You’ve probably heard about intermittent fasting and how it can improve your health. A host of stars, models, and fitness gurus talk up the benefits on Instagram and Twitter. But what is it exactly? And is it right for you? We’re laying out the basics of intermittent fasting.

What is Intermittent Fasting?
Instead of eating throughout the day, when you intermittent fast, you try to compress all your eating into a shorter time. In other words, intermittent fasting is not about what you eat but when you eat.

The idea is that fasting lets your body rest. While you fast, your body can do other things besides digestion, like clear away old cells. This is one reason intermittent fasting can help improve your overall health, not just help you lose pounds. So no, no more boredom-inspired kitchen visits.

Why Intermittent Fasting is the Natural Way to Eat
So, why do proponents of intermittent fasting think it’s a natural way to eat?

Here’s where a little history comes into play; the idea is that our ancient ancestors (think cavewomen and cavemen) were hunter-gatherers and they definitely weren’t popping into the grocery store on the way to their cave sweet cave or standing in front of an open fridge at night tempted by raw cookie dough. Our unfortunate ancestors were always moving, and they ate when they could, after hunting. And then…they didn’t…for quite a while.

What are the Benefits of Intermittent Fasting?
Fasting might be trending, but it’s no fad — there’s a lot of research on intermittent fasting happening and scientific studies to back the claims. One of the significant benefits is improved insulin sensitivity. This can help you lose those last few stubborn pounds because your body can access fat storage easier.

Another benefit is the increase in Human Growth Hormone. HGH does increase during periods of fasting, and increased HGH can increase muscle growth. Weight loss is another benefit; a better hormone balance could make it easier to lose weight.

What are Common Intermittent Fasting Programs?
There are way too many programs to list, but here are three of the most common you can check out:

    • The 12 Hour Fast is simple. Pick twelve consecutive hours in a day and don’t eat during that time.
    • Eat-Stop-Eat is where you don’t eat for 24 hours, once or twice a week. It’s a bit more extreme and probably not an easy place to start.
    • The 16/8 is probably the most common. You eat all of your meals in an 8-hour timeframe, and you eat nothing for the other 16 hours. So, you might stop eating at 8 pm. Go to sleep at midnight. Wake up at 8 am and skip breakfast, eating at noon for the first time.

There are many more plans and schedules, so just find the one that works for you. You’ve probably never been this excited about not eating before (same here).