plan, you fast for 20 hours of the day and eat as much as you want during a 4-hour window. When getting started with this method, you’re allowed to eat foods like vegetable juice, eggs, plain yogurt, raw fruits, calorie-free beverages and clear soup broth during the day with minimal calories to satisfy your hunger.

5 Intermittent Fasting Methods: Which is best for you?

Which Intermittent Fasting Method Is Best For You?

When it comes to weight-loss, there is no one diet for everyone. Here's why – people are diverse. Once you've set your mind on fasting, it's time to make a plan. You have to consider your body type, fitness level, dietary preferences, schedule and so much more. Before starting IF,, the first step is to consider your current lifestyle. When do you get hungry? How much energy do you burn? Can you skip breakfast and not feel tired? If you're someone who isn't hungry in the morning, then the 16/8 method may work well for you. If you don't get hungry until later in the day, the alternate-day fasting method may be more adequate for your needs. Whichever method you pick, it's important to be consistent. Aim to cut fried and processed foods, alcohol, and artificial additives from your normal eating habits. Once you’ve done that, stick to your plan for at least 6-8 weeks and keep a journal to log your food and emotions during this new transition. To optimize your results, you should also incorporate strength training and cardio into your weight-loss plan.

5 Intermittent Fasting Methods: Which is best for you?

What Are the Benefits of Intermittent Fasting?

There is not enough research done on humans yet to make big claims about IF fasting and its benefits. Much of the research is on animal models. Current research results  show that IF may provide the following health benefits:

Weight-loss and Fat-loss

Intermittent fasting can help you lose weight because of the way that it affects your hormones. When you’re fasting your body has two metabolic changes that occur. 

  1. Insulin. Insulin levels increase when you eat, and when you fast, they decrease. Lower levels of insulin in your body facilitate a fat-burning response.

  1. Norepinephrine (noradrenaline). When you go periods of time without eating, your nervous system sends norepinephrine to your fat cells, making them break down body fat into free fatty acids that can be burned for energy, resulting in weight loss. 

Disease Prevention and Extended Life Span

5 Intermittent Fasting Methods: Which is best for you?

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Cons to Intermittent Fasting

While intermittent fasting can be beneficial to some people, it is not for everybody. You should consult with your doctor or dietitian before committing to IF. There are several potential side effects and risks of IF including:

  • Fatigue, hunger, weakness, mood swings and tiredness in the beginning stages of starting an IF diet.
  • Overeating during the non-fasting eating window due to excessive hunger
  • heartburn or reflux as a result of overeating

Additionally, if you have a history of disordered eating, depression, or anxiety you should avoid intermittent fasting. It is also not recommended for pregnant women, children, or individuals with diabetes.

Sources: 

  1. Collier R. (2013). Intermittent fasting: the science of going without. CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association journal = journal de l'Association medicale canadienne, 185(9), E363–E364. https://doi.org/10.1503/cmaj.109-4451

  1. Cleveland Clinic. (2019, April 30). Intermittent Fasting: 4 Different Types Explained. Healthessentials. Retrieved December 20, 2020, from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/intermittent-fasting-4-different-types-explained/

  1. Cleveland Clinic. (2019, April 30). Intermittent Fasting: 4 Different Types Explained. Healthessentials. Retrieved December 20, 2020, from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/intermittent-fasting-4-different-types-explained/

  1. Collier R. (2013). Intermittent fasting: the science of going without. CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association journal = journal de l'Association medicale canadienne, 185(9), E363–E364. https://doi.org/10.1503/cmaj.109-4451

  1. Cleveland Clinic. (2019, April 30). Intermittent Fasting: 4 Different Types Explained. Healthessentials. Retrieved December 20, 2020, from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/intermittent-fasting-4-different-types-explained/

  1. Pilon B. (2013). Intermittent fasting: five quick questions with fasting expert Brad Pilon. Interview by Roger Collier. CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association journal = journal de l'Association medicale canadienne, 185(9), E362. https://doi.org/10.1503/cmaj.109-4438

  1. Trepanowski, J. F., Kroeger, C. M., Barnosky, A., Klempel, M. C., Bhutani, S., Hoddy, K. K., Gabel, K., Freels, S., Rigdon, J., Rood, J., Ravussin, E., & Varady, K. A. (2017). Effect of Alternate-Day Fasting on Weight Loss, Weight Maintenance, and Cardioprotection Among Metabolically Healthy Obese Adults: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA internal medicine, 177(7), 930–938. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamainternmed.2017.0936

  1. Sass, C. (2020, May 11). Health. The Warrior Diet Is An Intermittent Fasting Plan for Weight Loss – but is it healthy? Retrieved December 20, 2020, from https://www.health.com/weight-loss/warrior-diet

  1. Sass, C. (2020, May 11). Health. The Warrior Diet Is An Intermittent Fasting Plan for Weight Loss – but is it healthy? Retrieved December 20, 2020, from https://www.health.com/weight-loss/warrior-diet

  1. U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2010, December). Foods and Food Components to Reduce. Dietary Guidelines 2010, 7. https://health.gov/sites/default/files/2020-01/DietaryGuidelines2010.pdf

  1. Stockman, M. C., Thomas, D., Burke, J., & Apovian, C. M. (2018). Intermittent Fasting: Is the Wait Worth the Weight?. Current obesity reports, 7(2), 172–185. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13679-018-0308-9

  1. WebMD. (2020, July 22). Are Fasting Diets Safe and Effective? Do Fasting Diets Work? Retrieved December 20, 2020, from https://www.webmd.com/diet/fasting

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