Intermittent Fasting: When to Eat and When to Fast

Last week I talked about what exactly Intermittent Fasting is and its benefits. If you missed that post please click here. Today let’s go deeper into the three most common kinds of Intermittent Fasting which include:

  • The 16:8 Fasting Protocol
  • The Warrior Diet
  • OMAD

I’ll break down how-to implement each protocol, as well as the benefits and downsides of each.

16:8

The 16:8 fasting protocol is definitely the most common type of intermittent fasting. In fact, you might be doing it already without realizing it or labeling it as IF. It’s great for beginner fasters and is a lifestyle many maintain long term. The 16 stands for a sixteen hour fasting window during which time you do not eat, and only drink fasting approved beverages. The 8 stands for an eight hour eating window in which you consume your meals. Many health professionals actually now recommend that everyone follow a period of fasting after their last meal of at least 12 hours.

How-To :

The first step to start the 16:8 fasting protocol is to choose the hours in which you would like to consume your meals. For example many start with having their first meal (ie break-fast) at 12 noon. This would mean that they would eat all of their meals within an 8 hour window, coming their last meal before 8 pm. If this sounds too difficult for you to start with you could also have your first meal at 10 am, consuming your last by 6 pm. Or you could even have your first meal at 9 am and last by 5pm. Some people find they need to ease into it at first, pushing their window back more as their hunger hormones adapt. But I personally found waiting until 12 pm easy and you might be surprised too. The great news is you can accommodate your eating window to what suits your lifestyle best.

That being said it is easier schedule-wise if you maintain the same window each day. Your hormones (as I talked about here in my last article) will also adapt to your new eating protocol. Of course life happens so if you eat past your eating window one night, just push your break-fast back the next morning so that you are fasting for 16 hrs.

The next step is to decide how many meals to eat within this window. I personally recommend eating 2 large meals during this time, but some people like to start with 3 smaller ones. It is not recommended to eat anymore than 3 times a day however, snacks included. This might go against everything you’ve been taught but I’ll explain why. As I talked about in the last article each time you eat your body produces insulin. When insulin is present your body cannot burn fat. This lasts for a several hours after you eat. If you are eating every few hours your insulin levels will always remain elevated in your body, inhibiting your fat loss potential during this time. This is the same reason I recommend consuming 2 meals a day so your insulin levels have time to decrease in between meals. It can take anywhere from 4 – 6 hrs (or more) for your insulin levels to decrease after a meal, depending on how insulin resistant or sensitive you are. Thankfully intermittent fasting decreases insulin resistance and improved insulin sensitivity.

Benefits:

  • Great for beginners
  • Easy to implement
  • Can be flexible to your schedule & lifestyle
  • Long space between meals which some people find easier for digestion & consuming larger meals
  • Easy lifestyle to maintain long-term
  • Practical for social occasions
  • Easy to consume recommended calories and nutrient intake
  • Easy to adjust eating and fasting windows as your body adapts

Downsides:

  • Some people who are very insulin resistant still find it difficult to implement in the beginning until insulin sensitivity is improved
  • Autophagy (cell recycling as I talked about here in my last article) only comes into play after fasting for at least 18 hrs
  • Fat loss benefits are reduced as insulin is present in the body longer
  • Some people find energy levels decrease after each meal so the earlier you eat it could affect your energy levels
  • The possibility of overeating is still present due to the large space between meals
  • As your body adapts you will need to decrease your eating window and increase your fasting window if you want to maximize health benefits (fat loss, autophagy, energy, etc.)

The Warrior Diet

The Warrior Diet is the popular name for the 20:4 fasting protocol in which the individual follows a 20 hour fasting window and 4 hour eating window, with 2 meals consumed during these 4 hours. It is a natural progression for many people as their body adopts to fasting. Many athletes and bodybuilders prefer this type of IF protocol as it works well for building muscle, maximizing energy levels, and fat loss.

How-To:

Again the first step is to decide what your eating and fasting windows will be based on your lifestyle and schedule. For example if your first meal is at 2 pm, your second (and last) meal would be finished by 6 pm. Or if you prefer to eat later at night you could have your first meal at 4 pm and your second consumed by 8 pm. Again these times can be flexible depending on your day and social schedule, as long as you are fasting for at least 20 hours.

Benefits:

  • Fat burning potential is higher as the fasting window increases, in this case burning fat for 20 hrs a day, because your body has no choice than to use your stored fat as fuel
  • Decreases insulin resistance and improves insulin sensitivity even more which increases fat burning potential
  • Has 2 hrs of autophagy (cell recycling) benefits
  • Maximizes energy levels and muscle building potential
  • Still consuming 2 meals a day so able to split calories and nutrients up into 2 meals
  • More difficult to overeat as the meals are large and not as spaced out
  • Has higher hormonal benefits as the fasting window increases
  • A natural progression for those wanting to decrease fasting window to increase benefits

Downsides:

    Difficult for beginners to implement
    Some people still find it hard to consume all of their calories and nutritional requirements in a 4 hour window
    Can be harder for some people to digest 2 large meals close together
    Eating 2 meals a day still spikes insulin levels twice during the eating window

OMAD

OMAD or “One Meal a Day” is the common name for fasting 23 hours a day, and eating for 1 hour a day. This is the optimum fasting protocol for many people because it maximizes fat loss and health benefits. The one meal eaten is obviously very large in order to ensure nutritional macronutrient requirements are met. For this reason the meal can be consumed gradually over the 1 hour period. Most people choose dinner time as their eating window, which can vary depending on your schedule. The meal could be consumed any time of the day however after a minimum fast of 23 hrs.

Benefits:

  • Is the optimum fasting protocol for fat burning because insulin is only spiked once during the day
  • During the fasting window your body also has no other macronutrients to use as fuel except for fat
  • Autophagy benefits are also maximized (5 hours of autophagy)
  • Many people find OMAD is the easiest protocol to follow meal prep wise
  • Consuming a large, nutritionally dense meal can also reduce food costs
  • Very difficult to go overeat when only consuming one meal a day
  • Is the most beneficial for maintaining energy levels because insulin spikes can decrease energy, and OMAD only spikes insulin once during that hour
  • Maximizes the hormonal balance discussed here in my previous article

Downsides:

  • Very difficult for beginners to implement
  • Can be difficult to consume calories and macronutrients required until your body becomes adapted to eating a large, nutritionally dense meal
  • Can be hard on some people’s digestion
  • Can be difficult sometimes for social schedules

When following an intermittent fasting protocol the most important thing is to find the right balance for you. The great thing is it can be adjusted as you body becomes more adapted or when goals and/or schedules change. You can also alternate between all 3 fasting protocols if that works for you.

I personally follow The Warrior Diet most days because I find it works best with my schedule and lifestyle. It’s easier for me to meet my macros in 2 meals and it keeps my digestion system happy. That being said I do implement OMAD once or twice a week so that I can take advantage of the many benefits OMAD maximizes. I definitely worked myself up to this however, but it is so easy now that it has become my lifestyle.

I absolutely love Intermittent Fasting and my results prove it is the best fit for me.

Of course WHAT you eat during your fasting window is crucial. Stay tuned for this as well as more tips and information on IF. In the meantime please share this article with someone who you think would benefit, and give it a thumbs-up if it also benefited you!

Naturally, Krissy – xo

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