I like to think of intermittent fasting (IF) as giving your body the time to do the things that it needs to do. Things that it can’t do if you are constantly consuming food (even in small doses) all day long. Fortunately for us, with so many different intermittent fasting schedules to choose from, we’re able to allow our bodies to do just that!
If you’re just starting your IF schedule, or in the beginning stages of learning about what IF is all about, check out my Free 3-Day Short Course. It’s s self-paced email short course that you can read at your leisure! It’s a great way to start on your IF journey!
Read on to see what these schedules are all about and to see if there is one that will work for you.
Daily Fasting/Time-restricted eating.
Daily fasting (or time-restricted eating) is a fasting schedule that allows you to fast daily for a predetermined amount of time. I find daily fasting to be a much easier method (for me) in terms of ease and consistency.
16/8 intermittent fasting schedule.
The 16/8 intermittent fasting schedule is probably the most popular IF schedule and the “go-to” schedule for beginning intermittent fasters (IFer’s).
This schedule allows individuals to fast for 16 hours while providing an 8-hour eating window. During the 8-hour eating window, IFer’s can eat anywhere from 2-3 meals a day with no food restrictions.
An example of the 16/8 schedule would have an individual start their fast (stop eating) at 7:00 pm and open their eating window (start eating) at 11:00 am the following morning.
Note: This is my go-to eating schedule. My goal is always an 18-hour fast with a 6-hour eating window, but if I have an intense workout in the morning, I might open my window at the 16-hour mark. I play it by ear, but always shoot for a minimum fast of 16 hours. I lost my first 15 pounds with the 16/8 fasting schedule!
20/4 intermittent fasting schedule.
Many OMAD (one meal a day) intermittent fasters use the 20/4 IF schedule.
Many people on this schedule will open their window with a small snack and then enjoy a nice hearty meal for their dinner.
Again, there are no restrictions on what an individual on this plan can eat.
When you intermittent fast, the restriction is on the when and not (really) the what.
For example, someone on this plan may have a snack at 3:00 pm, wouldn’t eat again until they have their dinner at 6:00 pm, and would close their window at 7:00 pm.
I’ll fast for 20 hours, on occasion. But I’m more of an 18/6 girl!
While many of these types of schedules are not sustainable on a daily basis, or for the long haul for that matter, they are a great way to reset your system after a period of overindulgence.
They are also a great way to break a weight plateau. Or, to just simply enjoy the benefits of an extended fast!
24 hour extended fasting.
Individuals on this schedule will fast for 24 hours straight before opening their eating window.
For example, you can finish your dinner at 6:00 pm on a Tuesday and you wouldn’t eat again until 6:00 pm the next day, on Wednesday.
I do this fasting schedule on an “as needed” basis.
For example, over the holidays I went to visit my family and overindulged, like, a lot. I was feeling very tired, very bloated, and just overall crummy. To get myself back on track, I did a 24 hour fast to help reset my overworked system over the holiday break. It worked like a charm!
5:2 Fasting Plan.
The 5:2 fasting plan is exactly as is sounds..
Someone following the 5:2 plan would eat a traditional breakfast, lunch, and dinner for 5 days a week and fast for 2 days a week.
Individuals on the 5:2 fasting plan are allowed to consume about 500 calories on their fasting days (so, two days a week you eat only 500 calories), and eat as you normally would (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) on the other five days of that week.
Note: I’ve read from many people on this plan that they have eliminated the 500 calorie meal/snack.
They report that once they consumed, even the littlest amount of food, their hunger hormones kicked into high gear and they were ravenous.
They report that those 500 calories made their fasting days much more difficult to complete.
Many preferred to stick with water, sparkling mineral water, and black coffee during their two fasting days to help control their hunger pangs. But, experiment and do what works best for you.
36 hour extended fast.
This plan would have you eat dinner, let’s say, on a Monday, fast all day on Tuesday and then open your eating window on Wednesday morning.
This type of fast might be something that you participate in sporadically simply to enjoy the benefits of fasting.
Some people do a 36 hour fast once a week and eat a traditional breakfast, lunch and dinner for the remainder of the week. While, other folks may do this once a month while continuing to participate in their daily fasting regimen.
Again, experiment and see what works for you!
Alternate Day Fasting.
As the title suggests, individuals will alternate the days they eat and the days they fast. These folks will fast one day and then eat a traditional breakfast, lunch and dinner the next.
Again, there is the option to consume a small amount of calories on your fasting day, but as mentioned above, this could ignite your hunger hormones and make your fasting day very difficult. Again, experiment and do what works best for you!
Guess what, you can actually create a schedule that works for you!
I alternate between a 16/8 and an 18/6 fasting schedule, but there are some days I like to open my window at the 17-hour mark and some days I will continue to the full 24 hours. At this stage in my IF journey, I do what works for me.
If you are just starting, I would pick a schedule that you feel you can stick with. If you need help picking a plan, or you are just getting started with IF, please check out my 5 Easy Steps to Start Intermittent Fasting post. It’s a super simple guide to help get you started.
Things you should know.
The longer the fast the greater the benefits!
Once your body has depleted its’ fuel from the food that you ingested, it will begin to pull fuel from the glycogen stores in your liver.
Once those stores are depleted, your body will begin to pull fuel from your fat stores. Amazing news, right? But, this process takes time. The longer the fast the greater the possibility you will enter that fat-burning state quicker than by completing a daily time-restricted fast alone.
But, don’t fret!
This fat burning process will happen even with the shorter fasting windows of time-restricted eating, so please don’t feel like you have to do an extended fast every day to get into this fat-burning state. It will just take a little longer to get to that depleted state with time-restricted eating than with longer fasting windows.
But hey, if you want to get to that fat-burning state faster, then maybe throw in an extended fast here and there! These can be done without disrupting your daily fasting schedule.
You can eat all the things, but don’t eat all the things.
I get into more detail on this topic in my free 3-day short course, but a common phrase you will hear in the IF world is that we can eat all the things. While all of this is true, you still want to be careful not to overdo it in your eating window.
Don’t always think that longer is better!
I’ve seen many IFers on message boards struggle with weight loss while doing multiple extended fasts, or just simply by participating in a longer daily fasting regimen. Guess what? Their bodies are telling them something. It’s telling them to extend their eating window to consume more food.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, experiment! There is no one right method. You may need to change things up if your tried and true method stops working for you.
Be open and understand that intermittent fasting schedules are not a one size fits all.
You do you.
I am a HUGE fan of doing what’s right for you. There is a ton of information out there of the dos, don’t and the hardcore “if you don’t do exactly as I do then you’re not doing it right” intermittent faster.
It’s your body, it’s your vessel and you need to do what’s right for you. Learn to pick and chose the information that works best for you.
Experiment & Patience.
While you may not see weight loss benefits right away, I can assure you that your body is benefiting from intermittent fasting. I’m still amazed at how IF changes the body and for the better! I’ve experienced those changes first hand.
Toss the “lose weight fast” mentality and focus on the long term health benefits of IF, and you’ll do just fine.
Go to My Weight Story page to read more about intermittent fasting.
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The information in this blog post is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on the stuckassdown blog.