Blog Diets Fasting What You Need To Know About Intermittent Fasting

What You Need To Know About Intermittent Fasting

Diets come and go, some with a bang and others with a whimper. Depending on how well you stick to them, results can range from impressive to non-existent.

However, for many people, a strict regimen of what to eat can seem more like a prison than a path to health, and once they’re off the diet, all the progress they’ve made is undone. This is why deciding when to eat may be a more palatable solution.

Intermittent fasting fits this bill perfectly, offering flexibility without the stress of counting every calorie. However, there’s plenty you need to know before you dive into this eating pattern.

Here’s a simple breakdown of the top six things you need to understand about intermittent fasting. It’s not as daunting as it sounds, and with a bit of knowledge, you may find it’s the change you’ve been waiting for.

What Is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent Fasting (IF) is a pattern of eating that involves alternating cycles of fasting and eating (7). It’s not so much about what you eat, but when you eat.

Let’s contrast that with a traditional diet where you have a set number of meals and snacks throughout the day. Instead, intermittent fasting focuses on time-restricted eating windows, such as 16 hours of fasting followed by an eight-hour window for eating.

This cycle can vary depending on the type of intermittent fasting you choose to follow, but the main principle remains the same: restrict your calorie intake during certain times and consume your meals during specific windows.

The basic intermittent fasting rules are:

  1. During the fasting period, you can only consume non-caloric beverages such as water, unsweetened black coffee, or unsweetened tea.
  2. Any additives, no matter how small, to your beverages may break the fast.
  3. During the eating window, you should try to eat nutrient-dense foods – don’t use intermittent fasting as an excuse to indulge in junk food.
  4. During the eating window, you should eat to satiety (meaning that you stop when you’re comfortably full).
  5. Counting calories isn’t required. By limiting your eating window, you’ll naturally consume fewer calories overall.
  6. Intermittent fasting is a long-term lifestyle change, not a short-term diet.

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Intermittent Fasting 19/5: What Is It, How To Do It, Benefits & More

Types of Intermittent Fasting

There are many types of intermittent fasting, but you can actually come up with your own custom fasting schedule. Provided that you fast for at least 12 hours a day, you’re technically doing IF.

For those who want a more structured approach, here are some different types of intermittent fasting:

16/8 Method

This is the most common type of intermittent fasting. It involves fasting for 16 hours and restricting your eating to an eight-hour window, typically between noon and 8 pm or 10 am and 6 pm.

16/8 intermittent fasting is the “starter” method for most people as it’s easy to adapt to and can produce great results (10). It’s also the most researched type of IF.


  • It’s flexible and easy to follow
  • You can still eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner
  • It’s a good starting point for most people
  • You’ll spend a good chunk of your fasting time asleep, which makes it easier to stick to


  • You may require a bit more discipline during the eating window as you only have eight hours in which to eat all your meals
  • You may experience some initial hunger or cravings before your body adjusts

intermittent fasting  

Time-Restricted Eating Method (TRE)

TRE is an umbrella term for any type of intermittent fasting that involves restricting your eating to specific times, usually within a 12-hour window or shorter. This can include the 16/8 method or other cycles such as 14/10, 18/6, etc.

The main idea behind TRE is to sync your eating patterns with the natural circadian rhythm of your body, which can help improve overall health and well-being (12).


  • It can be tailored to suit your own schedule
  • It has potential benefits for weight loss, digestion, and sleep quality


  • You may require more discipline as there are no set rules for when or what you can eat within the eating window
  • It can be difficult to maintain for those with busy or irregular schedules

Read more: Green Tea Intermittent Fasting: Benefits and Side Effects

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How Your Fasting Windows Can Make Or Break Your Intermittent Fasting Experience

Alternate Day Fasting (ADF)

As the name suggests, ADF involves alternating between days of fasting and eating. On fasting days, you consume very few calories (around 25% of your normal intake), while on eating days, you eat normally.

ADF is a more aggressive form of intermittent fasting and while it may produce significant weight loss results (3), it can be challenging to stick to for extended periods.


  • It may be the most effective intermittent fasting for weight loss
  • You can still enjoy regular eating days without too many restrictions
  • It provides a break from calorie counting and meal planning on fasting days


  • It can be difficult to maintain long-term
  • It may lead to overeating on eating days if you’re not careful
  • It may not be suitable for those with health conditions or who are taking certain medications

5:2 Diet

The 5:2 diet involves eating normally for five days and drastically reducing your calorie intake to around 500-600 calories on two non-consecutive fasting days (1). This is similar to ADF, but it has a less intense fasting schedule – you’ll still get some calories on fasting dçays.


  • It may help with weight loss and improving blood sugar control
  • It can be easier to follow than ADF as there are only two fasting days per week


  • It may lead to overeating on non-fasting days if you’re not careful
  • Planning and discipline are required on fasting days to stick to the calorie limit
  • It may not be suitable for those with certain health conditions or who are taking certain medications

The Warrior Diet

This type of intermittent fasting involves consuming all your calories within a four-hour eating window, usually in the evening. During the day, you can eat small snacks or light meals, but the main meal is reserved for dinner.


  • It gives you more freedom during the day to eat small meals or snacks
  • It may help with weight loss and improve insulin sensitivity


  • It may be challenging for those who are used to eating multiple meals throughout the day
  • It may not be suitable for those with certain health conditions or who are taking certain medications
See also
Intermittent Fasting for Seniors: Pros, Cons, and How To

intermittent fasting

Eat-Stop-Eat Method

The Eat-Stop-Eat method involves a 24-hour fast once or twice a week (9). This means consuming no calories at all for an entire day, from dinner one day until dinner the next.


  • It can lead to significant weight loss results
  • It may have potential health benefits such as improved insulin sensitivity and cellular repair


  • It can be challenging to go a full 24 hours without eating
  • It may not be suitable for those with certain health conditions or who are taking certain medications
  • It isn’t recommended for beginners or those with a history of disordered eating

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OMAD (One Meal a Day) Method

OMAD involves eating just one meal a day, typically within a one-hour window. This is seen as an extreme form of intermittent fasting and should not be attempted without prior experience with other types of IF.


  • It can lead to significant weight loss results
  • It may improve blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity


  • It can be challenging to consume all the necessary nutrients and calories in one meal
  • It may not be suitable for those with certain health conditions or who are taking certain medications

Snake Diet

The Snake Diet is a type of fasting that involves extended fasts (24-48 hours or more) with short eating periods in between. It also emphasizes drinking “snake juice”, which is a mix of water, sea salt, and potassium chloride.


  • It can lead to quick weight loss results
  • It may help break unhealthy food habits and improve insulin sensitivity


  • It can be extreme and unsuitable for long-term use and is not safe for everyone
  • It may not provide adequate nutrients and electrolytes, potentially leading to health issues

Endurance Fasting

This type of fasting is popular among athletes and involves fasting for extended periods (e.g. 24 hours or more) before a big event or competition. 

See also
Intermittent Fasting for Women Over 60: Discover the Benefits and How to Fast After 60

The idea is that by training the body to function without constant food intake, it becomes more efficient at using stored energy and can perform better during intense physical activity.


  • It is said to improve athletic performance and endurance


  • It isn’t recommended for those who are new to intermittent fasting
  • It requires careful planning and consideration of individual needs and goals

intermittent fasting  

Which Intermittent Fasting Is the Most Effective?

Any IF method can be effective for weight loss and overall health, as long as it is followed consistently and paired with a healthy diet and lifestyle. It’s important to choose an IF schedule that works for your individual needs, preferences, and daily routine. 

You may also want to consult a healthcare professional before you start any new fasting regimen, particularly if you have underlying health conditions or are taking certain medications.

That being said, some benefits of IF may be unlocked by longer fasts. For example:

  • Autophagy (the process of cellular repair and regeneration) is believed to be promoted after at least 16 hours of fasting, so longer fasting periods may be more beneficial for this purpose (11).
  • Insulin sensitivity is believed to improve after around 12-14 hours of fasting, so shorter fasts may not have as much impact on blood sugar control (6).
  • Longer fasts (18 hours or more) or more frequent fasts may be necessary for significant weight-loss results.

Ultimately, the most effective method of intermittent fasting is one you can stick to and that fits into your lifestyle.

Why Intermittent Fasting Is Good for Your Body

Intermittent fasting may be good for your body as it can have positive effects on metabolism, heart health, cell health, and aging. For example:

  • By limiting the time period where you consume calories, IF can help reduce overall calorie intake and lead to weight loss (8).
  • Some studies have suggested that IF may have positive effects on cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and other markers of heart health, potentially reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease (2) (4).
  • Fasting is believed to promote autophagy, which allows cells to repair and regenerate, potentially slowing down the aging process (11).
  • IF has also been linked to improved insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control, which can help prevent and manage conditions such as type 2 diabetes (6).
  • In addition, by breaking unhealthy food habits and promoting mindful eating, IF can help improve overall dietary choices and lead to a healthier lifestyle.
See also
Intermittent Fasting For Women Over 50

Read more: Intermittent Fasting and Running: A Winning Combination or a Terrible Mistake?

What Are the Side Effects of Intermittent Fasting?

The most commonly reported side effects of intermittent fasting include fatigue, irritability, headaches, and difficulty concentrating. 

These symptoms generally occur during the initial adjustment period as the body becomes used to a new eating pattern and can be managed by remaining hydrated and getting sufficient rest.

In addition to these initial side effects, some individuals may experience more serious issues such as:

Low blood sugar 

This can be a concern for those with diabetes or other blood sugar control issues and it may require careful monitoring by a healthcare provider and adjustments to medication.

Disordered eating

IF can potentially trigger disordered eating behaviors in those with a history of restrictive or binge eating disorders (5). It’s important to approach IF in a mindful and balanced way, avoiding extremes and listening to your body’s needs. Those who have a history of eating disorders should avoid diets or restrictive eating patterns.

Nutrient deficiencies

Depending on the type of IF you follow, it may be challenging to consume all the necessary nutrients within a limited eating window. This is why it’s important to focus on nutrient-dense foods and take supplements as required.

Hormonal imbalances

Some people, particularly women, may experience hormonal imbalances such as changes in menstrual cycles or fertility issues when they practice IF. It’s always best to consult a healthcare professional who will advise on the most appropriate intermittent fasting schedule for you.

intermittent fasting  


  • What is the difference between 14/10 and 16/8 fasting?

The difference between 14/10 and 16/8 fasting is the length of the fasting period. In a 14/10 schedule, you fast for 14 hours and have an eating window of 10 hours. In a 16/8 schedule, you fast for 16 hours and have an eating window of eight hours. 

Both schedules fall under the category of time-restricted feeding and have similar benefits, but a longer fasting period may lead to more significant results.

  • Is it better to fast for 12 or 16 hours?

It may be better to fast for 16 hours than 12 hours, as longer fasting periods can lead to more significant health benefits, such as improved insulin sensitivity and weight loss. However, it’s important to choose a fasting schedule that works for your individual needs and lifestyle. 

If you find 16 hours too challenging, starting with a shorter fast (e.g. 12 hours) may be more sustainable in the long term.

  • Does coffee break a fast?

Black, unsweetened coffee will not break your fast. This beverage is acceptable during fasting periods as it doesn’t significantly impact blood sugar or insulin levels. 

However, adding milk, cream, sugar, or any other caloric additive to your coffee will technically break a fast and disrupt the benefits of IF.

  • Does sleep count as fasting?

Yes, the hours you spend asleep count toward your fasting period. This is why many people choose to incorporate sleep time into their fasting schedule, as it helps them achieve longer fasts without feeling too hungry or deprived.

  • Is it OK to do intermittent fasting every day?

It’s okay for most healthy adults to do intermittent fasting every day, as long as it is done sustainably and healthily. This means listening to your body’s needs, consulting a healthcare professional if necessary, and not becoming too restrictive or obsessive about your food choices. 

It may also be beneficial to incorporate different variations of IF (e.g. alternate day fasting or 5:2 method) to break through weight loss plateaus or unlock different health benefits.

The Bottom Line

Intermittent fasting is a flexible and customizable approach to eating that can offer a variety of benefits when it is practiced safely. It’s important to consult a healthcare professional before you start any type of intermittent fasting, particularly if you have underlying health conditions or are taking medications.


This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!


  1. A randomised controlled trial of the 5:2 diet (2021,
  2. Beneficial effects of intermittent fasting: a narrative review (2022,
  3. Health Effects of Alternate-Day Fasting in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis (2020,
  4. Impact of intermittent fasting on health and disease processes (2017,
  5. Intermittent fasting: consider the risks of disordered eating for your patient (2023,
  6. Intermittent fasting: is there a role in the treatment of diabetes? A review of the literature and guide for primary care physicians (2021,
  8. Intermittent fasting and weight loss (2020,
  9. Intermittent Fasting Programs and Their Effects on Body Composition: Implications for Weight-Restricted Sports (2015,
  10. Is time‐restricted eating (8/16) beneficial for body weight and metabolism of obese and overweight adults? A systematic review and meta‐analysis of randomized controlled trials (2022,
  11. The effect of prolonged intermittent fasting on autophagy, inflammasome and senescence genes expressions: An exploratory study in healthy young males (2023,
  12. Time-restricted Eating for the Prevention and Management of Metabolic Diseases (2022,
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