With so many different diets claiming to be the best, it can be hard keeping them all straight. The 16:8 diet has gained a lot of traction in recent years, but what is it exactly? Is it safe? And does it work?
The 16:8 diet is basically intermittent fasting
While the name sounds fancy, the 16:8 diet is nothing but intermittent fasting. As the name suggests, the 16:8 diet restricts eating to an eight-hour window. The remaining sixteen hours are spent fasting. During the eight-hour window, you can eat whatever you want -- there are no calorie restrictions. While you're fasting the rest of the time, you should drink plenty of water. Black coffee and tea are acceptable, too.
It's up to you when you want to begin and end your eight-hour eating window. But keeping your window earlier, such as from 7 am to 3 pm, is recommended. This is because the body's biological clock is designed to eat earlier in the day. Blood sugar control is best in the morning but becomes worse throughout the day. You also digest food faster in the morning, giving you a metabolic advantage.
Does it work?
Research suggests it can be helpful in losing weight. One study found that when obese adults restricted their eating to an eight-hour window, they consume 350 calories less per day on average compared to the control group. They also lost a few pounds.
Other research demonstrates that going long periods without eating sends the body into fat-burning mode, which limits blood sugar spikes. It also lowers the hunger hormone ghrelin, reducing cravings.
That being said, some studies have found that there's no difference between people who practice intermittent fasting and those who cut back their calorie intake overall.
Is it safe?
For a healthy person, there is no harm in eating for only eight hours a day. But, some people may experience dizziness and an increase in bad cholesterol levels. That's why you should talk to your doctor before starting the 16:8 diet.
One major drawback of the 16:8 diet is that because eating food is limited to a small window, you might not be able to meet your nutritional needs. It probably doesn't allow you to fit in three meals per day, which means you're probably not receiving adequate nutrition. What's more, the hunger you may feel might lead to overeating, especially unhealthy foods.
Is the 16:8 diet worth it?
While the 16:8 diet may be helpful when it comes to weight loss, you're better off just cutting calories instead. To help you make better food choices and avoid overeating, you should stick to a 12-hour eating window instead. Why? Because it allows enough sleep and prevents late-night snacking. It also enables you to fuel the body throughout the day so that you can meet your nutritional needs.
Whatever you decide, be sure to stick with healthy, minimally processed foods with a focus on lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, fruits, and vegetables. Eat until you feel satisfied but not stuffed.