Intermittent fasting has gained popularity as a way to lose weight, improve heart health, and boost metabolism. It involves partial or complete abstinence from food for a set period before embarking on regular eating again. But can you do it at different times?
You can do intermittent fasting at different times, but sticking to a fasting schedule may be more difficult if you constantly change the times. It’s best to pick a time frame and stick to it as much as possible. This will help your body get used to the schedule and make it easier for you to see results.
The rest of this comprehensive guide will explore in-depth all things related to intermittent fasting, including the different types of fasting schedules, benefits, and how to pick the right time to fast.
How Intermittent Fasting Works
Before we dive into the different types of intermittent fasting, let’s briefly review how it works.
Intermittent fasting (IF) is a weight loss strategy that involves alternating periods of eating and abstaining from food. It’s based on the belief that our bodies become satisfied with smaller food portions while reducing calorie intake, leading to weight loss.
During the fasting “cycle” or “phase,” you’re not allowed to consume any food or drinks (except for water). This fasting period can last anywhere from 12 to 24 hours or even longer.
After the fasting phase is over, you enter the “feeding” or “eating” phase, where you’re free to eat whatever you want for a set period. This period typically lasts 8-10 hours.
When done correctly, intermittent fasting can help you lose weight, improve metabolism, and reduce inflammation. It can also help reverse type 2 diabetes and heart disease, improving overall health and quality of life.
Types of Intermittent Fasting Schedules
Unlike weight loss diets that focus on what you eat, intermittent fasting is all about when you eat. This makes it a very flexible weight loss strategy that can be adapted to almost any lifestyle. It doesn’t specify what foods you should or shouldn’t eat, so you’re free to eat whatever you want.
And since each person’s intermittent fasting journey is unique, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. You can always modify these schedules to fit your lifestyle and needs.
There are four main types of intermittent fasting schedules:
- Time-restricted eating (16/8 or 14/10 method)
- The 5:2 diet
- Alternate day fasting
- The 24-hour fast
Let’s go over each schedule in more detail
Time-Restricted Eating (16/8 or 14/10 Method)
The time-restricted eating IF schedule is the most popular and easiest to follow. You set the fasting and feeding times that fit your lifestyle and stick to them. And since many people already fast while sleeping (from dinner to breakfast), this intermittent fasting schedule can be very doable. You extend the fasting by skipping breakfast until lunchtime.
There are two main variants of the time-restricted eating schedule:
- The 16/8 method: Involves fasting for 16 hours and eating during an 8-hour window. You will eat between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.
- The 14/10 method: It’s similar to the 16/8 method, but you have a longer feeding window of 10 hours. You will eat between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m.
You can repeat this schedule as often as you like, on a daily or weekly basis. However, it might take a few days before you figure out what works best for you. It’s especially challenging if you wake up hungry or are active at night.
The 5:2 Diet
The 5:2 intermittent fasting diet is slightly more restrictive than the 16/8 or 14/10 methods. It involves eating normally 5 days a week and fasting for 2 days (or eating very little). You must cap your calories at 500-800 on fast days. High protein and high fiber foods are recommended to help you feel fuller longer and keep the calories low.
You can choose any 2 days of the week to fast, with a non-fasting day in between. For example, you can fast on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with Wednesday as your non-fasting day.
This IF schedule is easier to follow than the time-restricted methods, as you only have to fast 2 days out of 7. However, it can still be challenging if you’re not used to fasting or have a big appetite. Try starting with one fasting day per week and gradually increasing to 2 days as you get used to it.
Alternate Day Fasting
The alternate day fasting (ADF) schedule is exactly what it sounds like: you fast every other day. This means you eat normally one day, then fast the next day (consuming no more than 500 calories). Resume regular, healthy eating the following day, fast again the next day, and so on.
This intermittent fasting schedule can be difficult to follow long-term, as it’s very restrictive. If you’re not careful, it might also lead to binge eating on your non-fasting days.
The 24-Hour Fast
The 24-hour fast is a more extreme IF schedule that involves fasting for 24 hours. Due to its length, it’s not recommended for beginners. This method is typically done once or twice per week.
For example, you can fast from dinner on Monday night until dinner on Tuesday night. Or, you can fast from breakfast on Wednesday morning until breakfast on Thursday morning.
Unfortunately, this IF schedule has adverse side effects, including:
- Low energy
The best IF schedule for you is the one you can stick to long-term. Pick a method that fits your lifestyle and adjust as needed. And remember, there’s no “right” way to do intermittent fasting. As long as you’re fasting for at least 12 hours per day, you will experience the benefits.
How To Pick the Right Time to Fast
Intermittent fasting requires consistency and planning. The most critical part of IF is choosing the right time to fast.
There are several things to consider when picking a fasting schedule, including:
- Your eating schedule: Choose a time that fits your usual eating schedule. If you usually eat three meals a day, you may want to fast for 12-16 hours. This would mean eating your last meal at 8 p.m. and not eating again until noon the next day.
- Your lifestyle: Consider your work, family, and social commitments when choosing a fasting schedule. If you have a busy lifestyle, you may want to choose a shorter fasting window.
- Your goals: Choose a fasting schedule that fits with your health goals. If you’re trying to lose weight, you may want to fast for 16 hours or more. A shorter fast may be sufficient if you’re trying to improve your health.
No matter what time you choose to fast, ensure it is consistent. This ensures you get the most out of the intermittent fasting journey.
Tips for Sticking to Your Intermittent Fasting Hours
While intermittent fasting is a safe and effective way to improve your health, you need to make sure that you stick to your designated eating and fasting hours.
Here are a few tips for successful intermittent fasting:
- Drink plenty of water: Water will keep you hydrated and ensure you get all the nutrients your body needs.
- Eat healthy foods: Eating nutritious foods will help keep your energy levels up and ensure you get all the nutrients your body needs.
- Avoid unhealthy foods: Eating unhealthy foods can offset the benefits of intermittent fasting. Avoid sugary drinks, processed foods, and excessive amounts of saturated and unhealthy fats.
- Exercise regularly: Exercise can help to boost your metabolism and ensure you’re burning calories.
- Get enough sleep: Getting enough sleep is vital for overall health and well-being. Make sure to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting has been making waves in the health and fitness community for its many potential benefits. And while more research is needed, there is evidence to suggest that IF can help with weight loss, improved mental clarity and focus, decreased inflammation, and more.
Here is a low down on some of the benefits of intermittent fasting:
The primary reason people try IF is for weight loss. And while it’s not a magic bullet, there is evidence to suggest that IF can help you lose weight.
In a 2014 review of the literature, researchers found that alternate day fasting resulted in a 3-8% reduction in body weight for 3-24 weeks. The participants also shed 4-7% of visceral fat (harmful fat in the abdominal cavity), which is linked to an increased risk of chronic disease over 6-24 weeks.
Another study found that time-restricted feeding ( fasting for 16 hours and eating for 8) resulted in a 2% reduction in body weight and fat mass over an 8-week period. So how does IF help with weight loss?
Here are a few mechanisms involved:
- Lower calorie intake: When you fast, you naturally consume fewer calories since you’re not eating. The body is forced to break down stored energy (fat) for fuel, which results in weight loss.
- Improved insulin sensitivity: Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. The insulin levels drop significantly during IF, facilitating fat burning and weight loss.
- Increased growth hormone: Fasting also increases human growth hormone levels (HGH), which helps break down fat cells and promote muscle growth.
- Increased levels of norepinephrine: Norepinephrine is a hormone that helps to break down stored fat for energy. It also acts as a stimulant at high levels, increasing metabolism and promoting weight loss.
Reduces Inflammation and Oxidative Stress
Inflammation is the body’s natural response to infection or injury. However, chronic inflammation can lead to a host of health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Oxidative stress occurs when there is an imbalance between the antioxidants and free radicals in the body. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage cells, while antioxidants are molecules that help to neutralize free radicals. Oxidative stress has been linked to an increased risk of chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s.
Intermittent fasting helps reduce markers of inflammation and oxidative stress in the body, which may help to protect against chronic disease. Since the body is in a fasted state, it has a chance to rest and repair. This helps to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress.
Improves Heart Health
According to data by WHO, heart disease is the primary cause of death globally. There are several risk factors that increase or decrease the risk of heart disease, including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
Intermittent fasting has been linked to improving several heart disease risk factors, including:
- Cholesterol levels (total and LDL)
- Blood pressure
- Fasting blood sugar levels
- Inflammatory markers (CRP and TNF-alpha)
IF can also help improve heart health by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation, two major risk factors for heart disease.
Induces Cellular Repair and Autophagy
Autophagy is the process by which the body breaks down and recycles damaged cells. This is essential for maintaining cellular health and preventing the build-up of harmful toxins.
During intermittent fasting, autophagy is increased, which helps to clean up damaged cells and prevent disease. It also helps to induce cellular repair. When the body is in a fasted state, it has a chance to repair damaged cells and DNA. This process is vital for maintaining cellular and DNA health.
Metabolism is the process by which the body converts food into energy. A slow metabolism can lead to weight gain, while a fast metabolism can help with weight loss.
Intermittent fasting boosts metabolism by 3.6-14%. This increase in metabolism helps promote weight loss and overall health.
Intermittent fasting is a safe and effective way to improve your health. And while you can fast at different times, it’s important to be consistent with your fasting schedule. Choose a time that fits your lifestyle and goals, drink plenty of water, and eat healthy foods. With a bit of planning, intermittent fasting can be a great addition to your health routine.