Intermittent Fasting 101: Benefits and How To Get Started
Published by Dr. Venn-Watson
Dr. Eric Venn-Watson’s Highlights
At first glance, intermittent fasting, or “IF,” looks like something you might do if you’re on an episode of Survivor.
However, the immense popularity of this eating method proves it’s more than just denying food for a few hours a day.
If you’ve landed here, you’re likely IF curious. We’ll help you understand what IF is, how it works, whether or not it’s actually beneficial to your overall health and wellness, and what you should know to get started.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is a method of eating and fasting that works in a cyclic pattern. A traditional diet may consist of three meals per day, eating when the person feels hungry, or at certain times that seem appropriate (i.e. breakfast at 6:00 am, lunch at noon, dinner at 5:00 pm).
Intermittent fasting condenses mealtimes between certain time periods of the day when you are allowed to eat, and prescribes fasting the remainder of the day. For instance, in a 24-hour period, a person may fast 16 hours and consume calories during the remaining eight hours.
There are different methods of intermittent fasting that allow it to be flexible enough to fit practically any lifestyle.
Different Types of Intermittent Fasting
One of the key reasons people love intermittent fasting is because it (surprisingly) allows a lot of flexibility in terms of how and when you fast, which makes it easy to accommodate any schedule.
Here are some of the most popular ways people practice IF.
- 16/8 Method. In this version of IF, you’ll fast for 16 hours and consume your daily calories in an eight hour period. With this method of IF, most of your fasting will be completed overnight as you sleep.
For instance, if you normally eat dinner at 5:00 p.m., you could plan your fast from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 a.m., which means you’d likely skip breakfast and begin eating calories at brunch.
- 5:2 Method. The 5:2 method involves fasting two days of the week, rather than for a prescribed amount of hours. With this method, you’ll eat normally five days of the week and significantly restrict your calories the remaining two days of the week.
It’s suggested that on your two days of fasting you restrict your caloric intake to 500 for women and 600 for men. It’s also not recommended that you take your two fasting days back to back.
- Eat Stop Eat. This method of IF involves a longer fasting period two times per week. With the eat stop eat method, you’ll eat normally five days of the week, but take two 24 hour fasts two days of the week.
You can schedule your two 24-hour fasts whenever you like. You may decide to fast from dinner on Sunday through dinner on Monday. The remainder of the days of the week you’ll eat normally. With this version, you should also make sure you don’t take your two fasting days back to back.
While you could definitely argue that everyone practices IF to some degree (i.e. we all fast while we are sleeping), traditional IF methods involve a fast that is at least 12 hours. The gold standard is a minimum of 16 hours.
If your interest is sparked, here’s what you can expect in terms of health and weight loss benefits from intermittent fasting.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Fasting has been a traditional method of food consumption for centuries. Our ancestors fasted both out of necessity and because of religious practices. Now, we can use these same eating variations to promote health and weight loss.
Most popularly, IF is used for weight loss. Any form of IF involves caloric restriction, which is foundational for any weight loss method.
However, IF also helps you lose weight in several other ways:
- Hormone levels. Periods of fasting and eating increase your levels of human growth hormone while simultaneously lowering insulin levels. This combination helps support muscle growth and can encourage your body to burn stored fat more efficiently.
- Blood sugar levels. Insulin resistance happens when your body is unable to use the glucose in your blood effectively. IF helps support healthy blood sugar levels, which can improve insulin resistance.
- Inflammation. Many age-related diseases are caused by high levels of chronic inflammation. Research suggests that IF does not promote inflammation and can reduce markers for oxidative stress.
- Heart health. As we age, our heart health can begin to decline, especially if our cholesterol levels aren’t within a healthy range. The IF dieting method helps support heart health by keeping LDL or “bad” cholesterol levels lower.
- Brain health. We’d probably all like to feel just a little bit sharper, and intermittent fasting may be the key to improving brain health. Studies support that dietary restriction can increase the number of brain cells that are generated and even help keep your brain sharper, improving memory and cognition.
- Anti-aging. Maybe IF isn’t the fountain of youth, but it can definitely help support healthy aging. Many of the diseases that plague us as we get older result from health markers that intermittent fasting addresses, like insulin resistance, poor cholesterol levels, and excess weight.
Anyone can benefit from intermittent fasting, but it’s important to know how to fast correctly and safely. Let’s talk about how to get started.
Getting Started With Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting can be a great way to lose weight and improve your health. It’s easy to get started, but you’ll need to know a few ground rules before you begin.
Consuming Adequate Calories
One of the biggest pitfalls followers of IF can experience is eating too few or too many calories. When you are restricting your diet to eating only during certain hours, it can be tempting to eat excessively during your eating window. This can lead to overconsumption and weight gain.
Alternatively, if you find it difficult to eat as many calories as your body needs to function during your eating window, you’ll end up malnourished.
The best way to ensure you’re consuming the right amount of calories is to track your caloric intake. If your goal is to lose one pound of weight per week, for example, you’ll need to eliminate 500 calories from your diet per day either through caloric restriction, exercise, or a combination of both.
If you’re using the 5:2 method or eat stop eat method of IF, you’ll just need to ensure that on your non-fasting days you’re eating the right amounts of calories.
Eat Quality Calories
When you’re following an IF eating plan, every calorie counts. It’s important to make sure the calories you eat come from quality sources. Make sure you’re eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables to ensure you’re getting the vitamins and nutrients your body needs to function properly.
Drink the Right Liquids
Hunger is a pretty common side effect of any IF plan. You can combat this by making sure you are well hydrated and consuming the right liquids. Coffee, tea, water, and other non-calorie beverages are permitted while you are fasting, and can help you ward off hunger pangs and help you maintain your energy levels.
Supplements for Intermittent Fasting
Taking a supplement to help support your body while you are fasting is a smart way to boost your overall health and ensure you’re getting all the minerals and nutrients your body needs.
While any over-the-counter multivitamin can give you an extra dose of daily vitamins, there’s a unique supplement that boasts health benefits similar to intermittent fasting that can supercharge your weight loss and health goals.
Fatty15 and Weight Loss
It may seem counterproductive, taking a fatty acid to lose fat, but fatty15 contains an odd-chain, saturated fatty acid that an increasing body of research supports may not only help you lose weight, but gives every cell in your body a fighting chance against aging.†*
Pentadecanoic acid, also known as C15:0, helps support your weight loss efforts by naturally activating receptors throughout your body, called PPAR-alpha.†* Fatty acids that activate PPAR-alpha receptors have been demonstrated to help lessen hunger and support weight management. Additionally, C15:0 can support your general health and wellness by deep diving into your cells, fortifying their cell walls, boosting mitochondrial function, and decreasing their fragility.†*
When your cells are stronger, your organs are stronger. Stronger organs lead to stronger systems, which leads to stronger, healthier bodies.
Because C15:0 is primarily found in trace amounts in full fat dairy products, it can be difficult to consume enough of these foods to get the amount of C15:0 you need, without consuming a lot of what you don’t.
Fatty15 is the first and only supplement to contain pure FA15™, the pure powder and vegan-friendly form of C15:0. You can support your health and your weight loss with one simple supplement per day.*
Intermittent fasting is a great way to support weight loss and increase your overall health. The various methods of practicing IF make this diet flexible enough for any lifestyle.
It’s important to closely monitor your caloric intake while you’re intermittent fasting.
Taking a supplement, like fatty15, may help support your IF weight loss goals and support your overall health and wellness.*
Get started with fatty15 today with a 30-day trial kit.
Eric Venn-Watson M.D.
Senior Scientist, Co-Founder
Eric is a physician, U.S. Navy veteran, and Co-founder and COO of Seraphina Therapeutics. Eric served over 25 years as a Navy and Marine Corps physician, working with the special forces community to improve their health and fitness. Seraphina Therapeutics is a health and wellness company dedicated to advancing global health through the discovery of essential fatty acids and micronutrient therapeutics.
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