The Conscious Gut

18:6 Intermittent Fasting: Can Eating Only 2 Full Meals Help You Slim Down?

The Larger The Assortment – The More Difficult It Is To Choose

Due to the skyrocketing popularity of healthy lifestyle, fitness, and weight loss, the media swarms with hundreds of various methods of toning up and shedding pounds. For those whose goal is to trim a couple of inches, the choice of a correct nutritional and workout plan becomes more difficult with the appearance of each new popular diet. As you know, each person has a different body type and requires a different approach to losing weight or packing on muscle. And such a great number of fad diets only confuses people and may even lead to health damage. If you are one of those people, who are sick of extreme calorie restrictions and unreasonable food limitations, then perhaps intermittent fasting, the 18:6 intermittent fasting, in particular, is exactly what you have been looking for.

The Concept Of Intermittent Fasting

First of all, you need to understand that intermittent fasting is not a diet but an eating approach. The main rule of any type of this nutritional concept is to limit the time when you can eat during a day or a week (11). Different types of intermittent fasting have their eating window when you can consume the food of your choice.

Here are the most popular types of intermittent fasting and their rules (7):

  • 5:2 Fasting

5:2 fasting allows you to eat a normal diet for 5 days, and on 2 other days of the week, you fast, restricting your daily energy consumption to 600 calories for men and 500 for women.

  • 16:8 Fasting

This type of fasting requires you to fast for 16 hours a day and consume all your calories during the remaining 8 hours. Usually, people choose one of the following eating windows: 9 a.m.–5 p.m.; 10 a.m.–6 p.m.; noon–8 p.m. (1)

  • Alternate Day Fasting

It is as simple as it sounds. You eat your regular diet for a day, then restrict your energy intake the next day (8).

  • 18:6 Intermittent Fasting

This type of fasting, which is the main topic of this article, is similar to the 16:8 intermittent fasting, only the difference is that your eating window is smaller, so you have to manage to consume all your calories for 6 hours of your day. In that period, you can have 2 full meals and a snack. You can choose either to skip breakfast and have early dinner, or to skip dinner and have a late lunch, or basically adjust your eating schedule to your personal preference with the condition that your meals should be within the 6-hour window.

Some people are skeptical about such an eating approach, and some wonder, “Is 18:6 intermittent fasting safe?” and the answer is yes. This type of fasting is safe, as long as you eat enough calories during your eating hours.

What To Eat When Following An 18:6 Intermittent Fasting?

People often ask, “What can I have while intermittent fasting 18:6?”. Obviously, you are not allowed to eat anything during your 18-hour fasting period. And for the rest of the day, you need to stick to a healthy well-balanced diet, if you want to improve your wellness and slim down a couple of sizes. Try to avoid sugary foods and drinks, junk food, and other products filled with unhealthy components such as trans and saturated fats and refined carbohydrates.

Your diet should consist of fruits, vegetables (fresh and fermented), lean meats, poultry, fish and seafood, eggs, dairy, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, whole grains, and others. Make sure that you consume enough essential nutrients, such as:

  • Protein

Proteins are building blocks of your body. Without protein your body will not be able to function properly that is why it is important to consume plenty of that macronutrient. If you want to lose weight, then you should eat up on protein, as it prolongs the feeling of satiety and ensures that you burn fat and don’t break down muscles. You can find plenty of protein in meats and poultry, fish and seafood, and dairy. Rich plant sources of protein include beans and legumes and nuts.

  • Healthy Fats

Mono- and polyunsaturated fats, which are known as healthy fats, are an inseparable part of a balanced diet. Experts recommend that you should reduce your consumption of unhealthy fats to 10% of your daily energy intake and substitute them with unsaturated fats. You can find healthy fats in fish and seafood, avocados, nuts, olive oil, and others.

  • Complex Carbohydrates

Complex carbs are the main source of energy for the human body and can also promote weight loss. Fiber prolongs the feeling of satiety and adds to the glycemic index of a food. The best sources of complex carbs are whole-grain products, fruits and vegetables, and others.

  • Vitamins And Minerals

Micronutrients are as important as macronutrients when it comes to your health and the proper functioning of your body. Each vitamin and mineral has its purpose and contributes to your wellness. It is important to consume only the required amount of each micronutrient, as overconsumption of vitamins and minerals can have negative consequences.

There are two types of vitamins: water-soluble and fat-soluble. Water-soluble vitamins include eight B vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, and B12) and vitamin C. The fat-soluble vitamins are A, D, E, and K.

The best vitamin-rich foods to include in your 18:6 intermittent fasting menu are:

  • Fish

Fish is an overall healthy food. From the previous paragraphs, you know that it contains plenty of protein and healthy fats. Besides that, it is also a great source of vitamins. In fish, you can find 9 of 14 essential vitamins, which are vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B3, vitamin B5, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin D, and vitamin E. The most vitamin-rich fish is tuna and trout.

  • Dark Leafy Greens

Leafy greens are an inseparable part of any healthy diet, and there is a good reason for it. They are not only low in calories but also packed with various micronutrients, among which vitamin A, vitamin B2, vitamin B3, vitamin B6, vitamin B9, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K and Beta-Carotene. The most nutrient-dense dark leafy greens are kale and spinach.

  • Pork

Like any other meat, pork is a rich source of protein. In pork, you can also find 6 of 14 essential vitamins, including vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B3, vitamin B5, vitamin B6, and vitamin D.

  • Beef And Lamb

Lean cuts of beef and lamb are the best for your 18:6 intermittent fasting menu. Not as rich in vitamins as pork, these types of meat, however, contain 5 of 14 essential vitamins including vitamin B2, vitamin B3, vitamin B5, vitamin B6, and vitamin B9.

  • Seeds

Seeds are a great source of healthy fats and fiber and can also offer you 6 of 14 essential vitamins, among which vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B3, vitamin B5, vitamin B6, and vitamin E. The best seed options are sunflower and flax seeds.

  • Broccoli

This green cruciferous vegetable is famous for its nutrient density. It is high in fiber and water and can offer you vitamin A, vitamin B9, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, and Beta Carotene. Like other cruciferous vegetables, it is low in calories and can be prepared in a lot of ways. Besides broccoli, your 18:6 intermittent fasting menu should also include cabbage, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts.

  • Mushrooms

Mushrooms go well with a lot of foods and are easy to prepare. They contain vitamin B2, vitamin B3, vitamin B5, and vitamin D, and are low in carbs and calories. You can make a mushroom soup, add mushrooms to a salad, eat fermented mushrooms as a side dish, or use them as a garnish.

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  • Nuts

Nuts are filled with healthy fats, fiber, protein, and such vitamins as vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, and vitamin E. Due to such a rich contents of essential nutrients nuts, despite their relatively high caloric value, are a great snack option. You can also use them as a topping to your salad, smoothie, yogurt, or oatmeal. The best nut options are almonds and walnuts.

  • Eggs

Eggs are considered an overall healthy food. They are rich in protein and contain different amounts of many essential vitamins. Vitamin B2, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin A, vitamin B5, and vitamin B12 can all be found in eggs. Besides being high in vital nutrients, eggs also contain a relatively high amount of saturated fats. Therefore, try to consume no more than 2 eggs a day. Eggs can be prepared in various ways and are among the most popular breakfast options.

  • Sweet Bell Peppers

Sweet bell peppers can not only bring more color to your meal but also make it more nutritious. They are rich in fiber and water and can offer you vitamin C, vitamin B1, vitamin K1, vitamin E, vitamin B9, and vitamin A. Sweet bell peppers can be consumed fresh and raw, in a salad, as a smoothie ingredient, or as a snack, or baked, roasted, grilled, or boiled.

Minerals, like vitamins, are also divided into two groups: major and trace. Both these groups are important, however, your body requires slightly greater amounts of major minerals. Here are the best food sources of minerals of each group (8):

Major Minerals Food Sources:

  • Calcium: yogurt, cheese, milk, salmon, leafy green vegetables
  • Chloridesalt
  • Magnesium: Spinach, broccoli, legumes, seeds, whole-wheat bread
  • Potassium: meat, milk, fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes
  • Sodium: salt, soy sauce, vegetables

Trace Minerals Food Sources:

  • Chromium: meat, poultry, fish, nuts, cheese
  • Copper: shellfish, nuts, seeds, whole-grain products, beans, prunes
  • Fluoride: fish, teas
  • Iodine: Iodized salt, seafood
  • Iron: red meat, poultry, eggs, fruits, green vegetables, fortified bread
  • Manganese: nuts, legumes, whole grains, tea
  • Selenium: Organ meat, seafood, walnuts

Zinc: meat, shellfish, legumes, whole grains.

  • Water

The human body cannot live without water. Proper hydration is extremely important and promotes better skin, weight loss, and overall wellness. You can try drinking 8 glasses of water a day, but the best indicator is your thirst, so drinking whenever you feel like it is the best variant.

While during a fast you are allowed to drink only plain water, you can experiment when choosing a drink during your eating window. If you don’t want to increase your caloric intake and don’t want plain water, you can have some unsweetened coffee or tea, or make some flavored water. It is very easy in preparation and can provide you with some additional essential nutrients. The best options are lemon water, cucumber water, aloe water, oatmeal water, and others.

18:6 Intermittent Fasting Benefits

Intermittent fasting has proven to be pretty effective at helping people lose weight, managing blood glucose levels, and learning how to manage their time properly. Since different types of this dietary approach have similar benefits, it is a choice of your preference which one to follow. Here are some of the main health benefits of intermittent fasting (10):

  • Reduces Inflammation

Studies suggest that intermittent fasting may be effective at helping you reduce inflammation and improve conditions associated with inflammation, such as arthritis, asthma, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and stroke (11).

  • Lowers The Risk Of Type II Diabetes

Since being overweight and obese are two of the main risk factors for developing type II diabetes, intermittent fasting could have an effect on diabetes prevention due to its weight loss effects. It can also potentially influence other factors linked to an increased risk of diabetes. A 2014 study showed that intermittent fasting can lower blood glucose and insulin levels in people at risk of diabetes (6).

  • Promotes The Prevention Of Cardiovascular Diseases

Studies imply that intermittent fasting may improve your heart health and reduce the risk of heart diseases. A 2016 review showed that this type of eating pattern could reduce blood pressure, heart rate, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides, which all add to the risk of cardiovascular diseases (5).

  • May Reduce The Risk of Cancer

Numerous animal studies suggest that intermittent fasting may reduce the risk of cancer. Such an effect may be the aftermath of weight loss, reduced inflammation, and insulin levels, which are caused by this eating pattern.

A 2019 review in people with cancer states that fasting reduced some of the side effects of chemotherapy and increased its effectiveness. The review suggests that fasting may deprive cancer cells of nutrients, making them more susceptible to the toxins in chemotherapy (3).

18:6 Intermittent Fasting Weight Loss

One of the main benefits of an 18:6 intermittent fasting is weight loss. There were many cases of weight loss success with intermittent fasting 18:6, as well as those where people were not that satisfied with the 18:6 intermittent fasting results. So, at the end of the day, the result depends on how well you adjust to this eating pattern, and what your choice of food is.

There are a lot of ways in which intermittent fasting can help you lose weight. Here are some of them (4):

  • Increase In HGH

Intermittent fasting can lead to an increase in human growth hormone HGH, which helps the body burn fat and grow muscle.

  • Lower Insulin Levels

This eating approach reduces the levels of insulin, which makes it easier for the body to use stored fat.

  • Reduced Energy Intake

Eating during a set period can help you reduce your energy intake and may boost metabolism.

  • Less Overeating

When you fast, you are not allowed to eat anything. This prevents you from emotional eating or eating simply because you are bored or have nothing else to do.

Various studies have shown that intermittent fasting is efficient at helping people lose weight. In some cases, it even had the same effect as the conventional dieting with the reduction of daily food intake.

FAQs

Intermittent Fasting 16:8 Vs. 18:6

When comparing the intermittent fasting 16:8 vs. 18:6, it is clear that for those who are new to such an eating approach, the 16:8 fasting may be better, as it has a bigger eating window. Both these types require that you don’t eat anything during your fasting period, and both have similar benefits. So, you can choose either of them, depending on how busy your day usually is and how well you can manage your time.

With An 18:6 Intermittent Fasting Diet, How Many Calories Can You Eat To Lose Weight?

Any weight loss is a result of a calorie deficit, so if you want to slim down, you need to burn more calories than you consume (9). Since 1 pound of fat equals 3500 calories, all you need to do to safely lose weight is to reduce your daily energy intake by 500-1000 calories (2). The number of calories each person should consume depends on various factors, including age, sex, weight, body composition, and others. You can calculate how many calories you personally require daily using this calories burned calculator.

How Fast Can You Lose Weight On Intermittent Fasting 18:6?

A person’s weight loss pace depends on lots of factors and varies individually. Technically, the more calories you reduce, the faster you shed pounds. However, that is not always the case. Drastic calorie restriction may cause your body to enter the surviving mode, where you may stop burning fat and start burning muscles instead while packing on energy in the form of fat. Experts recommend losing 1-2 pounds (0.45-1 kg) a week (2). Such a weight loss pace is the safest and the most sustainable.

Conclusion

The 18:6 intermittent fasting can be a great option for those who want to slim down. In a way, it is an advanced version of 16:8 intermittent fasting and has similar benefits, including weight loss, reduced risk of type II diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and reduced inflammation. The only difference between these two types of fasting is that 18:6 intermittent fasting offers only a 6-hour eating window.

Since a person would most likely only have 2 complete meals during that period, some people may find it hard to stick to this eating pattern. But those who do follow this nutritional approach need to remember that they should consume all the required calories during that eating window. That is why, if you follow an 18:6 intermittent fasting, you need to carefully plan your meals beforehand and ensure that you consume all the essential nutrients, such as protein, healthy fats, complex carbs, vitamins, and minerals and drink plenty of water. Remember that before starting to follow any new nutritional plan, it is necessary that you consult a dietitian or a doctor.

Diets are great, but your body will thank you if you supplement your healthy nutrition plan with a good workout.

Alexandra Danieli

Alexandra Danieli, CHC, The Conscious Gut
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