Intermittent fasting is a unique way to help your body lose weight without restricting what you eat and without spending hours per day in the gym.
There are endless diet plans and weight loss methods to try when you want to shed a few pounds. But the problem with many of them is that as soon as you stop the diet, you gain the weight back.
Experts always say that the best way to lose weight is with a combination of a healthy diet and regular exercise. But there is another way:
Intermittent fasting is a unique way to help your body lose weight without restricting what you eat or spending hours per day in the gym. If you’re looking to drop some pounds, check out this guide to intermittent fasting for beginners.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
We tend to think of fasting as going days on end without any food — and that’s just dangerous. Intermittent fasting, however, does not require you to starve yourself.
Here’s how it works:
Intermittent fasting is a specific cycle where you eat for X amount of hours during the day and avoid eating for X amount of hours per day. It’s not about what you eat — it’s all about when you eat and when you don’t.
When you don’t eat for a stretch of 16 to 20 hours per day, your body starts to burn off excess body fat. During the period in which you don’t eat, your body fuels itself with the energy you’ve already stored (a.k.a. your excess fat).
Our insulin levels rise when we eat, and insulin stores sugar and produces fat. By fasting for extended periods of time, you give your body a chance to burn off some of that stored fat, leading to weight loss in most people.
If you’re ready to try a new method of eating, there are few ways to practice intermittent fasting.
The Easiest Way to Do Intermittent Fasting: The 16:8 Method
The easiest way to practice intermittent fasting is with the 16:8 method. This is when you eat all of your daily meals within an eight-hour period and eat nothing for the other 16 hours of the day.
For example, your “eating hours” could be between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., so you could have breakfast at 10:00, lunch around 2:00, and dinner at 5:30. Prefer to start your day a little later? The hours you choose to eat can range from noon to 8:00 at night.
The time that you choose to eat doesn’t matter. It only matters that you don’t eat outside those eight hours.
Because it limits the body’s ability to store excess fat, intermittent fasting can help you lose weight and also help to prevent obesity. It’s still important to focus on healthy food choices, but intermittent fasting doesn’t require you to include or exclude any particular foods from your diet.
Other Methods of Intermittent Fasting
The 16:8 method is the easiest to follow because most people can take in at least two or three meals per day within that eight-hour period. However, there are some more extreme methods that some people prefer.
The 20:4 Method
With the 20:4 method, you eat during a four-hour period of the day and fast for the rest. This is much more difficult to do, as most people can’t go that long without a snack or a meal.
If you’re new to intermittent fasting, stick with the 16:8 method, as it’s the easiest and the safest to do.
Fasting 24+ Hours
Some people choose to fast for an entire day. With this method, you can only have one meal a day. The key to this method is to eat that one meal at the same time every day, whether it be breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day, whether you’re eating or fasting. It’s also okay to drink black coffee during your fast, as long as it’s unsweetened and doesn’t contain any sugar.
The 5:2 Method
The 5:2 method is an interesting one, as it allows you to eat in different ways on different days of the week.
With this method, you eat normally for five days, then select two days throughout the week where you only consume one 500-600 calorie meal.
Eating “normally” means different things to different people. Some people eat 2,000 calories per day, while others limit their intake to 1,200 or 1,500 calories per day. The trick here is to maintain your “normal” eating habits on most days and restrict your calorie intake two days per week.
If you attempt this method, be sure to stagger your two fasting days throughout the week. For example, make your fasting days Monday and Thursday or Tuesday and Friday. Your two days of fasting should not be back to back.
No matter which method you try, it’s important to monitor your weight loss and pay attention to how fasting makes you feel. Not eating for long periods of time can actually cause the body to store more fat than burn it.
Does Intermittent Fasting Work?
Intermittent fasting works for many people, but not for everyone, and men tend to see more benefits than women. It’s also not safe for everyone.
Eating a healthy diet and exercising is the best way to shed pounds and maintain your weight. But if all of the weight loss methods you’ve tried in the past have failed, you may want to give intermittent fasting a go.
Before attempting any new diet or workout routine, consult with your physician. Intermittent fasting can be dangerous for people that have diabetes or problems regulating their blood sugar levels. It’s also not a safe plan for anyone that has an eating disorder or anyone under the age of 18.
In some ways, we all intermittently fast every day, though most of us only do it for a few hours at a time in between meals. Intermittent fasting refers to any period of time in which you don’t eat, so if you had lunch at 1:00 and dinner at 6:00, you just fasted for five hours.
But five hours (or even ten hours) doesn’t give your body enough time to start burning off its fat reserves. If you want to get real results, you’ll need to give your body at least a 16-hour food break.
If your physician thinks it’s safe for you to do, give intermittent fasting a try. It’s actually a lot easier than you may think.
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Adam Marshall is a freelance writer who specializes in all things apartment organization, real estate, and college advice. He currently works with Prime Place KSU to help them with their online marketing.