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The basics of intermittent fasting

Fasting is the basic idea of not eating for a period of time – we already do it to some extent when we sleep. That’s why breakfast has its name. It’s breaking the ‘fast’ we had overnight. However, there are different ways of fasting, but here we’re focusing on just intermittent fasting (IF).

Intermittent fasting incorporates the idea of not eating for a period of time, but then eating normally between periods of fasting. The thing is, there are two types of intermittent fasting:

  • Shorter – this includes a daily eating window of 4-8 hours, and fasting for the rest (intermittent feeding).
  • Longer – this includes fasting for up to a whole 24 hour period, which is repeated only once or twice a week.

During fasting all food and drink with calories are discounted – you can drink green tea, water, or similar because they don’t contain calories. However, beware of some items like carbonated drinks. They may say they have zero calories, but they’re still not good for you to have during fasting periods.

What are the effects of IF?

With most dieting programs, the results do vary from person to person. This is due to a high range of factors that differ between people that can change the result significantly. The distinguishing features are insulin resistance, current body composition (body fat), daily lifestyle, diet and eating habits (and the ratios of major nutrients like fat, protein, and carbohydrates), and the extent of the person’s training.

With that in mind, the effects that IF can have on a person can include:

  • Lowers blood sugar and insulin levels, and increases glucose metabolism.
  • Increases fatty acid oxidation with increased FFA (Free Fatty Acid – the form fatty acids leave the cell to be transported for their purpose around the body).
  • Preserves muscle tissue.
  • Assists in preventing a variety of health issues, such as inflammation, high blood pressure, and oxidative stress.
  • Keeps your metabolism strong and healthy.

There are always pros and cons to different types of diets or health plans, however, so let’s take a look at them for both shorter and longer intermittent fasting methods.

Intermittent Feeding

16-20 Hour Fast with a 4-8 Hour Feeding Window


With shorter intermittent fasting, the eating schedule is a lot simpler and consistent, so it works if you like an easy routine to get used to, as well as helping you to ditch the concept of needing to eat all the time.

Instead of focusing on simply eating less, it focuses on making healthier choices when you eat and the importance of nutrients – for example, it encourages you to reduce snacking, which often includes a few unhealthier foods.

Furthermore, it causes less stress to the body for those who might have certain health concerns – especially ones around blood sugars – which can further help in preventing snacking and ditching the mentality of eating constantly. As a result, it can help you to focus on a good lifestyle and stress balance over all.


The main issues with this type of intermittent fasting come from not consuming enough calories generally. For example, it can cause a weight loss plateau if you’re not eating enough calories for a long period of time. Furthermore, if you require a high calorie intake for exercise and training needs, then this type of fasting isn’t suitable for you.


This type of intermittent fasting includes an eating window of 4-8 hours, where you should be eating clean and healthy food, ensuring that your body gets all the right nutrients. For example, you should have quality protein, healthier natural fats, high quality carbohydrates, and lots of fruit and vegetables.

One thing to remember is to listen to your body. If it’s telling you something, then you should listen – whether it’s good or bad. It could be that something is working really well, so keep going, but then it could also be a warning for you to stop doing something before you damage your body.

If you want to maximise your results, however, you should eat immediately after exercising and at the end of your fasting period.

Intermittent Fasting

24 Hour Fast a Couple of Times a Week


The longer version of intermittent fasting allows you to get a sufficient amount of calories on non-fasting days. You can eat relatively normally on eating days, but it should still be focused on healthier food options. In short, the better you eat then the better your results will be. In fact, this form of fasting can give you some great health benefits even if you do it as little as once a month.


The main issue with this form of intermittent fasting is that there’s still the chance of overeating after your fasting period, especially when there’s less of a focus on daily healthy food choices.

Furthermore, due to the longer fasting period, it’s not suitable if you have a high stress load, such as athletes, nor if you have metabolic or blood sugar health issues. As a result, it may not work for you if you have a very active lifestyle.


During this program, you fast for 24 hour periods a couple of times a week. The best time to do it is overnight, where the middle of the fast is while you’re asleep. For example, you could fast from 9pm until 9am.

However, due to the longer fasting window, it’s easier to overeat when you get the chance, so it’s a good idea to avoid that and focus on eating clean foods, so that you can get the best results you can. If you do exercise during this, it’s a good idea to exercise at the end of your fasting window, then eat straight away afterwards (so, maybe have a run at 8:30am, then have breakfast just after 9am).

Things to look out for

When it comes to breaking your fast, there’s always the chance you will overeat, so start by having a glass of warm water and mixing in some pure fruit juice. After that it’s a good idea to eat a fibre-rich meal, with a little protein and natural fat in there too. Salads are a good choice for this. Once you’ve done that, feel free to eat your higher protein or carbohydrate meals if you’d prefer to.

If you feel like intermittent fasting will work for you, then feel free to give it a go! However, if you are unsure, don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor or a dietician about whether it would be a good idea for you. They can also help you decide which method would suit your lifestyle the best. 

Primal Bite

  • Intermittent Fasting (IF) involves eating/fasting during a specified time
  • IF can be really great for your body by lowering insulin levels, improving metabolism, and preventing a variety of health issues.
  • There are different versions of IF, like shorter intermittent feeding (4-8 hour eating windows with 16-20 hour fasting periods), or longer intermittent fasting (24 hour fasting a couple of times a week).