Fasting is an ancient custom that has been followed by people for several millennia. It probably is the one thing that is common across cultures and religions across the world.

People do fasting for both religious purposes and health benefits. Today’s modern-day and age have put several interesting twists to this ancient custom.

The 16:8 intermittent fasting is one of the most popular fasting methods followed by celebrities, Silicon Valley moguls, social thinkers, and social media influencers, etc.

So what is 16:8 intermittent fasting

The 16:8 Fasting

The 16:8 intermittent fasting, also called Leangains Protocol, was popularized by Martin Berkhan, a fitness expert.

The 16: 8 intermittent fasting method involves restricting the eating window to only 8 – 10 hours and fasting for the remaining 14 - 16 hours. Within the 8 to 10-hour eating window, you can have 2, 3, or even more meals.

Following a 16:8 method is very simple as it involves skipping breakfast and not eating anything after dinner. For instance, if you have your last meal around 8 pm and the next meal is in the afternoon, then you are technically fasting.

For women, the timing is restricted to around 14 to 15 hours as women have to been found to respond quickly to shorter fasting times.

During the fast period, you can have water, tea, coffee, and any non-caloric beverage, which helps in addressing the hunger pangs.

A thing to keep in mind in the 16:8 fasting method is that you should primarily have healthy foods during the eating window. You are not allowed to excess calories or eat junk food as it will negate the benefits of the fasting.

Benefits of 16:8 Intermittent Fasting

There are several benefits of undergoing intermittent fasting. We will have a look at some of them.

1. Changing hormones, gene expression, and cell repair

Several important functions happen when you are fasting. Some of the major changes that happen are:
  • Increased blood levels of HGH (human growth hormones)
  • The body induces cellular processes such as flushing out the waste from the body
  • Insulin level drops which facilitate fat burning
  • Several beneficial changes happen to genes and molecules that are related to longevity

2. Helps in losing weight and belly fat

One of the benefits of intermittent fasting is losing that sticky weight. Less intake of food means a lesser intake of calories.

The 16:8 intermittent fasting helps reducing insulin levels, increases amount of norepinephrine and increased growth hormone levels which helps in breaking down the fat and using it for energy.

This type of fasting also helps in reducing the waist circumference, which means there is a reduction in belly fat which is a dangerous fat present in the abdominal cavity and results in various diseases.

3. Reduces insulin resistance reducing chances of contracting type 2 diabetes

Intermittent fasting has been shown to reduce insulin resistance, which helps in lowering the blood sugar and provide protection from type 2 diabetes.

Several studies show that intermittent fasting can reduce fasting blood sugar by nearly 6%. A study conducted on diabetic rats showed that intermittent fasting prevented kidney damage; one of the major complications of diabetes.

4. Reduce oxidative stress and inflammation

Oxidative stress leads to quick aging and several chronic diseases. The 16:8 intermittent fasting has been shown to increase the body’s resistance towards this.

It has also been found useful in battling inflammation, a common reason for several diseases.

5. Induces Cellular Repair

This type of intermittent fasting is known to induce autophagy, a cellular waste removal process.

Increased autophagy might help in protecting from several diseases like Alzheimer’s and cancer.

6. Good For Brain

The 16:8 intermittent fasting has been proved to improve several metabolic features that are important for a healthy brain.

It is also known to increase the levels of the BDNF, whose deficiency has been related to depression and other problems associated with the brain.

7. Improves lifespan

Though evidence of 16:8 increasing longevity is not enough in humans, studies have shown that it helped increase the longevity in the rats used in the study.

Drawbacks of 16: 8 Intermittent Fasting

This type of fasting has several benefits, but there are also associated risks and might not be suitable for everyone.

Eating more

Restricting the intake of food to only eight hours can make some people eat more and even do binge eating to make up for the fasting period. This negates the whole purpose of fasting.

This can result in the development of digestive problems as well as unhealthy eating habits and also weight gain.

Short term side effects

This type of intermittent fasting can cause fatigue, weakness, and hunger when you first start it. This, however, gets resolved once you settle into a routine.

Affects men and women differently

The benefits of 16:8 intermittent fasting vary in men and women. Animal studies have shown that it can affect fertility as well as reproduction in women.

More studies, however, are required to evaluate this in humans.

The Bottom Line

The 16:8 intermittent involves eating for a restricted period and fasting for more extended periods. It does have several benefits, but there are also certain drawbacks.

You should have a healthy diet and avoid binge eating or having sugary drinks during the eating window as these can negate any benefits that are occurring.

As with anything related to your body, talk with your doctor first, and seek approval before your embark on intermittent fasting. This is more important when you have underlying health conditions.