How The 16/8 Intermittent Fasting Diet Works
Like exercise, restricting calories is a helpful metabolic stressor. Eating within a certain time frame pushes your body in a different metabolic direction than if you were eating all the time.
Intermittent fasting can cause autophagy, which is a crucial defense mechanism against malignancy, infection, and neurodegenerative diseases. Its basically your bodys way of cleaning out cells that arent performing at their best.
Research finds short-term fasting is an effective way of starting neuronal autophagy , therefore protecting your brain against neurodegenerative diseases.
Intermittent fasting also triggers a beneficial metabolic reaction that includes:
- A decrease in inflammatory markers
- Reduced blood glucose levels and insulin
- An increase in the neurotrophin BDNF
These are powerful changes that can lead to several health improvements.
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/8 Intermittent Fasting: What You Can And Cant Consume
The rules of 16/8 intermittent fasting are pretty strict, and you will have to understand what you can and cannot eat if you want to succeed.
This method breaks your feeding and fasting time into eight and 16 hours, respectively. And since you have only eight hours of your daily 24 to eat, you have to be very careful about what you consume and how you do it. Otherwise, all the sacrifice you did for the 16 hours will be useless.
During the eight-hour feeding window, you do not have the liberty to stuff your face with anything you want and binge on whatever food you get hands on. You will be eating, of course, but you will have to focus your attention on foods that will support your diet and not derail it. Here are some examples of what you can and cannot consume while on a 16/8 intermittent fasting diet program.
What You Can Eat In IF
During your feeding window, the smart thing to do is to load up on high-fiber and high-protein foods. These include beans, nuts, vegetables and fruit. You may also include tofu, lean meats and fish. Some people combine intermittent fasting with other types of high-protein and low-carb diet programs, such as Paleo or Keto, which they apply during the eating window.
Those who have tried it say that such types of meal programs will help maximize the potential benefits of IF. For one, it can help you get into that state of ketosis faster, thus leading you closer to your weight loss goal much sooner.
What You Cannot Eat In IF
Improves Insulin Resistance Which Can Help Diabetes Prevention And Management
Intermittent fasting and weight loss may help reduce fasting blood glucose and improve insulin sensitivity through lowering concentrations of leptin, the hormone produce by fat cells to regulate hunger, and increasing adiponectin, a hormone that plays a role in glucose and lipid metabolism.
In some studies where fasting was used as a weight-loss intervention and strategy for maintaining a healthy weight, people who intermittently fast had lower levels of blood glucose which happens to be a central goal in the prevention and treatment of diabetes .
These possible benefits may be driven more by reductions in body weight and body fat percent stemmed from caloric restriction influenced by intermittent fasting, but research still shows an overall positive effect on blood sugar levels when intermittent fasting .
Intermittent fasting may help improve glycemic control and insulin resistance with a reduction in weight in those with diabetes and those without.
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Is The 1: 8 Diet Good For You
Some advocates of the 16:8 diet claim it helps control blood sugar levels and boost brain function, but theres little scientific evidence to back these up. And if you dont stick to nutritious food during the eight-hour window, any positive effects are quickly negated. In other words, 16 hours of fasting doesnt compensate for eight hours of stuffing your face with junk food.
For the best results, you should be careful about your choice of eating window. According to Freirich, it should start early in the day, preferably no later than about 10 a.m., and finish early in the evening. This allows for the energy you consume during your eating window to serve your activities throughout the day, plus its in line with our natural circadian rhythms, presuming you wake up around 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., she explains. If you choose a much later eating window, say 4 p.m. to 12 a.m, you could actually see weight gain, she warns.
Hour Fast Benefit #: Improved Cognition
Studies show that intermittent fasting boosts several hormones, notably Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor , that are neuroplastic and neurodegenerative in nature.
In other words, fasting provides the perfect fuel for your brain. Increased BDNF levels are associated with improved mood, cognition, productivity, memory, and creativity. Harvard neuropsychiatrist John J. Ratey calls BDNF Miracle-Gro for the brain.
Its not known why intermittent fasting boosts BDNF so powerfully, but our evolution may give us some hints.
Throughout human history most tribes and people groups wouldve gone long stretches without food, say before their next successful hunt. During this time, peak physical and mental performance wouldve been paramount to securing the next meal and the body wouldve met this need.
To this day its thought that the human body perceives fasting as a healthy stressor and responds by forming new neurons that prime your body to learn new skills. In this type of emergency situation, BDNF allows our brains to form new neural networks quickly.
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How Many Meals Should You Eat In Your 16/8 Intermittent Eating Window
People are always concerned about how many meals to eat in the eating window once they break their 16/8 intermittent fasting.
Again, that word. Flexibility.
- Or you can have two normal size meals
- Or one small meal and a bigger second meal
- Or if you really want to normalise things, you can eat 3 meals in your 16/8 eating window.
But always remember that the more meals you squeeze in, the higher your chances of over-shooting your calorie requirements for the day.
I personally eat one small meal of fruits and raw nuts for lunch and a bigger meal later in the evening. Thats me wrapped up for the day.
Those with digestive problems can have foods like bone broth, mashed potatoes, smoothies, soups, raw fruits, brown rice etc.
Try stuff out. There are no set rules.
What Can I Eat While Intermittent Fasting
During the times when youre not eating, water and zero-calorie beverages such as black coffee and tea are permitted.
And during your eating periods, eating normally does not mean going crazy. Youre not likely to lose weight or get healthier if you pack your feeding times with high-calorie junk food, super-sized fried items and treats.
But what Williams likes about intermittent fasting is that it allows for a range of different foods to be eaten and enjoyed. We want people to be mindful and take pleasure in eating good, nutritious food, she says. She adds that eating with others and sharing the mealtime experience adds satisfaction and supports good health.
Williams, like most nutrition experts, regards the Mediterranean diet as a good blueprint of what to eat, whether youre trying intermittent fasting or not. You can hardly go wrong when you pick complex, unrefined carbohydrates such as whole grains, leafy greens, healthy fats and lean protein.
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Potential Side Effects And Risks
This type of intermittent fasting, 16/8 plan is not for everyone and even its associated with many health benefits it does come with some drawbacks.
Potential side effects and risks of fasting for 16 hours a day include:
- hunger, weakness, and tiredness in the beginning stages of the plan
- overeating or eating unhealthy foods during the 8-hour window due to excessive hunger
- heartburn or reflux as a result of overeating
Restricting your food intake to just 8 hours a day can cause some people to eat more than usual during this eating period in an attempt to make up for hours spent fasting. This may lead to digestive problems, the development of unhealthy eating habits, and counter-effect such as weight gain.
Additionally, some research suggests that intermittent fasting may be less beneficial for women than men.
Some animal studies suggest that intermittent fasting could interfere with fertility and reproduction in females. 16/8 intermittent fasting is not suitable for those who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or trying to conceive.
However more human studies are needed to evaluate the effects of intermittent fasting on reproductive health.
If you are a beginner with intermittent fasting and youre trying it for the first time, you should know that it can make you feel dizzy and nauseated and cause periods of low blood sugar and dehydration.
Youre Not Changing What You Eat
One of the benefits of IF is that a greater focus on timing can include a pivot away from unhealthy foods you may have fallen into eating mindlessly as a late-night snack, for example. But if youre simply moving those not-so-healthy choices to earlier in the day, its likely that IF wont be much of a health booster.
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Reduce Stress And Improve Mental Health
The 16:8 diet help reduce cortisol levels and help reduce inflammation. Plus, since you wont be dealing with hunger for two days a week, its better for your mental health.
Those whove tried the 16:8 diet say how much more productive they are during fasting hours, spending less time stressing over food and more time channelling their energy into other beneficial tasks throughout the day.
Should You Try 1: 8 Fasting
Ultimately, it’s a personal choice. But there are a few beneficial behaviors you can try without committing to the riskier elements of 16-hour fasts. The first is to better understand mindfulness and how it relates to your food choices. To get started, consider these questions when you’re deciding when and what to eat:
Where are you physically when you decide to eat?
Many of us eat based on scenario, not hunger levels. Case in point: Raise your hand if youve ever gone to the movies after dinner and suddenly wanted popcorn? Yep, me too!
By considering the moments when you eat, you may become aware of patterns you didn’t notice before. Say youre a person who loves to graze during The Bachelor. If youre fasting after 8 p.m., youve automatically cut hours and subsequently, calories from your post-dinner snacking.
Are you getting enough sleep?
If you’ve cut out late-night snacking, that alone could help you go to bed earlier a very crucial component to any weight loss plan. Getting seven hours of sleep per night has been linked to better weight management, reduced risk of chronic disease, and improved metabolism.
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Why Is The 16/8 Intermittent Fasting Necessary
Fasting can be done for health reasons or for religious reasons. Fasting for religious reasons is outside the remit of this blog, so I wont be going there.
Intermittent fasting for health reasons concern us here.
There are obvious advantages of doing intermittent fasting not least for weight management. One of the easiest ways to lose weight and keep it off is through intermittent fasting.
But you have to avoid allowing your body to go into the energy saving mode .
The whole idea behind intermittent fasting regardless of the method of fasting you adopt is to get hormonal advantage. This protects your bodys metabolic health.
Heres The Bottom Line
Its possible that intermittent fasting is not for you, and thats okay. At some point, if youve tried different variations and youre still feeling hungry or sluggish, it might be time to ditch the effort and just focus on healthy eating in general, but that doesnt mean it will be a total loss, Fung says.
For many people, trying this leads to a greater understanding about the effects of what theyre eating, he says. Even if you decide time-restricted eating doesnt work for you, that awareness tends to remain.
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Best Foods To Break A 16 Hour Fast
The best way to break a 16-hour fast is with nutrient-rich foods that can fuel your body with the nutrition it needs to stay healthy.
Nutrition refers to more than just calories, protein, carbohydrates, and fats . It also includes micronutrients like vitamins and minerals both essential for many body functions.
As you can imagine, its not about the number of calories alone that will determine your success with intermittent fasting but the quality of the foods that make up those calories.
The top nutrient-dense foods to break a 16:8 fast include:
- Lean proteins: chicken and poultry, meat, fish, legumes , eggs, nuts, and seeds.
- Vegetables: fresh or frozen, the richer in color the better.
- Fruits: fresh or frozen, a variety of fruit is the best option.
- Whole grains: rice, oats, quinoa, wheat , and other ancient grains.
- Healthy fats: olive oil, avocado , coconut oil, and fats from nuts .
The most important thing to remember is to provide your body with a variety of foods from which it can get the nutrition it needs.
Eating the same foods each day can lead to nutritional deficiencies and meal boredom.
The Intermittent Fasting Workout Plan
Heres what you should do as far as exercise workout is concerned when youre doing the 16/8 intermittent fasting. If you follow this training schedule, youll reap huge benefits.
==> Exercise about 2 or 3 times a week.
==> If you exercise on your fasting days, do your workout towards the end of the fast period. The last hour of the fast period is best for fat burning.
==> Now if you are exercising intensely, you may want to protect your muscle mass. So, Id say take branched-chain amino acids about 30 minutes before your workout. See my article on BCAAs and intermittent fasting here.
Its not mandatory to take BCAAs. So dont sweat it!
==> Take bcaa supplements if you have them. If you dont, you can easily compensate by having a high protein meal after your workout.
==> A good balanced meal of Protein with lots of veggies and starchy carb will suffice.
==> Have your main meal soon after your workout. Prepare your meal in advance, so you are not tempted to go for takeouts or some junk food.
==> Eat as normal on fasting days that you are not exercising. You dont need to exercise every fasting day, by the way.
Mix it up. You can do Paleo-style in your non-exercise days by having a meal of Veggies, Healthy fats and Protein .
When you mix it up, you will be carb cycling and that would be in keeping with what I refer to as the Depletion-Repletion way of eating.
A typical high carb meal will be:
A typical low carb meal will be:
Side Effects And Safety Concerns
Proponents of intermittent fasting find that it is an effective approach to lose weight and simplify their diet.
However, this diet has drawbacks and may not be appropriate for everyone.
As you might imagine, the most common side effect of intermittent fasting is hunger.
Additionally, people sometimes report symptoms such as weakness and fatigue during the fasting window, especially when first starting the 16:8 eating plan.
Overeating or binge eating can also occur during the eating window. This may result in weight gain, digestive issues, and unhealthy food habits.
If you are underweight, intermittent fasting may not be the right option for you and could result in harm to your health.
Additionally, individuals who have a history of eating disorders may want to avoid intermittent fasting, as this regimen may not provide enough flexibility to support treatment and recovery.
People with underlying medical and health conditions should speak with a healthcare professional before trying the 16:8 diet.
This includes anyone who:
- Has a history of an eating disorder
- Is trying to become pregnant
- Is pregnant or breastfeeding
Furthermore, if you find that you are uncomfortable with the idea of fasting for 16 hours, then the 16:8 diet may not be the best choice for you.
Ultimately, there is no one-size-fits-all way to nutrition, and the best diets are the ones that you can maintain for the long run.
How Can I Suppress Hunger During Intermittent Fasting
Eat high-fiber foods, such as nuts, beans, fruits and vegetables, and high protein foods, including meat, fish, tofu, or nuts, during your eating window, Varady advised. Chewing high-fiber gummies can also help.
Drink lots of water. People tend to think they’re hungry, when they are really just thirsty, she said.
Go for black coffee or tea, or cinnamon or licorice herbal teas. These beverages may have appetite-suppressing effects, Varady noted.
Watch less TV: I know this sounds strange, but while you are watching TV, you are bombarded with dozens of ads for food. This can make you feel hungry, when in actuality, you are not hungry at all, she said.
Remember, being “a little hungry” is the best thing that can happen to you, wrote Madelyn Fernstrom, health and nutrition editor at NBC News, calling it a “true mind-body connection” that helps you recognize fullness.
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Skipping Meals Can Cause Headaches Dizziness And Nausea
Long periods of fasting can lower your blood sugar levels and leave you feeling lightheaded, dizzy, with headaches, and/or nausea.
If you have a medical condition, talk to your doctor to make sure it’s safe to try intermittent fasting. People with type 1 diabetes and/or on diabetic medications may be more susceptible to unwanted side effects or struggle with controlling their blood sugar levels .
Your body will also need some time to adjust, so try choosing a day of the week or period of time that you dont need to be very active or deeply concentrate when first starting a fasting practice.