Are you tired of trying countless diets without seeing sustainable results? Are you looking for a healthy and easy dietary plan? Do you want to be able to lose weight without having to sacrifice your favorite foods? Are you perhaps looking to improve your health and overall well being? If so, intermittent fasting is the perfect option for you! This is your complete guide to intermittent fasting 101.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting (IF) is more of a pattern of eating than it is a diet. It consists in scheduling your meals in a way that optimizes your body’s performance. IF is based on a theory that the human body is designed for periods of eating followed by periods of fasting.
It is a pattern of dieting that reduces the period of time you have to eat your daily food, allowing your body to repair during the fasting period and then, function at its best.
There are several different IF methods, all of which split the day or week into eating periods and fasting periods.
Humans have been successfully fasting for thousands of years. Sometimes it was done out of necessity, in other instances, it was done out of religious reasons – various religions including Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, mandate fasting in some form.
Moreover, humans and animals often fast instinctively while sick. There is nothing “unnatural” about fasting and our bodies are fully equipped to handle extended periods of not eating – another piece of information that is important to learn in intermittent fasting 101.
After eating a meal, our bodies release insulin. However, it isn’t meant to be released all the time and high levels of insulin make it hard for our bodies to burn fat. Which is why eating small meals throughout the day doesn’t really help with weight loss , since it consistently maintains the release of insulin in your body throughout the day.
However while we fast, we are letting our insulin levels go back to normal so that we can unlock our fat stores and start burning fat and losing weight! Most people enter the fasted state about 6-8 hours after their last meal.
This form of dieting has become very popular for over ten years now, and when combined with a healthy lifestyle it has proven to be effective in weight management. In fact, many people succeed with this method as it is so flexible, and you can reap the benefits of fasting without feeling that you are “missing out” on life. The beauty of this eating pattern is that it allows you to enjoy any food that you like, as long as it is eaten during the “eating time frame”.
So, what can you eat when you’re intermittent fasting?
This is the first thing you learn in intermittent fasting 101, and coincidentally this is the best part about intermittent fasting – you can eat absolutely anything! I know, it sounds too good to be true. But it is!
When you are following an IF dietary pattern, during the “eating windows” you are allowed to eat absolutely anything! Of course, if you are trying to lose weight, it might be a good idea to try and eat healthy during your eating window periods.
However, it is not a necessity, and you can still experience weight loss as long as you stay within your daily calorie intake norm, and as long as you are respecting the fasting windows.
Why is periodic fasting so effective?
The whole idea of intermittent fasting revolves around alternating the “eating” and the “fasting” periods throughout the day or week. By incorporating time-restricted feeding in your day, we increase the amount of time when we are in ‘rest and repair’ mode, which allows our insulin levels to decrease. Then, our body is forced to use some stored energy supplies, which leads to burning fat and losing weight.
As it was mentioned earlier, eating almost any food causes a rise in blood sugar levels or, in other words, insulin. If we are always eating, it does not leave much time for the body to lower insulin levels. Thus, the body has less time to restore itself. So the rest between meals is extremely important as it allows our bodies to start the cellular repair, making stored fat more accessible to be burnt as energy.
The fasting periods are also extremely important for your overall health, since the process of cellular repair also helps the body to get rid of damaged cells. This phenomenon is called “autophagy” – another intermittent fasting 101 term, which is the natural way of our bodies to clean out damaged cells and replace them with new, healthy ones. At its core, intermittent fasting is not only an effective weight management technique. More importantly, it is a regeneration process that is crucial to your health.
What are the benefits of intermittent fasting?
- From an evolutionary standpoint, we are not meant to be consuming three meals a day. In the olden days, when humans had to hunt and gather food, they were only able to eat once a day in the best case scenario, and usually – once every few days. So fasting is nothing new for us as a species, and we are designed to be able to handle it.
- Thus, alternating the “eating” and “fasting” windows can help you reduce your hunger and help recalibrate your metabolic rate to a more natural and healthy pattern.
Change of functions of cells and hormones
- During the fasting periods, the levels of insulin in your cells drop significantly, which facilitates the process of burning fat.
- Time-restricted eating also increases the production of the human growth hormone and stabilizes growth hormone level, which also regulates fat burning as well as muscle gain.
- Additionally, fasting induces the process of autophagy, repairing cells and removing waste, which is another incredible benefit.
Effective weight management aid
- It enhances various hormone functions to facilitate weight loss and body fat control.
- When maintaining the right IF routine, your rate increases by 4-14%, helping you burn even more calories on your weight loss journey!
Prevention of certain diseases
- This dietary plan can significantly lower your risk of type 2 diabetes, which is another major benefit.
- Intermittent fasting can be beneficial for your cardiovascular health – it has been shown to improve numerous heart disease and heart health risk factors such as blood pressure, cholesterol levels and blood sugar levels.
- Fasting for periods of time can also help prevent cancer and other chronic disease. According to research, intermittent fasting helps prevent cancer in animal studies. There is also some evidence that suggests that fasting reduces various side effects of chemotherapy in human cancer patients.
- IF can reduce oxidative stress, which has various benefits against premature aging and aging in general.
- Time-restricted eating triggers autophagy, the process of cell regeneration, which also contributes to rejuvenation of your body, healthy aging and life expectancy prolonging.
Improved brain health and functioning
- Surprisingly enough, short-term fasting is also really good for your brain and mental clarity. Several studies have shown that it can increase growth of new neurons and protect the brain from various damages.
- Also, various studies in animals suggest that IF may be protective against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease.
Can you sustain an intermittent fasting diet?
IF is one of the diet plans that offer the most sustainable results. It is a plan that you can stick to – in fact, many people pick two or three days a week to do IF and say that they either lose or maintain weight by following this plan of time-restricted feeding. It won’t send you into that feeling of starvation that you get with other diets, making it sustainable and less restrictive than other methods of dieting.
In addition, the fact that it allows you to eat whatever you want, you will be more likely to stick to it in the long run. Since you’d be allowed to eat whatever you’d like, you are going to be less likely to “cheat” and stray away from your diet. In addition, let’s face it, it won’t restrict you as much and make you miserable like most of the dietary plans out there.
What are the different types of IF?
The 16:8 method:
This classic method involves fasting everyday for 16 hours per day, and restricting your daily eating to an eight-hour window.
For example, if you finish your last meal at 8 pm, and then fast until noon the next day, then you are fasting for 16 hours between meals.
In order to ease into this method, you can try starting anywhere from a 12 hour fast, and slowly increasing your fasting window to 13, then 14, then 16 hours a day. This way you will be able to slowly get used to your new regime without putting your body through a lot of stress.
The 24 hour method:
This IF plan lets you eat normally most days, except for 3 days a week when you’re fasting for a full 24 hour period. This method is also called “alternate-day fasting”.
It is important to note that the 3 fasting days are supposed to be non-consecutive.
If you are looking to use this method, remember that you are not obliged to fast for three days a week – just pick the amount of fasting days that you are comfortable with! In this case, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. You can either fast for three, two or even one day a week. For example, fasting once a week for 24 hours can be a way of maintaining your weight loss results.
The 5:2 method:
This fasting schedule consists in eating normally for 5 days and then restricting your caloric intake to 500 calories per day for two days a week For example, you can eat normally from Monday to Friday, and restrict yourself to under 500 calories/day on Saturday and Sunday.
Although it is not exactly “fasting”, it does put your body into a “near-fasting” state. In addition, this is a great way to ease into this regimen for beginners learning about intermittent fasting 101. It is also a good tactic to approach sustainable weight management.
The 20:4 method:
This intermittent fasting plan is a slight level-up from the 16:8 method. In this case, you eat during a 4-hour eating window, and then you fast for the remaining 20 hours of the day.
This type of IF best fits people who already got familiar and used to the 16:8 method. Some people alternate both – for example, they use the 16:8 method 5 days a week, and the 20:4 method on the weekends.
Try out a few types of IF to see which one fits your lifestyle the most!
What can I consume during the fasting window?
Just because you are fasting, it doesn’t mean you can’t consume anything at all! Thankfully, there are various options when it comes to your fasting window. Although while fasting, you are only allowed to drink liquids, don’t get discouraged! Some of these options can even help you feel full during your fasting periods. Here’s a list of liquids you can consume while fasting, without breaking your fast:
- Black coffee: it is important to remember that you can’t add any milk, sugar or cream to your coffee. It is low in calories, which makes it a perfect intermittent fasting 101 staple. The best part about drinking black coffee while you’re fasting, is that it will actually help you feel more full, which will help you with the feelings of hunger that you might be experiencing when you first start this regimen.
- Tea: another great alternative. When consumed hot, it can also contribute to getting rid of the feeling of hunger and feeling fuller!
- Iced coffee/Iced tea: great, refreshing option. Again, remember not to add any sugar, cream, milk or honey.
- Water: plain and simple. You are allowed to drink as much water as you’d like. In fact, studies show that people who drink a lot of water on a daily basis, tend to lose more weight than those who don’t!
- Infused water: this is an option for people who don’t necessarily enjoy drinking plain water. In this case, the water is infused with fruit, berries, vegetables or spices! These elements not only add flavor to your water, but also enrich it with vitamins. To learn more about infused waters, click here!
- Sparkling water: another healthy choice for people who don’t like drinking regular water. According to research, this carbonated alternative can actually help your digestion!
- Water + lemon: is another classic. Not only will it help you with your hunger during the fasting windows, but it is also packed with amazing health benefits! For instance, better hydration, digestion support, immunity boost, improved skin quality etc.
What to eat during the eating window for best intermittent fasting results?
The beauty of intermittent fasting is that you can absolutely eat all kinds of food, as long as it is during the permitted “eating windows”. Really, there are no restrictions. The calories that you ingest during the eating period will all be burned while fasting – we have learned that in intermittent fasting 101.
However, it is recommended to stay within your daily calorie intake norm. Generally speaking, the recommended daily calorie intake is 2,500 calories a day for men and 2,000 calories for women. As long as you are staying within this calorie frame and following any of the intermittent fasting methods described above, you should be able to either maintain your current weight, or lose weight.
In addition, if you are looking to lose even more weight, it might be a good idea to eat healthy during your eating periods and exercise caloric restriction. There are no set rules here, but in order to shed some pounds, consider following our recommendations:
- Avoid processed foods.
- Decrease your sugar intake
- Switch sodas for water
- Eat more whole, unprocessed foods
- Include more fruits, vegetables and leafy greens in your diet
Will you feel hungry when you start intermittent fasting?
The answer is yes and no. Surprisingly enough, hunger is a feeling that slowly goes away when you start IF. At first, the hunger that you will experience in the mornings and in the evenings can be a little intense. However, if you stay disciplined and keep following the regimen, you will soon start to notice that you don’t feel very hungry anymore.
At the very least, you will no longer feel hunger as acutely, since your metabolism will gradually recalibrate. Your body will get used to your “eating” and “fasting” windows, and you will start to notice that feeling of hunger will eventually disappear. As time goes by, and as your body gets more and more used to the new dietary regime, you will find it progressively easier and easier to maintain this eating pattern.
Like most diets and eating plans, different strategies work for different people, and many say that intermittent fasting is the key to weight management.
The science behind it is sound and it certainly seems to reduce the incidence of weight-related disease and illness, as well as various other types of diseases. It is important to remember that for best results, intermittent fasting should be approached as a lifestyle, versus just as a quick diet. Once you get into a habit of IF, chances are, you might not want to go back to your prior eating pattern!
This eating regimen yields amazing results – weight management, improved general well being, anti-aging, improved brain functioning and more. We wish you good luck with embarking on your IF journey, and we hope that you found our intermittent fasting 101 guide useful 🙂