The Different Types of Fasting
There are so many ways to approach fasting that it can appear daunting or confusing. Questions like which type of fasting you should try, what strategy is best for your health and wellness goals, and how to proceed with care are legitimate concerns.
If you’re curious about how fasting might work in your life or are interested in incorporating a different strategy for fasting into your existing health and wellness routine, keep reading.
What Is Fasting?
For anyone who has never practiced it before, fasting can be challenging. It is a method of restricting the time during which you consume food, alternating between eating periods and fasting periods. While some fasting methods allow you to eat during fasting days, others restrict caloric intake completely.
What Are the Benefits of Fasting?
There are innumerable benefits to fasting, ranging from digestive support to weight management. Not only does fasting help you bring an awareness of what, and how much, you are consuming, but it has some concrete benefits that support the healthy functioning of your body.
Potential Digestive Support
One of the most compelling aspects of a fasting diet is how it supports your digestive system. When you are fasting, the healthy bacteria in your gut outlasts the harmful bacteria.
Our Perfect Fast tea offers digestive and mood support while helping you make it through fasting days without breaking your fast. Created with ginger and turmeric, this tea can further support your digestive processes that are already bolstered by fasting.
Fasting gives your body a chance to reset, as opposed to being in a constant state of digestion. Combined with prioritizing foods high in protein and low in fat, fasting offers your body a break from continuously digesting.
As you bring attention to the times you consume food, your body will begin to adjust its appetite to your new routine. Appetite regulation is one of the more distinct (if not obvious) benefits of fasting, as restricting the times that you consume food helps train your body to eat when it’s actually hungry and not just out of boredom or habit.
With adult obesity at 41% in the United States, there’s a lot of emphasis on developing more mindful practices around eating and food consumption. Weight management is important because overeating can lead to a number of significant health problems that can develop into other, more serious complications down the road.
Fasting helps support weight management and weight loss efforts by boosting metabolic functioning and emphasizing calorie restriction throughout the week.
What Types of Fasting Exist?
With so many strategies for fasting currently, it can feel like an overwhelming process to figure out which is the best fit for your current lifestyle. Additionally, you’ll want to look for a fasting strategy that helps you move toward your health and wellness goals. Here are a few of the most popular types of intermittent fasting.
Alternate Day Fasting
Much like it sounds, alternate day fasting is an approach where you eat every other day of the week. It’s entirely up to you which days you decide to consume food or not — you can choose whether you want three or four days of fasting per week. On days that you designate “fasting” days, you refrain from eating entirely or decide upon a low-calorie diet. On non-fasting days, you can eat regularly.
Twice a Week Fasting
Twice a week fasting (5:2 method) is a manageable way to fast, particularly for those who haven’t tried fasting before. This method allows you to select two days of the week that you designate as days where your caloric intake is less than 500 calories. It is generally not recommended that you fast two days in a row, so be mindful of which days of the week might work best with your schedule and build out a fasting routine from there.
Eat Stop Eat Fasting
This fasting method is popular for its straightforwardness: you eat, stop (fast), and resume eating the next day.
How you curate this method within your lifestyle is up to you. Usually, however, people select two non-consecutive days per week for a full fast, with the other five days of the week centering on a healthy, regular eating window. If you are just starting, select two days that are at opposite ends of the week, with one potentially being a weekend day.
This method differs from twice a week fasting (the 5:2 method) because it has two fasting days without any food, as opposed to a limited caloric intake.
As one of the more flexible methods for fasting, time-restricted eating embraces daily eating during a specific window of time instead of fasting days and non-fasting days. Generally, time-restricted eating offers a window of time, for example, 10 am to 6 pm, during which regular eating occurs.
The time frame for fasting is generally larger than the eating time frame, breaking the day into around 8 hours of eating and 15 hours of fasting. While this method allows for daily eating, it constricts the hours in which you can consume calories.
Are There Risks Associated With Fasting?
As with any significant change in your lifestyle or diet, it is recommended that you consult with your healthcare team before making any transformations. Though fasting has not been shown to be harmful, it can pose some challenges or side effects to your lifestyle and routine if you have never fasted before.
Who Should Proceed With Caution?
Women should generally proceed with caution when it comes to fasting for a number of reasons. First, the effects of fasting on women are largely under-studied, so it's important to listen to your body.
Fasting can have an impact on a woman’s menstrual cycle and can potentially exacerbate premenstrual symptoms. Additionally, if you are pregnant, it is generally not recommended that you engage in fasting diets of any kind, as it may potentially impact the health of the pregnancy.
If you are taking medication for blood pressure or heart disease, or if you have other medical conditions, fasting may pose potential issues as well. With your electrolyte levels and blood sugar levels dropping on fasting days, if you take medication that requires solid food, fasting could interfere. Additionally, fasting may also not be the best fit if you have diabetes and need to regulate and monitor your blood sugar.
The Bottom Line
If you are thinking about introducing fasting into your weekly routine, or are in search of a new method, then any of the aforementioned strategies can offer a high-impact way to incorporate fasting. Whether you decide to restrict calories completely or reduce them on certain days, be mindful of your body and lifestyle demands, and figure out which fasting method might work best for you.
Is Intermittent Fasting Healthy? | Cedars-Sinai
Adult Obesity Facts | Overweight & Obesity | CDC.
Does Ramadan fasting has any effects on menstrual cycles? | PMC