I'll admit it, and you can certify me insane now: for five years, I have almost never eaten before 6pm or after 10pm. If you’re not familiar with intermittent fasting (IF) then you might be wondering, “Who on earth would subject themselves to that?!” Because, five years ago in August - my anniversary is coming up, and I think your fifth anniversary is wood, so I'd accept some would or should anyone want to give me some! - I adopted a strict form of Intermittent Fasting and I haven't looked back.
Let's step back for a second for anyone who isn’t familiar: What is Intermittent Fasting exactly? It's the argument that, in short, the human body was designed to go long periods without eating and thus, it's healthy to go long periods without eating.
Intermittent Fasting generally takes one of two forms: either you practice it every day, in which you eat during a particular window. It's labeled by the number of hours you don't eat and then the number of hours during which you could eat, per day. The most common form of IF is what is called "16/8" which means you fast during 16 hours and then eat during 8 hours. In fact, this is the fasting strategy I recommend to all newbies because, if you do the simple math, eating during an 8 hour window basically means just skipping breakfast. Long enough to get certain minimal benefits of fasting, and short enough to be easy. My more extreme form is called "20/4" which has the downside of being hard to say out loud because, spoken, it sounds like the number that comes after twenty-three.
There's another type of intermittent fasting: that's when you eat normally for a few days, but then go for a few days without eating. This is referred to by the number of days you go eating, followed by the number of days you go without eating. So a "5:2" fasting regime means you eat normally 5 days then fast 2 days.
It's a separate question of the scope of this article of which style is better for you and can depend on many factors such as age, gender, physical exertion, and hormones. However, the, the bottom line is: not eating for more than 12 hours per day, or for more than 1 day in a row, can bring enormous health benefits once you've fully adopted the Religion of Fasting. Once you have, its often a minor optimization or tweak as to which form of IF to choose.
One of the key challenges of fasting is this: what -- if anything -- can you eat while you fast?
The most strict fasters say "absolutely nothing at all, period, excluding water." These superhumans have my full admiration.
The second-most-strict fasters -- a category that I'm in -- allow for water, coffee, and tea. Without sugar, milk, or any additives as well. Because coffee and tea, like water, don't technically break a fast, all have zero calories, and, well, we're human.