Intermittent Fasting Schedules: Which Should You Choose?

Curious about fasting but unsure where to start? Take a look at the seven main types of intermittent fasting and which might work best for you.

Intermittent Fasting Schedules: Which Should You Choose?

Intermittent fasting (IF) is not exactly a diet, but rather an eating pattern that includes periods of fasts and eating. IF has gained popularity as an alternative to traditional lower calorie diets for weight loss or just for health.

The health benefits of intermittent fasting include weight loss and improvements in brain health, gut health, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels. If you are interested in trying IF, there are many types of intermittent fasting. For example, some schedules have time-restricted eating (TRE) every day, while other IF schedules have whole days of fasting throughout the week.

With all the various types of intermittent fasting, how do you know which one to choose? Read on to learn about the different types of fasts and what might fit best with your personal lifestyles and schedules.

7 Intermittent Fasting Schedules

If you want to try IF, the good news is there is more than one way to IF. The downside is it may be confusing to choose which type of intermittent fasting is best for you. Below breaks down the different types of fasts, along with some considerations for each type.

1. The 12-Hour Fast

Followers simply fast for half the day and feast for the other 12-hour remainder. The hours are flexible, too. One can eat from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., etc.

Also considering most people sleep seven to nine of those 12 hours, this form is relatively simple to follow. Ultimately, the 12-Hour Fast is recommended to be a good start for intermittent fasting newbies. In fact, when starting out with fasting, start with an eight to ten-hour fast and work up to 12 hours of fasting.

2. The 5:2 Plan or Fast Diet

Also known as The Fast Diet, the 5:2 method of intermittent fasting was popularized by Michael Mosley. This form involves restricting calorie intake to 25 percent of needs two days a week and eating normally the rest.

Put simply and as the name suggests, five days of the week are normal eating days emphasizing a healthy balanced diet. The other two restricts calories to 500 to 600 per day. Most people split the two fasting days apart (i.e. Monday and Wednesday, Tuesday and Thursday, etc.) to soften hunger pangs from a two-day fast.

3. Alternate-Day Fasting

Also known as Up Day/Down Day, alternate-day fasting (ADF) suggests fasting every other day. On the feasting days, one can eat whatever is desired.

Some studies suggest ADF is beneficial for weight loss, including reducing body fat and inflammation in the body. Furthermore, ADF has shown to be effective at preserving muscle mass compared to daily calorie restriction according to a 2011 study.

Followers might also modify this type of fasting, which includes consuming 500 calories on fasting days. This is considered much more sustainable than doing full fasts on fasting days whilst indicating to still provide many health benefits.

4. Leangains or 16:8

Touted as the "birthplace of intermittent fasting," Leangains was founded by Martin Berkhan. Martin is also known as "the Khan, godfather or high priest of intermittent fasting."

Leangains encourages one to eat all daily calories in an 8-hour window and fast the other 16 hours of the day. Additionally, this plan emphasizes fitness and strength training for those wanting to get as lean and strong as possible. In comparison to other intermittent fasting-based diets much more emphasis is put on proper pre- and post-workout nutrition.

The rest of the diet's recommendations are orthodox gym advice. This includes eating higher protein food and eating more calories on training days and fewer calories on off days. Skipping breakfast is encouraged in order to make the eight-hour eating window easier for larger meals for lunch and dinner.

As with other types of IF, the first week or two can be the toughest to adjust to. After this phase, proponents of Leangains suggest hunger pangs subside especially in the morning.

5. Eat Stop Eat

Eat Stop Eat encourages one to use it as a "LONG-TERM strategy to get lean quickly." It is designed to incorporate fasting for 24 hours once or twice weekly while never going a day without eating.

For instance, if you finish dinner on Wednesday at 7:00 p.m., the next meal would be 7:00 p.m. on Thursday. You could also eat breakfast then fast until the next, or lunch-to-lunch, etc. 

Despite the eating schedule, the end result proves to be the same. Some fasts allow some solid foods during fasts, including produce and a low amount of lean proteins. But water, coffee, and other non-caloric beverages are only allowed during the fasting periods with Eat Stop Eat.

6. The Warrior Diet

Founded by Ori Hofmekler, the Warrior Diet might not be for beginners or even sustainable for most people. The warriors fast for about 20 hours every day and eat one large meal at night. However, fasting allows to still eat small amounts of whole vegetables, fruits, and protein sources.

The Warrior Diet is based similarly to the tenants of the Paleo diet. It encourages one to stick to whole foods such as meats, poultry, fish, vegetables, and whole grains.

This type of IF is more extreme, and the eating window of the day is considered a feasting phase instead of eating normal portioned-sized meals. 

While extreme, this specific type of IF does not have merit from health experts as offering additional health benefits compared to other types of fasting.

7. Spontaneous Meal Skipping

Spontaneous meal skipping is not exactly structured, but a loose eating pattern you do not have to strictly follow. What’s more, there are still expected benefits to enjoy that other structured forms of fasting offers.

In spontaneous meal skipping, simply omit and skip meals sporadically. Such random fasts may include times when you are not feeling hungry or are too busy.

This form of fasting also reinforces the importance of listening to hunger and satiety cues. It lowers the risk of temptation when it comes to food as well due to its unstructured approach.

Types of Intermittent Fasting Recap

If you want to try IF, there are many ways to do it. You can restrict the eating and fasting windows, like with a 12-hour fast, Leangains, or Warrior Diet approach. Or you can fast a whole day (or two) per week with the 5:2 plan, Eat Stop Eat, or alternate day fasting. Lastly, you can keep it unstructured and do spontaneous fasting as it fits your lifestyle.

No matter what type of fasting you want to try, always consult with your doctor first. As with any diet, IF is not best for everyone. Even though IF focuses on the timing of eating, it is still important to also focus on the quality of calories when you do eat.

References:

Biddulph M. What is the 5:2 diet? LiveScience. Published June 19, 2022. https://www.livescience.com/what-is-the-5-2-diet

Eat stop eat - #1 intermittent fasting diet. try for free now. Uncover the Power of Intermittent Fasting For Easy Fat Loss & Lifelong Health. Published August 12, 2021. https://www.eatstopeat.org/

Leangains. https://leangains.com/

Varady KA. Intermittent versus daily calorie restriction: which diet regimen is more effective for weight loss? Obes Rev. 2011 Jul;12(7):e593-601. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-789X.2011.00873.x. Epub 2011 Mar 17. PMID: 21410865.

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