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updated: 6/18/2013 9:21 AM

Lean and Lovin' it: Intermittent fasting a key to quick weight loss?

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The first time I saw David Zinczenko's new book, "The 8-Hour Diet," I thought "An 8-hour diet? R-e-a-l-l-y?"

Zinczenko, editor-in-chief at Men's Health, claims that readers can eat whatever they want and in just six weeks drop 5-10 pounds -- or even more; shift the aging process into reverse and dramatically decrease diabetes risk as well as cut the risk of Alzheimer's and other brain diseases.

Zinczenko claim that it matters more when you eat -- not what you eat -- and that you only have to diet for eight hours a day seemed like a bunch of hooey, until I read his book. Turns out this oddly-configured, on-again/off-again food plan (called intermittent fasting) based on Salk Institute research, actually seems to work and work so well for those who followed it that I tried it. (More about that in a bit.)

The "8-Hour Diet" sees magic in eights: eight hours, eight minutes and eight foods.

Eight hours: You eat for eight hours a day, after fasting for 16 hours. You can do this for as few as three days a week (slower weight loss), or seven days a week (greater weight loss). During those 16 hours you can consume zero-calorie fluids such as water, coffee or tea (decaf after 4 p.m.) or fat-free broths (like chicken or beef). Those 16 calorie-free hours make your body burn-off all the glycogen calories stored in your liver.

Eight minutes: Before breaking the 16-hour fast, Zinczenko recommends exercising, following his 8-minute workout program. In his book's last section, Zinczenko showcases, with pictures, 65 pages of exercises that can be incorporated into a personalized workout. This short workout starts burning calories from stored fat in your body, since your body no longer has stored glycogen calories to burn.

Eight foods: Finally, you can eat anything for the remaining eight hours, but Zinczenko advises that you include foods from these eight groups: eggs and lean meats, yogurt and dairy, nuts, beans and legumes, raspberries and other berries, tree fruits, whole grains (quinoa, oatmeal), spinach and green vegetables. Zinczenko suggests combining a fat buster (the first four) with a health booster (the later four). Examples include raspberries with low-fat plain yogurt or celery sticks and homemade hummus.

Finding Zinczenko's intermittent fasting arguments compelling, I decided to give his plan a two-week try.

Pros: I lost about a pound a week, following the diet for only three consecutive days: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. I rarely felt hungry during my 16-hour fasts. And I did eat some calorie-dense personal favorite foods on those days, like chocolate, raisins and almonds.

Cons: It was harder than I thought making the plan fit into my schedule, since I get home on fasting days between 6 and 8 p.m. That meant starting my fast late in the evening and ending it near midafternoon the following day.

Finally, you'll also find 50 recipes (complete with nutrition info) created by best-selling author Matt Goulding that will make for healthy after-fast dining.

A link to one of Goulding's recipes to enjoy whether you decide to follow Zinczenko's plan or not is attached above.

• Don Mauer welcomes questions, comments and recipe makeover requests. Write him at

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