Intermittent fasting (IF) has many benefits for women over 50, preventing a variety of age-related illnesses and helping with weight loss. Intermittent fasting refers to a number of different diets, all of which involve fasting windows and feeding windows. There are a wide variety of recommended intermittent fasting schedules. Some require restricting calories on certain days, while others involve shortening calorie intake windows every day. Read on to learn more about the most popular intermittent fasting schedules in order to choose the one that’s best for you. 

Intermittent Fasting Benefits

Intermittent fasting is proven to result in weight loss. Studies have also shown that it reduces inflammation, improves memory function, and reduces markers of disease. Experts still don’t have conclusive evidence on why intermittent fasting works. However, the most popular theory suggests that when we fast, our cells experience stress and, over time, adapt to better fight disease. Some intermittent fasting schedules are based on the idea that when you fast for a set period of time, your body looks for energy in your existing fat cells. 

While intermittent fasting sometimes requires that you monitor calorie intake, it offers plenty of flexibility when it comes to the types of food you eat. Intermittent fasting pairs well with vegan, paleo, ketogenic, and low-fat diets. 

Eating wisely with fish, veggies, fruits, and nuts.

The 12:12 Intermittent Fasting Schedule

If you’re new to intermittent fasting, consider starting with a 12:12 intermittent fasting schedule. This is the simplest method to follow, as it simply involves fasting for 12 hours between dinner and breakfast the next morning. For example, finish dinner by 8 pm and don’t eat breakfast until 8 am the following day. Many intermittent fasters consider this an introductory intermittent fasting schedule, and while it may curb post-dinner snacking, a longer fasting gap may be necessary to see results. 

The 16:8 Intermittent Fasting Schedule

The 16:8 schedule is one of the most popular intermittent fasting schedules. It balances ease with effectiveness, making it a great choice for those who are new to IF. Swedish nutritionist Martin Berkhan popularized this method, which involves an eight-hour eating window and a 16-hour fast each day. Most people achieve this by fasting between dinner and breakfast or lunch the next day. Early risers, for example, may choose to fast between 5 pm and 9 am. Those who prefer a later dinner may fast from 8 pm to 12 pm. Essentially, the 16:8 IF schedule can be achieved by avoiding post-dinner eating or skipping breakfast the following day. 

One study found that following a 16:8 feeding schedule reduced obesity, inflammation, diabetes, and liver disease, even when total calorie intake remained the same. Some recommend altering the 16:8 schedule for women to a 14:10 schedule. 

Intermittent fasting schedule

The 20:4 Intermittent Fasting Schedule

Also known as the Warrior Diet, this intermittent fasting schedule is one of the most extreme and difficult to maintain. Ori Hofmekler is considered the inventor of this concept, which he introduced in the early 2000s. It involves shortening your daily eating window to just four hours and fasting for the remaining 20 hours of the day.

Proponents of the Warrior Diet advocate eating a single large meal in the evening in an effort to match nutrient intake with the body’s natural circadian rhythms. While this meal should be high in calories, it should also be nutrient-dense and include plenty of protein and healthy fats. Binging on junk food at the end of the day likely won’t have positive results. During the daily 20-hour fast, many people opt to consume some low-calorie foods like raw fruits and vegetables, making the diet more manageable. 

The 5:2 Intermittent Fasting Schedule

The 5:2 intermittent fasting schedule involves eating a regular amount of calories—an average of 2000 for women or 2400 for men—five days a week and reducing calorie consumption two days per week. On fasting days, women should eat no more than 500 calories while men should eat no more than 600. These calories can be consumed in a single meal or spread out throughout the day. It’s advised to spread fasting days throughout the week. Be sure to always have one non-fasting day between fasting days. This schedule is tricky to stick to because it’s important not to splurge on non-fasting days. On fasting days, it’s important to drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration. 

A small study found that women following a 5:2 intermittent fasting schedule lost eight percent of their body weight in just one month. They did, however, regain the weight quickly if they did not maintain the schedule long-term. 

Weekly 24-Hour Fasting

A weekly 24-hour fast may be more manageable for some, as it allows you to eat on a regular schedule for the majority of the week. Most people allow themselves zero-calorie beverages like water, tea, and coffee—without cream, milk, or sugar—during the fasting period. Consider fasting for 24 hours from dinner to dinner or breakfast to breakfast so that you’re still eating one meal each day. Some may opt to have two 24-hour fast days per week rather than just one. 

While some prefer to have their fast day during the week, others may find that fasting all day has a negative impact on their focus and work performance.  It may be easier for some to fast on the weekend when they’re able to simply relax. When fasting for a full 24 hours, expect to potentially experience some negative side effects like headaches and irritability. These side effects will likely subside when your body becomes accustomed to the change. 

Alternate-Day Fasting

One of the most extreme intermittent fasting schedules is alternate-day fasting. Some people fast completely every other day, only consuming zero-calorie liquids. This is referred to as complete alternate-day fasting. Others give themselves a small calorie allowance of around 500 calories to make the regimen more achievable. This method is called modified alternate-day fasting.

A study found that alternate-day fasting resulted in both weight loss and positive cardiovascular impact for individuals regardless of their starting weight. Participants consumed a 25 percent calorie intake on fast days. On average, they lost more than 11 pounds over a 12-week period.  

Intermittent Fasting Tips

The following tips will help on your intermittent fasting journey.

  • It’s important to know that intermittent fasting still requires healthy eating. You won’t likely see results if you binge on junk food during your eating windows. The food you consume during your eating windows should still be nutritious and balance macronutrients and micronutrients.
  • Allow yourself zero-calorie beverages during fast periods. Water, seltzer, coffee, and tea make you feel full and keep you hydrated.
  • Avoid strenuous exercise on fast days. Opt for walking or yoga to conserve energy.
  • The best diet is the one you can stick to. Pick an intermittent fasting schedule that is realistic and achievable. 
  • If you feel intimidated by the idea of Intermittent Fasting, consider trying ProLon’s 5-day plan, which is a fast with food. You can also try adding FastBars to your daily routine to help ease into the fasting lifestyle. You can learn more about both here

Now that you know more about the different intermittent fasting schedules read about the most common mistakes beginners make when they start IF. 

Want to give intermittent fasting a try? Take a look at Prime Women’s PLATE program. The app takes the guesswork out of how much you should be eating and allows you to change your meal times as gradually as you wish with reminders to start your fast. Now available in an app on Apple or Android.

Read Next:

The Key to Weight Loss and Longevity

How to Break A Weight Loss Plateau


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