How to Do Intermittent Fasting: Choosing Between 12-Hour or 16-Hour Fasts

A clock, a glass of water and fruits kept in a plate | how to do intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting is a popular eating pattern that involves alternating periods of fasting and eating. It has gained attention for its potential health benefits, including weight loss, improved insulin sensitivity, and increased energy. When it comes to females, understanding the unique considerations and potential effects of intermittent fasting is important for a successful and balanced approach to this eating pattern. In this article, we will explore how intermittent fasting can be practised by females, addressing specific concerns and offering practical tips for a safe and effective experience.

What is intermittent fasting?

Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that involves alternating periods of fasting and eating. It is not a specific diet but rather a way of scheduling meals. The most common method of intermittent fasting is the 16/8 method, where you fast for 16 hours and restrict your eating to an 8-hour window. Other popular variations include alternate-day fasting and the 5:2 diet. Intermittent fasting has gained popularity for its potential health benefits, including weight loss, improved insulin sensitivity, reduced inflammation, and enhanced cellular repair. It can be customized to suit individual preferences and lifestyles, making it a flexible approach to managing one's eating habits.

How to start intermittent fasting?

To start intermittent fasting, follow these steps:

Choose a fasting schedule: 

There are several popular fasting schedules to choose from, such as the 16/8 method, alternate-day fasting, or the 5:2 diet. Select the one that suits your lifestyle and preferences.

Plan your fasting window: 

Determine the duration of your fasting window, which is the time when you'll abstain from consuming calories. For example, in the 16/8 method, you may choose to fast for 16 hours and have an 8-hour eating window.

Gradually adjust your eating window: 

If you're new to fasting, it can be helpful to gradually increase the fasting duration. Start with a shorter fasting window and gradually extend it as you become more comfortable.

Stay hydrated

During fasting periods, drink plenty of water, herbal tea, or other non-caloric beverages to stay hydrated and curb hunger.

Make healthy food choices: 

When it's time to eat, focus on consuming nutrient-dense, whole foods to support your overall health. Include a balance of protein, healthy fats, and carbohydrates in your meals.

Listen to your body: 

Pay attention to your body's hunger and fullness cues. If you're feeling excessively hungry or experiencing any negative effects, adjust your fasting schedule or seek guidance from a healthcare professional.

What to eat in intermittent fasting?

To keep your energy levels stable and prevent hunger-induced irritability while fasting, include the following foods in your diet:

Stay Hydrated with Water:

Water is essential for maintaining the health of your organs during intermittent fasting. Drink an adequate amount of water based on your body's needs. Pale yellow urine is a good indicator of proper hydration. If plain water is unappealing, add a splash of lemon juice, a few mint leaves, or cucumber slices for a refreshing twist.


Despite being a higher-calorie fruit, avocados are an excellent addition to your intermittent fasting diet. Their high content of unsaturated fats helps promote satiety and prevents you from feeling excessively hungry during fasting periods.

Research conducted in 2017 suggests that unsaturated fats can help maintain feelings of fullness, signalling to your body that it has sufficient food and reducing the likelihood of entering emergency starvation mode. Including avocados in your meals can prolong these signals, even if you experience some hunger pangs during your fasting window.

Incorporate Fish and Seafood:

Fish and seafood are highly recommended in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which suggest consuming 8 to 10 ounces of fish per week.

Not only are they excellent sources of healthy fats and protein, but they also provide significant amounts of vitamin D. This essential nutrient plays a crucial role in maintaining bone health, supporting the immune system, and promoting overall well-being. Including fish and seafood in your intermittent fasting diet can provide a nutritious and satisfying option during your eating window.

Cruciferous vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower are packed with the f-word — fibre! (And no, we're not talking about "farts.")

When following intermittent fasting, it is important to include fibre-rich foods in your diet. These vegetables not only help maintain regular bowel movements but also support smooth digestion.

Studies have shown that fibre can contribute to a feeling of fullness, which is particularly beneficial when you have to go without food for up to 16 hours. So, incorporating these fibre-rich cruciferous veggies into your meals can help keep your digestive system functioning well and provide a sense of satisfaction while practising intermittent fasting.


Contrary to popular belief, not all white foods are unhealthy.

Potatoes, for instance, are highly satiating according to research conducted in the '90s. Additionally, a study from 2012 indicated that incorporating potatoes into a balanced diet could even support weight loss goals. It's important to note that this refers to wholesome preparations of potatoes and not their fried counterparts like french fries or potato chips.


To support a healthy gut and prevent issues like constipation, it's beneficial to incorporate probiotic-rich foods into your diet. Examples include kefir, kombucha, and sauerkraut, which provide beneficial microorganisms that promote gut health.


Eggs are a quick and protein-rich food that can help you feel full and support muscle growth. Research has shown that incorporating eggs into your breakfast can reduce hunger and overall calorie intake throughout the day.

What to drink in intermittent fasting?


Stay hydrated by drinking plain water throughout the fasting period. It has zero calories and won't interfere with your fast.

Herbal Tea: 

Enjoy herbal teas like chamomile, peppermint, or ginger tea. These are calorie-free and can be soothing and hydrating.

Black Coffee: 

Plain black coffee, without sugar or cream, is generally allowed during intermittent fasting. It might make you feel more energised and focused.

Green Tea

Green tea is another great option. It contains anti-oxidants and has minimal calories, making it suitable for fasting periods.

Sparkling Water: 

If you prefer some carbonation, opt for sparkling water or seltzer. Just make sure it doesn't contain any added sugars or sweeteners.

Take Away

This eating method, known as "intermittent fasting," consists of alternating intervals of fasting and eating. Choose a fasting strategy that fits your lifestyle and talk to a doctor if you have underlying health concerns, but it may be a flexible and successful approach to weight management and boosting metabolic health.


Is it better to fast for 12 or 16 hours?

Yes. Both 12 and 16-hour fasting durations can be effective, but longer fasting periods may offer additional benefits.

Does sleeping count as fasting?

Yes, sleeping counts as fasting as it is a period when you abstain from eating. Incorporating sleep into your fasting window can make it easier to achieve the desired fasting duration.

Can you eat fruits in intermittent fasting?

It depends on the specific type of intermittent fasting you follow. Some methods allow for limited calorie intake during fasting periods, which may include consuming small amounts of fruits. 


  1. A satiety index of common foods - PubMed
  2. Potatoes, Glycemic Index, and Weight Loss in Free-Living Individuals: Practical Implications - Journal of the American College of Nutrition
  3. The Effect of Fiber on Satiety and Food Intake: A Systematic Review - Journal of the American College of Nutrition
  4. Hunger and satiety responses to high-fat meals after a high-polyunsaturated fat diet: A randomized trial - ScienceDirect

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