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How to Create an Intermittent Fasting Schedule

“Intermittent fasting? Isn’t that just another fake diet trend?” Intermittent fasting stands out from most fad diets because it doesn’t require you to purchase any specific products. No South Beach Bars, no Keto Coffee, no wraps, no urine tests (yes, it’s a thing) – just eat at the right time and lose weight. If you’re like most people, you already have trouble sticking to a set weekly schedule for your other responsibilities. Eating is something you do when you have time – not something you schedule, right? It doesn’t have to be challenging or difficult. Just develop an intermittent fasting schedule that works with your routine. Here’s how to do it.

What is Intermittent Fasting?

The basic idea behind intermittent fasting is to eat on a specific schedule with long periods of fasting in between. It has many benefits, many of which are still being discovered. The general idea is to give your organs and digestive system a break, so that other important physiological processes can take place. And if you think about it, it makes perfect sense that we might be optimally set up to operate this way. Before we could hit the drive thru 24 hours a day, or had endless stores of sugar, salt and fat in the fridge, humans were naturallly forced to go long periods of time without meals. But in order for it to have any benefits for you, the key is to develop a schedule that works for your body and metabolism. It also matters what you eat during the "feast" period.

What are the Benefits of Intermittent Fasting?

There’s nothing like the comfort of that salty bag of chips or veggie straws as you toil away at work – but snacking might be doing your health more damage than you realize. No, snacking isn’t inherently bad for you. It may, however, be overburdening your metabolism, digestive system, and immune system. Here's some benefits of intermittent fasting:
  • It can help you lose weight. Intermittent fasting forces your body to burn calories from the foods you consume, so you’re less likely to store them as fat.
  • It supports healthy insulin and blood sugar levels. When you go extended periods without food, your body uses the sugar you consume from carbs as energy. Your body doesn’t have to rely on insulin to breakdown and store sugar.
  • It may reduce your risk of disease. Research shows that sticking to an intermittent fasting schedule may reduce your risk of cancer.
  • It may improve cholesterol levels. Studies found that following Ramadan, women subjects showed higher HDL (good) cholesterol numbers while men displayed reduced cholesterol in general.
  • It may reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Regular fasting can protect your brain against neurodegenerative diseases while improving memory and focus. (Yes, you’ll be able to focus without food all the time.)
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How to Create Your Own Intermittent Fasting Schedule

Are you ready to give intermittent fasting a shot? Don’t stress too much. “Fasting” is a scary word and you aren’t going to starve. You have plenty of options for easing yourself into an intermittent fasting schedule.

16:8 (Hours)

If you’re a beginner, this is the perfect schedule to dip your feet into the water. The concept is simple: eat for eight hours each day and fast for 16 hours. You can easily fit this into your schedule without causing yourself too much distress, too. Do you sleep from 11 PM to 7 AM and work from 9 AM to 5 PM? Schedule your eight-hour eating window in the middle of the day from 11 AM to 7 PM. This schedule will give you energy from calories to stay focused while you’re working. Play around until you find a 16:8 schedule that works with your routine. If fasting for 16 hours each day feels too daunting, reduce the time to 14 or 12 hours.

20:4 (Hours)

Once you’ve become a professional at the 16:8 intermittent fasting schedule, challenge yourself to a 20:4. In other words, you would eat for four consecutive hours and fast for 20. Again, it might be a good idea to schedule your four-hour eating window somewhere between your usual lunch and dinner times. If you work a normal nine-to-five, consider eating between the hours of 1 PM and 5 PM. Most people eat either one large meal or two smaller meals during this fast.

2:5 (Days)

Here’s where it starts to get a little tricky. You can do it though – you've made it this far. For five days each week, eat as you normally would (make sure your meals are generally healthy). On two non-consecutive days, you’ll fast. You might choose Thursday and Sunday as your fast days, for example. You don’t, however, need to avoid food entirely. The 2:5 intermittent fasting schedule allows you to consume 500 calories on “fasting” days. Look for low-calorie foods that give you the most bang for your buck like celery, mustard, cucumbers, watermelon, carrots, broccoli, and grapefruit.

Fast During the Day, Eat at Night

Also known as the Warrior Diet, this fasting schedule involves consuming most of your food during a four-hour window at night. Through the daylight hours, you don’t need to avoid food entirely. The diet still encourages you to consume raw fruits and veggies during the day. It does, however, also suggest that you eat paleo-style meals during your four-hour feast.

36-Hour Fasts

This version is only for fasting veterans: you'd fast 36 hours once each week or so. Some people prefer to try this once every few months. For example, you might consume a nice dinner one night around 9 PM, go through an entire day without eating, and consume food again at breakfast the following day around 9 AM.
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The Bottom Line

Remember that intermittent fasting (especially for long periods) isn’t appropriate for everyone. Check with your doctor before forgoing food for long periods of time. It might be pretty tempting to overeat during your scheduled eating hours but try to resist the urge. An intermittent fasting schedule can help you lose weight, maintain your goal weight, reduce blood sugar, and support overall health. However, you need to make sure you keep up with a healthy diet, exercise, and other positive lifestyle changes, too.
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