If you ask us, when it comes to dieting, the fewer rules there are, the easier it is, which is why the 16:8 diet is set to be huge.
You'll remember just how popular the 5:2 fasting diet (where you restrict yourself to 500 calories two days out of the week and the rest of the time you eat normally) was. The diet was a form of intermittent fasting (IF), which studies revealed was not only great for your waistline, but it was great for your health too. Another bonus was that you didn't become a social pariah because you just didn't socialize on the low-calorie days. But what if we said the 16:8 diet makes fasting even easier?
The 16:8 diet, or the eight-hour diet as it's also known, was a 2012 New York Times best-selling book, so it's nothing new, but a recent study into this specific form of IF was shown to improve some health markers, reduce fat percentage and increase muscle mass when carried out for eight weeks so it's now well and truly back on everyone's radar. And might just be exactly what we need to prove those statistics wrong.
How the 16:8 Diet Works
It has gained the name the 16:8 diet or the eight-hour diet because within a 24-hour window you eat for eight hours and fast for the remaining 16. David Kingsbury, who trains stars like Hugh Jackman and Jennifer Lawrence, says of the regimen, "The 16:8 diet is essentially where people fast for 16 hours and just eat in an eight-hour window. You can fit that in around your lifestyle."
The timings are really the only rules you need to abide by, and you can decide when you eat and when you fast. Some people find skipping breakfast and eating between 1 p.m. and 9 p.m. easiest, but if you love breakfast and think you can handle no food after 5 p.m., then, by all means, load up your first meal of the day in the morning and eat between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., for example.
During the eight hours, you can eat and drink whatever you like. This doesn't give you carte blanche to go wild and eat dozens of bags of Kettle chips, but you don't need to watch your calorie intake either. During the remaining 16 hours, you can drink black coffee and tea or water, but that's it.
Julie Shatzel, MD, a California-based medic, has been putting her patients on the 16:8 diet and has seen some amazing results.
"I'm a huge advocate of it because what we're finding with early human trials is that people are able to lose weight, eating relatively the same but just in an eight-hour timeframe," she told Closer. "It seems to alter the metabolism for the better. Our genes are pre-programmed to do certain things very well during the day and during the evening. By restricting our eating time, we're just revealing the true programming of our genes."
On the recent Channel 4 Food Unwrapped Special, in which the team explored the diet, Schatzel said of her own experience with the 16:8 diet, "Those five or six pounds that always used to stick around? They just don't stick around anymore."
Do You Need to Fast Every Day?
If it's true that the 16:8 diet alters your metabolism for the better, then you want to aim to stick to it for a certain window of time, say eight weeks like in the recent study, for the best results. But you can have one or two days where you eat at any time and it shouldn't affect your end results too much.
Paoli A, Tinsley G, Bianco A, Moro T. The influence of meal frequency and timing on health in humans: the role of fasting. Nutrients. 2019;11(4):719. doi:10.3390/nu11040719
Moro T, Tinsley G, Bianco A, et al. Effects of eight weeks of time-restricted feeding (16/8) on basal metabolism, maximal strength, body composition, inflammation, and cardiovascular risk factors in resistance-trained males. J Transl Med. 2016;14:290. doi:10.1186/s12967-016-1044-0