16-8 Intermittent Fasting
We’re taking a deep dive into the 16-8 intermittent fasting method, taking a look at the benefits associated with it, who should do it, the potential risks associated with it, and even the type of meal plan you might want to follow to maximise the benefits associated with this method.
By Liv Surtees / Nov 03, 2023
There are a whole host of benefits associated with intermittent fasting, from weight loss and increased energy levels to even a longer lifespan.
The beauty of this dietary method? You’re not banning carbs for eternity, saying no to specific types of food, or juicing everything.
All you need to do is just eat between a specific timeframe and then fast for the rest of the time. For the 16-8 method, you fast for 16 hours and eat within an 8-hour window.
In this article we’re taking a deep dive into the 16-8 intermittent fasting method, taking a look at the benefits associated with it, who should do it, the potential risks associated with it, and even the type of meal plan you might want to follow to maximise the benefits associated with this method.
what is the 16-8 intermittent fasting method?
The 16-8 intermittent fasting method involves fasting for 16 hours and then eating within a time window of 8 hours. For example, if you have an eating window between 11am and 7pm, you will then fast from 7pm - 11am.
Throughout both the eating and fasting window, you can still drink water and other drinks that have 0 or very low calories, like coffee and tea.
This fasting method is the most popular, since it’s straightforward and the eating window is fairly big, in comparison to other methods which are more restrictive.
Plus, if you did choose eating and fasting windows like the above example, you’re sleeping for the majority of the fasting window, so it’s even easier to do!
Some people choose to use the 16-8 fasting method every single day and make it a part of their lifestyle, whilst others choose to use the method a few times a week - either way, it’s seen as a safe dietary method, as long as you’re consuming an adequate amount of food during the eating window.
what are the benefits of 16-8 intermittent fasting?
Unlike other types of fasting such as religious fasting, intermittent fasting methods, such as the 16-8 method, are practised because of the health benefits associated with it.
These benefits are pretty impressive and unlike other diets and fads, there’s research and a plethora of studies to back the claims up.
Let’s take a look at some of them.
Increased Weight Loss
The benefit that attracts most people to the 16-8 intermittent fasting method is the fact that it is supposed to increase weight loss.
There are two main reasons why the 16-8 method helps people lose weight.
The first is due to the fact that reducing the time that you can eat food helps some people reduce the calories they consume.
For example, if you’re someone who eats a lot of snacks after dinner in the evening, the 16-8 method might stop you from doing that, since your eating window will likely have come to an end when you have these cravings (if you optimise the method for your personal circumstances!).
The second is due to the fact that studies have shown that fasting can help your body burn fat. Fasting for short periods of time can help your body reach a state of ketosis, a metabolic process within your body that burns stored fat rather than glucose because it’s not available.
Regulated Blood Sugar Levels
Intermittent fasting can be effective when it comes to reducing insulin resistance and regulating blood sugar levels. The studies undertaken to research this have largely been conducted on people that have impaired glucose metabolisms, such as people with diabetes.
Regardless, studies do show that intermittent fasting does help to improve glucose metabolism and improve insulin resistance. Additionally, the fact that an intermittent fasting diet also helps people lose weight also supports improved insulin resistance and can help those with diabetes manage their symptoms.
For those without existing conditions such as diabetes, these benefits help to reduce the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes.
Reduced Oxidative Stress Levels
Oxidative stress breaks down cell tissues, causes DNA damage and inflammation, and due to this, can cause illnesses such as diabetes and cancer.
Studies have shown that intermittent fasting can help significantly to increase the body’s natural resistance to oxidative stress, meaning it lowers the risk of developing certain illnesses caused by DNA damage and inflammation.
There’s a need to be very careful when talking about intermittent fasting causing a longer lifespan. Firstly, due to the fact that it cannot obviously guarantee a longer life, but secondly due to the fact that the studies that back up this statement were all done using mice.
Although these specific studies did show that by using an intermittent fasting diet, the mice involved did live longer, we can’t assume that this is the same for humans.
So, whilst this claim might be true, make sure you take it with a pinch of salt.
should you try intermittent fasting?
Although this intermittent fasting method is the simplest and safest and whilst it might sound like it’s right for you, there are some people that should stay well away from intermittent fasting or consult medical advice before trying it.
People with existing medical conditions, those who have compromised immune systems or digestive problems, and those who are trying to conceive, pregnant, or breastfeeding should seek professional medical advice before trying a 16-8 intermittent fasting diet.
It’s also important to mention that if you’ve struggled with disordered eating in the past (or present), you might want to avoid intermittent fasting. The idea of having a time-restrictive diet and being on a “diet” in the first place may not be healthy for you.
If in doubt, if you’re worried about whether intermittent fasting is safe for you, don’t try it before doing your research and speaking to a medical professional.
Nutrition & Meal Ideas For Intermittent Fasting
Whilst there are no restrictions and rules around food on the 16-8 intermittent fasting diet, there are types of food that you should have and some you should be avoiding if you want to optimise the diet.
It’s important to note that we’re not focusing on weight loss, but rather how you can nourish yourself properly during your eating window to support your overall health and wellbeing.
In your eating window of 8 hours, you should be consuming nutrient-rich foods that support your overall health. This means getting the right amount of fruit, veggies, grains, protein, and fat.
However, there are two meals in this eating window that are the most important, in terms of what you have on your plate - your first and last meal.
Your First Meal
When you come out of your fasting window, it’s important that the first meal you eat is something that’s going to nourish you, but not overwhelm your digestive system.
The ideal meal would be something like: overnight oats (or standard oatmeal) made with protein powder, fresh fruit and chia seeds.
This helps re-fuel you, provides you with a tonne of essential nutrients, but isn’t heavy or processed.
Your Last Meal
Before you start your fast, you want to stock up on protein and carbs (complex carbs that provide slow-release energy) to make sure you’re sustained until you have your next meal.
Therefore, the ideal meal would be something like: salmon and broccoli (or if you’re vegetarian, tofu and legumes).
Generally, try to make sure that your diet is packed with fresh foods that provide you with lots of nutrients. Avoid heavily processed foods, lots of sugar, and unhealthy fats (saturated fats).
Plus, try not to snack excessively during the eating window and don’t try and eat more during this window because you’re going to be fasting: a lot of people fall into the trap of just consuming more (or nutrient-lacking foods) during their eating window and then get frustrated that they’re not reaping the benefits of intermittent fasting.
The 16-8 intermittent fasting method is popular around the world and has a handful of benefits associated with it - if you’re keen to give it a go, why not first try it once or twice a week? Record how you feel on these days and then follow the method more frequently if you experience positive results. If you’re a new 16-8 convert, that’s great!
However, it doesn’t mean that this method of eating is right for everyone. Restrictive eating, whether it’s time-frame or food focused, can be difficult for many of us, so if you think you’ll struggle with this method or it’ll trigger you into being negatively or hyper focused on food, it might not be for you.
Regardless of whether you choose to follow this method or not, make sure that you’re kind to yourself, you’re properly fuelling your body, and you’re mindful about your relationship with food.