How to Get Started
Several well-regarded experts recommend fasts of a day or less, but you can start with whatever seems doable and appealing to you. Pilon, for example, advocates a 24-hour fasting period, one to two times per week. If you spread the fast over a two-day period, he points out, you can still eat every day — and sleep through the hardest part.
“Depending on your schedule, and what you’re most comfortable with, you could do a lunch-to-lunch or dinner-to-dinner fast,” Pilon says. “Going longer than that is very intrusive on life. Really, what I’m asking people to do is not fast, but take a break from eating. You learn patience, and that you don’t have to eat all the time.
Once you know your muscles aren’t going to melt, your metabolism is not going to crash, you regain the ability to be patient when it comes to eating.”
Pilon also likes this method because it allows him to eat food he loves at socially appropriate times: “I’d rather have dinner with my wife and kids than eat by myself all day at work.”
If a 24-hour fast is not your style or seems too extreme, Swedish nutritional consultant and personal trainer Martin Berkhan advises condensing your nutritional intake into an eight-hour period to maximize potential hormonal benefits. The idea behind his 16-hour fast works on the theory that you produce growth hormone when you sleep. Once you start eating, the spike in insulin shuts it down. By avoiding food in the evenings, and pushing the first meal of the day back, you may be able to maximize growth-hormone production.
Romaniello has even developed a system that allows for cheat days: You eat whatever you want throughout the day (he usually splurges on wings and burgers), then fast for 36 hours, and then eat a balanced diet during the week. Similar to Berkhan’s idea, Romaniello’s belief is that leptin (the hunger hormone’s counterpart, which makes you feel full), gets bumped up after the cheat day.
Whatever the method, many people who thrive on short-term fasts like them for their simplicity: You’re either fasting, or you’re not. No counting calories; no restricting certain foods. But, as in all things, practice in moderation until you’re able to gauge exactly how intermittent fasting affects you physically and emotionally.
“You have to keep it in check,” Pilon says. If you’re missing out on a lot of life events or stressing over foods because of your diet, then it’s time to detach, relax and reassess.