From the 16:8 schedule to the 5:2 method, there are countless intermitting fasting schedules to fit your lifestyle – all of which have helped thousands of people lose weight and shred fat safely and effectively. This article will cover the 7 most popular intermittent fasting schedules for weight loss to help you choose the plan that works best for you.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Before we dive in, let’s briefly cover what intermittent fasting is NOT. Intermittent fasting is not a diet, but rather a pattern of eating. You aren’t changing what you eat, you’re changing when you eat. (Sounds pretty good so far, right?)
Fasting is not the same thing as starvation. Fasting is, and always has been, the willful restraint from food. It is a tool our ancestors have been using for centuries, but it wasn’t until fairly recently that our society began accepting it as an effective weight loss strategy. Naturally, the notion of fasting for weight loss has caused some people to draw parallels between fasting and eating disorders like anorexia, so it’s important to understand the difference between the two so we can collectively squash the stigma around fasting once and for all.
If you have an unhealthy relationship with food or a history of disordered eating, please consult with your health provider before adopting this or any new eating plan.
7 Most Popular Intermittent Diet Plans
At first glance, it might seem as if intermittent fasting is too rigid and restrictive, but the beauty of this flexible eating program is that you can tailor your plan to fit your specific needs and goals. Below are some of the most popular methods of intermittent fasting.
This is one of the more popular intermittent fasting schedules you’ll find online. The main idea of this plan is to eat normally for 5 days a week, and for the remaining two days you “fast” before resuming normal eating the following day. Unlike the other fasting methods, this plan allows for 500-600 calories on “fasting” days, making it a bit more adaptable for those who prefer not to go an entire 36 hours without food. If you chose to eat on “fast” days be sure to avoid sugars and starches.
As mentioned earlier, the goal is to stay in ketosis and avoid glucose spikes. By adding that extra night of sleep to your fast you allow for an additional 12 hours in the fasted “sweet spot” – maximizing your fasting days and turbocharging your body’s ability to burn fat longer.
Also known as the “skip breakfast” fast, this is the perfect fasting/feeding schedule for a beginner to follow. The fasting period is long enough to reap some of the health and weight loss benefit of fasting, while the eating window is also flexible enough to accommodate two full meals. Most people find skipping breakfast to be the least disruptive way to stretch their nighttime fasting period to 16 hours, but the goal is simply to consolidate all of your day’s meals into an eight-hour window.
- Easy for beginners
- Less disruptive than other methods
- Not the most effective for weight loss
- Fewer health benefits of fasting associated with longer (24+ hour) fasting schedules
💡 TIP: It can be tempting to turn to Google with questions like “when should I fast to lose weight,” but these details aren’t important right now. What matters is that you chose a schedule that fits your lifestyle. To put it more simply: pick a schedule you can stick to. If eating from 2 pm-10 pm feels the most natural, then, by all means, this is the eating period you should follow!
Choose Your Fasting Window(18:6, 20:4, etc)
Not only is this the most popular fasting technique, but it’s also one of the most flexible intermittent fasting schedules you can modify to fit your lifestyle. In this plan, you decide exactly how long of a feeding and fasting window you prefer.
Say you finish eating your last meal of the night at 6 pm, go to bed, then don’t begin eating again until noon the next day. This gives you 18 hours of fasting (6 pm-12 pm) and 6 hours of feeding (12 pm-6 pm) – so you would be following the 18:6 plan.
Alternatively, if you are just starting intermittent fasting for the first time and are used to eating from the moment you wake up until the moment you go to bed – let’s use 8 pm-8 am as an example – then you are naturally following a 12:12 fasting schedule. At this point, your goal would be to start shaving off some feeding time as you gradually condense your eating window by a couple of hours at a time.
Alternate Day Fasting
Alternative day fasting is just what it sounds like – fasting every other day with regular eating in between.
This schedule most resembles the 5:2 diet, but with an additional day of fasting added to the week. Like the 5:2 plan, the fasting periods during alternate day fasting are an entire 36 hours, making this among the stricter and more rigorous intermittent fasting schedules on this list. An example would look something like this:
💡 TIP: By starting your eating week on a Sunday, your fasting days will always fall on weekdays, in turn granting you a bit more freedom and flexibility on the weekends to eat as you please.
Psychologically, it can be a bit more difficult to follow this schedule – as it does involve going entire days without food – so you may find it easier to start with the modified version (below), which still allows for a full meal at least once per waking day.
Alternate Day Fasting (Modified Plan)
The modified version of this plan involves 24-hour fasts every other day as opposed to a full 36 hours. Many people prefer this schedule as the fasting periods are still long enough to provide you with many of the fasting benefits associated with the stricter programs, but not so long that you lose your sense of “normalcy” in your life as you mentally fight through full days without food.
In this modified plan, you would be fasting from Tuesday evening until Wednesday evening, as opposed to the significantly longer fast that would carry over until Thursday morning. There is one caveat to this modified plan, and if you want to see noticeable results it is important to follow this rule: your “fast” day meal should be no more than 500-600 calories, and must be free of alcohol, sugars, and starches. In other words, your “fast” day meal is not a cheat meal!)
This modified schedule is a great place to start as you begin fine-tuning your fasting schedule to fit your individual goals and needs.
Sample Schedule: (Modified) Alternate-Day Fasting:
Monday: Fast, then consume one 500-600 calorie dinner (avoid starches and sugars)
Wednesday: Fast, then consume one 500-600 calorie dinner (avoid starches and sugars)
Friday: Fast, then consume one 500-600 calorie dinner (avoid starches and sugars)
OMAD – (One Meal a Day)
This diet goes by many names, but you’ll often see it referred to as the OMAD diet, the Eat-Stop-Eat diet, or simply the 24-hour fast. As the name suggests, this eating plan involves eating just once per 24 hour period.
For those looking to lose weight fast, this plan is among the more rigid – but also one of the most effective – on this list.
One of the biggest issues with the OMAD schedule is the fact that you must fit all of your daily calories into a fairly narrow window, which can be fairly difficult to do in one sitting.
💡 TIP: Many OMAD fasters follow a schedule somewhere in between the OMAD diet and the 20:4 fast. This modified schedule allows you the opportunity to have a second “dinner” about an hour or two after you “break-fast”, while still not allowing any leeway for mindless snacking and boredom-fueled eating.
The Warrior Diet
The Warrior Diet is an eating plan made popular by fitness guru Ori Hofmekler that also incorporates a form of intermittent fasting. It involves eating a small portion of raw fruits and vegetables during your “fasting” period, followed by a four-hour feasting window at night.
One thing to keep in mind when considering a fasting plan like the Warrior Diet is that while the eating plan itself is healthy, it isn’t technically considered a “real” fast if you choose to eat outside of the designated feasting window. Alternatively, if you are someone who operates under an “all or nothing” mentality, you may actually find it easier to stick to a complete fast and keep thoughts of food out of sight and out of mind until it’s time to eat to full satiety.
Which Intermittent Fasting Schedule is Best for Me?
When it comes to choosing a successful intermittent fasting schedule, the key is to find a plan that you can stick to. At first, it may be uncomfortable to feel hunger pangs when you are used to feeding this sensation away. It may take you a couple of weeks to adapt and get familiar with this new feeling of hunger, but it really does get exponentially easier the longer you follow a fasting schedule.
For a more detailed overview of intermittent fasting for weight loss, this comprehensive beginner’s guide should cover many of your most frequently asked questions.