If you're trying to lose weight but can't bear to say goodbye to your favorite foods, you might consider the 16:8 diet as an option. A form of intermittent fasting that limits your time period of food consumption each day, the 16:8 diet has become a popular alternative to eliminating foods or counting calories. And according to new research, this type of daily fasting actually works — if you do it right.
What is the 16:8 diet?
The 16:8 diet is named for its 16 hours of fasting and eight hours of feasting. For the time period when you're fasting, you can't eat any food and you're only allowed to drink water or calorie-free beverages. But during your hours of feasting, you can eat any type of food — and any quantity of food — that you want. Though it might sound a bit intimidating at first to go without food for 16 whole hours, it's worth remembering that you'll probably be spending about half of that time sleeping. As for the rest of the fasting time period, a new study with promising results might help you stay motivated.
How to Do the 16:8 Diet Correctly
In a June 2018 study published in Nutrition and Healthy Aging, researchers worked with 23 obese individuals with an average body mass index (BMI) of 35. For a period of 12 weeks, the participants ate whatever they wanted between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. But in the hours both before and after that specific timeframe, they only consumed water and calorie-free beverages. When compared to a matched historical control group from a previous weight loss trial, researchers discovered that this new group of people following the time-restricted eating schedule consumed fewer calories, lost weight, and reduced their blood pressure.
On average, participants ate about 350 fewer calories, lost approximately 3 percent of their body weight, and decreased their systolic blood pressure by about 7 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). And those benefits of intermittent fasting happened after just 12 weeks!
"The take-home message from this study is that there are options for weight loss that do not include calorie counting or eliminating certain foods," said Krista Varady, PhD, in a press release.
That said, it's worth keeping in mind that the people in the 16:8 fasting study followed the same schedule every single day for that period of 12 weeks. (No cheat days here!) If you decide to commit yourself to a daily fasting routine such as the 16:8 diet, you don't necessarily need to select the same feasting period of 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. that the study participants did. Some folks prefer 12 p.m. to 8 p.m., while others choose 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Figure out which time works best for you, and be sure to stick with it.
As tempting as it might be to fill those feasting hours with cookies, cake, and ice cream, you will probably get much better results if you opt for mostly healthy and whole foods. And remember, always get your doctor's OK before starting a new diet.
16:8 Intermittent Fasting Food List
If you've never tried intermittent fasting before, you're probably curious about what foods you should eat. It's best to plan your meals ahead of time before your 16:8 fasting period begins — after all, you don't want to struggle with those awful hunger pangs because you didn't fill up. John Zehren, author of the brand-new bestseller Z-FAST: A Simple, Proven Method of Intermittent Fasting ($9.99, Amazon), has a few tips to help you get started.
- Drink sparkling water. Zehren says, "Bubbly water helps fill you up, keeps you hydrated, and is a flavorful option."
- Eat protein-heavy meals. Opt for seasoned meats such as steaks, chicken breasts, barbecue tri-tip, or pork tenderloin. That said, try to steer clear of fully dressed hamburgers and heavy or sugary sauces.
- Spice up your foods. If you can take the heat, spicy foods can help you slow down when you eat. Some research shows that it might help boost the calories you burn. Zehren suggests going for Indian and Thai veggies — such as Thai lettuce wraps — to keep your dishes high in flavor, but low in calories.
- Plan ahead on the road or when eating out. Zehren suggests forgoing bread while eating out, but that doesn't mean you have to miss out on your favorite chains. He says, "For example, Jimmy Johns offers a lettuce wrap. My favorite is the Turkey Tom in a lettuce wrap. Fresh, fast, and flavorful."
Here are some delicious superfoods you can add to your feasting hours: