What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent Fasting 16/8: What is it? And How Does it Work?
Intermittent Fasting 16/8 Benefits
Intermittent Fasting 16/8 Results
Intermittent Fasting 16/8 Side Effects
Setting up your own Intermittent Fasting 16/8 Diet Plan
Intermittent Fasting (IF) is a pattern of eating where you cycle between distinctive periods of eating and fasting. Its primary focus is not to change what you eat, but WHEN you eat.
In Intermittent Fasting, you consume your daily food intake within a particular time window (feasting) and then avoid eating anything (fasting) through the rest of the day.
Now the concept of eating one or two big meals with large fasting intervals between meals, is not new. Our species did not always have food as readily available as we do today. Thus, our bodies have evolved to maintain good levels of energy without needing to be fed every hour.
Only recently did we start eating, not out of necessity but out of sheer pleasure and convenience. To keep us in check, Intermittent Fasting takes us back to the old ways of eating that are much more natural and beneficial for our bodies.
Intermittent Fasting, like other calorie restriction methods, has the basic purpose to control your calorie intake as much as possible. The differentiating factor comes in how you go about it in IF.
There’s a number of methods of Intermittent Fasting that are proven to be effective. These methods share common benefits but also have a few specific benefits that make each of these methods significant. If you wish to learn about the different methods of IF in detail, read our guide on Intermittent Fasting for Women.
Our focus today, however, will be on one those methods and possibly the most commonly used method of IF - The 16/8 Method of Intermittent Fasting.
Intermittent Fasting 16/8 has gained tremendous popularity in recent times and rightly so.
In the 16/8 Fasting method, you have an 8-hour eating period that’s followed by a 16-hour fasting period.
This cycle can be repeated as many times as you wish in a week – you can either do it on alternate days or every single day, it’s your choice.
The reason it’s so popular is its convenience. Often, the fasting period is made to overlap one’s sleeping period; which takes away half the time of the fast resulting in effectively only 8 hours of actual fasting time while getting the benefits of a 16 hour fast.
If you sleep at 11 pm and have your dinner at 8 pm; assuming 8 hours of sleep, all you have to do is skip one meal, that is, breakfast and just directly have lunch at 12 pm. The rest of the day goes about as normal.
The great part about this is how easy it is to follow without changing much of what you're currently doing. Since you are in a way fasting when you sleep, having your fasting period include your sleep hours makes it effective with very little change to your current routine. If you sleep for a period of 8 hours, you just fast for 8 hours when you’re awake.
This makes this method extremely efficient while being easy to get accustomed to. Since you’re fasting for 16 hours, you’re burning a lot of stored fat than what you would in a smaller fasting period. Now the results are still slower than that of a 24 hour fasting period but it hits a point of balance.
In Intermittent Fasting 16/8, you’re losing a substantial amount of weight without struggling with severe hunger pangs and risking hormone imbalances.
The 16/8 method can easily fit into your day and deliver satisfying results. While you lose weight, your body will undergo several other changes that will make you feel healthier and more energetic throughout your day. In the next chapter, we cover all these benefits in detail to help you understand what all good is in store for you.
1. Weight Loss
Let’s start with the main purpose why most people start Intermittent Fasting – Losing Weight.
As complicated as some people might try to make it seem; losing weight boils down to simply consuming fewer calories than you burn. There’s obviously tons of little nuances there but ultimately, in order to lose weight, you need to be in a caloric deficit.
The way fasting helps you accomplish that is not by counting calories in each meal or by having tiny morsels that wouldn’t satisfy a bird much less a human stomach.
Instead, intermittent fasting causes a calorie deficit incidentally by virtue of the pattern of eating. Since you’re focusing on restricting your meals to a certain, limited time period of the day; the number of calories you consume is automatically reduced quite significantly. Without having you to actively think about it!
Let's say you eat five meals in a day with your usual meals being approximately 400 calories each.
When you're not following Intermittent Fasting, that totals up to 2000 calories per day.
However, if you follow the 16/8 Method; your eating window is now reduced to 8 hours. It becomes close to impossible for you to eat 5 big meals in that time period (unless you're adamant on making a point!).
Considering you fit in a reasonable 3 meals in that time frame; at 400 calories each, that puts your daily total at 1200 calories which are a whopping 800 calories fewer than your previous intake!
If you tried to cut 800 calories out of your diet while eating regularly; you'd be eating portion sizes so small; you'd NEVER feel satisfied and would probably end up feeling hungry again in less than an hour. Which just means more snacking and just not losing weight.
Also, this method gives you room for having bigger, more filling meals with MORE food per meal and STILL lose weight. For example:Even if you bump up each meal during your feasting period from 400 calories to a whopping 600 calories per meal for your 3 meals; that STILL puts you at 1800 calories total which is STILL 200 calories less per day than what you were eating before!
It’s just as easy as that. With Intermittent Fasting, you not only lose weight but even create a habit of eating just the right amount so you can keep the weight off! So think about it not as a short-term weight loss strategy but as a lifestyle.
2. Boosts Your Metabolism
Another benefit of doing Intermittent Fasting is improved metabolism. A study shows that short-term fasting can help boost your metabolism up by 8%.
Long hours of fasting can have the opposite effect on metabolism and so a program like the 16/8 method is perfectly suited for boosting metabolism without worrying about any side effects.
Click here to learn more about how intermittent fasting can affect metabolism.
3. Improved Blood Sugar Levels
A study showed that Intermittent Fasting if done correctly, can help in managing blood sugar levels.
This study discusses the use of Intermittent Fasting as an alternative to Calorie Restriction as both have comparable effects on insulin resistance and fasting insulin.
If you avoid calorie-rich foods during their feasting period, IF can be useful as a preventive method to Type – 2 diabetes. However, in cases of those who already have Type 2 diabetes, Intermittent Fasting resulted in an increased rate of hypoglycaemia. Under a doctor’s supervision, these rates were better in control. So, if you have Type 2 diabetes, Intermittent Fasting you should consult your doctor before trying IF.
We shall discuss the side effects of the 16/8 method in detail in the next chapter.
4. Improves Heart Health
Intermittent fasting is proven to maintain cholesterol levels at an optimal level.
According to the study:
“Intermittent fasting and low-calorie diet is associated with similar reductions in BMI and blood lipids in obese men and women. This diet also demonstrated an advantage in minimizing weight regain as well as enhancing arterial compliance as compared to a heart healthy diet after 1 year”
Another study, which is a more comprehensive review of Intermittent Fasting and Cardiovascular Disorders found that IF inhibits the development of atherosclerotic plaque.
It also states:
“The IF diet limits many risk factors for the development of cardiovascular diseases and therefore the occurrence of these diseases”
As much as these promises may get you hyped up to start Intermittent Fasting 16/8, you run a risk of harming yourself if you don’t know where to stop and what side effects to look out for. In the next chapter, you’ll learn about these potential side effects in detail.
“21/F/5’2 ~ 189lbs(left)-151lbs(right)=38lbs down!! Started Oct 2019 - 6 months of mindful eating, Chloe Ting workouts, and drinking lots of water! Currently on the second week of intermittent fasting (16:8) and I’m incredibly proud of myself.” - u/ThatCuteKat
“F/27/5'2 [158>138 = 10lbs lost] (5 months) Intermittent fasting 16:8, Nintendo Ringfit Adventure and Chloe Ting workouts during lockdown. 6lbs to go til I achieve my target weight.” - u/sasasparks17
“Approaching 4 months into 16:8 fasting. I’ve also been running 5 days a week for about a month now. Possibly starting to see some face gains. And, hey, there’s a 1 at the beginning of my weight now!” - u/justanaveragemom
These women are only a few of many who have tried 16/8 Intermittent Fasting and for whom it's worked wonders!
But before you get excited to start your own 16/8 Fasting journey, you must first know about some of its side effects and assess whether this method is for you in the first place.
1. Overeating Due to Severe Hunger
The most common problem seen in people following the 16/8 method is overeating in the 8-hour fasting period. People have reported more eating than usual during their 8-hour eating windows. This is mainly because of the long fasting times.
Even though it's natural to feel hungry at the end of the fast and consequently eat more during the feeding phase; eating excessively at once can result in other issues such as heartburns.
The best way to deal with this is to eat more whole foods that are more nutrient-dense (and less calorie-dense) containing a good amount of dietary fiber so that you satisfy your hunger but in a healthier, more controlled way.
2. Detrimental Effects for Diabetic Patients
While Intermittent Fasting can help in the prevention of Type-2 diabetes, it can be dangerous for those who already have diabetes. As previously discussed, Intermittent Fasting can result in an increased rate of hypoglycaemia.
For those suffering from Type-1 diabetes, it’s definitely NOT a recommended method as the risk of Hypoglycaemia is high. And for those suffering from Type-2 diabetes, this can be a method of choice but under strict supervision by a doctor.
3. Difficulty in Initial Stages
Since you’re altering your eating habits, you will have some difficulty adjusting to the changes. Many people report that they struggled during the initial stages with hunger pangs, weakness and tiredness.
When you’re not eating as regularly as before, your blood sugar levels will dwindle and spike, resulting in weakness. But with time, this gets better. Remember that you’re creating a lifestyle of healthy eating. It will have great gains in the long term.
4. Effect of IF on Menstrual Cycles
The most important factor for women to keep in consideration in regards to Intermittent Fasting is its effect on menstrual cycles.
While short-term to moderate time-restricted feeding (12-14 hours per day or less) or even fasting up to 72 hours does not affect the menstrual cycle of normal cycling women; long-continued periods of fasting can result in abnormalities in your monthly cycle.
We have covered this in much more detail in our guide to Intermittent Fasting for Women.
5. Risks of Hypoglycemia for Diabetic Patients
While Intermittent Fasting can help in lowering blood sugar levels, diabetic patients need to take special care as their medications can pose risks of causing hypoglycemia.
While your body is working on increasing your insulin sensitivity, having another addition in your blood doing a similar task can cause problems. This is why it’s important for Diabetic patients to discuss the prospect of Intermittent Fasting with their doctors. Fasting for diabetic patients needs to be initiated and followed under strict guidance by their doctors. Being cautious of this will help avoid any health risks in the long term.
Most people opt to fast at night, as the number of hours of fasting includes your sleep time. If you’re just starting out, that’s a method we would recommend. However, if you eat your dinner early and sleep late, then you may wake up feeling extremely hungry as you will have slept a few hours of your eating period.
So, you’ll have to balance your sleeping schedule with your eating schedule. You’re making changes to your lifestyle to get healthier, so fixing your eating and sleeping habits will help make your fasting much more efficient.
To make things easy, we’ve made a little quiz for you to find the best time to fast as per YOUR preference:
The starting week will be slightly difficult for you as you’re starting with a new routine. But by the second week, you will slowly start to ease in.
Make The Right Food Choices
Even though you’re allowed to eat in the 8-hour period, maintaining discipline can go a long way in helping you to get the most out of your diet. You may find a lot of Intermittent Fasting 16/8 meal plans online but the fundamental idea is to maintain a calorie deficit.
Maintaining a calorie deficit is very important even on Intermittent Fasting. If you end up eating a lot of junk during the 8-hour feasting period; you’re just undoing all your hard work.
Eat well but eat healthy during your feasting period, going for nutritious, whole foods; and hold off on junk as much as possible. And don't forget about another crucial element: STAYING HYDRATED. Drink plenty of water and other I.F. friendly drinks. Click here for ideas.