Intermittent fasting (IF) is a term you might have heard tossed around in dieting conversations. Perhaps you’ve even tried a juice fast before so you’re familiar with the idea of fasting. Yet, maybe you don’t know much about what intermittent fasting entails, besides the obvious “fasting” part. You’ve started doing a bit of research and you’re beginning to wonder if intermittent fasting is right for you.
All in all, IF can be a good way to lose weight, and it can be something you can easily work into your current lifestyle. However, you might have questions; What does IF involve? Does it really work? Is it safe, and will an IF diet be difficult to stick to? In this article, we’ll discuss all these topics and more.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
The idea of fasting, or going for a certain period of time without food, is not a new one. In fact, rumor has it that it’s been used as a type of therapy since the 5th century BCE.
An intermittent fast involves eating as normal during a certain window, and not eating outside of that window. For example, you might divide your day into a ratio of 16:8. This means that for 16 hours you can’t eat, but in the remaining 8 hours you can eat normally. Luckily, some of those 16 hours will fall during the night.
It’s also important to note that intermittent fasting is not starving yourself. We’ll discuss more about this later, but you should still be able to eat a healthy, balanced diet while applying intermittent fasting to your lifestyle. Many individuals actually refer to intermittent fasting as an ‘eating pattern’ as opposed to a diet. So, let’s dive a little deeper. What are some types of intermittent fasting?
Types of Intermittent Fasting
While many diets are strict and rigid, you can alter an IF diet to suit yourself. This is why it’s often called an ‘eating pattern,’ rather than a diet.
There are three main types of intermittent fasting:
- Daily Intermittent Fasting
This means setting aside a period of each day where you won’t eat. The 16:8 method we mentioned earlier falls into this category. While you can tweak your diet the way that’s best for you, many people stop eating at a certain time before bed and go all the way to their lunch the following day without eating.
- Full 24-hour Fasting
Choose a day of the week or month to go a whole 24 hours without eating. This can be difficult, as you’ll find yourself weak and fatigued from lack of food. It’s important not to repeat this too often to avoid sending your body into starvation mode.
- Restricted Calorie Fasting
If a full fasting period seems a little daunting to you, try setting aside days in which you’ll eat a limited amount of calories. For example, the 5:2 diet involves eating as normal for 5 days of the week and restricting your calorie intake to 500 calories or so for the other two days.
Ultimately, you may not know which type of intermittent fasting works for you until you try it. In later sections, we’ll talk about how to get started with this type of eating.
How Intermittent Fasting Helps with Weight Loss
The idea of trying an IF diet may be tempting, but no doubt you’re wondering the obvious question: Does it really work?
When done properly, IF can be one of the healthiest eating patterns around. Presuming you don’t go overboard and starve your body of nutrients and food, intermittent fasting can do more than help with weight loss. Studies show that intermittent fasting can help with heart health, diabetes, and, of course, weight loss.
After a period without food (usually longer than we’d prefer!) our body exhausts its stores of sugar and starts burning fat. This carefully regulated eating schedule helps us to keep the balance between getting enough food and forcing our body to get rid of its fat stores.
If you have health problems such as diabetes, intermittent fasting is still an option, but you will need to be careful. There is a variety of fasting options available. Studies further show the health benefits of IF, calorie restriction (CR), and alternate-day fasting (ADF). These include maintaining a healthy weight and losing weight.
Another benefit of IF is that it’s a diet you can live with. Overly restrictive diets can be difficult to stick to; telling yourself that you aren’t allowed to eat any cake for the foreseeable future only makes you want to eat it more!
The fact is that healthy weight loss takes time. We all want to see instant results, and it can be disappointing to see the scale refusing to budge.
Intermittent fasting is something you can incorporate into your schedule. It’s a lifestyle and allows reasonable freedom. Being able to stick to a diet plan is a key part of losing weight – and can often be the most difficult part. Yet, IF may help you stick with one, finally!
How to Start Intermittent Fasting
Are you ready to get started? Great!
Starting an intermittent fasting diet, at first, requires a bit of organization. Firstly, what kind of schedule would work best for you? Daily fasting, calorie restrictions, or weekly/monthly 24-hour fasts?
It’s important to take your own health and abilities into consideration before committing yourself to a 24-hour fast once a week. If you’re not sure, speak to your doctor before getting started.
Next, you need to plan what you’ll eat when you aren’t fasting. If you only have eight hours a day in which to eat, you’ll need to make those hours count. Eating things you like is fine but be sure to get all the nutrients you need for the day. Try and be as balanced as possible. Include whole foods and fruits and veggies over processed and pre-packaged food items. This can help you ensure your body gets what it needs.
If you’re not sure whether you’ll be able to get everything you need in the eight hours, plan out your meals for a week, making sure that you’ll get enough fruits, vegetables, protein, and so on.
Here are a few other things to consider when getting started:
- You’re going to be hungry. It can take your body two to six weeks to adjust to a new eating program. If you’ve chosen a very big fasting window, the adjusting period can be even more difficult. It may be best to start with a small fasting window and slowly build as you ease into it and your body adjusts.
- Plan what you’ll eat after your fast period finishes. Since you’ll be hungry and likely wrestling with cravings, it can be too easy to just order a fast food meal or eat some sugary junk food. While you can occasionally eat these things during your non-fasting period, try not to overeat or overdo the consumption of high-calorie and low nutrient-dense foods. If you’ve planned a meal you’re looking forward to after your fasting, you’re less likely to impulse eat.
- Fast during weekdays. Depending on your schedule, you’ll likely be busy during the week. You don’t want to be sitting at home on a Saturday morning, listening to your stomach rumble and wishing you’d fasted on Thursday when you were almost too busy to eat! Alternatively, you may want to consider fasting on the weekend if you’re week is just too jam-packed. You’ll need energy to keep you going through your busy schedule. Weigh your options and choose what works best for you.
How To Keep It Up
Intermittent fasting can be a simple diet plan that works for you. Take it easy when you’re first starting out: listen to your body. If you feel too ill, stop or consult a doctor. You might have relapses or slip-ups: don’t beat yourself up about it. Don’t overdo your fasting periods and try not to overeat during your free periods.
Remember, healthy weight loss takes time. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see immediate results. Keep going!
Want to ease into the idea of fasting? Try out one of Nosh Detox’s juice fasts to start!