Intermittent fasting is a beginner-friendly diet popular for people trying to lose weight. It’s straightforward to start as it’s only eating at a specific time and fasting the rest.
In this guide, you will find all the information you need to start intermittent fasting.
Read on to learn the benefits, types of intermittent fasting, benefits, side effects, etc.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that limits your food intake to a specific time each day or week. Describing intermittent fasting as a diet wouldn’t be 100% accurate as it’s not dictating what you eat but when you eat.
Here is a fantastic video resource from Thomas Delauer
Popular Types of Intermittent Fasting
Several types of intermittent fasting exist, with some more leaning toward beginners.
Let’s look at four of the most popular intermittent fasting methods.
On the 16/8 method, you fast for 16 hours, and your eating window is 8 hours. Following the 16/8 method is a relatively normal eating schedule.
You can eat between 9 am and 7 pm, so breakfast, lunch, and dinner can be eaten as normal.
Many starting on IF opt for the 16/8 method as it’s the simplest to follow. Sticking to a 9am to 7pm, for example, means that your fasting period will be overnight when you are sleeping.
Cutting out food completely for 24 hours 1-2 times per week is another popular intermittent fasting method. Consume only water or other non-caloric beverages for the full 24-hours.
Black coffee and club soda are common for people on this fasting method.
Weight loss is achieved in most people on a 24 hour fast. Many people find not eating for 24-hours much more sustainable than intermittent fasting every day.
Midday to midday is a popular fasting window for those on the 24-hour intermittent fasting plan.
You can also do breakfast to breakfast or whenever suits your lifestyle/ schedule.
Cap your calories to 500 twice per week on the 5/2 intermittent fasting schedule. The other 5 days you can consume healthy food and not worry too much about tracking calorie intake. Splitting your 500-calorie intake into two meals of 300 and 200 is recommended.
Both meals should contain high protein and high calories to make you feel fuller for longer. Plus, they contain fewer calories and have many health benefits.
What days of the week you choose is down to you. A day between your fasting periods and eating normally on your non-fasting days is the only rule.
Alternate Day Fasting
Eating what you want one day and fasting the next is the alternate-day fasting method.
You can eat up to 500 calories on your fasting days, or approximately 25% of your energy requirements.
Drinks allowed during your fasting days are water, black tea, and tea without sweeteners. Studies on ADF have shown positive results for reducing harmful belly fat, overall weight loss, and helping combat Type 2 Diabetes.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Many people are flocking to intermittent fasting due to its main health benefits.
Losing weight is the main reason most people turn to intermittent fasting. Eating fewer calories and sticking to a set eating pattern between fasting periods will result in fat loss.
Fasting for extended periods will put your body into ketosis – when your body breaks down stored body fat for energy due to the lack of glucose.
Short-term fasting may not be enough time for your body to reach a ketogenic state, but combining IF with a low-carb diet should.
Hormonal changes in your body will also occur during fasting, which triggers fat burning and muscle gain.
Lower insulin levels also help to facilitate your body’s ability to burn fat.
Reduces the Risk of Cardiovascular Diseases
Insulin levels decrease when intermittent fasting. There is a correlation between the decline and the risk of issues with your heart, including heart disease.
Weight loss will reduce the chance of you suffering from cardiovascular disease. So, heart health is affected by your body weight and isn’t solely down to intermittent fasting.
Low Blood Pressure
Studies in animals and humans have shown intermittent fasting can help reduce blood pressure. On the downside, the same studies show low blood pressure only occurs during intermittent fasting.
Afterward, the BP levels go back to the initial reading before the participant began intermittent fasting.
Keeping your blood pressure low is important to your overall health.
Eyes, heart, and brain health can all be affected if your blood pressure is dangerous.
High blood pressure is one of the clinical health markers for a range of issues that could develop, including diabetes, heart disease, and many other cognitive diseases.
Protection Against Cancer
Reducing the risk of cancer is another of the key benefits of intermittent fasting.
Fasting can help slow the capability of cancerous cells to adapt and spread throughout your body.
If you are suffering from cancer, consulting with a Dr before undertaking IF is paramount.
Improved Insulin Sensitivity
Blood sugar regulation may occur in people with diabetes as IF could cause your insulin to reset. Research is still being conducted, but studies so far have been promising.
Insulin levels are likely to fall during intermittent fasting plans, which can reduce the risk of Type 2 Diabetes occurring.
Consulting with your doctor before beginning an intermittent fasting routine is necessary if you have diabetes. Any changes to your blood sugar could be deadly, so seeking medical advice is essential.
Boosted Memory & Reduced ‘Brain Fog’
Intermittent fasting has been shown to increase concentration and potentially increase memory. Many IF participants have reported improved mental health.
This could reduce processed foods as many keto diet followers have reported the same.
Intermittent Fasting Side Effects
Intermittent fasting is considered safe overall, but you may suffer from some common side effects, including:
- Dehydration – Intermittent fasting involves the body releasing large stores of water and salt in the initial days, so you may feel dehydrated as your body looks to replace the loss.
- Moody – Low blood sugar can cause you to be easily irritated and unable to concentrate as well as usual.
- Headaches – Sore heads are a common side-effect of intermittent fasting, particularly for the first few days. Low blood sugar and caffeine withdrawals are the most common causes of headaches during IF.
- Hungry – Feeling hungry is most likely in the first few days of IF. As you consume fewer calories, your body will crave food until your body composition changes.
- Digestive Issues – Problems with your digestion are widespread when intermittent fasting. This includes diarrhea, constipation, and bloating. Staying properly hydrated can reduce the effects on your digestive system.
Cheat Days Intermittent Fasting
Good news… you can have an occasional cheat day when intermittent fasting! Cheat days can even reset your metabolism and lead to faster weight loss.
Things come up, a friend’s birthday, a date, or whatever else where some tasty food or drinks will tempt you.
Planning your cheat day will keep you disciplined. Sporadic and unplanned cheat days following an intermittent fasting schedule can lead to bad habits.
JUST DONT OVER DO IT, especially with sugary drinks, fried foods, or ultra-processed foods.
Exercising and Intermittent Fasting
Exercising during intermittent fasting can help with losing weight and boost heart health. Exercising in the morning before you eat breakfast will help you lose fat at a faster rate.
Staying hydrated is very important when exercising during intermittent fasting.
High-paced cardio during IF can be counterproductive, though. Studies have shown that your body can break down muscle by seeking protein for fuel.
Intermittent Fasting FAQs
Getting started? Let’s answer some of the most common questions about intermittent fasting.
How to Curb Hunger When Fasting
Curbing hunger when during fasting periods can be done in several ways. During your eating window, indulge in low-carb, high-fat meals that will keep you feeling full longer.
Ensuring you get a good night’s sleep has also been shown to reduce hunger.
Can You Eat Anything While Intermittent Fasting?
No, you can’t eat anything while intermittent fasting. You should stop eating unhealthy foods or reduce the amount during your eating window.
The more calories you consume, the more difficult it will be for intermittent fasting.
Should I skip breakfast when intermittent fasting?
Skipping breakfast during intermittent fasting should only be done if breakfast time falls between your fasting windows.
You can eat breakfast after 9am if you are on a 16/8 intermittent fasting schedule between 9am – 7pm, for example.
I’m Chris Watson & the Founder of EatForLonger.com. I’m a food and wellbeing enthusiast researching and sharing foodstuffs and simple food-based concepts, such as fasting and clean eating.
I hope it inspires you to make tiny changes to what you eat and when you eat while optimizing your healthspan and all-around well-being.
Read more About Me here.