Having first learned about intermittent fasting four or five years ago, I know that the different types of intermittent fasting schedules can be confusing. In fact, I think this is part of what kept me from trying it for so long.
How was I going to pick the intermittent fasting schedule that was right for me? Which intermittent fasting schedule is the best one to follow? Which intermittent fasting schedule will help me lose weight and finally get healthy?
I really can’t answer those questions for you, as it really is going to vary by individual. In fact, I’m still figuring out the answer to some of those questions for myself!
I can, however, share with you what I’ve learned about the different intermittent fasting schedules over the past few years.
* Please note that I am not a health or medical professional. All of the information contained within this blog are based on my own experience and research, and should not be taken as medical advice. Please consult with your own health or medical professional before starting any new weight loss, health or fitness program.
I would categorize the intermittent fasting schedules in to two main types. There’s a schedule with a daily eating window or an alternate day fasting schedule with some fasting days and some normal eating days.
The main thing these intermittent fasting schedules have in common is that there is a period of fasting followed by a period of feasting.
Alternate Day Fasting
I’ll start with the second type, the schedule that involves some fasting days and some normal eating days, often referred to as alternate day fasting.
I would dare say the most popular method of this type of intermittent fasting schedule is known as the 5:2 diet.
This is an eating pattern where you eat normally for five days and then fast for two days out of the week.
The two days of fasting can be full fasts or you may consume up to 500 calories.
I tried this method a few years ago, and I actually found it much easier to stick to when I did the full fasts, but at least weight loss wise I’m not sure if there’s any benefit either way. Experiment and see what works for you.
Eat Stop Eat, 4:3 and ADF
Other fasting protocols I would include in this category are the Eat, Stop, Eat method where you fast for 24 hours once or twice a week.
For example you could stop eating after dinner on Monday evening at 7pm and then start eating the next day at 7pm and then do this once more during the week.
The 4:3 method is where you have three fasting days a week and four normal eating days.
For example you would fast Monday Wednesday and Friday and eat normally on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.
The final type of intermittent fasting schedule I would include in this category is true alternate day fasting where you eat normally one day and fast the next.
For example you would fast Monday, eat Tuesday, fast Wednesday, eat Thursday, fast Friday, eat Saturday, fast on Sunday and eat on Monday.
Like the 5:2 method I mentioned above, the fasting days in these last two methods can include up to 500 calories or be total fasts if you wish.
I’ve personally never had any experience with the last three methods, since I found the 5:2 diet to be challenging enough.
Now that I’ve had a lot more intermittent fasting experience though, I think I would like to experiment at some point, possibly if I reach a plateau or if I find it fits better into my lifestyle.
Knowing how my weekends tend to go, I think 4:3 with fasting days on Monday, Wednesday and Friday might be a great intermittent fasting schedule to fit into my lifestyle, since it would give me more freedom with my eating on Saturdays and Sundays.
Daily Eating Windows
There are also several different methods of the daily eating window type of intermittent fasting schedule.
Basically, this method means that every day you have a certain number of fasting hours and a certain number of eating hours, also known as an eating window.
Honestly, you could really do this any way that you want to. If you’re just starting out and you want to try a 12 hour fast followed by a 12 hour eating window, go for it! This could mean you eat from 8am to 8pm and then fast again until 8am.
While it may not give you the results and benefits of some of the longer fasting protocols, it’s certainly worth a try if you’ve never really fasted before. You can always extend your fast later!
16/8 Intermittent Fasting
Probably the most popular method of the eating window type of intermittent fasting schedule is known as the 16/8 method.
This is where you fast for 16 hours (say from 8pm until 12pm) and then eat for 8 hours (12pm until 8pm). Those times are just examples, your fasting time and eating window can be at any time that works best for you.
You can even switch it up from day to day if that’s what best fits your individual schedule.
Many people find they need to fast longer than 16 hours if the really want to lose weight. This has been my own experience, although I do normally follow close to a 16/8 pattern on the weekends.
18/6, 19/5 and 20/4
Other popular eating window methods include: 18/6 where you fast for 18 hours (say from 8pm until 2pm) and then feast for 6 hours (from 2pm-8pm); 19/5 where you fast for 19 hours (say from 10pm until 5pm) and then eat for 5 hours (from 5pm until 10pm); and 20/4 where you fast for 20 hours (say from 7pm until 3pm) and then feast for 4 hours (3pm until 7pm).
You can fast and then feast for any amount of time that works with your schedule and that you find results with, all the way up to a 23/1 method where you fast for 23 hours and eat for 1 hour.
A term that you might have heard while researching intermittent fasting schedules is OMAD or One Meal a Day. Some people consider this to be the 23/1 method I mentioned above where your entire meal is eaten within a one hour window.
Other people are more flexible and consider OMAD to be any eating window you want, as long as you are only consuming one main meal. That meal may include an appetizer, a main course and then a dessert, but it’s still just one real meal a day.
I follow what I would consider OMAD throughout the week, and to be honest what that means for me varies from day to day based on what I feel my body needs.
Some days I easily fast for 23 hours and then consume my one main meal and I’m done for the day.
Other days I open my eating window after a 19 hour fast with a snack, then a couple of hours later eat my main meal and finish it off with dessert and a coffee.
Do what works for you
While I’ve read some research that suggests an alternate day fasting schedule might be better for weight loss, especially for women, my opinion is that the best intermittent fasting schedule is the one that you can stick with for the long term.
There’s no harm with experimenting with different intermittent fasting schedules until you find one that works for you and your lifestyle.
As I said before, you can always change it up if you find you’re not meeting your goals, if your lifestyle changes, or even just if you feel like experimenting!
Do you have any questions about the different types of intermittent fasting schedules? Ask me in the comments below, and I will do my very best to answer them for you. 😊