Feature Image by Henrique Félix

You’ve probably heard of intermittent fasting (IF) by now. Unlike other diets, this popular diet trend doesn’t restrict what you can and can’t eat — instead, it determines when you can or can’t eat.

So does it really work? What are the benefits? Here’s everything you need to know before incorporating this eating pattern.

What is intermittent fasting?
IF doesn’t restrict what you consume, but rather, when you consume. There are different forms of intermittent fasting, but the general idea is that you take habitual breaks from eating. During fasting periods, you’re still allowed (encouraged, actually) to drink all-natural, calorie-free beverages such as water, tea, and coffee.

How does it work?
The idea is that when you divide your eating and fasting period, your body starts burning stored fat. Advocates also claim that giving your body a break from food allows it more time to rest, thus reducing inflammation, improving autoimmune conditions, improving blood sugar, and more. There are multiple approaches to IF. Here are four popular methods:

  • The 16/8 Method: This means you’re fasting for 16 hours in a day and eating for 8. During a typical day, you might skip breakfast and eat your first meal (preferably one heavy in healthy fats, like avocado or nuts) at 12 p.m. Continue eating as many whole foods as you want until 8 p.m., at which point you restart fasting until noon the next day. The hours you choose can be adjusted according to your lifestyle (for example, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., or 2 p.m. to 10 p.m.).
  • The 12-6 Window: This one’s a more advanced version of the 16/8 method. With this variation, you’re eating during a six-hour window. If you find the 16/8 method works well for you, try transitioning into the 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. window to accelerate the benefits of fasting.
  • The 5:2 Diet: True to its name, the 5:2 diet involves five days of regular eating and two days of limited consumption. During your five “on” days, you can eat whatever you want, whenever you want. During the two “off” days, limit your intake to 500 calories for women and 600 for men.
  • Eat-Stop-Eat: Five or six days a week, eat as much as you want, whenever you want. On the other one or two days, take a break for 24 hours straight. If the thought of going an entire day without eating seems alarming, don’t worry, you can stop eating one night at, say, 7 p.m., and break the fast 24 hours later at 7 p.m.

Should you try it?
IF is not recommended for pregnant women in any trimester. It’s also not recommended for anyone with liver or kidney problems, a compromised immune system, or anyone on medications who have to stick to doctor-approved diets.

As always, consult your doctor or nutritionist before changing your diet. Would you try intermittent fasting? Weigh in on the comments below!

xx, The FabFitFun Team