Have you been thinking about diving into the wide world of intermittent fasting but don’t know where to start? Then you’re in the right place! If you missed part one of our series, stop what you’re doing and go read it! We talked about what fasting is, the science behind it and the many health benefits - you can check it out here. In the second part of our series, we’ll discuss five popular approaches to intermittent fasting - and which approach might be right for you.
A quick recap of part one of this fasting series
Fasting refers to a strategic window of time that you designate for eating versus not eating. It does not mean starving yourself, but rather dedicating a time period each day to fast or limit your calorie intake. Think of it as focusing on when to eat instead of what to eat. But sticking to a diet rich in vitamins and nutrients, fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy proteins and whole grains doesn’t hurt!
When you fast, your body gets a break from digesting food (which takes up a lot of energy!) and is able to focus on repairing and renewing weak or damaged cells in other parts of the body, thus reducing inflammation and the potential for harmful viruses, bacteria, and even disease to creep into your system. Want to learn more? Take a deeper dive here.
5 Methods of Intermittent Fasting
Keep in mind there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to fasting. Every person is different and should choose an approach that makes their body and mind feel its best! When in doubt, it never hurts to consult with your healthcare provider with questions or concerns about fasting.
Something else to note: just because you’re fasting (and eating fewer calories) doesn’t mean you should eat anything and everything when you’re not. It’s still important to stick to a healthy, balanced diet most of the time (everything in moderation, right?!) full of fruits, vegetables, healthy protein and fats, and whole grains.
Ok! Let’s dive into the top five most popular intermittent fasting methods:
1.Time-Restricted Eating Method
Nothing complicated here! Time-restricted eating is just as it sounds: your eating is limited to a certain period of time each day. Some people practice a 12/12 schedule which allows meals for 12 hours of the day and fasting occurs for the other 12 hours. E.g. eat meals between 7 am and 7 pm and fast from 7 pm to 7 am. Others may find their body reacts best to a 14/10 or even a 16/8 schedule.
Take time and experiment with the different timing approaches to see which feels best for your body!
2. 5:2 Method
Also pretty simple, the 5:2 method suggests you eat normally for five days a week, and the other two are “fasting” days. During these two fasting days, you do still eat, however, it’s recommended your calories are restricted to a quarter of your daily needs, about 500 calories per day for women and 600 calories per day for men. You can choose any two days of the week to fast as long as there is at least one non-fasting day between them. E.g. fast on Monday and Wednesday, Tuesday or Thursday, etc.
It’s still important to be mindful about the foods you’re eating during your five non-fasting days. You want to avoid anything overly processed, fatty or sugary and focus on a healthy, balanced diet full of fruits, vegetables, healthy proteins and whole grains.
3. Eat-Stop-Eat Method
The Eat-Stop-Eat method is similar to the 5:2 approach in that you eat your normal healthy diet for a portion of the week, along with one or two 24-hour fasts. Don’t let that 24-hour fast scare you off - you’re still eating every day!
Eat-Stop-Eat founder Brad Pilon says, “With Eat Stop Eat you never fast for a full day. It’s 24 hours (at the most) divided between two days. You can play with your start and stop times, fast from noon to noon or 7 pm to 7 pm, but a key part of Eat Stop Eat is making sure you’re always eating at some point each day.” Not so bad, see?
4. Fast-Mimicking Diet (FMD) Method
Created by Italian biologist and researcher Dr Valter Longo, the Fast-Mimicking Diet (FMD) aims to replicate the benefits of fasting without depriving the body of calories and nutrition. The FMD method is a shorter term approach to intermittent fasting where calories are restricted to about 40% of your intake for 3-7 days. To gain maximum benefits, the FMD should be repeated at least twice a year, however, it can be repeated more often.
FMD is very specific and requires reduced protein and carbohydrate intake and an increase in healthy fats, making it more difficult to safely complete without the help of a doctor or nutritionist. While you can “hack” an FMD diet at home with a little planning and research, it’s definitely more advanced and less accessible than other methods of intermittent fasting.
5. One Meal a Day (OMAD) Method
One meal a day?! If that sounds extreme to you, well, it is! OMAD is a 23/1 fasting schedule, meaning you fast for 23 hours of the day and eat all your necessary calories in a one-hour time period, typically between 4 pm to 7 pm.
If you’re new to fasting, then this approach may not be the one for you right out of the gate. Consider easing into intermittent fasting with a shorter fasting period and work your way up to OMAD if it piques your interest. If you’re more experienced with fasting, but not quite OMAD-level, you could try mixing it into your routine a day or two a week to try it out.
Time to implement! Once you’ve landed on an approach that feels right for you, create a rough outline for the next week or month of when you’ll fast. Try planning meals and snacks in advance; incorporate healthy foods and recipes you love and are excited to eat so it doesn’t feel like you’re depriving yourself. Remember you can be flexible and adapt your routine to fit your needs. Happy fasting!