If you’re here then you are probably doing some research into intermittent fasting. You’ve read the hype about intermittent fasting for weight loss, and you want to give it a try (what have you got to lose?), but you don’t know what schedule to start with. What schedule will give you the most success?
Look no more, I break all of that down in my Intermittent Fasting Schedules Defined post below.
Why do we fast?
Before we begin, let’s take a moment to discuss why we fast, or fast intermittently.
Personally, I like to think of intermittent fasting (IF) as giving your body the time to do the things that it needs to do to provide health and wellness at the cellular level. Things that it can’t do if you are constantly consuming food (even in small doses) all day long.
For example, I frequently discuss the immediate change that I saw in my body when I started intermittent fasting. If you’re thinking that change was weight loss, you would be wrong.
The first change that I experienced when I started intermittent fasting was a significant reduction of morning belly bloat.
My Personal Experience.
Each and every morning I would wake up with horrible belly bloat and gas due to the late-night snack that I consumed the night before. I had a poo baby every morning and it was a baby I had zero intention of coddling when it woke me up in the early morning hours.
Immediately upon starting my intermittent fasting plan, I saw that poo baby disappear.
When I started intermittent fasting I decided to close my eating window at 7:00 PM at night and then I would open my eating window at 11:00 AM the following morning. By doing this, I not only allowed my body time at night before I went to bed to digest the food that I had for dinner, but I also allowed my body more time to finish that process during my fasting time the following morning.
See! I allowed my body the time it needed to do the things that it needed to do. Almost immediately I lost my morning bloat belly.
While these result obviously vary, by just giving your body some time to do what it CRAVES to do will only provide benefit to you.
Enough about my poo baby, let’s continue onto my Intermittent Fasting Schedules Defined post.
I hope this helps provide enough information to get you started on your intermittent fasting lifestyle.
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.
Daily Intermittent Fasting Schedules Defined.
Daily restricted eating / intermittent fasting schedules are usually based on a 24 hour cycle.
24-Hour Cycle Intermittent fasting schedule examples include:
- 16/8 intermittent fasting schedule: 16 + 8 = 24
- 18/6 intermittent fasting schedule: 18 + 6 = 24
- 20/4 intermittent fasting schedule: 20 + 4 = 24
- 22/2 intermittent fasting schedule: 22 + 2 = 24
You get the idea. The intermittent fasting schedules above are the more commonly used intermittent fasting schedules, but in reality, you can do whatever works for you.
The 16/8 intermittent fasting schedule is probably the most popular IF schedule and the “go-to” schedule for many 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 with a 6-hour eating window.
An example of how to implement the 16/8 intermittent fasting schedule might looks like this:
- 7:00PM – Close eating window/Start Fast
- 11:00AM (the following morning) – Open eating window.
- Rinse and repeat.
This is a great schedule to start your intermittent fasting lifestyle. However, this schedule may not provide many weight loss benefits (long term, anyway). While I did lose 15 pounds when I started with the 16/8 intermittent fasting schedule, I plateaued and changed my intermittent fasting schedule to 18/6 to get my weight moving in the downward direction
Read More: You can read about my weight loss in my How I lost 30 Pounds with Intermittent Fasting post.
The example listed above is the general idea for all intermittent fasting schedules. Experiment and see what works best for you.
Important Note: If you are just getting started with intermittent fasting and even a 16 hour fast doesn’t seem feasible, it’s OK to start smaller. I know some intermittent fasters start with a 12/12 schedule and work their way up from there. It’s your process. Yu can go as fast or as slow as you’d like.
OMAD Intermittent Fasting Schedule.
One Meal a Day (OMAD) is exactly as it sounds. OMADer’s will fast all day until they eat their one main meal of the day. OMAD intermittent fasters will open their eating window with their one main daily meal and will close their eating window when that meal is complete.
That meal is usually dinner. But, it doesn’t have to be. That “mainmeal” is determined by schedule of the OMADer.
I realize how that sounds. Just one meal?
Exactly. However, that one main meal is significant. There is nothing low cal and small about it. OMAD intermittent fasters reap the benefits of a long daily fast while consuming all the good stuff at once.
One Meal a Day (OMAD) is a great intermittent fasting schedule to employ should your weight loss stall with the intermittent fasting schedules listed above.
OMAD+ (One Meal a Day + window opening snack)
If you follow Gin Stephens (Fast, Feast, Repeat) you will know that she participates in a sort of modified OMAD.
When her weight loss stalled doing one of the schedules listed above, she went to OMAD. However, she likes to open her eating window with a snack and then will eat her main meal before her eating window closes.
I liked that idea and it’s the plan that I currently participate in. I like to call it OMAD+.
The difference between OMAD and OMAD+ is that, unlike OMAD intermittent fasters who simply open their eating window with their one meal and then close their window after their meal is complete, OMAD+ intermittent fasters will still generally follow some sort of intermittent fasting schedule.
For example, I continue to follow the 18/6 intermittent fasting schedule format. My OMAD+ eating window might look like this:
- 1:00 PM – Open eating window with a snack (almonds, cheese, salami, dark chocolate piece)
- Abstain from eating until dinner.
- 6:00 PM – Eat dinner and my dessert.
- 7:00 PM – Close eating window. (I might close my window a little earlier or later. It all depends on when dinner is made.)
OMAD or OMAD+. That’s your decision to make if this is an intermittent fasting schedule that you’d like to follow. I like to have a little snack to start, but that’s just me. I have several friends who really enjoy OMAD and have seen incredible weight loss results with that schedule.
Extended fast are fasts that go beyond the 24-hour cycle. 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 push yourself further into the fat-burning state of ketosis.
Extended fast can also be a another great way to break a weight plateau.
Some examples of an extended fast might be:
- 24-hours (this might be a good starting point before you plan a longer fast)
Important Note: I suggest consulting a medical professional if you want to extend your fast beyond 3 days. I realize that going longer may seem like it’s better, but that’s not always the case. I have no personal experience with extended fasts, so I suggest that you take a little time and do some additional research before proceeding.
Personally, I’d like to try an extended fast sometime in the future, but I son’t think I’m “mentally” there yet.
5:2 Intermittent 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.
Many prefer to stick with water, sparkling mineral water, and black coffee during their two fasting days to help control their hunger pangs, but others opt to consume the 500 calories on their fasting days.
In all cases, experiment and do what works best for you!
Alternate Day Intermittent Fasting.
As the title suggests, individuals will alternate the days they eat and the days they fast on a daily basis. These folks will fast one day and then eat “normal”, a traditional breakfast, lunch, and dinner the next.
An example of an alternate day plan might look like this:
- 7:00 PM – Close eating window.
- Fast through the entire next day.
- 9:00 AM – Open eating window.
This is another schedule that some intermittent fasters might try if they find themselves sitting atop a plateau. However, you may not even need to do alternate day fasting for an extended period of time.
Many intermittent fasters will resume their daily eating once they start to see progress again on the scale. The alternate-day schedule is a schedule that they keep in their “back pockets” and pull out “as needed”.
As with the 5:2 intermittent fasting plan, there is the option to consume a small amount of calories on your fasting day, but it’s not required.
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.
Before we conclude this post, let’s talk about a few things you should know before you proceed.
Longer fasts can equal greater health benefits.
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.
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.
Follow My Progress!
Last month I started a little experiment that I’m performing on myself.
If you read my October 2020: I Gained 10 Pounds While Intermittent Fasting post then you know that I gained 10 pounds WHILE intermittent fasting. And, wouldn’t you know it, I’m having one heck of a time LOSING that weight.
So, I started a little experiment.
I’m trying to figure out what is delaying my weight loss (food, alcohol, water intake, intermittent fasting schedule) by performing a little experiment on myself to see what the problem areas might be!
The link to my Month One progress report is below. I think I identified a few problem areas, but there is more work to be done! Read my results and see if you identify with any of my issues!
- Are you new to intermittent fasting? Check out my 5 Easy Steps to Start Intermittent Fasting post.
- Need some easy dinner inspiration? Check out my go-to family-friendly meals in my 5 Super Simple Weeknight Meals for Busy Moms post!
- Are you stuck on a weight loss plateau? Check out my Homeostasis & Set-Point Weight: How to break your weight loss plateau post!
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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.