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18:6 Intermittent Fasting: Benefits, Dietitian Tips, Schedules, & More!

18:6 Intermittent fasting has become a popular health trend in recent years!

It has been shown to support weight loss, improve metabolism, and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.

In this post, I will discuss this fasting method and how it can help you lose weight.

What is 18:6 Intermittent Fasting?

18:6 intermittent fasting is an eating strategy that involves fasting for 18 hours and then eating during a 6-hour window.

During this fasting period, you may drink water, tea, coffee, or other zero-calorie beverages.

A feeding window follows this fasting window where you eat healthy, nutrient-dense foods.

18/6 Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent Fasting 18:6 Benefits

Below are 4 benefits of fasting for your body.

1. Improved Metabolism

As we age, our metabolism slows down, making it more difficult to maintain a healthy weight.

Intermittent fasting may improve metabolism by switching the body from glucose to fat metabolism.

This shift can promote weight loss and improved body composition.

In a 2016 study published in the Journal of Nutrition and Healthy Aging, researchers found that a 6-hour eating window and an 18-hour fasting window improved body weight, blood pressure, and oxidative stress levels in overweight individuals.

Woman holding out her larger pants showing off weight loss
Fasting may improve metabolism.

2. Increased Autophagy

Autophagy is the process by which the body removes damaged cells and proteins.

18:6 Intermittent fasting may increase autophagy, which reduces the risk of age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

3. Reduced Inflammation

Chronic inflammation is common in many age-related diseases, such as arthritis and cardiovascular disease.

18:6 Intermittent fasting can reduce inflammation and support a healthy immune system.

A 2018 study published in the Journal of Cell Metabolism found that a 16-hour fasting period improved insulin sensitivity and blood lipid levels in healthy adults.

While this study didn’t specifically test an 18:6 fasting schedule, it does suggest that a longer fasting window may have similar benefits.

Woman eating and smiling
Fasting may reduce chronic inflammation.

4. Improved Cognitive Function

Intermittent fasting may improve cognitive function, which can help reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia.

5. Increased Longevity

18:6 Intermittent fasting may increase lifespan in animals, and some studies suggest it may have similar effects in humans.

A 2010 review of animal studies published in the journal Ageing Research Reviews found that intermittent fasting can extend lifespan and delay age-related diseases in a variety of animal models, including mice, rats, and primates.

Preliminary studies suggest that intermittent fasting may have the above health benefits.

However, more research is needed to determine the optimal fasting protocols for different populations.

Older man walking with headphones on
Fasting may help you live longer.

Risks Associated with 18:6 Intermittent Fasting

Below are some of the most common risks of intermittent fasting:

  • Nutrient deficiencies: Getting all the nutrients you need may be challenging in such a short period.
  • Hunger: Fasting for 18 hours can lead to intense hunger, which can cause you to overeat during the eating window, leading to weight gain instead of weight loss.
  • Blood sugar fluctuations: Fasting can cause your blood sugar levels to fluctuate. This can lead to symptoms like dizziness, fatigue, and headaches. Individuals with diabetes or low blood sugar may not be good candidates for this type of eating strategy.
  • Dehydration: Not consuming enough fluids during the fasting period can lead to dehydration, which can cause several health issues such as constipation, dry skin, and headaches.
  • Disordered eating: Intermittent fasting can trigger unhealthy eating patterns in individuals who have a history of eating disorders or disordered eating.
  • Sleep disturbances: If you’re fasting too close to bedtime, it can cause sleep disturbances.

How to 18:6 Intermittent Fast

Below are steps you can take to ensure a successful fast.

1. Choose Your Fasting Window

Decide on the 18-hour window for your 18:6 intermittent fast.

For example, you may fast from 8:00 PM until 2:00 PM the next day.

2. Determine Your Eating Window

Allocate 6 hours for your eating window within the 24-hour day.

Using the previous example, your eating window would be from 2:00 PM until 8:00 PM.

3. Plan Your Meals

During the 6-hour eating window, plan your daily meals and snacks.

Focus on balanced, nutrient-dense options to promote satiety.

Enlist the help of a registered dietitian if needed.

A clipboard with a meal planning sheet .
Planning your meals ensures success!

Do you need some help with meal planning? Check out our post – How to Simplify Meal Planning.

4. Stay Hydrated

Drink plenty of water during the day, both during your fasting and eating periods.

Most individuals should aim for about 64 ounces of fluids per day.

However, your individual fluid needs may vary.

Observe the color of your urine and aim to have it be the color of a light lemonade.

Are you Hydrated? Take the Urine Color Test
Source: Apec Water

5. Adjust your Schedule as Needed

If the timing of the eating window doesn’t align with your lifestyle, you can adjust it accordingly.

The key is to maintain the 18-hour fasting period consistently. Fasting is not for everyone.

The key is finding a strategy that works for you, so don’t get discouraged in finding what works for you!

Sample 18:6 Intermittent Fasting Schedule

Below is a sample eating and fasting timeline. You can adjust your eating window to a 6-hour period that works for you and your schedule.

12 pm – 6 pm Eating Window

9 am: Black coffee or tea (no sweetener or milk)

Noon: Lentil soup with a whole-grain roll

2 pm: Greek yogurt with berries

4 pm: Carrot sticks and hummus

End at 6 pm: Chicken stir-fry with brown rice and mixed vegetables

6 pm – 12 pm Fasting Window

During this 18-hour window, focus on water, black coffee, unsweetened tea, and other zero-calorie beverages.

Intermittent fasting written on a while notepad in black.

Do you need some nutrient-dense meal and snack ideas? Check out our Green Mediterranean Diet Recipes and our 50 Balanced Snacks.

5 Strategies for a Successful Fast

  1. Start slow and gradually increase your fasting window.
  2. Plan meals to promote healthy eating during your feeding window.
  3. Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water, tea, or coffee.
  4. Be consistent. Stick to the fasting and feeding windows.
  5. Listen to your body and break the fast if needed.

18/6 Intermittent Fasting Results

The cut-off time for evening eating has helped me cut back significantly. I thought I would be hungry all night however I was pleasantly surprised. The schedule and structure keep me accountable and on track.

I also find that I make healthier choices with intermittent fasting. I don’t want to be hungry in my fasting window so I don’t waste my time on foods I know will not fill me up.

Submitted by Matt (Age-Defying Dietitian client)

Takeaways on 18:6 Intermittent Fasting

In conclusion, 18:6 intermittent fasting can be a powerful tool for weight loss.

Benefits include improved metabolism, reduced inflammation, increased autophagy, enhanced cognitive function, and increased longevity.

It’s important to approach fasting cautiously and discuss it with your healthcare provider.

With time and patience, you may experience the many benefits of this fasting method!

Hungry for More?

Are you interested in more information?

Check out the Age-Defying Dietitian’s blog!

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