16:8 diet plan: what can you eat and what are the benefits?

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  • The 16:8 diet has been one of the most popular diet plans we've seen in years - and with good reason. If you found the 5:2 diet too hard, read on for an easier diet plan!

    We’ve heard of the popular 5:2 diet; where you eat normally for 5 days out of 7 and then eat 500 calories on any 2 days of the week. While it’s proved effective for most who’ve tried it, there’s now a newer diet that’s even more simple – the 16:8 diet.

    It’s an easier and more consistent way of fasting that avoids those 2 days of stomach growling hunger!

    Sports Scientist Harry Aitken tells GoodtoKnow, “Intermittent fasting is a dietary technique in which all food is consumed within a relatively small window of time.

    “Fasting is going for a significant period of time without eating, and intermittent fasting simply brings in a small window of time where you are able to eat.

    “Intermittent fasting has been popularised by religious festivals such as Ramadan and Yom Kippur, where for religious regions people must fast during certain times. With studies confirming loss of bodyweight and fat.”

    These studies have shown that intermittent fasting can have benefits on both your body and mental health, as well as being a very powerful tool for weight loss.

    However, before starting on any major diet or exercise changes, it’s important to consult with your GP.

    How does the 16:8 diet work?

    The 16:8 diet works on an hourly basis. So each day you can eat within an 8 hour time frame and fast for the remaining 16 hours. The best part? You don’t have to restrict yourself to 500 calories at all – as long as you eat healthily in your 8 hour time frame, you’ll see the weight drop off.

    Experts say that the 16.8 diet restricted schedule gives our bodies the chance to process the nutrients stored in foods and burns away calories. Plus, you won’t go hungry like you do on those two fasting days on the 5:2 either.

    Tom Jenane, nutrition and fitness expert said, “The 16:8 diet is a brilliant form of intermittent fasting that has proven results in a number of cases.”

    Even the celebs are getting involved. Hugh Jackman reportedly used the 16:8 diet to get in shape for his Wolverine films (it’s even been named The Wolverine Diet!) and Jennifer Love Hewitt is also said to be a fan.

    Where does the 16:8 diet come from?

    The diet stems from the book 8 Hour Diet by author David Zinczenko and editor-in-chief of Men’s Health Peter Moore, who suggest that a longer fasting time between eating gives the body the time it needs to process the food and burn away extra fat stores.

    When can I eat on the 16:8 diet?

    The 16:8 diet is a fasting diet that, for most of it, you actually sleep through (phew!) You can pick an 8 hour window to suit your day – so it could be between 10am – 6pm or 11am – 8pm, for example. Plus, you can still drink tea and coffee outside of those hours too, so it’s not just water!

    Most people choose to fast through the night, and opt to eat their first meal at about 12pm in the middle of the day.

    Tom says, “The most common hours adopted for the eating period is 12 till 8pm. The reason for this is because people aren’t normally that hungry in the morning, you don’t want to be consuming too many calories during the evening and this allows us to eat our lunch and dinner as well as a snack.”

    What can I eat on the 16:8 diet?

    bowl of granola - 16:8 diet plan

    Credit: Getty

    This diet isn’t suggesting you cram all the food you can into 8 hours. But you do need to make sure you’re eating a balance of fat busting and health boosting foods. Experts have suggest making sure you get a balance of lean meat, eggs, dairy, vegetables, nuts and beans each day. It really is that easy!

    Tom said, “Many fail by packing in too many calories into the 8 hour period, often trying to get some in before the 8 hours ends. You should still be following a strict diet with a complete nutritional breakdown, to ensure you are consuming a targeted number of calories, not to mention macro nutrients and ensuring you’re not consuming too much sugar.”

    Try sticking to the following foods on the 16:8 diet:

    • Whole grains: Ones like rice, oats, barley, wholegrain pasta and quinoa will keep you fuller for longer.
    • Protein: Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds will keep you full.
    • Fruit: Apples, bananas, berries, oranges and pears will offer good vitamin sustenance.
    • Vegetables: Broccoli and leafy greens are especially good for making sure you’re eating enough fibre.
    • Healthy fats: Olive oil, coconut oil, avocados.

    Are there any health benefits?

    Losing weight

    For some looking to lose weight quickly for health-related reasons, fasting is a good (but intense!) way to go about it. As Eve Mayer, author of Life in the Fasting Lane

    “Being overweight is a cause of many diseases, such as heart disease, stroke and cancer,” says Eve Mayer, author of Life in the Fasting Lane. “Losing weight increases high-density lipoprotein and lowers triglyceride levels, which helps reduce the risk of those same diseases.”

    But the 16:8 diet is not just about losing weight.

    Improved heart health

    A study by New England Journal of Medicine has shown that regular fasting is linked with a longer life and lower incidence of heart failure in heart patients. Even just one day of fasting a month – when done over a lifetime – can have a profound effect on heart health.

    A regular circadian rhythm

    Your internal body clock regulates tiredness and alertness over a 24-hour period. Research suggests intermittent fasting may strengthen our body’s circadian rhythm, as overeating can cause interrupted sleep, therefore helping us to sleep better.

    Reduce stress and improve mental health

    The 16:8 diet help reduce cortisol levels (that means less stress!) and help reduce inflammation. Plus, since you won’t be dealing with hunger for two days a week, it’s better for your mental health.

    Those who’ve tried the 16:8 diet say how much more productive they are during fasting hours, spending less time stressing over food and more time channelling their energy into other beneficial tasks throughout the day.

    While it’s important to remember that what works for one person’s lifestyle won’t work for another, intermittent fasting with the 16:8 diet has given some people some real success – in all areas of life.