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Types of Intermittent Fasting and Frequently Asked Questions

Written by Michael Nadeau

NowRx Contributor 

What is intermittent fasting?

Intermittent fasting is a type of diet that is growing in popularity throughout the world. With intermittent fasting, people eat during a set block of time during the day or the week. For the other days or hours, they either fast completely or consume minimal calories.

Studies show that weight loss can result from this way of eating because the body may respond by changing its metabolic rate for the better. Additionally, intermittent fasting can simply cause someone to consume fewer calories, thus leading to weight loss.

If you’re looking to lose weight to reduce your risk of Type 2 diabetes, boost your immune system, or for any other reason, intermittent fasting might be a good option to try.

Let’s explore the “rules” and various types of intermittent fasting.

What Can You Drink During Intermittent Fasting?

With intermittent fasting, there are only certain beverages you can drink during periods of “fasting”. However, if you are intermittent fasting to lose weight, you should consider avoiding these beverages altogether.

Avoid having any high-calorie drinks like sodas or juices as well as alcoholic drinks like wine and beer. You may also want to reduce your milk intake. A little bit in your morning coffee is okay, but limit it to that. Also, as good practice avoid diet sodas. There are plenty of adverse effects from diet sodas, even if they contain no calories.

So what can you drink during intermittent fasting?

Water and sparkling water are encouraged. Flavored waters with limited sugar can be a good option.

Just make sure you drink enough to stay hydrated as dehydration can lead to some serious health consequences.

Can You Drink Coffee While Intermittent Fasting?

Yes, you can drink coffee during intermittent fasting.

However, don’t run off to Starbucks and get your usual sugary coffee drink. Keep the coffee black and unsweetened. If necessary, you can add a little bit of milk to your first coffee of the day. Other than that, avoid adding anything to your coffee or tea to keep it low-calorie.

Something else to know?

Caffeine may affect your body differently when fasting. If you find coffee gives you headaches or other problems while fasting, you may have to switch to decaf.

Just monitor how you are feeling and most importantly listen to your body.

Can You Drink Water While Intermittent Fasting?

Drinking water is a must while intermittent fasting. It’s essential to remain adequately hydrated during the fasting period. Try to record the amount of water you drink to make sure you stay on track. 

One final warning: make sure any flavored water or sparkling water products you consume don’t contain ingredients that would break the fast, such as added sweeteners. 

Types of intermittent fasting

There are several different types of intermittent fasting. Most are broken up into a 24-hour cycle. However, there is another option that is based on days rather than hours.

If you’re interested in intermittent fasting, the following four options are a good place to start. Try out one of these methods and see if it works for you. If the first one you try doesn’t fit into your lifestyle, try something different! What works for one person might not work for another. 

Intermittent fasting 16 8

Intermittent fasting 16 8 is one of the more popular options for this diet style. This intermittent fasting schedule is set around the 24-hour cycle. For 16 hours, the person does not eat, and for 8 hours, they are free to eat. For example, if someone started their day with breakfast at 8 AM, they could have lunch at noon and dinner just before 4. After the 8 hours are up, however, there’s no eating on this plan. 

Intermittent fasting 20 4

With intermittent fasting 20 4, the window for eating is even more restrictive. In this plan, the person fasts for 20 hours a day, and the eating period lasts for only four hours. This plan might be appropriate for those that don’t enjoy eating during the early hours of the day. 

This is one of the trickier intermittent fasting plans to employ as there’s a very narrow window in which to get your needed nutrients in. After that, you can only consume small portions of raw fruits or veggies to get you through until the next day. 

Intermittent fasting 14 10

The intermittent fasting 14 10 plan is excellent for a beginner. This has one of the longest eating “windows” for the diet. On the 14 10 plan, a person fasts for 14 hours and eats within the other 10 hours. That means someone can start with breakfast at 8 AM and have their meals until 6 PM that evening.

This flexible plan could be the best option for someone giving intermittent fasting a try for the first time. If it doesn’t work for you, try the other hour-based options above or the weekly option below. 

5 2 Intermittent fasting

5 2 intermittent fasting is a little different than the other intermittent fasting plans outlined above. Unlike the 24 hour systems that divide fasting and eating into hourly windows, the 5 2 intermittent fasting method is broken up by days. For five days of the week, the person will eat normally. For the other two days of the week, the person will limit their diet to a small number of calories. Those other two days can include two meals of 250-300 calories. The 5 2 intermittent fasting diet is an excellent alternative to the hour-dependent intermittent fasting options that may work better for your schedule. 

Intermittent Fasting Pros and Cons

There are several pros and cons to intermittent fasting. Pros include the potential of weight loss and other overall health benefits. Those benefits could include lowered blood pressure and reduced inflammation, among others. 

However, there are some cons to intermittent fasting that are important to consider. Not everyone will achieve significant weight loss results. In fact, fasting can lead to overeating during “eating windows.” This, as well as returning to a regular diet after intermittent fasting, could increase the chance of weight gain. Additionally, restrictive eating behaviors can have a negative impact on a person’s mental health. For this reason, anyone with a history of an eating disorder shouldn’t consider intermittent fasting.

Another negative side effect of intermittent fasting, like all diets, is that it requires an adjustment period. People could experience things like headaches and nausea when they switch to intermittent fasting.

Does Intermittent Fasting Work?

Whether intermittent fasting works depends on your goal. If your goal is to lose weight, there is a very good chance that intermittent fasting will work for you. However, intermittent fasting can also lead to starve-binge behavior that can have a negative effect on one’s mentality surrounding food and even lead to weight gain.

Everyone’s health situation is unique so it’s important to discuss the pros and cons of intermittent fasting with your doctor before embarking on an intermittent fasting diet.

If you are new to fasting, it’s a good idea to start slow, perhaps with one of the types of intermittent fasting that has a shorter fasting window. For instance, consider a 10-hour or 12-hour fasting window, i.e., from 9 pm to 9 am. If this comes naturally to you, you can consider extending the fasting window an hour each week until you reach a window that feels comfortable for you and are seeing results.

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