What’s the Deal with Intermittent Fasting? A Beginner’s Guide

You remember what was preached as a kid: breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Eat three meals a day, and maybe two snacks. Isn’t this what we’ve all been doing? But recent studies and trends are moving away from this standard and encouraging a new pattern of eating with longer breaks between eating.

The idea of fasting may make you a little nervous but we actually all fast — every night! The word breakfast really means breaking your night’s fast. But now, people are interested in fasting for a longer period of time. Based on clinical research, fasting promotes metabolic health.¹ Fasting can help to stabilize your blood sugar and insulin which supports a healthy metabolism and body weight.¹

Intermittent fasting is said to have the potential to modify healthy behaviors including total food intake, sleep satisfaction, and energy levels.¹ Those all sound good to us! Let’s explore the different ways that you can intermittent fast:

1. Alternate-Day Fasting

This means fasting for one day, then eating what you want the next day. This approach means you’re only restricting what you eat 50% of the time. Fasting days can mean only consuming calorie-free beverages like water, tea, and coffee, or only consuming up to 500 calories per day.¹

2. Weekly Fasting

Similar to the alternate-day method, this involves no eating 1 day a week. Also known as the Eat-Stop-Eat diet, you fast for a full 24 hours, then resume eating normally and unrestricted for the rest of the week. With this method, it doesn’t matter if you start fasting at breakfast, lunch, or dinner, as long as you go a full 24 hours without eating. This style of fasting could be beneficial for people who want more freedom with what they eat most of the time, while getting their fast in all at once, instead of spreading it out throughout the week.

3. Time-Restricted Feeding (16/8 Method)

This is the most common form of intermittent fasting with a 12 to 16 hour fast within 24 hours. This means that you have an 8-, 10-, or 12-hour window to eat each day. Most people who follow this method just skip breakfast and break their fast at lunchtime, which gives them a full 16 hours since their last meal. But if breakfast is your jam, you can eat your dinner earlier in the evening (say, 6 pm) then eat breakfast a bit later than usual at 10 am. This still gives you a 16 hour fast without giving up your favorite meal.¹

If you’re interested in giving intermittent fasting a try, you have different styles of fasting to choose from. All methods can be effective, but the best fit is totally up to you! Try out the different methods until you find one that suits your lifestyle and preference.

How do I know if Intermittent Fasting is right for me?

While scientific research does suggest that intermittent fasting can be beneficial, this style of eating is not for everyone. Your lifestyle may make it difficult to eat within an 8-hour window each day or fasting on alternate days. As a compromise, try to avoid snacking between meals and see how you feel.

If you have a health condition, including diabetes, you should always speak to your doctor before trying any form of fasting. If you’ve ever suffered from an eating disorder, fasting may be triggering for you. Children and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding shouldn’t be on any kind of weight loss program without proper medical supervision.

For best results, we always recommend eating a nutritious and well-balanced diet when not fasting. Speaking with a professional would be ideal to help personalize an intermittent fasting plan that works best for you. Have you tried intermittent fasting? Which method works best for you?




¹ Patterson, RE and Sears, DD. (2017). Annu Rev Nutr. 37: 371-393.

² Paoli, A. et al. (2019). Nutrients. 11(4): 719.

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