Did you know around 42.4% of American adults are obese? Obesity is becoming a serious concern in today’s fast-paced life as people can hardly manage time to pay attention to their health.
However, the good thing is that the awareness is increasing, and people are trying to find new ways to cut down those stubborn extra pounds. One such popular way is 18/6 intermittent fasting.
Why should you choose 18/6 over the more common 16/8 fasting pattern? Will it bring you tangible results? What food should you consider? This definitive guide has all the answers—read on!
The concept of 18/6 intermittent fasting derives from the decade-old intermittent fasting idea. Several health seekers have voted for intermittent fasting as it may help shed excess body weight, amplify brain capacity, reduce cravings, and boost immunity.
The typical 18/6 intermittent fasting pattern refers to time-restricted eating, and it is where you eat two full meals in six hours and fast for the rest of 18 hours. For example, if you are taking your first meal at 11 AM, you need to limit your daily calories to a six-hour window. Thus, you will have to eat your next meal by 5 PM.
After 5 PM, you won’t eat anything until 11 AM the next day. However, you can have water or beverages like tea (minus the sugar) or black coffee. Remember, your drink shouldn’t contain more than 50 calories.
If you plan to start 18/6 intermittent fasting, you should first build up to that timing in increments. Hence, you will have to understand the generic concept of intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting has managed to develop a following in the last decade.
The concept is the same; however, you can find numerous ways to follow it. They include 5/2, 16/8, alternate day fasting, 18/6, and the OMAD diet. Unlike other typical diet patterns, intermittent fasting revolves around timing.
As such, it prioritizes the ‘when to eat’ factor over ‘what to eat.’ The primary idea is to give your body a break from the round-the-clock job of digesting foods. This break eventually helps other reparative functions.
For example, you can get rid of brain fog and inflammation, or your focus can improve. According to some studies, intermittent fasting may help prevent the risk of obesity, cancer, and various metabolic diseases.
Now that you know how intermittent fasting works, it’s crucial to understand its benefits and determine why to choose it over other popular intermittent fasting patterns.
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The 18/6 method may help you obtain the results faster. Moreover, it may ensure long-lasting results. The idea is pretty simple – your body switches on a fasting mode for longer, allowing you to structure your eating schedule more strategically.
According to diet experts, the scariest metabolic pandemic of the present time is insulin resistance. Most Americans suffer moderate to severe levels of insulin resistance, which triggers many other chronic diseases. This includes comorbidities for virus-induced diseases like flu, COVID-19, etc. 18/6 intermittent fasting may somehow prevent or reverse insulin resistance.
The expected benefits of 18/6 intermittent fasting include the following.
Intermittent fasting is thought to effectively reduce oxidative stress by leveraging calorie restriction. This somehow prevents the development of metabolism-related complications, reducing the risk of obesity.
Insulin is the typical driving factor of fat accumulation. Your insulin production triggers throughout the day when you keep on eating. Too much insulin makes your cells resistant to the substance. Consequently, your body produces more insulin.
Intermittent fasting, however, helps improve insulin resistance. When you fast for 18 hours, your body gets an opportunity to rest. In addition, it allows insulin levels to drop significantly. Naturally, it leads to improved insulin sensitivity.
Usually, 18/6 intermittent fasting makes you eat fewer meals. So if you are not compensating your diet with extra meals, you are taking in fewer calories than usual. Naturally, it aids in fat loss. Intermittent fasting boosts hormone functions and facilitates weight loss.
The 18/6 pattern works in a two-dimensional way to balance the calorie equation. First, it boosts your metabolic rate, and next, it cuts down your food intake. Hence, you get rid of visceral fats.
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Intermittent fasting may help decrease your chances of developing cardiovascular diseases. Moreover, they can help regulate or lower bad cholesterol, a.k.a low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and triglycerides.
IF can also help lower blood pressure, inflammatory markers, and blood sugar levels. However, studies that confirm that said fact have been performed on animals. The effects of 18/6 fasting on cardiovascular health are needed to be verified by more illustrative human studies.
18/6 intermittent fasting may help optimize human growth hormone levels (HGH) by reducing body fat and suppressing insulin levels. Increased HGH levels aid in improved lipid metabolism and bone density and reduce fat accumulation.
Autophagy refers to the process of cellular waste removal in the human body. It flushes out cellular waste by breaking down the cells and metabolizing dysfunctional proteins. Intermittent fasting may improve autophagy, protecting against cancer and other neurodegenerative diseases.
Let’s face it—starving yourself for 18 long hours may look pretty challenging. For beginners, following the six-hour eating window may look like an impossible job.
However, once you get the correct method of practicing intermittent fasting, you will find it easy. Here’s how you should gradually put yourself in 18/6 IF.
Don’t jump for a straight 18 hours of fasting directly. Instead, begin with a 12/12 fasting pattern. For example, you can fast from 7 PM to 7 AM and eat between 7 AM to 7 PM. You can easily accommodate three meals in this window, maintaining a clear four-hour gap. However, there’s no room for snacks or extra beverages.
If you can continue 12/12 IF for at least 15 days, it’s time to restructure your fasting window. Ideally, it would be best if you switched to a branch fast of 14/10, where you can increase the gap between meals and have two meals and one snack. Continue this routine for 15 days, then switch to 16/8 IF. Finally, in 45 days, you will probably be able to prepare your body for 18/6 fasting.
Now that you have switched to 18/6 IF, carefully monitor your body’s response to the diet pattern. You shouldn’t feel weak or tired. Moreover, you shouldn’t experience a lack of motivation.
If everything goes well, you can continue 18/6 IF. However, it’s highly recommended to alter your fast-to-feeding window occasionally.
Contrary to popular belief, you can’t eat anything because you are fasting for 18 hours. You still must follow a balanced diet when following an 18/6 IF routine. You should monitor your calorie intake to obtain the expected results.
Following are the nutrients you must consider when practicing 18/6 IF.
A healthy diet goes incomplete without leafy greens. Low in calories, these superfoods pack vitamins A, B2, B6, B3, B9, K, and E. In addition, they are a trusted source of beta carotene. Thus, enrich your plate with spinach, kale, etc.
Include unsaturated fats in your diet. You can turn to avocados, nuts, fish, olive oil, etc. Fish packs several essential vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids. While you can eat any fish, trout and tunas would be the best pick because of their high omega-3 content.
If you are eating less, you should be more careful about your protein intake. You can bet on beef, lamb, pork, and chicken when it comes to enriching your diet with animal proteins.
Pork is loaded with 14 essential vitamins, loads of healthy fats, and a hefty amount of protein. On the other hand, lean cuts of lamb or beef could be the ideal 18/6 fasting menu. They are rich in healthy fats, vitamins, and proteins.
Ensure you take sufficient amounts of plant protein, like lentils or seeds. They are rich in fiber which is good for the gut. Moreover, they contain loads of essential vitamins and minerals.
Cruciferous veggies are well-admired for their nutrient density. As such, they are high in vitamins, beta-carotene, water, and fiber. Thus, include cabbages, broccolis, cauliflowers, sprouts, etc., in your diet.
Eggs are known as an overall healthy food. They nourish your body with adequate amounts of vitamins and proteins. However, eggs are rich in saturated fat. Thus, don’t consume more than two.
Mushrooms are low in calories and carbs. Besides, they are packed with B vitamins and vitamin D.
Nuts pack sufficient healthy fats. Moreover, they contain a good amount of protein, vitamins, and fiber. While they can increase your caloric intake a little, they are ideal for snacking. You can include a moderate amount of walnuts, almonds, or cashews in your daily diet.
Besides the alternatives mentioned above, you should drink a lot of water. Besides, you should carefully monitor how many calories you take in a day. Remember, excessive calorie intake will ruin the primary goal of 18/6 IF. Thus, eat sensibly and allow your body to lose weight healthily.
Everything about intermittent fasting is not rosy. While there are several benefits, you should also know about the downsides. Let’s walk you through them!
The 18/6 IF is safe for those who have a normal metabolism. However, if you have elevated blood glucose or type 2 diabetes, blood pressure, or a history of eating disorders, you should avoid this diet plan. Besides, underweight people shouldn’t try 18/6.
Most importantly, if you are on heart health medication or blood thinners, you should avoid intermittent fasting.
To conclude, 18/6 intermittent fasting may help you combat excessive weight gain. Besides, it may help you cut down already gained pounds. However, when following an intermittent fasting diet plan, always consume healthy food and maintain a balanced diet.
If you feel unwell after putting yourself on an 18/6 regime, consult your doctor immediately.