Fasting and Intermittent Fasting are used as a tactics by those looking to lose weight (especially for shifting that stubborn weight around the middle), improve energy levels and to support ageing well.
The key difference between Intermittent Fasting and fasting is that Intermittent Fasting plans tend to be more achievable as you still get something to eat on a fasting day. This is key because following a regime over the short term is useful for weight loss and energy gains but it's long term adherence that supports long term wellness and longevity.
Popular Intermittent Fasting plans
All Intermittent Fasting plans follow the same core principles that there are some times that you eat and some times when you fast. The difference between the plans is the timing and length of those periods. The most popular plans are listed below:
5:2. This is a weekly plan where you eat normally for 5 days and then have 2 days where you consume 500kcal if you are female and 600kcal if you are male per day only, ideally in one sitting. Your fasting days do not have to be consecutive. So you could decide to fast on Monday and Thursday and eat your standard diet on all other days.
4:3 is the same as 5:2 except, you eat normally for 4 days and have 3 days where you consume 500-600kcal per day.
Alternate day fasting follows the same principles as 5:2 and 4:3 but you eat normally on day 1 and consume 500-600kcal on day 2. This pattern is then repeated with one day on and one day off throughout the week.
16:8 is a daily plan where you fast for 16 hours and consume all of your food within an 8-hour window. For example you may to choose to eat only between midday and 8pm every day. There is no daily calorie limit to what you eat in your 8 hours but do aim for a healthy balanced diet wherever possible.
Water, herbal teas, tea and coffee can be consumed throughout during these formats of Intermittent Fasting.
Choosing the best plan for you
Decide if a daily or weekly approach suits your lifestyle better.
If weekly, look at 5:2, 4:3 or Alternate Day plans and decide how best to fit your plan into your life.
For example, would you prefer to be busy or quiet on fasting days? Which days have less temptation for the coming week? Fasting on a day where you have a social engagement that centres around food and drink may not be the best choice for you.
It's also important to decide roughly what time you will aim to eat your daily calorie allowance factoring in things that are import to you such as breakfast or dinner with family, partner, housemates.
Taking these factors into account will help give you the best chance of success.
Daily, look at regimes that take a 16:8 type approach
To come up with a version of the plan that works for you consider which 8 hour eating window fits best with your lifestyle. 10am-6pm? Midday-8pm? Something else?
Also have a plan on what approach to eating will work best for you during that window. Are you going to have 2 or 3 meals? 2 slightly larger ones?2 meals and a snack? Or would viewing it as skipping either breakfast or dinner make it easier?
Fasting is not for everyone.
Please keep in mind that fasting and Intermittent Fasting is not suitable for everyone. It is not suitable for children, during pregnancy, for those who have/had an eating disorder such as anorexia/bulimia, have or are recovering from adrenal fatigue or for type 1 diabetics.
For those with type 2 diabetes, thyroid conditions and nursing mothers or other underlying medical conditions please seek medical advice first before attempting fasting. In addition, seeking advice from a Nutritional Therapist or other health professional could be of benefit.
If Intermittent Fasting is right for you, give yourself the best chance of success by adjusting your diet in the days and weeks leading up to starting your Intermittent Fasting plan.
You are looking to achieve a reduction in insulin and stress hormones. This is not about calorie reduction or weight loss but instead about reducing your reliance on refined carbohydrates, reducing eating frequency and supporting overall hormone balance.
Tip 1 reduce your bodies reliance on sugar for fuel
• Reduce sugar intake (for example sweets, chocolate, cake, fizzy drinks, fruit juice etc.)
• Reduce refined carbohydrates (for example bread, pasta, cereals etc.)
• Add fat or protein to all meals (for example eggs, avocado, olive oil, butter and other full fat dairy, nuts, seeds, meat, fish)
Tip 2 reduce snacking
• Aim for 3 meals a day only
Tip 3 aim for 6-9 hours of quality sleep per night
• Consider bedtime routine
• Screen time
Tip 4 look to minimise the impact of stress in your life
Tip 5 Improve nutrient density of your diet
• Add more vegetables and some fruit to your meals (aim for all colours of the rainbow)
• Be liberal with the use of herbs, spices, sprouts and seeds
• Choose natural, unrefined foods when possible
Or if you are an all or nothing kind of person, just give your chosen plan a go and see how you get on. If feel energised and have great concentration level's then carry on! If you feel dizzy, experience day time tiredness or just feel strange stop fasting immediately and eat something. You can always try again another day.
Remember its perfectly normal to feel hungry in waves during your fasting period but these pass within about 15 minutes. Mild hunger is not a reason to stop your fast. Instead have a glass of water, a cup of black coffee or a sachet of Fasting+ and reassess how you feel. Read the `Easier Fasting' blog for more practical tips.
For those of you who decide to give Intermittent Fasting a go, welcome to the club and happy fasting x