Unless you have been living under a rock, you have probably heard of intermittent fasting. This is being mentioned everywhere, from social media sites to health TV shows like Dr. Oz. If you read a weight loss, fitness, or health blog, you will most likely see it mentioned often there as well. Intermittent fasting is a new way of eating that promotes weight loss, fat burning, muscle building, and many other health benefits through a very simple eating pattern. Here is more information about intermittent fasting so that you can decide if it is a good option for you.
IF is a Pattern of Eating
Many people call intermittent fasting a diet, but it is rather a pattern of eating or dieting for optimal success. It teaches you a lot, including how to listen to your body’s hunger signals, and to follow a healthy pattern of eating. You are following a specific pattern each day, where you only eat during a shorter block of time, fasting for the rest of the day, except for having coffee, tea, and water. This pattern helps your body to burn food more quickly, so that there is more time for burning fat.
IF Versus Starvation
Among the different questions people ask about intermittent fasting, a common one is comparing it to starvation. Fasting can be confusing because you are going a certain length of time without eating or drinking anything with calories, but that doesn’t mean it is the same thing as starving yourself. Keep reading to learn the difference.
What is Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is a way of eating where you only eat during certain times of the day or week. This is not the same as starving yourself. The point is to get where your body is burning fat for energy, instead of taking all day just to burn the food you eat. This is the difference between maintaining weight and actually losing weight. While you are fasting, you are not going so long that you begin starving yourself or entering the dreaded ‘starvation mode’. You are also not trying to deprive yourself of necessary nutrients.
The Difference Between IF and Starvation
This might sound like starvation so far to you, but they are quite different. One of the biggest differences is in your mindset. When you are starving yourself, you are doing it purposely to keep yourself from eating foods that will fuel your body. There is often a deep-rooted mental issue related to starvation, not to mention failing to provide nutrients that help to sustain life. With intermittent fasting, you know when you will eat next, and you will try to eat nourishing foods for your body. You also don’t fast for so long that it will have a negative physical effect on your health.
Knowing the Side Effects of Starvation
Another way you can tell the difference between intermittent fasting and starvation is that with IF, you won’t have all those classic malnutrition side effects. When you are starving yourself or simply not getting enough nutrients, you might have lightheadedness and feel faint, have nausea, abdominal pain, and constipation. If you are experiencing these symptoms while doing intermittent fasting, you are either not eating enough, or the foods you are eating do not contain the nutrition your body needs.
Doing Intermittent Fasting the Right Way
This is why you should make sure when you do eat while doing intermittent fasting, you eat the healthiest foods you can find. They should preferably not be processed, and be whole, fresh foods. Plenty of lean protein, fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and seeds, will sustain you during the following fasted periods.
There are Different Protocols
The next thing you will learn about intermittent fasting is that there isn’t just one way to do it, but several methods or protocols to choose from. It is very flexible, so you can look at the different methods and choose which one works best for your schedule and your lifestyle. Here are some popular IF protocols people like to turn to:
16:8/LeanGains – This is a popular option, allowing you to eat for 8 hours, then fast for 16 hours. You try to do it as often as possible. It can be done every day of the week.
5:2 – The 5:2 diet requires you to eat how you normally would 5 days out of the week, then have 2 alternating days of the week where you fast for 24 hours. You can often have a low amount of calories on fasted days, up to 500-600 calories.
Warrior Diet – With the warrior diet, you go 24 hours between eating, having just one large meal at the end of every fasted day.
Eat-Stop-Eat/24-Hour – This is similar to 5:2, except you may only go 24 hours once a week. You also don’t have the calories, but a full fasting day with only water, coffee, or tea.
Tips for Starting Intermittent Fasting
Here are a few quick tips that can make this transition easier for you:
Pick your protocol first, then do plenty of planning. You want to make sure you know when you will eat, what to eat, and how much.
Don’t go extreme on the first day. It is best to start with the lesser protocols, like a 12-2 or 16-8 where you still have a pretty lengthy window of eating. Wait a bit before you go to the 24-hour fasting protocols.
Listen to your body. The intermittent fasting method you are using might not work good for you, so if you notice bad side effects, go back to your normal way of eating.
4 Types of Intermittent Fasting Protocols
If you are interested in starting intermittent fasting, the first thing you need to do is decide on a protocol. This type of fasting doesn’t just have one method, but multiple ones to choose from. Your preferences, schedule, and other details will go into choosing the one that is right for you. Here are four of the more popular choices.
The 16/8 Protocol
The first intermittent fasting protocol you might want to consider is called the 16/8, or LeanGains. This is one of the easier methods of fasting and eating, due to its simplicity and because you don’t go as long while fasting. Naturally, at least half of your fasting period will be while you are sleeping, so that makes it a lot easier. Basically, you want to fast for 16 hours and eat for 8 hours. You just want to be sure you schedule it for the time of day when you tend to get hungriest or when eating is most convenient for you. This might include eating earlier and going longer at night without eating, or splitting it up. Do what works for you as long as each day you go 16 hours in a row without eating.
The Eat-Stop-Eat IF Protocol
Also called the 24-hour fast, the Eat-Stop-Eat protocol requires you to go a full 24 hours during the fasting periods. You can either do this once or twice per week, so if you are just starting out, you might want to stick to doing it once a week. All you have to do is follow your normal diet the other 6 days of the week, then have one fasting day where you don’t eat or drink anything with calories. Just like all other protocols for intermittent fasting, that 24 hours should only include water, coffee, and tea, preferably with nothing added to it. This can start when you wake up, and end the following day, or you can choose a day in the middle of the day. This is often when people prefer to do it, otherwise you’re going over 24 hours.
The Alternate Day Protocol
Another way you can do it is by fasting every other day. This is often referred to as an alternate day fasting protocol. There are many different versions of this, so feel free to experiment with it until you figure out what works best for you. For example, you may do 16:8 fasting protocols every other day, or do a full 24 hours fasting every other day. Some people have their fasting days be absolutely nothing but water and coffee, while others allow about 500 calories during the fasting days. Just remember to pick something that is sustainable for you and will work with your schedule.
The 5:2 Diet Protocol
The 5:2 diet is one where you eat your normal diet for 5 days out of the week, then fast the other 2 days. This is very similar to the 24-hour diet since the 2 fasting days are separating by at least one eating day in between them. However, you do want to eat about 500-600 calories even on the fasting days, which is one of the biggest differences.
The 16-8 Intermittent Fasting Protocols
If there was one intermittent fasting protocol that most people tend to try first, it is probably the 16-8 protocol. Also called LeanGains, the 16-8 fasting protocol is good for beginners because you don’t go as long in between eating periods. Many people struggle with IF that requires going 24 hours or longer without eating or drinking anything, so this can be a good one to start with. Here is more information about LeanGains.
Benefits of the 16-8 Protocol
Ease of following this protocol is one of the main benefits. You aren’t having to go 24 hours between meals, which can be very hard for some people. This is what is involved in the Warrior Diet or the Eat-Stop-Eat method of intermittent fasting. With the LeanGains, or 16-8, you are only going 16 hours without eating. Keep in mind a lot of this is while you are sleeping, so there are just a few hours in the morning and a few hours in the evening where you are not eating while awake.
You can also reduce your hunger as your body becomes accustomed to the protocol, and burn all the stubborn fat your body has been holding onto. Don’t forget the convenience of only eating 8 hours out of the day, instead of trying to plan and schedule meals every few hours.
How to do the 16-8 Protocol
This is one of the simplest intermittent fasting protocols, which is why it also happens to be one of the most popular. If you think about it, going 16 hours without eating really isn’t a huge stretch. Think about the weekends when you plan to go to brunch at lunchtime; you probably don’t’ eat until noon or 1 in the afternoon. Depending on when you ate the night before, this might easily be 16 hours later or longer. You just need to schedule your meals accordingly so that you eat for 8 hours, then fast for the next 16, and repeat.
Tips for Doing the 16-8 Fasting Protocol
If you’re new to intermittent fasting or just this protocol, here are some tips that can help:
Consider fasting more in the morning – With an 8-hour eating window, you can choose to schedule it during any time, then fast for the following 16 hours. If you tend to munch at night or like going out with friends in the evenings, you might be better off starting fasting late, then skipping breakfast and eating a late lunch the following day.
Skip all calories – While you should definitely have water during the fasting hours, and you can have coffee and tea, skip everything with calories. This includes creamer in your coffee and Bulletproof coffee. If you are feeling faint or ill, or just like flavored coffee, a little creamer or cup of broth won’t hurt you, but it really is better to stick to no calories.
Make sure you give your body time to adjust. The 16 hours of fasting might be difficult for the first few days, but you will get used to it. Soon, you won’t even get hungry until those eating windows.
Intermittent Fasting Protocols: What is the 5-2?
As you begin doing more research about intermittent fasting, you will notice many different protocols people try. These include LeanGains (18-16), the 24-hour protocol, and the Warrior protocol. Another you might want to try is called 5:2, which has you eating what you want 5 days out of the week, then fasting the other 2 days. Take a look at what this type of intermittent fasting protocol entails.
What is the 5:2 Protocol?
First of all, here is how the 5:2 intermittent fasting protocol works. You want to eat what you normally would for 5 days out of the week, then fast for 2 days out of the week. This is very similar to the Eat-Stop-Diet, except with that diet, many people only fast for 24 hours, and there are often more rules for the fasted days. With the 5:2 protocol, you are told to eat a small amount on the two fasted days, often 500-600 calories for the day. You do not want the 2 days to be in a row either; have at least one normal eating day in between.
The Eating Days
One thing you want to keep in mind when doing the 5:2 intermittent fasting diet, like most IF protocols, is that during your eating windows, don’t worry too much about what you eat. It shouldn’t turn into a binge eating session, but instead you should just eat like you normally would. If you are on a special diet like keto or Paleo, then you should still stick to that on the eating days. Otherwise, just have average days of eating 5 days out of the week. Intermittent fasting is meant to simplify everything for you, so don’t worry about counting calories on the eating days unless you are following a low-calorie diet.
The Fasting Days
When it is time to fast, make sure the two days are not consecutive. You should not be fasting for more than 24 hours at a time. On these days, they are a little different than other fasting days, since you aren’t having zero calories. For women, you can have up to 500 calories, or up to 600 calories for men. This is still very low, but allows you to have a small amount of nutrients to fuel your body, from broth to fruit or veggies. Make those calories count with the most nutrient-dense foods you can find.
Warrior Intermittent Fasting Diet
One of the intermittent fasting protocols you may have heard about is called the Warrior protocol, sometimes Warrior Diet. This is when you go a little longer during your fasting periods, and eat just one big meal during the eating period. Here is a look at the Warrior protocol to decide if you want to try this method.
How the Warrior IF Protocol Works
This is one of the strictest intermittent fasting protocols because you go nearly 24 hours each time you fast. The basis of this plan is that you eat just once a day, after fasting for nearly 24 hours. That meal should be rather large and sustain you for the next 24 hours. It can be almost anything you want to eat, though of course you shouldn’t be eating 3,000 calories of donuts and soda. There are some basic food rules. The Warrior protocol comes from the fact that humans used to have to catch and cook food all day, where they would only eat once at night, so people on Paleo will often follow this protocol.
What to Eat on This Plan
Another different between the Warrior intermittent fasting protocol and other methods is that what you eat during those eating windows are also different. Most other intermittent fasting protocols allow you to eat your normal diet without changing it too much. With the Warrior diet, you also want to eat closer to a traditional caveman diet, though not as strict as Paleo. Here are some basic eating guidelines to follow if you decide on this method of doing intermittent fasting:
Try to eat grass-fed/cage-free meat and eggs – When choosing your meat and eggs, go as fresh and organic as you can. If you can get it from a local farm, that is ideal. Otherwise, choose meat that was grass-fed with no hormones, and cage-free eggs. Switch to grass-fed butter as well.
Avoid processed foods – This is a big one – try to limit your processed foods as much as possible. This includes getting rid of boxed, packaged, and frozen foods. Anything that can be microwaved is probably processed. Try to make all your meals and snacks at home with fresh ingredients.
Reduce alcohol intake – You want your liver to be free to get rid of toxins in your body, but that is hard to do when it is constantly trying to flush out the alcohol you drink. Cut back on how much you drink.
Eat your carbs at night – To better balance out your insulin levels, have your carbs in the evening. They tend to cause exhaustion, so it is best to have them near the end of your day so you have energy for the rest of the day.
How to do the Eat-Stop-Eat Diet
Intermittent fasting has many different protocols, each of which have a different eating pattern. The eating pattern describes how long you go with eating and how long you fast for. One of the popular protocols is called the eat-stop-eat diet. Instead of doing fasting daily like with the LeanGains 16-8 protocol, you will instead fast for 24 hours 1-2 days a week, and eat mostly what you want the rest of the week. Here is more information about following this intermittent fasting protocol.
Basics of This Diet
Here is how the Eat-Stop-Eat diet protocol works: you eat how you normally would for the majority of the week, fasting for 24 hours at a time, 1-2 days a week. Some people will fast just one full day a week, while others will fast twice a week, with a few days in between. You can also transition into it slowly, starting with one day, then increasing it to two when you feel comfortable with that.
When to Start the Fast
The great thing about intermittent fasting is that it is very flexible, including with this protocol. You just have to go 24 hours in between eating days, but they can start at any time. You can start them at midnight or 2 in the afternoon – it doesn’t matter. Work with your own schedule, preferably starting it around the middle of the day. This helps to break up the days of fasting, where a good portion of it exists when you are sleeping. Note what time your last meal is, and just make sure you wait 24 hours until your next one.
Breaking the Fast
Another important thing to be aware of with intermittent fasting, especially diets where you are going 24 hours without eating, is how you break the fast. Don’t just pig out and binge eat when it’s time to eat again. You are going to feel ill after going so long without food. You need to ease back into it slowly by having a normal-sized meal of something you’re used to eating when breaking the fast. This first meal might be a little smaller than other meals during the eating phase, and that’s how it should be.
Start With Just One Day
Don’t try to do 2 days during the first week of the eat-stop-eat way of intermittent fasting. For the first few weeks, start with just one day out of the week where you fast for 24 hours. After several weeks of this, you will then be ready to move on to two days out of the week.