Fasting 16 hours a day may seem like an impossible task, especially for those of us who love food. But intermittent fasting can have some significant health benefits — learn more about them here.
Many food-based weight loss techniques or diets concentrate on what foods you should and shouldn’t eat. Intermittent fasting, on the other hand, is a way of managing weight by focusing more on when you eat as opposed to what you eat. There are several different methods of intermittent fasting, some require fasting 16 hours a day, others limit the number of days a week you eat full meals — fasting one day a week, for example.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is said to be a way to help manage or lose weight by forcing your body to burn fat. If you don’t get any exercise and eat normally when you’re awake, your body runs on the calories you’ve consumed. If you’ve eaten more than you need, your body stores those excess calories as fat.
Doing a 16-hour fast allows insulin levels to drop low enough for an extended period of time so that fat cells release their stored sugars to be used as energy — this is also known as metabolic switching.
Did you know? Fasting is only one of many ways to experience healthy stress, also called hormesis. Read more in our guide on the topic.
Fasting 16 Hours a Day: The 16:8 Method
There are a few different approaches to intermittent fasting, the most common being the daily approach, also known as the 16:8 method. This means that you restrict eating to an 8 hour period per day, and fast for the other 16 hours. This method is generally the most well-received, as people find it easy enough to stick to the routine once they get into it.
It’s a flexible method, where you can choose the 8-hour window that works best for you, whether that’s 8am to 4pm, or 11pm to 7pm. During your eating window, stick to a well-balanced diet including plenty of preferably vegetarian protein, vegetables, nuts, beans, and whole grains.
During the 16 hours of fasting, you can still drink zero-calorie beverages like water, black coffee, and tea (it’s important to stay hydrated!). Plus, if you’re getting enough sleep, you will generally only have to go without food for the remaining 8 hours.
It can take two to four weeks for your body to adjust to the new routine, and during this time it’s quite normal to feel hungry, slightly irritable, and experience afternoon fatigue, but most people notice a significant improvement by the end of the first month.
Benefits of Fasting 16 Hours a Day
Weight loss is the most common reason people choose to try intermittent fasting, but that’s not the only benefit that it can have on your body. Some of the benefits of fasting may include:
- improved thinking and memory
- lower risk of diabetes by controlling blood sugar
- better sleep quality by regulating the body’s circadian rhythm
- boosted heart health through lowering cholesterol levels and reducing blood pressure
- reduced inflammation
One study even showed that fasting from dawn to dusk for thirty days can lead to:
- Decreased risk of cancer
- Decreased risk of Alzheimer’s
- Improved DNA repair
- Increased immune system function
More research needs to be done to fully understand the regular fasting, as much of the research so far has been focused on animals.
Other Intermittent Fasting Methods
There are other methods of intermittent fasting that don’t require fasting 16 hours a day, though some are more restrictive than others. If you want to see results, you need to ensure you’re eating balanced meals during your eating periods.
This method involves eating regularly for 5 days of the week and then limiting yourself to 500 calories during the other two days. You can choose to eat those 500 calories as one meal, or two smaller ones. This method has been shown to aid in weight loss.
Spontaneous Meal Skipping
Also known as intuitive eating, the spontaneous meal skipping method of intermittent fasting simply means that you eat when you’re hungry, and fast when you’re not. Sometimes you may skip two meals in a day, other days you just skip breakfast. You can still reap some of the rewards from fasting, without committing to a scheduled routine.
The alternative-day fasting method means eating normally one day, then fasting the next day, and then going back to your regular diet the next. There are several different versions of this method out there, with some allowing you to eat a small 500 calorie meal during the fasting days.
Please note, intermittent fasting isn’t for everyone, so please check with your health care professional to find out if it’s right for you. Generally speaking, fasting is not recommended for people who are:
- under 18 years of age
- pregnant or breastfeeding
- diabetic or experiencing blood sugar problems
- recovering from or have previously been diagnosed with an eating disorder
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