Intermittent Fasting 101: The Basics and Types of IF

intermittent fasting basics

You’ve likely heard more than one person boast about the benefits they’ve received while intermittent fasting and it’s probably got you thinking if this is something you should try for yourself. The short answer? Absolutely. Numerous studies have found that intermittent fasting, which involves switching between fasting and eating on a regular schedule, is greatly beneficial on a mental, physical and emotional health level.  It comes with a plethora of advantages, including a longer life, a leaner body and a sharper mind. So, whether you’re looking to shed some pounds, boost your overall health and wellness or simply feel better, simply changing when and how you eat your meals can be the answer you’re looking for. And best of all, it isn’t a diet. So, there’s no calorie counting or massive food restrictions. You can eat what you want, with strategic breaks throughout your day or week depending on the intermittent fasting you choose, which brings us to another topic; there are several different types of IF plans you can follow. But have no fear because this article has you covered with everything you need to know about using intermittent fasting to achieve your health and wellness goals, including the different patterns, types, and expectations of each.

The 101 on Intermittent Fasting?

All of your friends and loved ones may be boasting about their intermittent fasting, but with all of them sounding like they’re following entirely different schedules, you’re probably wondering what it is.

Intermittent fasting can be summed up as a pattern of eating that involves switching between fasting and eating on a regular schedule. Simple enough. So, when you’re intermittent fasting, you are following a meal timing schedule that cycles between voluntary fasting and non-fasting (eating).

However, there are a variety of different types of intermittent fasting patterns and cycles you can use. There are some that involve fasting for a certain number of hours during the day or during a specific part of the day, whereas others consist of fasting on alternate days and so on and so forth. This gives you full range to pick the perfect plan for you that suits your appetite and schedule.

Now, the idea of ‘fasting’ or ‘not eating’ may have freaked you out a bit. After all, we are so used to being able to eat whenever we want and we’ve become accustomed to that lifestyle. However, if you think about it, you already fast every night until you have breakfast – break fast. In fact, you likely go 8-12 hours of fasting during the night without even thinking about it or hearing your stomach rumble. So, don’t be intimidated by the idea of fasting. Your body will get used to whatever type of intermittent fasting you choose to do. Plus, the benefits definitely make the adjustment worth it, which we will get into in just a moment.

The Different Types of Fasting

Just like any diet or lifestyle, not all intermittent fasting regimes are created the same. There are a plethora of different types to choose from so you can find the perfect one that feels right for you. For example, some intermittent fasting plans fast for different lengths or period of time, others fast on different days. Some require you to avoid all food and drink during the fasting period, while others allow you to still enjoy beverages during your fast, as long as they are non-caloric, such as water, tea, and black coffee.

The best way to find the perfect IF plan for you is to go through a couple of the most popular options and see which ones appeal to you. You can always start with an easier intermittent fasting regime and eventually progress into a more refined pattern, or just stick with the one that you like best. It’s entirely up to you, which is one of the many great things about using intermittent fasting to achieve your goals, vs. dieting.

To help you decide on the type of intermittent fasting plan you’d like to try, let’s go over some of the most common options.

Alternate Day Fasting

One of the most straightforward types of intermittent fasting is alternate-day fasting, which is where you fast every other day. You eat one day, fast the next, eat the next day, fast after that and so on and so forth. It’s really quite simple, as you don’t have to pay attention to different time slots throughout the day to ensure you’re fasting/eating when you’re supposed to. 24 hours each. Simple.

However, the one thing that makes this style of fasting so popular is that you can eat anything you want on the days when you’ll be eating. There are absolutely no food restrictions.  Of course, you’ll still want to eat somewhat healthy to maximize your health and weight loss goals, but there is no rule saying you have to in order to receive the benefits of intermittent fasting.

The good news doesn’t end there; on the days you are fasting, you don’t have to eliminate all foods either. Instead, your goal is to simply keep your calories as low as 500 for women and 600 for men.

Eat Stop Eat

As for one of the easiest intermittent fasting plans, Eat Stop Eat is it. With this regime, you aim to fast for one full day, only once or twice a week. All of the other days are fair game. You can even fast for only 1 day, as long as it’s for a complete 24-hour period. We reviewed the program, which you can read here: Eat Stop Eat Review.

The 16/8 Method

Another incredibly practical intermittent fasting regime that is quite easy to do is the 16/8 method, where you’ll be enjoying all of your meals in an 8-hour period. This translates into fasting for 16 hours each day, and eating for 8. So, you may start to eat at 10AM and finish eating for the day by 6PM, or start eating at noon and finish your meals at 8PM or something similar.

There’s also the option to do the 14/10 variation, which is the exact same only you get to enjoy all of your food within a 10-hour time frame and fast for the remaining 14 hours. So, if you were to start eating at 10AM you would stop eating at 8PM.

5:2 Diet

Another popular intermittent fasting regime is the 5:2 diet, which consists of eating normally for 5 days and having a highly-restricted calorie intake on the remaining 2 days: less than 500 calories for women; and less than 600 calories for men.

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

When they say there’s no shortage of benefits when it comes to intermittent fasting, they mean it – the physical, mental and emotional health advantages that come from this style of eating are vast.

Here are some of the most commonly talked about benefits of intermittent fasting:

Weight Loss

Numerous studies have confirmed that you can lose a fair amount of stubborn fat with intermittent fasting. One study, in particular, found that intermittent fasting resulted in a typical loss of 7-11 pounds over 10 weeks. You don’t even have to follow a restrictive diet or do intense cardio!

Increase in Beneficial Hormones

Intermittent fasting is proven to increase the human growth hormone, which means that everything from your muscle and bone growth, sugar and fat metabolism, the regulation of body fluids, and heart function receives a boost.

Decreased Risk of Serious Diseases

Various studies have found that intermittent fasting can significantly reduce your risk of developing serious diseases and illnesses, including cancer, diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

Lower Blood Sugar Levels

Enhanced heart health is one of the top benefits with intermittent fasting. Following this type of eating plan can reduce blood sugar levels, blood pressure levels, insulin resistance, inflammation, heart rate, and cholesterol.

Slow Down Aging

Intermittent fasting even has some anti-aging benefits. Studies found that it can prolong the health span of the nervous system, which also slows down the natural aging process. IF also has a positive effect on energy and oxygen metabolism, as well as the stress response system, helping you look and feel younger longer.

Things to Consider: Possible Side Effects

With any diet change, there is bound to be some kind of side effect or ‘feedback’ from your body. That’s what those headaches are from when you don’t have your coffee for the day. However, these types of things are completely normal and should subside over time as your body adjusts to your new routine. To ease your mind, here are some common ‘side effects’ you may experience:

  • Headaches
  • Diarrhea
  • Feeling uncomfortably full after eating during your non-fasting times
  • Being overly focused on your feed windows
  • Being overly reliant on coffee in an effort to control your hunger and to stay energized
  • Food cravings
  • Hunger pangs
  • Heartburn
  • Brain fog
  • Decreased energy

If any of these symptoms get worse or continue for long periods, it is recommended to speak with your healthcare provider.

Intermittent fasting is a popular style of eating that has transformed people’s lives on a physical, mental and emotional level – and it can do the same for you. The benefits are proven and with a variety of different types to choose from, you can find the best eating schedule for you specifically.

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