Think fast

5 popular intermittent fasting methods and how they work

Here’s what they do to your body.


Supporters of various intermittent fasting techniques swear by their method for everything from weight loss to cardiovascular health (though both of those claims are still being examined by scientists).

But is there really a difference between methods like alternate day fasting, 5:2, and 16:8?

Here’s what studies have to say about 5 intermittent fasting methods:

But wait — intermittent fasting isn’t for everyone. Before making a major lifestyle change, you should talk to your doctor.

Okay — now back to the list.

#5. 16:8

Eating within an 8 hour window daily and no eating in the other 16.

Studies suggest modest weight loss in middle-aged adults on this eating pattern over the course of 8 weeks and a decrease in fat mass in athletes.

Ultimately, 16:8 may offer any slight advantages to eating normally throughout the day, but more research is needed.

#4. 5:2

Eat normally 5 days a week and eat less food 2 days a week.

People with diabetes who tried this routine versus continuous calorie restriction saw comparable control over their blood sugar and similar weight changes.

This and other studies suggest a 5:2 diet is a good alternative to traditional “eat fewer calories overall” diets.

#3. Alternate day fasting

This is just what it sounds like: abstain from eating every other day.

A 2016 review on studies of alternate day fasting day suggests it might be easier and more effective for fat mass loss than traditional calorie restriction.

#2. Eat stop eat

Fast once or twice a week for 24 hours.


Periodic fasting is similar to 5:2 but requires complete abstinence from food on two days.

The American Heart Association found this method less effective than alternate-day fasting for weight loss, but more studies need to be conducted overall.

This method allows small meals of fruits or vegetables in the day and then one large meal at night.

This method has been researched less, but a 2009 study on eating one meal a day found that, compared to the same amount throughout the day, one meal reduced fat mass but increased blood pressure and hunger.

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