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Intermittent Fasting Fundamentals for Ultimate Health

You are both what you eat, as well as when you eat. When people are searching for ways to manage their weight, burn fat and stabilize their blood sugar, they often focus on specific foods or diets.

And while those factors are key in reaching optimal health, it’s also important to focus on the timing of your meals. In this area, intermittent fasting can unlock your health goals and help you achieve new levels of health, wellness, and energy.

Intermittent fasting is an easy and quick way to make a simple habit change that impacts your weight and your waistline. Anyone can try it, starting at the end of your next meal. If you’re looking to improve your health, burn more fat and lose more weight, fasting could be the strategy that finally gets you the results you need!

What are the Benefits of Intermittent Fasting?

The benefits of intermittent fasting are well documented, especially when it comes to your metabolism, weight management, and obesity.

In a massive study published in the International Journal of Obesity,[1] researchers measured how intermittent fasting affected blood sugar, insulin sensitivity, inflammation and weight loss in overweight women. They monitored the women over a period of six months and found improves in all areas. These results were present even when the actual amount of calories were the same and only the timing of meals was changed.

Another study noted how intermittent fasting stabilized blood sugar and helped improve sugar metabolism, which helped boost general wellness and even improved brain health.[2] And speaking of brain health, studies report that intermittent fasting may help reduce your risk of depression, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, stroke and more.[3]

If you’re still not convinced, the research on intermittent fasting is quite comprehensive:

  • American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Intermittent fasting improved insulin levels significantly (insulin is important for managing your blood sugar) and helped people burn fat.[4]
  • International Journal of Obesity: Fasting just a couple days a week helped people lose weight.[5]
  • Multiple studies: Intermittent fasting increases your metabolism by up to 14%.[6][7]
  • Translational Research journal: In just a few weeks, intermittent fasting significantly stabilized people’s blood sugar, reduced their blood sugar by up to 6%, and helped them lose up to 8% of their weight and up to 7% of their waist size.[8]

It’s dramatically clear that making intermittent fasting a lifestyle habit can help you shed the pounds, burn fat and feel healthier.

Six Common Ways to Follow an Intermittent Fasting Lifestyle

Intermittent fasting, unlike traditional fasting, doesn’t involve the complete elimination of food and calories. Instead, when you follow intermittent fasting as a way of life, you eat healthy food during a specific window of time and abstain from eating the rest of the time.

While there are different “time windows” that advocates of intermittent fasting enjoy, there are several main categories of intermittent fasting.[9]

Depending on your personality and your lifestyle, you might find one or the other versions of intermittent fasting more enjoyable and easier to incorporate on a regular basis.

The goal is to find an approach to intermittent fasting that works for you. “For individuals to sustain healthy lifestyle changes, we must make the healthy choice the easy choice,” says Dr. Scott Young in a research report recently published in the Permanente Journal.[10] In other words, if you want to make intermittent fasting a way of life and truly change your lifestyle habits, you have to make it easy for you to follow this fasting program.

There are six common ways that people approach intermittent fasting. Try one of them or all of them until you find a schedule that fits your work life, family life and the way you like to plan out your day.

1) Spontaneous Meal Skipping

This approach has the lowest barrier in terms of difficulty. Basically, you follow your hunger and skip a meal anytime you don’t feel hungry. The goal is to skip one or two meals a day. For example, if you don’t feel hungry when you wake up, drink herbal tea or water and wait until lunch to eat.

Because you simply skip meals as you see fit, this is a quick and practical way to ease into intermittent fasting.

2) The 5:2 “Fast Diet”

Dr. Michael Mosley created a modified form of intermittent fasting called the “Fast Diet.” Essentially, you eat as you would five days out of the week. But on two days out of the week (any day of your choosing and they do not have to be consecutive) men only eat 600 calories and women only eat 500 calories.[11]

While not as strict as most other forms of fasting, limited research shows there may be some benefits. For example, one study found that while it doesn’t restrict calories, in the same way, the 5:2 diet had similar effects to the more well-studied full-calorie-restricted fasting approach.[12]

Because you’re allowed some calories during the so-called fast, the 5:2 approach can bridge you from spontaneous meal skipping into full fasting.

3) The 16:8 window

The 16-hour fast with an 8-hour feeding window was first popularized way back in 2006 by fasting advocate Martin Berkhan.[13] Today, it is one of the most popular forms of fasting.

When you follow this version of fasting, during an eight-hour window you eat your daily calories in plant-based, low-carbohydrate foods right in healthy fats and proteins. Then, you fast during the other 16 hours of the day.

For example, say you get up at 8 am. Enjoy tea or other healthy beverages, go for a walk to wake up your body and mind, and start your day. At 11 a.m. you might enjoy breakfast, then you have a snack at noon, lunch at 1:30 p.m. and dinner at 6 p.m. By the time 7 p.m. rolls around (the end of your eight-hour feeding window), you do the dishes and retire for the evening. You’ve fit in all of your regular meals and now you can enjoy the benefits of a 16-hour fast without feeling ravenously hungry.

4) The 1- or 2-times-a-week fast

Fitness expert Brad Pilon advocates for this method of intermittent fasting, coining his catchphrase “Eat Stop Eat.” He even brags that this lets him indulge in junk food a bit.[14]

This 24-hour fasting model is not as drastic as it sounds and typically means just eliminating two meals.

For example, if you finish dinner at 7 p.m. today, skip breakfast and lunch tomorrow and then eat dinner at 7 p.m. (24 hours after your last meal). Do this once or twice a week and you’ve hit your fasting goals.

A study[15] four that this form of fasting helped with appetite control and weight maintenance, while another study[16] found that fasting one day a week made weight management easier and also improved heart health better than so-called “heart healthy” diets.

5) The Warrior Diet

The Warrior Diet was introduced in the 1990s by Ori Hofmekler. It follows a 20:4 window, where you eat for four hours and abstain from eating for 20 hours. If necessary, very, very light snacks are allowed during the 20-hour fasting window, but the bulk of eating should happen in the evening before bed.

According to one study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, eating just one meal a day like you would do in the Warrior Diet was linked to significant fat loss and a decrease in cortisol, which is the hormone linked to stress.[17]

6) Alternate Day Fasting

As its name implies, you fast for 24 hours, eat as you normally would for 24 hours, and so on throughout the week. Some call this the 4:3 diet.

Studies have linked the 4:3 diet to everything from reduced cholesterol to improved allergy resistance to faster fat loss without losing any muscle mass.[18][19][20]

However, it’s important to note that multiple 24-hour fasts can be challenging for beginners who are new to intermittent fasting. Thus, you may want to try an easier approach and get used to fasting before attempting the 4:3 approach.

Three Big Ways To Make Intermittent Fasting Waay Easier On Yourself By Eliminating The Cravings!

Support your health goals during your fast with several key supplements and dietary choices. These add-ons, while not essential for enjoying the benefits of intermittent fasting, can help make intermittent fasting a lot easier by eliminating cravings.

1) Drink Abundant Amounts of Tea

Hydration helps you to control appetite and cravings, which is beneficial when doing intermittent fasting. In fact, many people think that they’re hungry when in fact they’re thirsty, warns a report in the Physiology Behavior journal.[25] And if one reason you’re doing intermittent fasting is to lose weight and stabilize your blood sugar, take note: According to doctors, becoming dehydrated can spike your cravings for sugar and junk food.[26]

Staying hydrated also boosts your metabolism, further enhancing the results of your fast. In one study, drinking 500 ml of water increased people’s metabolism by an incredible 24%.[27] Drinking fluids can even boost metabolism down on the cellular level.[28]

Staying hydrated is also essential for healthy digestion, according to research in the Nutrition Review journal.[29] It moves digestive fluids through your system, flushes out waste and toxins, and helps deliver the nutrients from your food to different parts of your body. All of these elements are critical when you’re shrinking your meals to a narrow window. Your body needs more support to digest and move that food in a quicker period of time.

Besides drinking water, consider herbal teas. Their flavors can encourage you to drink more water. They can also bring their own distinct health benefits. Herbal teas like ginger tea, peppermint tea, chamomile tea and cinnamon tea have all been shown to help you improve waste elimination and boost digestion.[30]

2) Branch Chained Amino Acids (BCAAs).

BCAAs is a powdered supplement full of healthy amino acids with multiple health benefits.[31] [32] Research shows that this supplement can help reduce fatigue, reduce hunger and improve how much fat you burn, which can speed up the beneficial results of your fasting. Studies also show it may help lower your blood sugar[33] and even influence the production of ketone bodies,[34] the chemicals your body produces when you’re on a fast.

BCAAs are especially popular among those who are on an intermittent fast. For example, some people worry that extended periods of fasting can cause a breakdown of muscle, especially if you partake in exercise. BCAAs help prevent muscle breakdown so that you maintain healthy lean muscle no matter how long you’re fasting.[35][36]

Women should take approximately 5 grams of BCAAs a day while men usually take approximately 15 grams.

3) Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs).

Eating fewer carbs and more healthy fats moderates your blood sugar and helps you maintain a healthier weight. MCTs, which is naturally found in coconut oil, is one type of healthy fat. You can also find MCT oil supplements.

MCT can be beneficial for intermittent fasting in several key ways.[21] First, it helps control your appetite and reduces cravings. This can make it easier to stick to your fasting plan and avoid the temptation to break your fast too early, thus robbing you of the benefits of a true fast.

Second, it can help stabilize your blood sugar. In a study published in the journal Diabetes, they found that it could help moderate your blood sugar-and-insulin response, which is a key factor in diabetes risks.[22]

Third, it can provide a boost of energy that can sustain you through your fast. A side benefit is that it may lead to a reduction in body fat. You see, when you’re fasting, your body uses fatty acids instead of sugar as energy. By taking MCT oil, you encourage your body to continue to use fat as an energy source instead of sugar and carbohydrates.[23]

While you can find MCTs in coconut fat, eating enough coconut fat to get the amount of MCTs you need can be difficult. Instead, a concentrated MCT oil can help you hit your intake goals. While every supplement varies in its dosage, studies suggest taking 1-3 tablespoons of MCT oil supplements a day.[24]