If you’ve decided to give intermittent fasting a try, the 16:8 fasting plan is typically the most manageable schedule to adopt. You don’t have to count calories on your fasting days like you would on the 5:2 protocol. You don’t need steely self-control like you would for OMAD (One Meal A Day) schedules. The 16:8 plan is simple; you eat a late breakfast or an early dinner. That’s it!
So, if you want to give it a try, here’s what you need to know about beginning a 16:8 intermittent fasting protocol.
What Is 16:8 Fasting?
16:8 stands for 16 hours of fasting and eight hours of eating in 24 hours. So, you fast 16 hours of the day, then consume all your daily nutrients in an eight-hour window.
Sixteen hours may sound like a long time to go without food until you learn you’ll sleep for seven to eight hours out of the 16. Not so bad, right?
So, if you’re intrigued by the idea of intermittent fasting but are concerned about fasting for 16-hours straight, it may be easier than you think.
Do I Have to Skip Breakfast?
You may have heard or read that a 16:8 plan means you can’t eat breakfast. But when it comes to intermittent fasting, a 16:8 schedule is extremely flexible – and simple. You decide when your 16-hour fast begins and ends, so if you’re someone who simply can’t live without breakfast, don’t deprive yourself.
Or, maybe you prefer to skip breakfast. That’s ok too. Whatever’s comfortable for you. You could also eat breakfast an hour or two later and eat dinner an hour or so earlier. Just make sure that your eating window closes eight hours after you first break your fast. All that matters is you have 16 consecutive hours during which you abstain from food and drink only calorie-free beverages like water or unsweetened tea or coffee.
How to Plan Your 16:8 Fasting Schedule
So, what 16:8 fasting schedule will suit you best? No matter when you choose to fast, it should include your sleep hours. To determine what hours are best for you, ask yourself:
- Which meal is essential to me?
- How do I feel if I miss this meal, or if it’s late or early?
- What part of the day do I feel most hungry?
Try to schedule your fasting period when you tend to be less hungry and least likely to eat; otherwise, you might break your fast too early or overeat during your eating window.
Once you’ve identified the most vital part of your day for your eating window, choose what time you want your window to begin and end. For instance, if you’re going to skip breakfast or eat a late breakfast and early dinner, you might set your eating window from 11 am to 7 pm. And if you can’t start your day without breakfast, you might choose to eat from 9 am to 5 pm.
Simply put, pick start and end times that work best for you and stick to them. You’ll feel better if you follow a set schedule, and you’ll be more likely to stick to your fasting plan.
What Should You Eat on a 16:8 Intermittent Fasting Plan?
There are no rules about what you can and can’t eat on an intermittent fasting protocol; IF works with any eating plan. If you’re adopting intermittent fasting for health reasons – and particularly if you’re fasting for weight loss – then being mindful of what you are eating during your eating window is essential. The standard American diet of ultra-processed foods won’t help you achieve the health benefits you desire.
To get the most out of intermittent fasting, make high-quality nutrition the cornerstone of your plan. In other words, prioritize unprocessed foods, focus on vegetables, quality protein, and healthy fats, and leave the processed junk for an occasional indulgence.
16:8 Intermittent Fasting and Weight Loss
Data shows diets don’t work. They’re unsustainable in the long run and not that useful for weight loss. Yes, you’ll lose a few pounds initially, but research shows those changes don’t last. Intermittent fasting is a fantastic alternative. Since IF is a lifestyle transformation, it’s more sustainable than any fad diet that tempts you.
Many research studies confirm IF is a sustainable weight-loss method and a valid option if weight loss is your goal. One 2018 study shows IF is also beneficial because it can help you lose weight without focusing on calorie counting – an added benefit if you don’t want to work that hard.
Other Benefits of Intermittent Fasting 16:8 Schedule
The jury’s still out on some of the broader health claims, but there’s no denying that 16:8 fasting packs some profound health benefits, including:
- Improved insulin sensitivity: There’s a link between increased insulin sensitivity and weight loss. But recent research also shows IF has beneficial effects on insulin sensitivity, even without weight loss. And more research indicates intermittent fasting has the potential to be a treatment for type two diabetes. In a 2018 case study, IF helped patients reverse their insulin resistance, maintain healthy blood sugars, and ultimately wean off their glucose-regulating medications. If you’re taking diabetes medications, talk with your doctor before you begin an IF protocol.
- Lower blood pressure: In 2016, approximately 100 million Americans had hypertension, systolic blood pressure of 140mmHg or more, or diastolic blood pressure of 90mmHg or more. When your blood pressure is too high, it can damage the small blood vessels throughout your body and adversely impact your health. High blood pressure is a risk factor for many diseases, including cardiovascular disease, stroke, and kidney disease. Luckily, current research shows IF has the potential to lower your blood pressure.
- Improved cardiovascular health: Your heart health depends on multiple factors, including your weight, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar levels – just to name a few! There’s a link between improved cardiovascular and some eating plans, like the DASH Diet or Mediterranean Diet, no extensive studies are linking IF with improved cardiovascular health. IF is associated with improved health outcomes related to your heart health, like improved insulin sensitivity and lipid panels. An April 2020 review in the American Journal of Medicine hypothesizes IF improves cardiovascular health factors through oxidative stress reduction, circadian rhythm normalization, and ketogenesis.
- Lower risk of type 2 diabetes: When you lose weight, it plays a significant role in treating type two diabetes. Studies show IF can help with your weight loss goals via the metabolic pathways activated by fasting, like ketogenesis. While IF seems to have promising potential concerning type two diabetes, there is a lack of large, randomized controlled trials to prove this a safe and effective prescription for managing or treating the disease.
- Improved brain health: It is essential to keep your brain well-nourished to improve your bodily functions. Taking care of your brain health can include intermittent fasting. Multiple studies show intermittent fasting can improve brain health by protecting your neurons, increasing autophagy, inducing ketosis, and increasing neuroplasticity. Ketosis increases neuroprotective protein production, new cells grow via autophagy, and your brain makes more connections by increasing neuroplasticity. And IF may help keep your spirits up. If a healthy mind and good mood are what you’re after, consider giving the 16:8 method of IF a shot!
Intermittent fasting may also reduce the likelihood of some cancer types, and some animal studies suggest it may even help you live longer. However, intermittent fasting isn’t for everyone, and though the benefits are unquestionable, there are also possible adverse side effects.
Risk of a 16:8 Fasting Schedule
It’s best to avoid intermittent fasting if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, have type 1 diabetes, or a history of eating disorders. You may also experience:
- Weight gain. You can gain weight if you overeat during your eating window. Carefully plan your fasting and eating windows so you don’t feel overly hungry during your fast. Be mindful of what and how much you eat during your eating window.
- Hunger. Initially, you may feel starving. But, thoughtfully scheduling your fasting and eating times can help. Also, drink plenty of fluids, find ways to distract yourself, and try meditation.
- Feel cold. Fasting can make you chilly, but it’s less likely on the 16:8 protocol than more restrictive schedules like 5:2 or OMAD. If you feel cold, bundle up; this effect will disappear when you adapt to your new fasting schedule.
- Mild dehydration. Make sure to drink plenty of liquids during your fasting period – just be sure that they’re non-caloric beverages like unsweetened tea or water.
16:8 Tips for Beginners
The 16:8 method of intermittent fasting is one of the more straightforward protocols to implement; depending on your current eating patterns, you can easily tailor it to your needs. There are some things you can do to make it simpler:
- Set your fasting window around times that work for you; if breakfast is the highlight of your day, try having dinner a bit earlier than usual.
- It’s normal to feel hungry in the beginning since you’re used to eating at certain times. Give your body time to adjust.
- You have several options if you feel too hungry: distract yourself, drink a glass of water, or try meditating.
- Depending on your goals, try bulletproof coffee; it can stave off hunger and won’t affect your insulin level drastically. But if you fast to give your gut some rest, bulletproof coffee is not an option as it will break your fast.
- Make sure you stay hydrated.
- Maintain a balanced diet, including complex carbs, lean proteins, and healthy fats at each meal.
- Listen to your body. If you feel lightheaded, ill, faint, or shaky, the 16:8 method might not be for you.
If you’re female, you could have an adverse physiological response to fasting for longer than 12-14 hours. Ease into 16:8 fast; start with a 12-hour fast and slowly work your way up to 16.
If you’re keen to try intermittent fasting, the 16:8 plan may be the ideal plan to get you started. It’s simple, flexible, and you can schedule your eating window to include the time that suits your individual needs.