What Is Intermittent Fasting and How Does It Work?
This article was originally published as 16/8 Intermittent Fasting: A Beginner's Guide on https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/16-8-intermittent-fasting#benefits
Fasting has been practiced for thousands of years and is a staple across many different religions and cultures around the globe.
Today, new varieties of fasting put a new twist on the ancient practice.
16/8 intermittent fasting is one of the most popular styles of fasting. Proponents claim that it’s an easy, convenient and sustainable way to lose weight and improve overall health.
This article reviews 16/8 intermittent fasting, how it works and whether it’s right for you.
What Is 16/8 Intermittent Fasting?
16/8 intermittent fasting involves limiting consumption of foods and calorie-containing beverages to a set window of eight hours per day and abstaining from food for the remaining 16 hours.
This cycle can be repeated as frequently as you like — from just once or twice per week to every day, depending on your personal preference.
16/8 intermittent fasting has skyrocketed in popularity in recent years, especially among those looking to lose weight and burn fat.
While other diets often set strict rules and regulations, 16/8 intermittent fasting is easy to follow and can provide real results with minimal effort.
It’s generally considered less restrictive and more flexible than many other diet plans and can easily fit into just about any lifestyle.
In addition to enhancing weight loss, 16/8 intermittent fasting is also believed to improve blood sugar control, boost brain function and enhance longevity.
How to Get Started
16/8 intermittent fasting is simple, safe and sustainable.
To get started, begin by picking an eight-hour window and limit your food intake to that time span.
Many people prefer to eat between noon and 8 p.m., as this means you’ll only need to fast overnight and skip breakfast but can still eat a balanced lunch and dinner, along with a few snacks throughout the day.
Others opt to eat between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., which allows plenty of time for a healthy breakfast around 9 a.m., a normal lunch around noon and a light early dinner or snack around 4 p.m. before starting your fast.
However, you can experiment and pick the time frame that best fits your schedule.
Additionally, to maximize the potential health benefits of your diet, it’s important to stick to nutritious whole foods and beverages during your eating periods.
Filling up on nutrient-rich foods can help round out your diet and allow you to reap the rewards that this regimen has to offer.
Try balancing each meal with a good variety of healthy whole foods, such as:
- Fruits: Apples, bananas, berries, oranges, peaches, pears, etc.
- Veggies: Broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers, leafy greens, tomatoes, etc.
- Whole grains: Quinoa, rice, oats, barley, buckwheat, etc.
- Healthy fats: Olive oil, avocados and coconut oil
- Sources of protein: Meat, poultry, fish, legumes, eggs, nuts, seeds, etc.
Drinking calorie-free beverages like water and unsweetened tea and coffee, even while fasting, can also help control your appetite while keeping you hydrated.
On the other hand, binging or overdoing it on junk food can negate the positive effects associated with 16/8 intermittent fasting and may end up doing more harm than good to your health.
Benefits of 16/8 Intermittent Fasting
16/8 intermittent fasting is a popular diet because it’s easy to follow, flexible and sustainable in the long term.
It’s also convenient, as it can cut down on the amount of time and money you need to spend on cooking and preparing food each week.
In terms of health, 16/8 intermittent fasting has been associated with a long list of benefits, including:
- Increased weight loss: Not only does restricting your intake to a few hours per day help cut calories over the course of the day, but studies also show that fasting could boost metabolism and increase weight loss (
- Improved blood sugar control: Intermittent fasting has been found to reduce fasting insulin levels by up to 31% and lower blood sugar by 3–6%, potentially decreasing your risk of diabetes (
- Enhanced longevity: Though evidence in humans is limited, some animal studies have found that intermittent fasting may extend longevity (
Drawbacks of 16/8 Intermittent Fasting
16/8 intermittent fasting may be associated with many health benefits, but it does come with some drawbacks and may not be right for everyone.
Restricting your intake to just eight hours per day can cause some people to eat more than usual during eating periods in an attempt to make up for hours spent fasting.
This may lead to weight gain, digestive problems and the development of unhealthy eating habits.
16/8 intermittent fasting may also cause short-term negative side effects when you’re first getting started, such as hunger, weakness and fatigue — though these often subside once you get into a routine.
Additionally, some research suggests that intermittent fasting may affect men and womendifferently, with animal studies reporting that it could interfere with fertility and reproduction in females (
However, more human studies are needed to evaluate the effects that intermittent fasting may have on reproductive health.
In any case, be sure to start gradually and consider stopping or consulting your doctor if you have any concerns or experience negative symptoms.
Is 16/8 Intermittent Fasting Right for You?
16/8 intermittent fasting can be a sustainable, safe and easy way to improve your health when paired with a nutritious diet and a healthy lifestyle.
However, it shouldn’t be viewed as a substitute for a balanced, well-rounded diet rich in whole foods. Not to mention, you can still be healthy even if intermittent fasting doesn’t work for you.
Though 16/8 intermittent fasting is generally considered safe for most healthy adults, you should talk to your doctor before giving it a try, especially if you have any underlying health conditions.
This is key if you’re taking any medications or have diabetes, low blood pressure or a history of disordered eating.
Intermittent fasting is also not recommended for women who are trying to conceive or those who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
If you have any concerns or experience any adverse side effects while fasting, be sure to consult your doctor.
The Bottom Line
16/8 intermittent fasting involves eating only during an 8-hour window and fasting for the remaining 16 hours.
It may support weight loss and improve blood sugar, brain function and longevity.
Eat a healthy diet during your eating period and drink calorie-free beverages like water or unsweetened teas and coffee.
It’s best to talk to your doctor before trying intermittent fasting, especially if you have any underlying health conditions.