If you’re trying to get in shape, you probably know it’s not an easy task. Calories in-calories out paradigm is still prevalent in people’s minds, yet with obesity and overweight rates increasing, it’s clear that the prescription “eat less, exercise more” is not effective.
What if there was a way to eat without counting calories and always feeling hungry or deprived? In fact, there is. It’s called Intermittent Fasting (IF) and in the previous post, we talked about its health benefits.
Intermittent fasting is not a diet, it’s a pattern of eating. It doesn’t change what you eat, it changes when you eat.
Here are the most common ways to practice it:
The 5:2 Diet
The 5:2 diet involves eating normally 5 days of the week, while restricting calories to 500-600 on two days of the week.
For example, you might eat normally on all days except Mondays and Thursdays, where you eat two small meals (250 calories per meal for women, and 300 for men).
Pros: Many people find this way of eating to be easier to stick to than a traditional calorie-restricted diet. As a result, you lose weight as you consume fewer calories throughout the week.
Cons: May feel hungry and fatigued during the low-calorie days, especially at the beginning. You also need to count calories on low-calorie days, which may be time consuming and inconvenient.
The 8/16 Protocol
The 16/8 protocol involves fasting every day for 16 hours and restricting your daily “eating window” to 8 hours.
Doing this method of fasting can actually be as simple as not eating anything after dinner, and skipping breakfast. For example, only eating from noon to 8 PM.
Pros: very flexible. Meal frequency is irrelevant and you can eat whatever you want within the “eight-hour” feeding window.
Cons: If you overeat or eat the wrong kinds of food, you will not see as many benefits. This can be avoided by making healthier choices.
Fast for 24 Hours Once Per Week (aka Eat-Stop-Eat)
This method requires you to fast for 24 hours once or twice per week. During the fast, no food is consumed, but you can drink calorie-free beverages. After the fast is over, you then go back to eating normally.
By fasting from dinner one day, to dinner the next, this amounts to a 24-hour fast.
You can also fast from breakfast to breakfast, or lunch to lunch. The end result is the same.
Pros: Eating this way will reduce overall calorie intake without really limiting what you’re able to eat.
Cons: May be difficult at first. You may feel hungry and experience headaches or fatigue. If you find it too challenging to stay 24 hours without food, you can start with shorter fasts and increase the fasting time over time.
OMAD (One Meal A Day)
People who practice this method, fast for about 20-22 hours and eat only one large meal a day.
It might seem a bit contrary to what you’ve always heard about dieting. Experts have told you that to lose weight and maintain a healthy body weight, you must eat 5 to 6 small meals per day, however, this idea has already been debunked by studies.
Pros: people lose a lot of weight and claim that the appetite gets suppressed after you get used to it. They feel lots of energy and no hunger once the body adjusts.
Cons: you may not get enough nutrients if you don’t eat nutrient-rich foods. It may also be challenging in social situations. Another downside is that you need to be super devoted, focused, and detached from the idea of eating.
So where to start?
If you’ve never tried intermittent fasting and would love to get the health benefits of it, start with a 12-hour fast. For example, if you finish your last meal at 8 PM, do not eat anything after dinner and have your breakfast no earlier than 8 AM. As you get more comfortable, you can slowly increase the fasting window from 14 to 16 and even 18.
The reason most diets fail isn’t because we switch to the wrong foods, it’s because we don’t actually follow the diet over the long term. This is where intermittent fasting shines because it’s remarkably easy to implement once you get over the idea that you need to eat all the time.