In general, intermittent fasting is a method of eating in which one alternates between periods of fasting and periods of eating normally. With several intermittent fasting schedules to choose from, there’s one that’s best for you and your lifestyle.
In our Simple guide to intermittent fasting plans, we explore the most popular fasting schedules.
16:8 Intermittent Fasting Plan
The 16:8 intermittent fasting plan is among the most popular because it simply extends the timeframe of our natural daily fast, which takes place overnight as we’re sleeping.
On the 16:8 fasting schedule, you alternate between 16 hours of fasting (typically 7 p.m. until 11 a.m. the following day) and an 8-hour eating window (normally 11 a.m.-7 p.m. each day).
On the 16:8 fasting plan, there’s no need to count calories as one does with some of the ‘one meal per day’ plans. In love with breakfast? No need to skip that either. You can set up the 8-hour eating window to coincide with the two meals you love most and your preferred daily schedule.
The Warrior Diet is similar to the 16:8 plan, but extends the fasting window to 20 hours, followed by a 4-hour eating window. For this reason, it may not be the best fasting plan for beginners.
On the other hand, you’ve likely had a few busy days in which you only had time for one or two big meals, or you’ve had experience with that Sunday brunch that kept you full all day. The Warrior Diet follows a similar feast and fast schedule.
The Warrior Diet was developed in 2001 by health and fitness author Ori Hofmekler. It’s named for his experience with the Israeli Special Forces, and his research on the eating habits of ancient warriors.
5:2 Intermittent Fasting Plan
The popular 5:2 fasting plan consists of normal eating five days per week, interspersed with two fasting days. Made popular in 2013 with Dr. Michael Mosley’s book “The Fast Diet,” the 5:2 method has been famously practiced by Jimmy Kimmel and other celebrities.
Some people find it much easier to restrict calories just two days per week, versus the daily compressed eating windows found within the Warrior Diet and 16:8 schedules. Others find that a full day of abstaining from food causes too much hunger, tiredness or stress. The good news is, these side effects often decrease after just a few weeks of compliance with the fasting schedule.
The East Stop Eat intermittent fasting plan consists of eating normally on day 1, then abstaining from food until dinner on day 2. With the Eat Stop Eat plan, you’ll eat at least one full meal every day, which makes it more palatable for some than the 5:2 plan.
Popularized by health author Brad Pilon, the plan is an effective way to fast for 24 hours two or three times weekly. Benefits include a flexible fasting schedule with which you can choose breakfast, lunch or dinner as your one daily meal, depending on when you stopped eating the previous day.
While effective for weight loss, on the Eat Stop Eat plan you do end up fasting for 24 hours, which is difficult for some people, and not appropriate for those who are underweight, dealing with diabetes, or struggling with disordered eating.
Alternate Day Fasting
While similar in some ways to Eat Stop Eat, Alternate Day Fasting extends the fasting window and has you fasting at a minimum of three times per week. You’ll eat normally on day 1, fast on day 2 and repeat. This equates to roughly 36 hours of fasting, followed by a 12-hour fasting window.
On fasting days, food intake is limited to 500 calories or about 25% of your daily caloric intake. This caloric restriction three to four times weekly makes Alternate Day Fasting effective for weight loss, and it’s indeed among the most well-researched methods, with documented weight loss results.
As with the Eat Stop Eat plan, fasting for 24 hours or more is not recommended for all people.
The Best Fasting Plan for You
The best plan intermittent fasting plan for you is the plan you can stick to. Each of the above offers benefits for both body and mind. Only you (and your doctor) can decide which plan fits best with your lifestyle and current health situation.
For a more individualized approach to choosing the best intermittent fasting schedule, check out the chapters of our guide.
Once you have a plan in mind, a fasting app can help you track your fasting and eating windows, along with calories consumed on extended fasting days.