Have you heard of intermittent fasting (IF) but not exactly sure what it is? We’ll cover all you need to know and more in this complete guide to intermittent fasting.

There are many misconceptions about intermittent fasting. While many individuals are fans of the different fasting methods, others are skeptical.

Some of the myths that revolve around intermittent fasting include:

  • Eating frequently boosts your metabolism.
  • Eating often reduces hunger.
  • Your brain needs constant fuel of glucose.
  • Your  body will go into starvation mode if you fast.
  • Intermittent fasting breaks down muscle.

So what is intermittent fasting?

This latest diet trend involves the alternating cycles of fasting and eating. It doesn’t necessarily limit you to what kind of foods you eat but when you eat. In a way, most people practice a form of fasting every day when they sleep.

When it comes to fasting there are several different types. But what are they?

Types of Intermittent Fasting

  1. The 16/8 Method
  2. The 5:2 Diet
  3. 24 Hour Fast: Eat/Stop/Eat
  4. The Warrior Diet
  5. Alternate Days
  6. Spontaneous Skipping

#1: The 16/8 Method

The most common form of intermittent fasting involves the following:

  • skipping breakfast
  • eating your first meal at noon
  • eating your last meal around 8 pm

This leaves you with an 8-hour eating window and a 16-hour fasting period. This particular form of intermittent fasting is called the 16/8 method.

Some individuals love this type of fasting, as they aren’t usually hungry in the morning (or they simply don’t have enough time to eat before heading out the door).

Others may find the transition to this type of fasting rather difficult as they can experience high levels of hunger in the morning.

When it comes to what you can consume on the 16/8 method, you can still drink water, coffee, tea and other non-caloric beverages. Be sure to drink your coffee or tea black, as adding any type of cream or sweetener can kick you out of a fasted state.

Related: Top 10 Best Keto Coffee Creamers

This method of fasting is one of the more natural ways to introduce intermittent fasting to your body and lifestyle.

#2: The 5:2 Diet

The 5:2 diet is a form of intermittent fasting that allows you to eat normally 5 days a week while drastically decreasing your calories to no more than 600 calories on the other 2 days of the week.

This diet is also called the Fast Diet popularized by British journalist Michael Mosley.

For this method, it’s easiest to split the 2 fasted days up throughout the week.

For example,

a female could plan to eat small meals (250 calories each) on Monday and Thursday or Tuesday and Friday.

A male could choose the same pattern but increase his total calories for the fasted days to 600 calories total.

#3: Eat Stop Eat: 24 Hour Fasting

The Eat Stop Eat diet was founded by Brad Pillon while he was conducting research in grad school. This type of intermittent fasting consists of fasting for 24 hours twice a week, with the other 5 days of the week eating relatively normal.

The term “normal” is used loosely as you should still be eating a diet made up of nutrient-dense foods, not fried oreos and sugar-filled candy. Your meals during the 5 non-fasting days are relatively unrestricted as long as you keep an eye on your intake.

#4: The Warrior Diet

The warrior diet is a form of fasting that cycles periods of minimal food intake with short periods of consuming larger meals. It’s named after the diets of ancient warriors who consumed little food during the day but feasted at night.

A typical day for an individual following the warrior diet would include:

  • the first 20 hours of the day eating a very small amount of calories
  • followed by consuming as much food as you’d like at night

The small amount of calories consumed during the 20 hour period should mainly come from raw fruits and vegetables. While you can essentially indulge on any foods you want during your “feast”, organic, all-natural foods are encouraged.

Surprisingly enough, some individuals have shown a significant reduction in fat mass and greater muscle mass. (1)

#5: Alternate Days

Wondering what alternate day fasting is?

Yep, you guessed it.

Alternate day fasting means fasting every other day. While this type of fasting can be rather extreme, most forms of alternate day fasting allows some sort of calorie intake — typically about 500 calories.

This type of fasting is not recommended for beginners new to fasting as you’ll most likely be going to bed hungry several times a week.

#6: Spontaneous Skipping

The final method of fasting we’ll cover is spontaneous skipping. All this means is you’ll skip meals when you feel like it.

Seems simple enough, right?

You don’t have to follow a certain type of schedule in order to gain all the benefits of fasting. While some people may fear they’ll lose muscle or enter starvation mode, that is not the case. Our bodies have been designed to be able to go hours without eating.

So now that we know the different types of fasting methods you can use, the question still remains — why fast?

Why Do We Fast?

When it comes to the benefits of fasting, there are almost too many pros to count. Some of the top benefits include:

  1. Fights off inflammation
  2. Improves heart health
  3. Improves cognitive health
  4. Increases growth hormone
  5. Improves metabolic function

#1: Fights Off Inflammation

To understand how fasting can fight off inflammation, we must first understand what inflammation is in the first place.

Not all inflammation is bad.

In fact, inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury or infection.

But it’s when the inflammation becomes chronic is when you should be concerned. Chronic inflammation has been shown to be at the root of most diseases today.

In fact, one study took healthy adults that were practicing fasting during Ramadan and monitored them for a month. After this month of fasting, their levels of inflammatory markers were significantly decreased. (2)

#2: Improves Heart Health

Cardiovascular disease is one of the highest causes of death in the country. But you might be able to reduce your risk of CVD or heart disease by switching up your diet or adding fasting into your routine.

One study showed that alternate day fasting for 8 weeks reduced levels of LDL cholesterol by 25% and blood triglycerides by 32%. (3)

Another study showed that fasting was associated with a lower risk of diabetes, which could potentially lead to heart disease. (4)

#3: Improves Cognitive Health

As mentioned above, fasting helps to fight off inflammation. This includes inflammation that could occur in the brain as well.

While it’s unfortunate that inflammation in the brain can cause neurodegenerative diseases, it’s also helpful to know that fasting could help reduce this risk.

While there are limited studies associated with muan brain health, there has been some research done using mice.

One study in particular showed mice that were placed on an intermittent fasting schedule for 11 months had an overall increase of both brain function and brain structure. (5)

#4: Increases Growth Hormone

Another process that gets triggered during a fast is the reparation of cells and changes in your hormones that make body fat more accessible.

One of the hormones that change is human growth hormone. In fact, blood levels of growth hormone can increase 5 times over. (6)

Pretty crazy, huh?

#5: Improves Metabolic Function

The increased growth hormone levels actually help increase the breakdown of fat so your body can use it for energy. This means that fasting not only increases your growth hormone, it increases your metabolic rate as well. (7)

Should You Try Intermittent Fasting?

While intermittent fasting isn’t a necessary dieting method by any means — it is an option that many individuals find convenient and sustainable.

When it comes to what nutrition plan you’re following, it’s always a good idea to see what methods work best for you personally.

If you find yourself feeling great and gaining the health benefits while fasting, it can be an extremely powerful tool.