Lipotropic 16:8 Intermittent Fasting Guide: Diet Plan, What To Eat, Meals, Rules, Schedule

by Marixie Ann Obsioma, MT, undergrad MD on October 16, 2019
Last updated on May 23, 2021

Skipping meals has gone from a taboo thing we steered clear of at all costs to a legit way of eating. Thanks to new science-based evidence and the many celebrities and medical expert endorsements supporting the health benefits of intermittent fasting (IF).

bowl of oatmeal and fruits

Not to be confused with traditional dieting, which focuses on restricting foods and counting calories, IF involves an eating schedule where you abstain from food for a certain period of time. Given the slew of benefits, which will be discussed in detail below, it may not be difficult to decide whether you should do IF, but which type is best for you to try?

16:8 intermittent fasting is among the most popular fasting styles today. Proponents claim that it is convenient and easier to follow, thus more sustainable to lose weight and improve overall health. This article will review its benefits, how it works, how should it be done, what to eat, and whether it’s right for you.

What is 16:8 IF?

16:8 intermittent fasting involves limiting your consumption of foods and calorie-containing drinks to a set window of 8 hours daily and going without food for the remaining 16 hours. This cycle can be done as frequently as you like. Some do it once or twice weekly while others repeat it daily.

Unlike other diets that set strict rules and regulations, 16:8 IF is easier to follow and can offer better results with minimal effort. It cuts down on the amount of time and money needed to spend on food preparation and cooking each week. Given that it is less restrictive and more flexible, it can easily fit into just about any lifestyle.

Aside from enhancing weight loss, this diet is also believed to improve overall health.

Health Benefits of IF

16:8 and other types of IF have been associated with a long list of health benefits. They do the following:

1. Helps in Weight Loss

Many of those who do IF is after its weight loss benefit (1). Generally, IF will make you eat fewer meals so you’ll end up taking in fewer calories. It can also enhance the functions of different hormones to facilitate weight loss. Higher levels of growth hormone and norepinephrine and lower insulin counts can hasten the breakdown of body fat and facilitate their use for energy. This will increase your metabolic rate by as much as 3.6-14%, helping your burn even more calories (2, 3).

A review of the literature showed that IF can cause an average weight loss of 3-8% within 3-24 weeks, which is a huge amount. People also had a 4-7% reduction in their waist circumference (4). Another review study revealed that IF is more effective in limiting muscle loss as compared to continuous calorie restriction (5).

All things considered, IF can be an incredibly powerful tool for weight loss.

2. Changes Cell Functions, Genes, and Hormones

Intermittent fasting prompts the body to initiate cellular processes and make adjustments in hormone levels. These are important to free stored body fat. Here are some of the body changes you should expect during IF:

  • Blood insulin levels are decreased to facilitate fat burning (6).
  • Growth hormone levels in the blood may increase to as much as 5-fold to promote fat burning, muscle gain, and several other benefits (7, 8, 9, 10).
  • The cellular repair will help remove toxins and waste materials from cells through a process called autophagy (11). This includes breaking down and metabolizing dysfunctional proteins that have accumulated inside cells over time.
  • Changes in genes and molecules provided protection against diseases and extended longevity (12, 13).

3. Reduces Insulin Resistance and Lowers Your Risk of Type 2 DM

Type 2 DM, which is characterized by high sugar levels in the context of insulin resistance, has become more common in the past few years. Interestingly, human studies showed that IF can decrease the levels of fasting blood sugar and fasting insulin by 3-6% and 20-31%, respectively (4). A study on diabetic rats also showed that IF can help prevent kidney damage, which is one of the most severe complications of DM (14).

While the above-mentioned studies imply that IF can be highly protective for people who are at risk of developing type 2 DM, there can be differences between genders. Evidence showed that blood sugar control in women got worse after a 22-day long IF protocol (15). Women are advised to see a doctor before starting long-term IF.

4. Prevents Oxidative Stress and Inflammation

Oxidative stress causes aging and several chronic diseases (16). Free radicals can damage important molecules like protein and DNA (17). Several kinds of researches show that IF can improve the body’s resistance to oxidative stress (18). Other studies suggest that IF can help fight inflammation, which is a common key driver of different diseases (19, 20).

5. Improves Heart Health

Heart disease is known to be the world’s biggest killer today (21). It is known that different health markers, more commonly known as risk factors, are associated with either an increased or decreased risk of heart disease.

IF has shown to improve several risk factors like BP, cholesterol levels, triglycerides, blood glucose level, and inflammatory markers (4, 22, 23). Most of these studies, however, are animal-based. The exact effects on the human heart must be investigated further before recommendations can be made.

6. Protects Against Cancer

Cancer, characterized by uncontrolled growth of cells, is dramatically rising in numbers today. Evidence from animal experiments shows that IF may help prevent some types of cancer (24, 25, 26, 27). Additionally, IF has been shown to have beneficial effects on cancer patients by reducing some side effects of chemotherapy (28).

7. Promotes Brain Health

IF can improve several metabolic features known to be good for brain health. These include reduced oxidative stress, inflammation, insulin resistance, and blood glucose levels. Experiments in rats proved that IF can increase the growth of new nerve cells, which is good for brain function (29, 30). It can also help increase the levels of brain-derived neurotrophic (BDNF) hormone, which may cause depression and other brain problems if decreased (29, 31, 32, 33). Based on human studies, IF may also help prevent brain damage due to strokes (34).

8. Cuts Alzheimer’s Risk

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common neurodegenerative disease. There is no cure yet, so prevention is critical. A study in rats showed that IF can help delay the onset of Alzheimer’s or decrease its severity (35). Case reports concluded that lifestyle interventions, which includes IF, can significantly improve Alzheimer’s symptoms (36).

9. Delays Aging and Extends Longevity

One of the most exciting applications of IF may be its ability to delay aging and extend lifespan. A study in rats showed that fasting every other day can delay the rate of aging and extend longevity by 83% (37). Other experiments suggested that IF can extend lifespan in the same manner as continuous calorie restriction (38, 39).

Although these studies are not yet proven in humans, given the known benefits of IF for metabolism and other health markers, it makes sense that could possibly help you live a healthier and longer life.

Are There Any Side Effects?

While 16:8 intermittent fasting offers several health benefits, it may come with possible drawbacks, if not done correctly, and may not be right for everyone.

Restricting your food intake to just 8 hours daily may cause others to consume a lot during eating periods to compensate for fasting hours. This may lead to digestive problems, weight gain, and the development of unhealthy eating habits.

Short-term negative side effects like hunger, weakness, and fatigue are common, though they often subside as soon as you get accustomed to the diet routine. Also, as mentioned earlier, IF may affect men and women differently. Animal studies show that IF can interfere with fertility and reproduction in women (40). However, more human studies are needed to confirm the effects of IF on reproductive health.

In any case, start gradually and consider consulting a physician if you have any questions or experience negative symptoms.

How to Get Started and What Can You Eat?

16:8 intermittent fasting is easy, safe, and sustainable. To begin, you must pick an 8-hour window for eating. Most would prefer noon until 8 PM. You’ll fast overnight and skip breakfast but you can eat a balanced lunch and dinner, along with some snacks throughout the day. Others eat between 9 AM and 5 PM, allowing them to have a power breakfast, a normal lunch and a snack or light early dinner before fasting. You can do a trial and error during the first few days until you know the best time frame that will fit your needs and schedule.

Regardless of the time you eat, it is recommended that you eat several small portions spaced evenly throughout the day to help keep hunger under control and stabilize blood glucose levels. It is also very important to stick to nutritious whole foods and drinks to help round out your diet. Balance your meals with the following:

  • Whole grains like barley, buckwheat, oats, quinoa, and rice
  • Fruits like apples, berries, bananas, kale, oranges, pears, and peaches
  • Vegetables like broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, cucumbers, leafy greens, and tomatoes
  • Protein like eggs, fish, poultry, meat, nuts, and seeds
  • Healthy fats like avocados, olive oil, and coconut oil

Calorie-free drinks like water and unsweetened tea or coffee, even while fasting, can help control your appetite by keeping yourself hydrated. On the other hand, binging on junk foods can negate the good effects of 16:8 IF and may end up doing more harm than good to your health.

Here are sample menus:

Early morning eating:

8 AM: Egg and veggie scramble
12 NN: Kale salad with almond butter dressing
4 PM: Chicken and veggie stir fry
Evening decaf tea

Mid-day eating:

Morning tea or black coffee
11 AM: Strawberry peanut butter smoothie
2 PM: Avocado toast with pistachios
4 PM: Chocolate with almonds
6 PM: Meatballs in tomato sauce over whole wheat pasta

Late eating:

Morning tea or black coffee
1 PM: Blueberry chia pudding
4 PM: Carrots and guacamole
9 PM: Grilled salmon, vegetables, and quinoa

How to Succeed with IF?

There are several things you have to remember if you want to lose weight with 16:8 IF:

  • Food quality is important. Eat whole, single ingredient foods.
  • Calories still count. Eat normally during non-fasting periods and do not try to compensate for the calories you missed during fasting.
  • Be consistent. Similar to other weight loss techniques, you have to stick with this diet for some time for it to work. Results don’t happen overnight.
  • Be patient. Give yourself some time to adapt. You may feel some discomfort on the first few days or weeks but stick to your meal schedule. Things will eventually get easier and better.

Is 16:8 IF Right For You?

16:8 IF can be a simple, safe, and sustainable way to improve your overall health when paired with a good diet and a healthy lifestyle. However, it must not be viewed as a substitute for a well-rounded, balanced diet rich in whole foods. Anyway, you can still be healthy even if without doing IF.

You must see a doctor before giving this diet a try, especially if you have any underlying medical conditions. Generally speaking, IF is not advised for patients with low blood pressure, history of eating disorders, and diabetes. Pregnant and breastfeeding women or those who are trying to conceive should not fast too!

Key Takeaway

16:8 intermittent fasting would allow you to eat only during an 8-hour window period and fast for the remaining hours of the day. Aside from reducing your calorie intake, it also has several beneficial effects on your health.

While it can be a useful aid for weight loss, it is not for everyone. If you decide to try this out, you have to remember that food quality and quantity still count! You must eat healthy and not binge on eating periods! Consult a doctor, if you can.


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