It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of intermittent fasting for women, but I really only practice and recommend the leangains intermittent fasting approach, also known as the 16/8 schedule. In this blog post I’ll share how to do the intermittent fasting 16/8 schedule specifically!
I have a few blog posts that go over the other intermittent fasting schedules so you can choose which one is best for you as well as a recommended approach to take with intermittent fasting for women.
Intermittent Fasting Schedules Blog: https://www.fitactortravels.com/intermittent-fasting-schedule-for-women-how-to-do-intermittent-fasting/
Intermittent Fasting for Women Blog: https://www.fitactortravels.com/intermittent-fasting-for-women-my-top-tips-to-getting-started-safely
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What IS the Intermittent Fasting 16/8 Schedule?
This intermittent fasting eating schedule is arguably the most popular, and the one I personally use and exhibit in my Free Guide.
The 16/8 protocol simply means that in a 24 hour time period:
*You fast (don’t eat) for 16 hours
*You eat for 8 hours
Now, MOST people naturally fast for about 7-8 hours if they’re getting adequate sleep. So you’re essentially just adding 8 more hours to the front and back end of your sleeping schedule. I usually have my eating window fall between 12-8 PM when practicing intermittent fasting.
This method is also known as the Leangains protocol, and was made popular by Martin Berkhan.
I find this the easiest to follow, because you’re essentially just skipping breakfast. It’s appropriate for MOST lifestyles, and the only one I personally follow consistently. You can see MASSIVE results from the 16/8 leangains schedule and even see benefits from doing a 12-14 hour fast (especially for women) if you can't make it to the full 16 hours.
Who is the intermittent fasting 16/8 schedule for?
Women who already don’t eat breakfast
If you’re already not eating breakfast and used to skipping your first meal, then this way of eating could be really natural for you. The one thing I’ve found that most natural breakfast skippers don’t do, however, is stop eating after 8 hours. They tend to eat later into the night and don’t reap the benefits from intermittent fasting. I highly recommend trying this way of eating out if you already don’t like eating early in the morning. The only adjustment you’d have to make is cutting off your eating window after 8 hours of eating.
Women who like bigger meals
I am a freakin EAT BEAST, meaning I can eat a lot in one sitting and not be super full. I have a huge appetite, I LOVE food, and feel super satisfied after a big meal, which is why I LOVE intermittent fasting. If you are similar this could be a great method for you to lose fat (one of the main benefits of intermittent fasting for women).
Women who need to focus in the morning and don’t want to stop to eat
Stopping to eat every few hours when you’re in your peak concentration mode in the morning can be REAL annoying. I have found that I get my best work done first thing in the morning for about 4-5 hours and can almost be done with the majority of my work by my first meal. I am not pre-occupied by what I have to eat and how many times I have to stop to eat, and can bust out some quality work feeling very focused and clear headed. It’s hard to explain until you experience it, but I found myself way more on point with my to-do list and way more focused when I didn’t have to stop to eat in the morning.
Women who have busy jobs
If you have a crazy schedule and stopping to eat every few hours isn’t ideal for you, intermittent fasting can really come in handy. Maybe you have an early work shift and work from 7-2, you can start your eating window at 2 and end it at 10 before going to bed so that you don’t have to worry about stopping to eat at work or bringing food to work. Even if you have a busy 9-5 schedule you don’t have to worry about grabbing breakfast out the door or stopping for breakfast on the way and can focus hard until lunchtime and enjoy a nice meal to break your fast. While I know that the 6 smaller meals a day works for a lot of women (it’s worked me as well!), it isn’t necessarily ideal for a lot of women’s lifestyle long-term, and this method of eating can be a great go-to when you’re having those especially busy days.
What are the benefits of intermittent fasting for women using the 16/8 schedule?
Benefit #1: Fat Loss:
I lost 10lbs in 2016 (really in 2 months) and I truly credit it to intermittent fasting. My body composition totally changed, and I saw results faster and more importantly, they STAYED. This was a way of eating that I realized I could do permanently (until I become pregnant!) and I never felt like I was on a “diet” even though I was eating in a caloric deficit for a few months when trying to lose weight. I became the leanest I’ve ever been right before my wedding because of this and was eating more calories than I was the year before when practicing the 6 small meals a day model. I felt like I was eating FEASTS everyday and looking leaner and leaner and getting stronger and stronger. It was freakin fabulous–and I wanted everyone to know about it, which is why I started actively talking about it last year.
Benefit #2: Adherence To Diet/Keeps You Satisfied
The only things I changed about my diet in 2016 was implementing intermittent fasting and flexible dieting (counting macros) into my lifestyle, and for the first time in a long time, I felt in control of my food choices, I felt satisfied, and losing weight become easy and effortless.
*BTW if you need help with tracking your macros for weight-loss, you can get my Free Report here to help you calculate your starting macros.
When I was eating every 2-3 hours I was CONSTANTLY hungry. I ate just enough to satisfy myself, but then was hungry about an hour later. I knew I’d eat in a few hours, but I was CONSTANTLY thinking about my next meal because I wasn’t fully satisfied from the last one. I found myself “cheating” on my meal plan, and ended up eating more calories than I should have for fat loss. I also found the weekend’s almost impossible to handle and felt like I “fell off the wagon” every single weekend when I went out with friends or my husband. Without fail, ANYTIME I drank alcohol I’d come home and eat WAY too much, because I was so unsatisfied during the week. I personally found this style of eating super restrictive, and I always wanted more.
If you are like me, and LOVE big meals and feeling full (not stuffed and hurting) and satisfied after a meal, than intermittent fasting might be for you. When practicing intermittent fasting, I eat a large meal at 12PM and am satisfied and happy (and not distracted) for about 4 hours. If you don’t like big meals, and your stomach can only handle a little at a time (this is my mom to a “T”!) than intermittent fasting might not be for you, and that’s okay! It’s not going to be for everyone!
If you are trying to lose weight (or better yet, fat-don’t focus so much on the scale–that’s a whole OTHER blog post for another time!) and struggle to stick to your calories and macros for the day and find yourself always wanting to go over, one way in which you can stick to them more easily is by implementing an intermittent fasting schedule of eating. I went from barely being able to stick to my calories to easily sticking to them once I got the hang of intermittent fasting. Like anything else, it takes time.
Benefit #3: Increased Focus/Clarity
Before I started intermittent fasting I was eating 5-6 small meals a day starting with my first meal around 7AM and having my last meal around 8PM. I was eating all day, every few hours, and had to constantly stop to heat something up or cook something. This is extremely inconvenient (and almost impossible) if you don’t work from home or work for yourself. While I know a lot of people who love this way of eating and swear by it, I felt like my day revolved around food and found that I was constantly THINKING about food and distracted by what my next meal would be.
There are many benefits of intermittent fasting on the 16/8 schedule, but the #1 for me was increasing my FOCUS for work. I woke up roughly around 6 or 6:30AM most days and got my best work and writing done from 7:30 (after my morning routine) till about 12PM EST when I would break my fast. I wasn’t stopping to eat two times (like I would be doing the 6 small meals a day model), thinking about food, or interrupting my creativity flow. I was basically done with everything important I had to do by 12PM. 12PM! That’s crazy, and I think was one of the main reasons 2016 was the biggest growth year for me in terms of my business, monetarily.
Why do I recommend the intermittent fasting 16/8 schedule for women?
I’ll keep this short and simple: It helps you gain the benefits from intermittent fasting without going to extremes like the alternating day fasting and the eat stop eat schedules prescribe. You can read more about those in this blog post if you are curious, but I truly feel that the 16/8 intermittent fasting schedule is the most lifestyle approach I’ve come across. Both my one on one clients and I have found it super easy to stick to long-term, and that’s what it’s all about–making it a LIFESTYLE!
Commonly Asked Questions about Intermittent Fasting for Women
*Can I use any time period? Do I have to eat between 12-8 or can I move my intermittent fasting eating window?
YES! You can choose ANY 8 consecutive hour time period to receive the benefits of Intermittent Fasting. You don’t HAVE to eat between 12-8. One of my best friends, Rachel, usually eats between 7-3 because she gets up SUPER early and has a 4 year old son who keeps her insanely busy after 3PM. That works for her. It’s still Intermittent Fasting using a 16/8 schedule, but just a different block of time!
*Should I aim to eat LESS when I’m intermittent fasting?
NO! You should eat the same amount of calories and macronutrients you would eat in an entire day. You’re not eating LESS with Intermittent Fasting, you’re just CONDENSING it into a smaller time period.
*What can I drink and eat during those 16 hours?
Simply put, you aren’t supposed to eat anything during this time period. You’re also not supposed to drink anything caloric, but I’ve heard from many sources including Dr. Sara Solomon (a fasting guru), that if it’s under 50 calories it’s not truly breaking your fast, so I do have a tiny bit of creamer in my coffee every morning and call it a day 🙂 I still saw amazing benefits so something worked! I also drink BCAA’s during my fasting window that are zero calories to help keep me satiated and protect against muscle breakdown when doing fasted workouts. You can also drink any zero calorie beverages, and should drink lots of water.
*Is there anything specific I should be eating during my 8 hour eating window?
No! You can eat and drink whatever you want to, as long as it’s within this time period. This protocol doesn’t tell you WHAT to eat. If you need help with that, you can join a specific program or hire a coach to help you figure out what’s best for you and your body. I have a few spots open for my one on one mindset and nutrition coaching right now that you can apply for here if you’re needing guidance in this area <3
*What do I do if I’m super hungry and I’m not at my first meal time yet and it hasn’t been 16 hours?
EAT! This is something I get asked A LOT! If you wake up and are starving, do not push yourself to wait for your eating window to start. This style of eating should be making your life easier, not stressing you out or making you feel even more restricted.
*What if I can’t fit all my food into this time period and I’m stuffed?
Widen your window! I recommend stretching it one hour before and after your 8 hour time period so that you’re eating in a 10 hour time period. You’ll still get the benefits of intermittent fasting and not feel as restricted or full. You don’t want to be uncomfortable doing this type of eating, so do what makes you feel the best.
Tell me about you! Have you tried intermittent fasting? Which of these tips will you implement?
Megan Yelaney | Online Mindset + Health Coach, Author, Entrepreneur
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