How My Intermittent Fasting Style Has Evolved Over The Years
Intermittent fasting is a wellness tool that I use both in my personal life and for patients at my telehealth functional medicine center. By going without food for a period of time, you are able to activate a lot of really cool health benefits like reduced disease risk, curbed cravings, increased longevity pathways, and lowered inflammation levels. It also allows time for your gut to rest from the process of digestion, which can be hard on those with chronic gut dysfunction.
My intermittent fasting routine has continued to evolve over my years of clinical experience, and I advocate for flexibility. In fact, there are many methods of intermittent fasting, and each individual needs to determine which is best for them.
As I have seen firsthand, not every season in your life is going to call for the same fasting practice. Heck, sometimes your fasting practice will change by the week. This flexible fasting approach is something that I explore in detail in my upcoming book, Intuitive Fasting. Before we dive into my own evolution with fasting, let's take a closer look at some of the most common fasting practices out there.
Types of fasting:
Beginner: The 8-6 Window Plan
Eating occurs between the hours of 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. This plan allows you to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner within normal hours while still getting 14 hours of uninterrupted fasting time in a day.
Intermediate: The 12-6 Window Plan
This plan is exactly the same as the beginner plan but with an added four hours of fasting time. You'll be getting a full 18 hours of fasting and only eat between 12 p.m. and 6 p.m., thereby skipping breakfast.
Intermediate: The Modified 2-Day Plan
You'll be eating clean (think vegetables, animal protein, and healthy fats) for five days of the week, and on the remaining two days, your calories will be restricted to no more than 700 calories.
High-Intermediate: The 5-2 Plan
Just like the above plan, you will be eating clean for five days of the week. However, the other two days you won't eat anything for 24 hours, and these days must be nonconsecutive. For example, you'll fast completely on Sunday and Wednesday.
Advanced: Every-Other-Day Plan
This plan is extremely simple. Alternate between days of eating and not eating.
OMAD stands for "One Meal A Day" and is a 23:1 fasting-to-eating window, which means fasting for 23 hours and eating all your food in just one hour. Normally this involves waiting until dinner to break your fast, but some people prefer to eat breakfast or lunch instead of dinner.
My fasting evolution.
Just as I advise most of my patients to do, when I first started to incorporate fasting into my wellness routine, I began with the 8-6 window plan. Since I had never restricted my food intake before, I knew it was going to be an adjustment.
Since I already was eating a clean ketotarian diet at that point, which complements intermittent fasting, it was a lot easier for me to quickly move up to more intensive fasting practices. Over time, I found what worked for me and my specific daily routine. I am a firm believer that there should be a grace and lightness to wellness. Fasting should be guided by intuition, so check in with your body.
How I currently fast.
I love doing OMAD when I am traveling for work. OMAD is an easy way to mitigate the health hazards of flying including jet lag and air pressure changes that can be hard on digestion. I stay hydrated with lots of water, and I love to sip on Earl Grey tea. Why this tea in particular? It contains bergamot oil, which has the polyphenol EGCG, shown to support autophagy (one of the benefits of intermittent fasting). I feel great on those days and enjoy it. Crazy, right? But I don't do it every day, and I have had many patients over the years who do well peppering their life with occasional OMAD days.
On other days when I am consulting patients, I typically do an 18-hour fast, eating between noon and 6 p.m., breaking my fast at lunchtime. But regardless of what fasting practice I am doing, I make sure to stay hydrated and sip on my Earl Grey tea.
Then there are other days when I eat three regular meals and don't fast at all. I make sure to listen to my body and any cues it gives me, which allows me to fast in a healthy and sustainable way.
Ultimately fasting shouldn't be stressful or miserable. The right way to fast is to do the type of fast that works for you and your body (which may also mean no fasting at all). You shouldn't have to force anything just because it's "supposed" to work. We are all different, and what works for one person doesn't always work for the next.
Will Cole, IFMCP, DNM, D.C., is a leading functional medicine expert who consults people around the world via webcam and locally in Pittsburgh. He has holds a level 2 Doctor of Natural Medicine (DNM) certification. Named one of the top 50 functional and integrative doctors in the nation, Cole specializes in clinically investigating underlying factors of chronic disease and customizing a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. He is also the host of the popular The Art Of Being Well podcast and bestselling author of Ketotarian, The Inflammation Spectrum, and the New York Times bestseller Intuitive Fasting.