The Beginner’s Guide to Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting (IF) is one of the most popularized health and fitness trends, sparking interest in researchers and prospective followers alike. Intrigued and wondering how to do intermittent fasting? Here is what you need to know and how to get started!
Intermittent fasting (IF) is one of the most popularized health and fitness trends, sparking interest in researchers and prospective followers alike.
And unlike most advertised diets and weight loss claims, IF has a backing of supportive research and showing to improve health and simplify lifestyles of its followers.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is not exactly a diet, but rather a pattern of eating and focuses on not exactly what to eat, but when to eat. Fasting and then feasting with intent means you consume your calories during a specific window of the day and choose not to eat food for the remainder.
The most basic form of fasting is a pattern the majority already does: Fasting between the last meal of the day (generally dinner) and breakfast the next morning. (Hence "break" the "fast") More extensively in the health world, fasting periods tend to go for longer bouts of time.
There are seven common types of intermittent fasting, including:
1. The 12-Hour Fast: Fast for 12 hours, feast for the remaining 12
2. The 5:2 Plan or Fast Diet: Fast for two days, feast during the other five days of the week
3. Alternate-Day Fasting: Fast every other day, feast the days in between
4. 16:8 or Leangains: Fast for 16 hours of the day, feast the remaining 8-hour window
5. Eat Stop Eat: Fast for 24 hours once or twice per week
6. The Warrior Diet: Fast for about 20 hours each day and feast for four
7. Spontaneous Meal Skipping: Skip meals randomly
Why Do Intermittent Fasting?
Regardless of the intermittent fasting schedule, there are several evidence-based benefits for the eating plan. Beyond the sought out benefit of weight loss, there are vast studies indicating intermittent fasting regulates hunger hormones, increases muscles mass, supports brain health, lowers inflammation, decreases the risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease and cancer, and promotes longevity.
But is intermittent fasting right for you?
Whereas intermittent fasting has shown to be a valuable weight loss and health-based tool, the approach is not a one-size-fits-all. However, proponents of intermittent fasting not only the health benefits, but the simplicity and flexibility of the eating pattern.
For instance, rather than preparing and eating meals about every two to three hours, there is less to worry about, one less decision to make in the day, and less dishes to do. This grants you more time to do focus on work, laundry, and spend time on self-care and with loved ones.
Devoting time to not eating can be a social stressor with happy hours with coworkers and holidays spent with family. Furthermore, intermittent fasting has not been shown to be as effective for women as it is for men. IF may also not be suitable for people with the following medical conditions and circumstances:
• Diabetes or hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
• Certain types of medications
• Women who are trying to conceive, pregnant, or breastfeeding
• History or patterns of disordered eating
• Considered to be underweight
• Children and adolescents
How to Intermittent Fast
Whereas pursuing the mode of intermittent fasting is up to the individual, these tips can help get you started:
1. Consult with Your Primary Provider
Especially if you have any medical condition or if taking any medication, consult with your primary care provider before starting intermittent fasting or diet in general. Meeting with a Registered Dietitian can also help identify personal goals and create a sustainable plan to meet them.
2. Address Worries and Questions
"What if I get hungry?" "Can I exercise in a fasted state?" Address these "what ifs" and questions with yourself and a healthcare professional to help clear the air and smooth the process.
3. Start Slow
"Easy does it" is the name of the game when it comes to intermittent fasting. For instance, rather than jumping in quickly and fasting for a 24-hour stretch, start the process slow by gradually missing breakfast, snacks, etc.
4. Be Patient
Especially in the beginning, it is important to not judge the effects in the first day two, as you might likely experience brain fog and low energy. At least give the fasting protocol you choose a three-week’s shot chance before throwing in the towel. The longer you practice this sort of lifestyle, the easier it will become.
5. Use Time to Your Advantage
Rather than fixating on hunger between fasts and feasts, make the most of your time by staying busy. Also be sure to sleep the recommended seven to nine hours on a nightly basis; not only is this imperative for overall health, but can help carve out more of your fasted time!
6. Keep Hydrated
Drink plenty of water, as keeping hydrated helps make the fasting periods easier to get through. Black coffee and sugar-free drinks are also viable options to sip on.
7. Focus on Quality Foods
While intermittent fasting does not necessarily harp on the foods to consume, nutrient-dense foods should be the focus. Nourishing the body with whole grains, fruits and veggies, lean and plant-based proteins, and healthy not only supports weight loss, but key for overall health.
Experiment and try different strategies that works best for you, including extending fasting periods for longer windows.
The Bottom Line
Intermittent fasting can be an effective and practical option for people desiring a more simplistic eating pattern, whilst gaining a plethora of benefits. While it is a valuable route to explore, you should always consult with a primary care provider before following any sort of diet.
It is likewise important to note consuming a copious amount of calories is not recommended, as overeating is likely to lead to weight gain and deter such benefits. A healthy lifestyle incorporates regular exercise, adequate sleep, and stress management.
Ultimately, implementing eating patterns and strategies should work best for your lifestyle. And like any sort of diet or eating pattern, their effectiveness relies on whether you can do sustain them consistently and over the long run!