The 16/8 method of fasting relies on following a daily schedule of eating and not eating. There is no “right” schedule to receive maximum benefits. The best intermittent fasting schedule is one that fits easily into your life to ensure long-term commitment and success.
The best time to fast is the time of day that best fits into your schedule. It is that simple.
There are many intermittent fasting methods to choose from – Alternate Day Fasting, 5:2, OMAD, Eat Stop Eat, Prolonged Fasting, to name a few. This article will focus on the 16/8 method and choosing a schedule that is best for you.
If new to intermittent fasting, the 16/8 method is a good starting place. Choose 16 hours of the day to fast and 8 hours of the day to feast. You can consume a few items such as black coffee, green tea, and water during the fasting time. During the eating window, you choose the food and quantity to eat.
The circadian system is the body's natural cycle that rises and falls during the 24-hour day. The circadian rhythm is most known for regulating the sleep/wake cycle, but it also affects other natural patterns of the body (1).
The circadian system regulates hunger and appetite separate from the sleep/wake cycle, how long since last eaten, and calories consumed. At 8 pm, the body's hunger level is around its highest, and at 8 am, its lowest despite the overnight fast while sleeping (2).
Society has ingrained in us that "breakfast is the most important meal of the day." But the truth is when we wake up and eat, it is habitual, not necessarily what is best for our body.
Hormones, sleep schedules, and digestion may impact the circadian hunger rhythm (2).
After a few weeks of intermittent fasting, the body has acclimated to the new 16/8 eating pattern. Depending on various factors, it switches from burning sugar/carbs for fuel to burning stored fat for energy around the 16-hour mark.
In the morning, it has often been 12 hours since the last meal and the body’s natural hunger rhythm is at its lowest. If you wait to eat a few more hours before consuming anything, you allow the body time to burn fat. In return, you will receive weight loss and non-scale victories, including reaping the anti-aging and decreased inflammation benefits of autophagy.
Syncing up your intermittent fasting schedule with the body's natural hunger rhythm requires paying attention to the body's signals. Listening to these signs can help you extend your fast and lead to healthier food choices.
Typically, people choose an 11 am-7 pm, 12 pm-8 pm, 1 pm-9 pm time for their eating window, but this varies for shift workers and those who prefer to eat at earlier or later times during the day. There is no definitive time that produces better intermittent fasting results.
During the 8-hour eating window, people will often eat 1-2 meals and snacks, but that varies from person to person.
Deciding what your 16/8 schedule will look like will depend on factors such as:
Grab a piece of paper and quickly draw a 24-hour clock to figure out your ideal 16/8 schedule quickly. You can adjust the schedule daily to accommodate any changes to your plan. Changing your schedule too often might minimize the benefits of the 16/8 method.
There is no "perfect" schedule of fasting and feasting for the 16/8 method of intermittent fasting. Consider the body's natural hunger rhythm and other factors that will help you decide the best intermittent fasting schedule for your life and desired results. Taking the time to figure out your daily feasting/fasting schedule will increase your confidence and the likelihood of sticking with your new program. Plan your work - then work your plan.
Stay hydrated, reduce caffeine slowly, and consume plenty of calories, with an emphasis on healthy fats, to prevent headaches while fasting.
Intermittent fasting windows differ in length and timing. Read on to learn about how to find the right fasting window.