To kick off your week, here’s the continuation of last week’s post on Intermittent Fasting (“IF”).
If you missed that one, here it is in a nutshell (though I encourage you to read the full post). 😉
- IF is the strategic modification of “Feeding” and “Fasting” windows for greater health benefits
- It is NOT a weight-loss tool – studies show that “IF” isn’t any better than regular dieting or calorie restriction
- IF has some positive metabolic, self-awareness, and cellular benefits when done correctly.
- There are many variations of “IF”, everyone has different needs and preferences.
Let’s dive into the most common Intermittent Fasting protocols.
Keep in mind that this field of research is quite new and the volume of well-run scientific studies is still quite low. There are LOADS of anecdotal observations, theories, and speculation that generally center around a “This worked for me” approach.
As discussed in the last message, we are ALL DIFFERENT and will likely find variations that work for us.
These are the most popular “IF” methods:
- The 16/8 method:
AKA, the “Leangains” protocol, involves skipping breakfast and restricting your daily eating period to 8 hours, such as 1–9 p.m. Then you fast for 16 hours in between.
This involves fasting for 24 hours, once or twice a week, for example by not eating from dinner one day until dinner the next day.
- The 5:2 diet:
You consume only 500–600 calories on two non-consecutive days of the week but eat normally the other 5 days.
- Alternate Day Fasting
There are a couple of versions of this format. Some follow the 5:2 format of reduced calories on alternating days (essentially a 4:3 protocol), others do an extended overnight fast on alternate days (approx 16-18 hours between meals.
I’ve experimented with various options of each, but don’t do any of them regularly (I guess I’m following the “intermittent” part of “IF”). The one that I find easiest is a 16-18 hour fast once every week or two. Most of us have done this at some point in our life after eating an exceptionally large meal (i.e. Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, etc.).
With that being said, the idea is not to wait until you stuff yourself at a meal.
I use it as a reminder of what it’s like to be hungry. When I feel my nutrition plan or schedule has shifted away from what I feel is ideal, it’s a helpful way to bring my actions back into alignment, while also reconnecting my brain, body, and digestive system.
As mentioned, a massive part of optimal health, fitness, and wellness is being able to connect with the nuances of your body throughout daily life. If you’ve been there before, you know your body feels different when it’s in a calorie deficit vs. surplus, and when you’ve increased your energy expenditure (training volume/intensity). Reconnecting with these “physical states” is important to the overall process.
I find that a short 16-18 hour fast helps reconnect me with that feeling while boosting my mental and physical energy (likely due to some of the cellular and metabolic changes occurring during the fast).
This approach is also a very easy way to introduce yourself to the concept of “IF”.
What are the PROS/CONS of each style?
As mentioned previously, “IF” protocols generally fail to address the QUALITY and PORTION SIZE of meals.
The resulting calorie restriction of “IF” is what allows some people to lose weight (the same as dieting). Longer fasting phases will often encourage more people to overeat during their “feeding window”.
It should be noted that I vehemently dislike the term “feeding window”…it conjures images of pigs waddling up to a trough. Definitely not the mindset and image you want when eating and fueling your body!
Additionally, every “IF” method talks about eating “Normally” during non-fasting periods. Normal is a nebulous term and varies dramatically between people. “Normal eating” doesn’t improve poor eating habits or quality in those in need of improvements.
I strongly believe that a well-rounded nutritional plan should include education on mindset, habits, movement, and lifestyle behaviors.
“IF” doesn’t address the majority of these. This is why “IF” is merely one of many “tools in your toolbox”.
In my opinion, the downside of the 16/8 method is that the protocol recommends fasting EVERY day. The base concept of “IF” is “INTERMITTENT”, rather than daily repetition.
The 5:2 Diet is very popular and has been the subject of several books. While not technically fasting, the 5:2 alternates between times of “normal” and drastically reduced calorie intake. While everyone is different, from the psychological side, I see the reduced calorie intake of only 400-500 calories per day as being harder psychologically than a shorter but complete fast.
At two non-consecutive days per week, this is about as frequent as I would define “intermittent”. Any more often (such as the 4:3 or Alternate Day Fasting approach) would be too consistent in my opinion.
Eat/Stop/Eat is similar to what I’ve done in the past, but I feel 24 hours is unnecessarily long.
Many of the studies show the best results with a 16-18 hour fast window. This is much easier to complete, leads to less dramatic hunger, and will provide a more positive psychological outcome.
I feel a modified Eat/Stop/Eat approach makes the most sense when done “occasionally” (no more than twice per week), AND if you are approaching it from a positive and empowering mindset.
There are some great documented benefits from intermittent fasting as part of a consistent and sensible health improvement plan. Such a plan should include: A positive, personally empowering mindset, daily success habits, daily movement, regular exercise, and healthy, tasty, nutritious food to fuel your mind and body.
“IF” is not a “magic bullet” weight loss solution. Steer clear of anyone who claims that it is, particularly if the other components of the puzzle are neglected.
Should you decide to try “IF”, start sensibly with a 16-18 hour fast once every week or two. See how you feel. Document the situation, and tailor it to your needs.
Contraindications. Who should think twice about trying Intermittent Fasting?
Work with your doctor or a qualified professional to mediate and monitor any risk factors if you:
- Have diabetes.
- Are underweight.
- Have problems with blood sugar regulation.
- Take medications.
- Have low blood pressure.
- Are a woman who is trying to conceive.
- Have a history of eating disorders.
- Are a woman with a history of amenorrhea.
- Are pregnant or breastfeeding.
For more information and articles/studies on this topic, I’ve provided some links below.
You should also check out our Fuel Your Body For Success course, for more information on nutrition, food types, calorie counting, and much more. It’s 50% off only with this promo code:
I would love to know if you found this information helpful. Just leave a comment with your thoughts, feedback, and experiences you’ve had with Intermittent Fasting.