If the heat waves this summer had you hanging up your running shoes and indulging in cool treats a bit too often, you are not alone! As cooler weather is approaching and schools reopen, many of us are finding our fall wardrobes a bit tighter. While the benefits of intermittent fasting extend beyond weight loss, it can be a tool to help reset your routine. There are various schedules you can follow for intermittent fasting and several Apps to assist in counting down the hours until your next eating period.
There are roughly eight different schedules you can follow for intermittent fasting. There is no conclusive evidence that one is better than the other; it really comes down to personal lifestyle choices, workout schedules (you can work out while fasting, but the level of intensity may be diminished), and even one’s professional schedule. Below is a brief description of each schedule:
- Alternate Fasting Days: fast every other day for 24 hours, some plans allow for 500 calories to be consumed on fasting days.
- The 5 / 2 method: Fasting for 24 hours 2 days a week, consume 500 calories on fasting days
- The Crescendo Method: Fast on Monday, Wednesday and Friday for 12 to 16 hours; eat normally on the other days of the week
- Eat, Stop, Eat Method – Fast for a full 24 hours, 1 to 2 days a week
- 16 / 8 Method: Fast for 16 hours and consume all calories in an 8 hour period typically from noon to 12 PM
- 14 / 10 Method: Fast for 14 hours and consume all calories in a 10 hour period.
- 13 / 11 Method: Fast for 13 hours and consume all calories in a 11 hour period.
- 12 / 12 Method: Fast for 12 hours and consume all calories in a 12 hour period.
The eating hours can be adjusted in the last 4 methods to accommodate your lifestyle. For example, if you have small children and family dinner is an important part of your daily routine, you can adjust your eating period to begin later in the day in order to have dinner with your family. It’s important to stay hydrated while fasting; any beverage can be consumed that does not contain sugar. Therefore, black tea and black coffee can be consumed. During the eating periods, you will want to ensure you are eating a mix of macronutrients and avoiding processed foods. To prevent making poor meal choices following a fast, it is helpful to meal prep for the week.
The first meal after a fast is the most important one. If you are coming off of an extended fast (24 hours), it’s important to have a meal of easily digestible foods or sip on bone broth before eating solid foods. This is because your body may not have produced as much digestive juices during the fast. Easily digestible foods include soup, cooked vegetables, and protein like fish or poultry. For shorter fasts, salads with a protein, eggs with avocado and vegetables, raw fruit with nuts or a nut butter, lean protein and roasted vegetables, or a protein shake are good options. Regardless of the length of fast, you will want to avoid carb-loaded and sugar rich meals and drinks.
If you think intermittent fasting might be a health plan that could work for you, be sure to consider your lifestyle before choosing one of the methods. Many experts suggest starting slow with the 12 / 12 method and progressively increasing the fasting time to avoid overeating during the eating period and preventing headaches. Once you have determined your method, you will be able to look for apps to aid your journey. Be sure to read the fine print on any in-app purchases before installing. Finally, be mindful of your eating habits once the fast is over.
Written by Kelly Reising who is passionate about nutrition, fitness and health.
Dr. Mc Millan is a Board-Certified orthopedic sports medicine surgeon practicing in the Virtua Health System of south Jersey. For more information please visit www.drseanmcmillan.com or follow us on twitter @sportsdrsean.