Recommended Intermittent Fasting Schedule For Beginners
Here at 21 Day Hero we always recommend starting with the most popular and beginner-friendly method Intermittent Fasting 16/8.
For our 21-day Intermittent Fasting Challenge, we recommend easing into Intermittent Fasting by starting with 12h of fasting and 12h of eating and adding one fasting hour each day until you reach the desired 16/8 schedule.
See the image below with two examples of how your first week of 16/8 Intermittent Fasting and your Intermittent Fasting hours could look like.
Note: 16/8 also happens to be the most popular method among celebrities. If you are curious to know how they practice fasting and what are the main benefits , check out our blog post on How to do Intermittent Fasting According to 40 Famous People.
Muscle Loss Prevention And Autophagy
Before the Nobel Prize was awarded to Yoshinori Ohsumi, other researchers were making groundbreaking discoveries about autophagy. In 2009, an article was published in Cell Metabolism entitled Autophagy Is Required to Maintain Muscle Mass. In this article, researchers described how deactivating an important autophagy gene resulted in a profound loss in muscle mass and strength.
This happened because autophagy is necessary to clean up damaged proteins and mitochondria in muscle cells. If autophagy is never activated then the proteins and mitochondria will remain damaged and the muscle cells will begin to die, which causes a loss in muscle and strength.
This seems counter-intuitive because we assume that the nutrients we eat will repair the damage, but it makes sense when you think about it another way.
If you want to refurbish a room, it is best to clean the room and remove the old furniture before you put the new furniture in. The same thought process applies to your cells. We must use intermittent fasting to let autophagy clean the room of the cell before we put in new furniture. If we dont, our cells can become cancerous.
How Does The 1: 8 Diet Work
The 16:8 diet works on an hourly basis, so each day you eat within an 8-hour time frame and then fast for the remaining 16 hours. This works for weight loss as it “helps you eat fewer calories while boosting metabolism slightly,” clinical nutritionist at Alive! Suzie Sawyer says. “It’s a very effective tool to lose weight and visceral fat. After hours without food, the body exhausts its sugar stores and starts burning fat, sometimes referred to as ‘metabolic switching’.”
This switch is a natural process that happens when the body runs out of energy from food, research published in Nature explains. The body changes its energy source from glucose that’s stored in the liver to ketones, which are stored in fat cells. While the body is getting its energy from glucose, it’s maintaining or gaining weight and when the switch happens, it beings to lose weight.
However, calorie-restricted diets like Fast 800 work in a similar way. They push the body into a calorie deficit, forcing it to take its energy stores from fat cells rather than glucose. Research from the University of Illinois also suggests that when it comes to losing fat, the two are equally as effective as each other. So what’s special about the 16:8 diet?
Recommended Reading: How Soon Can You Lose Weight With Intermittent Fasting
What Does Intermittent Fasting Do
There are different mechanisms to account for the success of intermittent fasting.
First, skipping meals and cutting out snacking naturally reduces the amount of calories one eats during the day. Thats why it is important to try not to eat more during your eating window to make up for the missed meal. That would negate one of the main benefits of fasting!
The second potential reason for IFs success is its ability to lower insulin levels. Studies show that fasting tends to lower insulin levels, although it is not scientifically clear the extent to which lower insulin levels can directly explain better weight loss.
However, a 2020 study from Dr. Ethan Weiss and colleagues created some doubt about whether short fasts of 16 hours, in the absence of any other dietary modification, can lead to improved weight loss and metabolic health. The studys authors concluded that time restricted eating was no better than eating throughout the day for weight loss.
We wrote about this study, noting that the fasting group did not reduce caloric intake, which puts it at odds with other studies that have suggested at least part of the benefit of fasting comes from reduced caloric intake.
But even though human data on longevity are lacking, the other benefits of IF and its ease of use likely make it worth a try.
Lifting Weights And Fasting
Lifting weights while fasting is also OK, but you need to be mindful of the role that glucose plays in repairing your muscles after a major weight-lifting session, especially while in a fasted state. When you exercise in a fasted state your glycogen stores are already depleted. If your workout for the day involves heavy lifting, you can do so in a fasted state, but you should prioritize eating a meal directly following your workout. Unlike a burst exercise session, heavy lifting puts enough stress on the body to warrant an immediate refeed. Like doing cardio session, lifting weights while fasted might decrease your strength in the short run, as your body adapts to being a fat burner. For this reason, you may want to save your weight-lifting sessions for periods after you have eaten , and incorporate fasted exercise on the days when you perform burst-style training.
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So Which Intermittent Fasting Schedule Is Best For Weight Loss Whichever One You’ll Actually Stick To Tbh
In short, the one that’s easiest for you to follow. “It is all about sustainability for the individual,” says Lemein. “If one of these diets work well for you and your lifestyle and preferences, then you will likely see some success. If not, then you’ll likely not see the results you’re are looking for, as the sustainability piece will not be there.” That means picking a diet that work best with all the lifestyle factors you need to consider, like your work schedule, family dynamic, living situation, commute time, and travel commitments, notes Lemein.
It’s worth pointing out, though, that the 16:8 diet seems to be the most doable for a lot of people who are into IF. The 16:8 method also scores points for preventing overeating at night, which can often be a big obstacle for weight loss. And sticking to an eight-hour eating window during daylight hours allows your metabolism to run as itâs supposed toâyou fuel up for energy during the day , and stop eating for rest and recovery at night, per a 2017 article in the journal Nutrition Reviews.
The bottom line: All intermittent fasting schedules may lead to weight loss if you can follow them sustainably, and the 16:8 method may be the easiest way to follow an IF diet.
Intermittent Fasting Is Not For Everyone
While the practice is generally acceptable for most adults, there are some people who shouldnt fast for prolonged periods of time. Pregnant women and those who are breastfeeding, for instance, require continuous nutrients and should be eating more continuously. Those with conditions like diabetes that requires them to be on insulin and the elderly who are at risk of getting dizzy and falling should also refrain. Check with your doctor before starting a fasting plan, says Weinandy.
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We Fasted 2 Days A Week Heres What Happened
Fasting just one day a week worked great for Precision Nutritions co-founder, John Berardi, PhD. Sure, on that first day without food? Hunger dogged him. His family also reported that he was quite crabby.
But he adapted. And with an eat anything day once a week to counteract his eat nothing day, everything felt doable. After roughly five weeks of fasting, I was barely uncomfortable at all, says Dr. Berardi. And by my seventh or eighth fast, I was having great days.
Dr. Berardi lost 12 pounds of body weight during the first eight weeks on this schedule.
Dr. Scott-Dixon? She had similar experiences.
But when they both tried to add a second fasting day? Everything went sideways.
Within two weeks, Dr. Berardis morning weight plummeted from 178 pounds to 171, with an estimated 4 additional pounds of fat lost but he lost 3 pounds of lean mass, too.
He felt small and weak, and was losing too much weight too fast.
People commented on how drawn and depleted Dr. Berardi looked. And he was exhausted. Training became a struggle. Even getting off the couch was a struggle.
Dr. Scott-Dixon had a similar experience.
In particular, people commented on how awful my face looked, she says. Family members worried that I had a terminal disease.
The lesson:When it comes to fasting, do just barely enough to meet your goals.
And maybe even a little bit less than you think you need.
Diet Plan: What Can You Eat And What Are The Benefits
You may have heard wonders about the 5:2 diet, but have you heard of the 16:8 yet?
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The 16:8 diet plan is one of the most popular ways to get into intermittent fasting, with big names like Jennifer Aniston and Hugh Jackman swearing by their successes.
It’s not only celebrity endorsement that has got this eating regime its reputation though. While not as restrictive as the 5:2 diet plan, clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer says, the 16:8 still prolongs “the period when your body has burned through calories consumed during your last meal and begins burning fat.” In other words, it helps participants lose weight by reducing the amount of time they have available to eat – and so putting them into an energy deficit, which in turn helps them to lose weight.
All of this without the need to count calories or spend hours on a treadmill. But is the plan all it’s really cracked up to be?
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What Should I Eat To Break My Fast
There are many great ways to break a fast you should experiment with what helps you feel your best. Intermittent fasting is great in that it is a relatively simple intervention that appears to have health benefits regardless of diet.
However, you may notice that with a regular intermittent fasting practice you start to tune into your body and sensations of hunger and satiety more closely. You can let your own hunger sensations while fasting prompt you to explore what your body is really craving and asking for! Also tune into how your body feels as you break your fast, and experiment breaking with different types of foods. I used to break my fast with my favorite breakfast foods of bagels or muffins, but found that I felt nauseous and tired afterwards. I started breaking my fasts with a crisp apple and found that I felt fantastic, with no symptoms reflective of a blood sugar spike. Needless to say, I keep a dozen apples of different colors and varieties in my house at all times now!
A good rule of thumb is to break a fast slowly and intentionally by enjoying a snack or balanced meal with plenty of vegetables and fruit, healthy plant fats , some protein and some whole grains. Trying going low-carb in the first meal after a long fast to avoid overly spiking your blood sugar and insulin levels.
Schedule #: Fasting For 12
Near the end of our year-long coaching program, we offer clients a fasting experiment:
Go a full 24 hours without eating.
Its scary, and it makes people uncomfortable. Which is exactly why we do it.
What it involves
There are no rules or protocols. For instance, people can wake up, have breakfast, then not eat again until breakfast the next day. Or they can have dinner on a Monday, then not eat again until dinner on Tuesday. Or whatever suits them.
The point is to simply try the experience of not eating for a while, and see what happens.
Afterwards, eat normally.
People who benefit
A one-day fast can be transformative for anyone who associates the sensation of hunger with emergency. That tends to include people who learned from their parents that they should eat three square meals a day, as well as finish everything on their plate.
Its also great for people who fear being deprived or restricted, assuming that once they start getting hungry, its going to get worse, and worse, and worse .
And finally, its a great first step that allows you to test the waters, seeing if a more extreme fasting schedulesuch once- or twice-weekly fastingmight work for them.
If you try it
Read Also: What Can I Drink On Intermittent Fasting
Frequently Asked Questions Concerns And Complaints
Im a woman. Should I do anything differently?
I havent worked with women on implementing an intermittent fasting schedule, so I cant speak from experience on this one.
That said, I have heard that women may find a wider window of eating to be more favorable when doing daily intermittent fasting. While men will typically fast for 16 hours and then eat for 8 hours, women may find better results by eating for 10 hours and fasting for 14 hours. The best advice I can give anyone, not just women, is to experiment and see what works best for you. Your body will give you signals. Follow what your body responds favorably to.
Also, if youre a female, there is an allfemale page on Facebook that discusses intermittent fasting. Im sure you could find a ton of great answers and support there.
I could never skip breakfast. How do you do it?
I dont. Breakfast foods are my favorite, so I just eat them at 1pm each day.
Also, if you eat a big dinner the night before, I think youll be surprised by how much energy you have in the morning. Most of the worries or concerns that people have about intermittent fasting are due to the fact that they have had it pounded into them by companies that they need to eat breakfast or they need to eat every three hours and so on. The science doesnt support it and neither do my personal experiences.
I thought you were supposed to eat every 3 hours?
Here’s why this was a popular idea for a brief period of time:
Here’s the problem:
What To Drink During Intermittent Fasting
To get all the health benefits of Intermittent Fasting such as fat loss, increased metabolic rate, lower blood sugar levels, boost in the immune system and others, you have to restrict from consuming any caloric food. But you can still consume non-caloric beverages because they do not break your fast and allow you to get all the benefits of fasting.
This is because non-caloric beverages do not cause the release of insulin, and as a consequence, do not interfere with fat burning and autophagy .
This would include:
- Plain black coffee
- Plain tea
Got more questions about Intermittent Fasting Drinks? Weve got more information in our blog post What Can You Drink During Intermittent Fasting.
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Intermittent Fasting And Muscle
Two ground-breaking studies have recently been published on the effects of intermittent fasting on males. One group of researchers studied the effects that 16 hours of intermittent fasting had on males that lift weights. They found that muscle mass stayed the same, fat mass decreased significantly, and the males who fasted for 16 hours a day burned more fat for fuel compared to the control group that only fasted for 12 hours.
Another study showed that combining 20 hours of fasting with resistance training resulted in an increase in muscle mass, strength, and endurance, and this was achieved by eating ~650 calories per day less than normal.
The benefits of intermittent fasting translate to untrained overweight and obese individuals as well. One study published in Obesity Reviews found that eating fewer calories is effective for fat loss, but it does come with some muscle loss. However, if the subjects fasted for 24 hours and ate as much as they wanted on the next day for a period of 12 weeks, they lost significantly less muscle mass.
Yes you read that correctly 24 hours of intermittent fasting without any resistance training and these subjects were able to preserve more muscle mass than the subjects that ate fewer calories every day without fasting at all. This finding contradicts our common sense, but when we dig deeper into autophagy we can find the mechanism behind this result.
Are You At Risk Of Refeeding Syndrome
Currently, most of us are over-nourished rather than under-nourished. But that doesnt mean you shouldnt exercise caution. Certain groups of individuals are at a higher risk for developing refeeding syndrome than others:
- Your body mass index is less than 18.5.
- Youve experience unexplained weight loss in the last six months totalling a loss greater than 10% of your body weight.
- You have fasted consuming nothing but water for five or more days.
- Your blood work shows you have lower than normal levels of phosphorus, potassium, calcium or magnesium levels.
- You are an alcoholic or have a history of alcoholism.
- You have anorexia nervosa.
- Are taking insulin, diuretics, antacids or undergoing chemotherapy.
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