Tell me if this sounds familiar.
You’ve tried a few different diets and only had temporary success. The diets usually consisted of not being able to eat certain types of foods. Or, they made you eat certain kinds of foods, that weren’t particularly tasty, or the diets were very restrictive in some sense. Some diets require you to stop eating some things altogether.
The reason, a large majority of people who fail at diets, is because diets don’t work. They’re a short-term solution to a long-term problem.
If you’ve found success with a diet, and are able to maintain the restriction in whatever capacity it is, then you’ve made a lifestyle change. And that’s exactly what is needed to see change.
Combine what you’ve found success on, with what i’ll be describing below, and you may reach a point that accomplishes your health and wellness goals.
Intermittent fasting (IF) has been a bit of a craze lately, and I personally can see why people are talking so much about the benefits they’re seeing.
If you’ve read some of the other posts I’ve put up you’ll know that I too do an intermittent fasting schedule.
For me, IF has several benefits that I enjoy and there are so many different ways of doing IF, that just about anybody can experience the advantages it provides
In this post, I’m going to be explaining what intermittent fasting is, the various methods, the benefits, what to eat when fasting, side effects, how to use apple cider vinegar, and finally how to break your fast.
How Does Intermittent Fasting Work
Intermittent fasting is just as it sounds. It’s the process of cycling between eating meals and not eating. Sounds kind of familiar right? Fasting is also called time-restricted feeding (TRF). It sounds very animalistic to me, but I”m here to inform so that you can become familiar with what you’re looking at.
The overarching premise of fasting or TRF is restricting the number of hours you allow yourself to consume food. The windows usually refer to 12 hours, 8 hours, 6 hours, and 4 hours. I’ll explain this a bit later.
What really cracks me up is that IF has been around for a very long time. And if you think about it, it was done out of necessity way back in the day of hunter-gathers. They didn’t have grocery stores around, so their meals were based on what they had at hand.
If they had no food…then they had no food, and they were forced to fast. And yes, some even starved, but starvation and intermittent fasting are two different things.
Starvation is something you have no choice over. Fasting is something you do voluntarily, and have control over. Fasting (by a normally healthy person) can be a great way to burn stored body fat.
Fasting is something you can begin at any time on any day, and you can end your fast at any time or any day. People who fast have access to food (unlike those that are starving) and generally abstain from consuming it for health or spiritual reasons.
Fasting is not something that should be frowned up, as everyone is essentially doing it. From the time you finish eating dinner at night, to when you wake up in the morning, you’re fasting, because you’ve abstained from eating.
Assuming you didn’t get up in the middle of the night for a snack. Time-restricted eating or fasting just extends this fasting period. Some do it for hours, some do it for longer. There are a variety of fasting methods.
Types of Intermittent Fasting
12 Hour Fast
Fasting for 12 hours is generally considered a great way to dip your toe in the water of fasting. Generally done overnight, it’s simply the absence of eating for 12 hours. Considering that you’ll be (or at least should be) asleep for a majority of that time, it makes it pretty easy to try it out. Studies show that with a short 12 hour fast, you can expect to lose some weight.
16 Hour Fast
The 16 hour fast is also usually done overnight. This one is 16 hours of fasting combined with an 8-hour feeding window. For me I usually finish my dinner by 6 pm, maybe have some herbal tea, and then I have my morning protein shake at 10 am. From 10 am until 6 pm I eat nutritious foods throughout the day and finish up by 6 pm. This is my routine, and this is a very popular routine.
18 & 20 Hour Fast
Again, similar to the 12 or 16 hours fast. The extended duration of the fasting will provide more opportunity for the body to burn through stored body fat and use it for energy.
They’re are fasting periods that can last for 24 hours or more. I would classify these as more extreme fasting methods, and can obviously be a bit more dangerous compared to the aforementioned temporary fasts.
The 5:2 fast is a method of fasting based on days & calorie restriction as opposed to a fasting window. For 5 days of the week, you would eat normally, and on 2 of the days, you would eat no more than 500 calories.
The two days that you’re eating a small number of calories, you want to make sure you’re eating nutritious foods just like any other day. Indulging in a calorie-rich snack can provide you the max calories all at once. It’s best to spread those 500 calories over the day and get the most out of them as you can.
As you can see there are several types of fasting methods. Deciding which one is right for you depends on what you’re trying to achieve, and what your goals are. For beginners, I think 12 or 16 hour fast is a great place to start.
Once you’ve tried these out, and are familiar with the effects, the longer 20 hour or day(s) long fasting can be attempted. As usual, consult with your primary physician before changing your eating or nutrition habits.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
There is a reason that IF has been one of the most searched health and nutrition terms for the past year. The benefits are numerous and they can be realized quickly. That being said, there are a lot of studies that need to be verified before substantial claims can be made regarding the benefits. Until then, you can only listen to what people who are currently using IF are experiencing. Below is a list of benefits people are experiencing:
- Weight loss – people that fast typically consume fewer calories. Fewer calories consumed means less stored body fat.
- Reduction in body fat – intermittent fasting uses stored body fat for energy once the glucose is depleted in your body. Once your body taps into the body fat, it will decrease.
- Fewer blood sugar spikes – fasting can help regulate your metabolism, and help decrease the roller coaster effect of blood sugar spikes and valleys.
- Mental clarity – some people may initially experience brain fog or headaches, but then seem to feel mental clarity, make it easier to focus and concentrate.
- Increase in energy – similar to mental clarity, some people report initial fatigue, but after a bit, energy levels seem to stabilize or even rise a bit.
- Reduced inflammation – some inflammation is good, it helps fight off infection, but too much inflammation can be bad. IF can help reduce the number of cells that cause inflammation.
- Lower risk of heart failure – intermittent could lower bad cholesterol which is a major contributor to heart failure.
One of my favorite aspects of IF is the time saved, and the simplicity of it. When I listen to other people discussing going on diets, they usually discuss strange meals or very restrict types of food. With IF you eat the same foods you normally do, but you just alter when you eat those foods. For me, this makes IF simple and attainable.
What To Eat While Fasting
The good thing about fasting is the “diet” is basically eating the same as you normally would. Unlike some other restrictive diets, there are no foods to avoid, or over-indulgence in one certain food, like cabbage soup. That being said, while your intermittent fasting, it doesn’t give you a hall pass to eat pizza and burgers.
You still need to eat clean, nutritious, whole foods. A good rule of thumb is, if the food you’re eating is prepackaged or has more than a handful of ingredients, it’s probably not a healthy item. One exception that I personally don’t mind is spices. I tend to put a few different spices on my steaks, chicken, and turkey to help spice them up. For me, this is an allowable exception.
During my feeding window, I like to start my day off with a low sugar protein shake or smoothie. For those that break their fast in the morning, either of these two works great for me. It’s low in sugar, so it won’t cause an immediate insulin spike, it’s easy to digest, and if you have enough fats in the shake or smoothie it will tide you over until lunch.
When it comes to lunchtime, I alternate between a taco salad, or sandwich and cottage cheese. A taco salad is low in carbs, has lean protein, and after I add in some tomatoes, olives, cilantro, and a sprinkle of cheese, it tastes great. When I’m downing a sandwich, it’s always a whole wheat bread (again to avoid insulin spikes commonly caused by white or enriched bread) a dab of mustard, and a slice of lean meat. Again topped with tomatoes, avocado slices, and cilantro. About 3/4 of cottage cheese on the side, and you have yourself a high-protein, moderate fat, moderate/low carb lunch.
If you’re on the keto kick, then I would grab a carb-free bread or use lettuce wraps.
When the 2-3 pm arrives a handful of pistachios, peanuts, meat&cheese, or maybe even some jerky will easily tide me over until dinner time. The biggest thing with snacks is trying to keep them light, protein-rich, and avoid over-indulging. Again a protein shake in the afternoon is also a good choice.
Dinner is usually chicken or turkey and veggies. For you, fish lovers, a filet of fish in place of the chicken or turkey is a great alternative. When it comes to red meat, I try to stick to one or two red meat dishes a week. During the summer, a BBQ steak and veggies really hits the spot.
Again, I aim to be done with my food intake by 6 pm, but a herbal tea in the evening helps prevent any kind of hunger pains right before bedtime.
The overarching goal here is to keep the carbs to a minimum, eat plenty of protein, and a moderate amount of fat. Based on your goals these amounts might change a bit. If you’re looking to add some muscle or bulk up, then lots of protein, a moderate amount of carbs and some fat will be right for you.
On the other end of the spectrum, if you’re going for Ketosis, then zero to very little carb intake is needed. It really depends on what you’re trying to achieve.
Side Effects of Fasting
Fasting isn’t for everyone. Particularly, women that are expecting, breastfeeding, people with a history of eating disorders, and diabetics. Additionally, fasting can have some disadvantages.
The first one being, when you start out, you’ll be battling hunger cravings.
This is normal because your body is accustomed to getting food. The hunger is derived from a drop in your glucose, but over time, the drops become less severe, and you’ll be able to tolerate the hunger pains easier. If hunger pains are something of major concern, you can try decreasing your overall sugar consumption prior to starting intermittent fasting. This will help decrease the intensity of the dropping glucose levels.
Headaches, fatigue, and even muscle loss are other potential side effects. If you’re not exercising and depending on how hard and long you’re fasting, your body may lose some muscle mass.
During fasting, your body should primarily use stored body fat as it’s new source of calories, but everyone is different. If dizziness or other the aforementioned items continue, stop the fasting, and consult with a physician.
How to Break Your Fast/ACV
Avoid overindulging when you come out of your fast. It’s best to start with something light and easily digestible. Additionally, I would stick to a smaller meal.
I personally, have had great success with apple cider vinegar (ACV). And I use ACV in a couple of different ways. I like to mix a couple of tablespoons with some lemon ginger tea when breaking my fast. It’s a very low-calorie consumption and it gets the gut biome working and tells the digestive system to fire up.
A bowl of oatmeal mixed with apple sauce and cinnamon usually follows and provides a more substantive effect. From there, it’s normal meals for the rest of the feeding window.
Another trick with ACV is it’s excellent at providing a satiety effect on its own. Some people mix a bit with a glass of water, to help prolong their fasting. There is debate on how effective this is, and whether consuming ACV will stop the fasting effects altogether. I personally, think it could help, and would advise you to try it yourself and see if it works for you.
There are a ton of ways to use apple cider vinegar, and there are many benefits. To learn more about ways to get the most out of ACV, click here.
Other Benefits of ACV
- Helps stabilize blood sugar levels
- Balances ph levels in the gut
- Helps with digestion
- Helps you feel fuller
- Can aid in consuming fewer calories
Again, consume healthy meals when breaking your fast and keep them light, and you’ll really get the benefits of intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting can be a great tool to help you achieve health and nutrition goals. But it’s just a tool that needs to be used in conjunction with other proper nutrition.
Adding regular exercise will accentuate the positive effects of intermittent fasting. It may not be for everyone, but the best way to find out, is to try it out.
Is intermittent fasting bad?
Intermittent fasting has helped thousands of people reach their weight loss goals. For others, it just doesn’t seem to fit with their schedule or it doesn’t provide the benefits they were looking for. The best way to know, is trying it out yourself.
Is intermittent fasting safe?
Intermittent fasting isn’t for everyone. Particularly, if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, diabetic, or have a history of eating disorders. Consult your physician before making in changes to your nutrition.
How long should I do intermittent fasting?
For some, intermittent fasting is a lifestyle choice, so they’ll do it for an extended period of time. Others, will find it doesn’t work for them, so they should, an do stop immediately. If you find it works for you, continue doing it. I would recommend trying it for a couple of days and see how if it’s a good fit.
How many hours should I fast?
If you’re just starting out, I would try a simple 12 hour fast, and then move into a 16 hour fast if seems to be positively effecting you.