Intermittent fasting is currently one of the country’s most popular health and fitness trends. The diet, which involves alternating long periods of fasting with regular eating, has a proven to be successful for weight loss.

The concept of intermittent fasting is simple: alternate days of eating normally with modified fasting days on which you eat just 500 calories. Often this has been referred to as the “prehistoric diet,” as our hunter-gatherer ancestors didn’t have access to food on a daily basis. For this reason our bodies evolved to be able to function without food for extended periods of time.

How exactly does it work? There are a few different types of fasting diets out there:

  • The 16/8 Method: This method involves skipping breakfast and restricting your daily eating period to 8 hours, for example from noon 8 p.m. Then you “fast” for 16 hours in between.
  • The 5:2 Diet: On two non-consecutive days of the week, you only eat 500-600 calories. The other five days a week you eat as you normally would.
  • Eat-Stop-Eat: This involves fasting for 24 hours, once or twice a week. For example, you would fast from lunch one day until lunch the next day.

By consuming fewer calories, all of these methods should help you lose weight (as long as you don’t compensate by overeating after fasting). One of the reasons intermittent fasting works well is because it’s helpful in burning fat. With on-and-off deprivation/fasting, you lose over 90 percent of the weight from fat and just 10 percent from muscle.

However, intermittent fasting is certainly not for everyone. People who are underweight or have a history of eating disorders should not fast. There is also some evidence that intermittent fasting may be more effective for men than women.

Before you consider any major diet or lifestyle change, consult your health professional.