Many folks are intrigued by intermittent fasting. After all, celebrities are participating, and health gurus are touting the long-term benefits to your body. However, when it comes to starting a plan, you don’t want to be left in the dark. Coming up with a schedule that is right for your body, lifestyle, and overall goals is essential. So, consider this a bit of Intermittent Fasting 101 as you learn how to make an intermittent fasting schedule.
What is intermittent fasting?
If you’re here and haven’t started a plan yet, you may be unfamiliar with the concept of intermittent fasting. And that’s ok! Everyone’s health journey starts a little bit differently. First, this style of regulating your food consumption isn’t about starvation. It’s more about control and being conscious about when you eat.
Healthline describes intermittent fasting as “an eating pattern that cycles between periods of fasting and eating.” In general, fasting is giving your body a break from digesting food so that it can perform other functions, such as repairing cells and boosting immunity. Colorado’s Boulder Medical Center states other benefits to intermittent fasting, such as weight loss and reducing inflammation.
Also, an intermittent fasting weight loss plan isn’t specifically a diet. However, it is about controlling intake by committing to avoiding food consumption for specific periods. Although if you are trying to lose weight, you need to be aware of what you are eating to have positive intermittent fasting results.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Many of us don’t like our eating schedules altered in any way. We get it. Eating what we want when we want is satiating and feels good. However, it’s not the ideal way to eat to keep our body functioning at optimum levels. So, before we talk about scheduling, it’s important to know the benefits of incorporating intermittent fasting into your lifestyle. There are many, and research is still being conducted to show further benefits.Intermittent fasting can help you lose weight.
Dividing your days and weeks into eating and fasting periods helps you consume fewer calories while being more conscious about what you eat and drink during your consumption time. Those practicing intermittent fasting have fewer calories to burn, which in the end equals weight loss.
Fasting helps your body stave off disease.
Periods of fasting allow your body to concentrate on other duties, such as defending itself from pathogens. Ultimately your cells can detect and protect themselves against attacks both from within and outside of the body. Intermittent fasting has even been shown to lessen the possibility of getting certain types of cancer.Blood sugar can be regulated by intermittent fasting.
The foods you consume can immediately be converted into energy while fasting. The caloric boost encourages your body to digest and assimilates the sugars quickly, which helps regulate blood sugar. Intermittent fasting also decreases your body’s dependence on insulin for this breakdown process.Cells can concentrate on getting rid of waste.
Autophagy—simply defined as cellular eating—is essential. Parts of our individual cells age and die, and our cells need to get rid of that waste. Several studies show that the process of autophagy increases while practicing fasting.Periods of fasting can help the body burn fat.
Yes, that even includes stubborn belly fat—hurrah! Seriously, though, even with exercise, fat in some places can just be difficult to banish. Intermittent fasting boosts metabolism, which helps to burn belly fat. Not only will you look better, but abdominal fat can cause disease, so booting it from our midsections is critical.Fasting can prevent neurodegenerative diseases.
Neurodegenerative diseases—Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and Huntington’s—are challenging to treat. However, intermittent fasting does provide some defense against these diseases that affect the central nervous system. This finding is a bit newer, so quite a few animal studies have been done, and human studies are increasing and confirming the results.
How to Make an Intermittent Fasting Schedule
Being familiar with the various types of fasting and fitting them into your lifestyle is extremely important. Setting yourself up for success will help you stick to an intermittent fasting plan that you can carry throughout your life. If you’ve been asking, “How long should I fast for weight loss?” the following advice can help.Become familiar with the types of intermittent fasting.
Although there are several popular schedules, some are more suitable for intermittent fasting for beginners. Some fasting types offer a consistent window of time to eat each day, with most non-consumption time happening as you sleep. Other schedules suggest that you eat on certain days of the week and fast on the other days.
Consider how these different types of fasting would fit into your schedule. If you cook dinner for your family seven days a week, it may be difficult for you not to eat on certain days when you are preparing meals for others.Pick an intermittent fasting schedule that fits into your lifestyle and goals.
Beyond the frequency of fasting—daily or on select days each week—there are ways to get more specific with your eating schedule. The best way to choose an intermittent fasting meal plan is to select one that best fits your lifestyle and what you think you can handle.
Those with certain health conditions, such as diabetes, should be cautious about which schedule they choose. The following intermittent fasting meal plan examples will help those asking, “How long should I fast?” Plans are easily customized, and you can always select a simple one and build up to a more difficult one as you get used to intermittent fasting.
Intermittent Fasting Schedules with Daily Consistency
- 12/12 Fasting - This fasting/eating plan allows for a larger, 12-hour window of eating. If you’re new to intermittent fasting, a 12/12 schedule is a fabulous way to get used to fasting. Once you feel more comfortable, you can move on to 16/8 fasting.
- 16/8 Fasting - Quite possibly the most popular schedule, a 16/8 plan means that you fast for 16 hours per day and consume within an 8-hour window.
- Other popular types of intermittent fasting bump up the amount of time you don’t consume food. 14/10, 18/6, and 20/4 fasting plans are also common.
- OMAD - An acronym for “one meal a day,” this is a bit advanced but doable for the beginner by working up to it. Participants only consume one meal each day, with dinner being the most popular choice.
- 5:2 - Popular among several celebrities, such as Jimmy Kimmel and Gisele Bündchen, this schedule involves eating normally for five days a week and limiting calories (or fasting) on the other two. Which days are for fasting and for consuming is up to the individual. 5:2 is also an excellent plan for beginners since it allows under 500 calories on the two fasting days.
- Eat Stop Eat - This plan revolves around a 3-day cycle. You eat one day, stop eating the following day, and then eat the third day. Essentially, this creates a 3-day schedule where you eat two days in a row and fast—or consume under 500 calories—on the third.
- One Day Fasting - Fasting one day a week is growing in popularity as some days lend themselves to not eating. In essence, you dedicate one entire day a week to fasting.
- Alternate Day Fasting - Since this is a guide on intermittent fasting for beginners, this schedule isn’t necessarily the place to start. Alternating days between fasting and consuming is not entirely for the faint of heart, but it is doable once you build up to it.
Now that you know the types and plans geared towards beginners, it’s time to customize your schedule. Consider your lifestyle and what works best. If you prepare evening meals for your family, it’s probably not a good idea to skip dinner. However, if you work all day long and want to try the OMAD plan, that may be perfect for your lifestyle. Simply put, some plans won’t work with some lifestyles, so select one that is best for you.Allow yourself a bit of flexibility.
As with anything, you may fall off the apple cart—so to speak—for a day, week, or even a month. The beauty of intermittent fasting is that you can pick it up again in whatever way you want. In essence, be forgiving of yourself if you find yourself at an event where it’s impossible to stick with your fasting plan. You may even be at home, and that chocolate cake is calling your name!
Please don’t throw in the towel if you make a mistake. It’s ok! You may need to look at your fasting schedule and change it a bit if your lifestyle changes or you find your current plan impossible to implement. Try OMAD (one meal a day) or change—or even reduce—the amount of time you fast.
There are also life events that allow for flexibility. For example, fasting while pregnant or nursing isn’t healthy for you or the baby as your body seeks to nourish two instead of one. Holidays, such as Thanksgiving, are also very food-centric, so allow yourself a cheat day. If you undergo a troublesome circumstance—say a death or job change—let yourself be flexible or go off of your fast for whatever length of time you need.Talk to your doctor.
As with any health or lifestyle plan, have a chat with your doctor. They know your medical history and can help you develop a schedule that will work for you in your age and stage of life. They may even help alert you to the necessary benefits of intermittent fasting, such as lowering blood pressure or staving off a family history of cancer.
Gaining insight from someone you trust in the medical field can help you understand your body and how you can specifically benefit. Your doctor can even help keep you in check at your next appointment. Have him or her make a note of it on your chart. Another interesting point is that you can schedule bloodwork to see if intermittent fasting changes your body’s levels, such as high cholesterol or anemia.
How Long Should I Fast for Weight Loss?
Asking questions, such as “How long should I fast?” is a fabulous place to start. It’s best to build up to your ideal plan to ensure success. For example, if you want to practice the Eat Stop Eat plan, start with a 5:2 intermittent fasting plan and build up to full days of not eating.
Daily plans also work well with most people’s schedules. If you start with a 12:12 plan, you will most likely sleep for most of your fasting time. Slowly build up to a 16:8 or even a 20:4 if that is your goal. As with anything, it’s ideal to begin small and gain tolerance instead of starting with one of the more difficult intermittent fasting schedules and giving up altogether.
Also, allow yourself a few cheat days here and there—even celebrities do it! Jennifer Aniston claims Sunday as her cheat day. If you don’t want to alter your schedule weekly, at least allow yourself time to celebrate food-centric holidays—hello Thanksgiving!—and don’t give up or get discouraged if you get off track. Intermittent fasting is very forgiving, and you can easily pick it up again if you fall off the wagon for a day or two.
Intermittent fasting promotes an overall healthy lifestyle and helps us view food differently. As Fastful believes, “During its evolution, many different intermittent fasting schedules have developed. Whatever schedule you choose to use, it’s definitely best to gradually ramp up the length of time you are fasting to learn your body and what works best for you and fits with your goals.” Knowing yourself and selecting a plan that is right for you can literally change your life.