Interested in intermittent fasting, but not sure where to start? A 16/8 intermittent fasting pattern is a great way to dip your toe into the world of intermittent fasting and experience many of its benefits.
On a 16/8 intermittent fasting plan, you fast for 16 hours per day and eat during the other 8 hours. This intermittent fasting pattern may be helpful for weight loss and metabolic health.
Here’s our guide to 16/8 intermittent fasting, how to get started, what to eat, and the potential benefits and downsides of intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting is a way of eating that includes set periods of fasting along with an “eating window” during which you eat all of your food for the day. There are nearly endless intermittent fasting patterns. Some of the most popular include:
- 16/8: 16-hour fast, 8-hour eating window
- 20/4: 20-hour fast, 4-hour eating window
- 18/6: 18-hour fast, 6-hour eating window
- OMAD: “one meal a day”
- 5/2: 5 days of no fasting, 2 full-day fasts (spread throughout the week)
16/8 intermittent fasting is considered a fairly easy and beginner-friendly fasting pattern, making it ideal if you’re new to intermittent fasting. All you do is simply fast for 16 hours each day, and eat within a set 8-hour period each day.
You can choose a fasting window that’s most convenient for you, too. You can adjust it to accommodate your work or school schedule if needed, and one of the best parts of this eating pattern is that about half of your fasting window passes by while you’re asleep.
Intermittent fasting doesn’t have any food rules. The only rule of intermittent fasting is that you stick to your fasting and eating windows.
Otherwise, you can technically eat whatever you want.
However, if your goal is weight loss or optimizing your health, you may want to set some parameters around your food choices.
While we are big fans of the ketogenic diet here at Perfect Keto, we realize it may not be right for everyone who’s on a 16/8 intermittent fasting program. Still, it’s important to focus mostly on whole, minimally processed foods.
Here’s a brief list of some of the nutritious, whole foods you may want to build your meals around:
- Meats: beef, chicken, pork, fish, shellfish, turkey, eggs
- Fats and oils: olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, butter, ghee, bacon fat, tallow, lard
- Nuts and seeds: almonds, peanuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, sesame seeds, pecans, walnuts, macadamia nuts, pistachios, etc.
- Legumes: chickpeas, beans, lentils, peas, etc.
- Grains: oats, rice, quinoa, corn, etc.
- Fruits: berries, apples, bananas, grapes, oranges, melon, dates, etc.
- Vegetables: spinach, zucchini, broccoli, tomatoes, avocado, salad greens, mustard greens, collard greens, cauliflower, carrots, turnips, etc.
- Dairy: plain Greek yogurt, milk, cheese, sour cream, kefir
- Other: bone broth, dark chocolate, honey, maple syrup, herbs, spices
Alternatively, if you want to follow a keto while intermittent fasting, check out our keto food list.
There are several potential benefits of intermittent fasting, and they’re not all weight-related either. 16/8 intermittent fasting may also help promote better metabolic health, reduce inflammation, and regulate your Circadian rhythm.
One of the major benefits of intermittent fasting is weight loss. Although it’s difficult to find studies on specific intermittent fasting patterns, such as 16:8, there is a fair amount of research on the benefits of intermittent fasting in general.
In a 2020 review that analyzed 27 different trials on intermittent fasting and weight loss, researchers found that every single intermittent fasting intervention resulted in weight loss. In these studies, participants lost anywhere from 0.8 to 13% of their body weight with no serious side effects. These researchers also noted that intermittent fasting was equally as effective as calorie counting for supporting weight loss (*).
Intermittent fasting may help you to naturally reduce your calorie intake, and there’s some evidence that it may also help regulate hunger hormones to reduce appetite (*).
In addition to weight, intermittent fasting may help optimize other facets of metabolic health — like blood glucose control.
“Metabolic switching” refers to your body’s ability to switch between burning carbs (glucose) and fat (ketones) for fuel. When your body is able to switch back and forth between these two energy sources as needed, this is a sign of metabolic health.
Intermittent fasting may support metabolic switching by providing fasting windows that allow you to burn through all of your stored glucose and begin burning fat, followed by eating windows that replenish your glucose stores (*).
Intermittent fasting may also help to improve insulin sensitivity. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar control and fat storage. Diseases such as type 2 diabetes and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) are linked to insulin resistance, so improving insulin sensitivity can help in the management of these conditions (*).
Intermittent fasting may also help reduce inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation is thought to be a driver of several different health conditions, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and more (*).
Therefore, the reduction of inflammation caused by intermittent fasting may be helpful in managing these conditions.
Circadian Rhythm Regulation
A 16/8 intermittent fasting pattern may be helpful for regulating your Circadian rhythm, or your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. According to some research, an eating window of 6-10 hours helps to bring meal timing in alignment with a natural Circadian rhythm of wakefulness during the day and sleeping in the night. Meal timing can have a large impact on sleep patterns because of the various hormones and processes involved in food digestion and absorption (*).
Potential Risks & Drawbacks of 16/8 Intermittent Fasting
However, there are some potential drawbacks to intermittent fasting. It can be restrictive, and a poor diet while intermittent fasting may also lead to gaps in your nutrition. Additionally, weight loss isn’t a guarantee while intermittent fasting.
Can Be Restrictive
Some people may find 16/8 intermittent fasting to be too restrictive. This can be particularly true if you’re used to eating three large meals per day, or if you’re used to eating at both morning and nighttime. If you are still interested in intermittent fasting, you can start with something more gentle like a 12/12 intermittent fast — which would be 12 hours of fasting and a 12-hour eating window.
May Lead to Nutrition Gaps
If you don’t plan balanced, nutritious meals while intermittent fasting, this could eventually lead to gaps in your nutrition or even nutrient deficiencies.
You don’t have to follow a perfect diet while intermittent fasting, but it is important to try to keep your meals healthy and balanced most of the time.
May Not Lead to Weight Loss
Finally, intermittent fasting doesn’t guarantee weight loss. If you’re eating large, calorie-rich meals, you may not experience weight loss while fasting. If weight loss is your goal, it will be important to track your meal intake while intermittent fasting to be sure you’re not inadvertently eating too many calories during your eating window.
Ready to get started? Here are a few tips to help you be successful with 16/8 intermittent fasting.
Make it Work for Your Schedule
16/8 intermittent fasting can be extremely flexible, so you can easily make it work around your life. For instance, if you like to eat breakfast when you wake up, you can simply start your eating window in the morning and then have an early dinner. Alternatively, if you prefer a late dinner, you can skip breakfast and then start your eating window around lunchtime.
Protein is key for feeling full, maintaining muscle mass, and regulating your appetite hormones. If you drop from three meals to two meals per day when you start intermittent fasting, it’s important to make sure that you’re getting enough protein at each meal.
This is as simple as making sure you have a piece of meat on your plate at each meal that’s at least the size of the palm of your hand. However, you may also want to calculate your protein needs and then track your protein intake to ensure that you’re getting enough.
Make Adjustments as Needed
Finally, there’s no need to be rigid and inflexible about your intermittent fasting plan. If a 15/7 or a 17/9 plan works better for your life, that’s totally OK. If you need to shift your eating window forward one hour because you’re starving towards the end of your fast, that’s OK too. It will be much easier to stick to intermittent fasting if you make it work for you.
Is intermittent fasting right for you? If you’re trying to lose weight, it may be a helpful tool. Additionally, 16/8 intermittent fasting is a very gentle fasting pattern that’s great for people who are new to fasting.
However, certain individuals should be cautious and seek medical advice before starting an intermittent fasting program. This includes people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, people with a history of disordered eating, and people who are underweight or who are trying to gain weight.
Additionally, fasting is not advised for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
How often should you do 16/8 intermittent fasting?
You can do 16/8 intermittent fasting continuously for as long as you’re comfortable with it.
Is 16/8 intermittent fasting good for weight loss?
It can be a great tool for weight loss. However, for weight loss success, you’ll still need to eat fewer calories than you burn each day. Choosing a nutritious, protein-rich, filling, and whole food-based diet like keto or paleo can help you accomplish this.
How long should you do 16/8 intermittent fasting to start seeing results?
The timeline for results with intermittent fasting can vary due to several factors. This includes your goal and reasons for intermittent fasting, your diet and how many calories you’re consuming each day, how much you’re exercising, pre-existing health conditions, age, and other lifestyle factors like sleep and stress levels.
16/8 intermittent fasting involves fasting for 16 hours each day and eating all of your food for the day during the other 8 hours. This is a flexible, beginner-friendly fasting plan that shares many of the benefits of more intensive fasting programs.
It can help promote weight loss, metabolic health, reduced inflammation, and Circadian rhythm regulation. Still, it’s important to plan healthy, balanced meals when fasting to ensure you’re getting enough protein and nutrients.
We think that 16/8 intermittent fasting is a great way to improve your health, especially when paired with a well-planned ketogenic diet.