Does 16/8 intermittent fasting help fight viruses (COVID-19) or the common cold?

You may be looking at this fasting trend and thinking why it is so popular within the medical community or those into fitness. Is this for everyone and why you local GP or TV presenters recommend this diet during winter season, I mean eating pattern? Firstly, it is not a diet. It is an easy to follow eating pattern and you can even feast on delicious, wholesome foods without any guilt as long as you have fasted whilst sleeping. Yes, you heard me right. Continue reading and you will find out.

But first, let’s understand why it is recommended to 16/8 intermittent fast during winter season.
You may be asking: Does this lifestyle of fasting for short periods a day help boost the immune system? Is this good when you are sick, or protect your health against other sick individuals around you, such as when you are quarantining?

The short answer is yes, it most certainly aids in fighting bacterial infections such as the common cold and this lifestyle boosts your immune system, however more research is required to ensure that there is an ability to fight off those pesky viruses lingering around your local town centre.

Whilst researching, I understood that restricting the feasting period can lessen sickness in regards to stimulated response of bacterial factors TLR4 (Toll-like receptor 4). However, there is an interesting study on C57BL/6N male mice (Cheng et al,2014) that the test group were injected with viral mimicking Poly(I:C) to characterise sickness response. This study displayed immune and behavioural response to TLR3 agonist and modifying virus-associated molecular patterns after fasting. There is a likely boost in peripheral cytokine levels though. Statistically via 2 way ANOVA, p≤0.05, food intake was significantly reduced within the first 3 hours of Poly(I:C).
Restriction of calorie intake and glucose deprivation was shown to be beneficial during bacterial associations such as infections and common cold, however there are deleterious consequences during viral.

If you have underlying health conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure or even if you are much older, it is best suited to take every precaution and ask your local GP for advice if you should follow an intermittent fasting schedule. For those individuals, there is a potential for a temporary decreased immune response. This fasting schedule is a lifestyle, thus it is beneficial long-term. Thus, those high risk individuals should try this 16/8 intermittent fasting for 2 days a week only. This type of intermittent fasting is known as the 5/2, made famous by Dr Michael Mosley.

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What are some other benefits?

So now you know that intermittent fasting does indeed aid in boosting the immune system, but also weight loss, as told by my favourite TV star Dr Michael Mosley in the BBC documentary. Thus creating a control system to your body’s insulin levels, by increasing sensitivity when consuming food for energy. As a result, increasing muscle growth and assists to prolong and even prevent ageing diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

How do you 16/8 intermittent fast?

Well, it is actually quite simple than compared to all those ridiculous diets that work short term. Fasting for 16 hours (spent mostly sleeping) and eating for 8 hours. If you are like me, then all those diets start to feel lethargic and now you can not be bothered to follow them, as though you are disobeying that hitler-like plan of yours. The whole point in existence is to enjoy your lifestyle. Why say no to KFC, or even a cheeky Friday fish and chips, or Nandos. So here are the must-follow three steps, yes, 3 steps of intermittent fasting:1.Eat 12pm to 8pm (eat anything you like, but don’t be ridiculous and pie down a dozen original Krispy Kremes)

The 3 Steps

  1. Eat 12pm to 8pm (eat anything you like, but don’t be ridiculous and pie down a dozen original Krispy Kremes)
  2. Fast 8pm-12pm (spent mostly in a warm bed, sleeping hopefully)
  3. Exercise 11am (walking 5 mins, 15mins HIIT weight workout at home if you already do so)

Extra tips

Whilst fasting: You can drink as much water and tea as you like.

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After exercising: Eat a large healthy meal that should contain either chicken breast and/or 2 eggs or some tasty beef.  Vegans should consume chickpeas, lentils, corns, baked beans. The reason behind these choices, is that these foods contain the greatest amount of BCAA,”Branched Chain Amino Acids.” There are 20 different amino acids that make up all of your body’s protein.  9 out of 20 amino acids are essential (made and obtained by diet only). 3 of the diet amino acids, leucine, valine and isoleucine, are known as BCAA and are found abundantly in those foods mentioned. Why consume a lot of BCAA after exercising? So we can lose weight and gain muscle. There is significant scientific and statistical evidence that back this up (Blomstrang et al, 2006). Even I was hearing the lecturer in my sleep after the long Wednesday afternoon sessions attending biochemical/ biochemistry lectures.

I know, eating chicken fried rice without feeling guilty. That is the life!

If you already exercise, then it is ideal to do a 15 minute weight HIIT workout. If you have just started exercising, then a short walk / less intensive home workouts are suited.

Bonus Tip

What you can also do if you are planning to gain a lot of muscle, is consume 10g of BCAA of whey protein or supplements before you start exercising. Lets say 11:30. But still only do a weight HIIT workout. Here is one product on Amazon I recommend below!

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As you can see, the 16/8 intermittent fasting is not a diet.  It is more of an eating pattern that not only aids in gaining muscle and losing weight, but you can enjoy feasting. One key reason why I have started to follow this eating pattern, is to boost my immune system and aid in fighting off any infections such as the common cold.

 Don’t forget to comment below and share this blog (below icons if on mobile or on the side if on the laptop) to friends and family, it will be greatly appreciated by me and you loved ones. Enjoy feasting!

ADDITIONAL SOURCES and Recommended Products:

Zenz, G., Jačan, A., Reichmann, F., Farzi, A. and Holzer, P., 2019. Intermittent Fasting Exacerbates the Acute Immune and Behavioral Sickness Response to the Viral Mimic Poly(I:C) in Mice. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 13.

Cheng CW, Adams GB, Perin L, Wei M, Zhou X, Lam BS, Da Sacco S, Mirisola M, Quinn DI, Dorff TB, Kopchick JJ, Longo VD. Prolonged fasting reduces IGF-1/PKA to promote hematopoietic-stem-cell-based regeneration and reverse immunosuppression. Cell Stem Cell. 2014 Jun 5;14(6):810-23. doi: 10.1016/j.stem.2014.04.014. Erratum in: Cell Stem Cell. 2016 Feb 4;18(2):291-2. PMID: 24905167; PMCID: PMC4102383.

Blomstrand E, Eliasson J, Karlsson HK, Köhnke R. Branched-chain amino acids activate key enzymes in protein synthesis after physical exercise. J Nutr. 2006 Jan;136(1 Suppl):269S-73S. doi: 10.1093/jn/136.1.269S. PMID: 16365096.

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