Intermittent Fasting, or IF, has recently become a popular way of eating. It’s all about when you eat, not what you eat. Basically, you consume all of your calories within a specific time period. There are several versions of intermittent fasting, and some have been shown to help you lose weight among other health benefits. If you have tried umpteen diets with no success, it may be worth a shot to try limiting your eating window instead of focusing so much on what exactly you consume.
Like all other diet programs, you should consult your doctor before attempting IF, especially if you attempt a fast longer than 24 hours.
What Are the Different Types of IF?
You already fast every night while you sleep. Starting an intermittent fasting program is simply extending that fast to a longer period of not eating. There are many popular styles of IF out there, and lots of intermittent fasters switch between different plans to keep their body from adapting to a particular way of eating.
- The most common plan is 16:8, which means you would fast for 16 hours, and your eating window would be 8 hours. Your daily schedule might look like this: Wake up and fast until 12 pm, eat 2-3 meals, and finish all of your calorie consumption by 8 pm. Of course, all of these times are flexible to fit your personal schedule.
- You could also try 20:4. This would mean breaking your fast in the afternoon then eating dinner before the end of your feasting window. So, you’d fast for 20 hours (i.e., from 8 pm to 4 pm) and have a 4-hour eating window.
- Another popular plan is called OMAD (one meal a day). This is where you would fast for 23 hours, and your eating window would be 1 hour a day where you would eat one very large meal. You could eat this meal whenever you wanted, but it would have to be within that one-hour feasting window.
- There are also Extended Fasts (EF). These types of fasts usually need to be monitored by your healthcare provider for safety. An extended fast could be from 24 hours to 5 days of not consuming any calories.
How Does IF Even Help You Lose Weight?
It’s not just a matter of eating fewer calories. In fact, many intermittent fasters consume the same number of calories, the only difference is the shorter period of time. That’s right, you may not have to change what or how much you eat, and you could still lose weight with IF.
Several things change in your body when you are in a fasted state. For one, you don’t get the insulin spikes associated with eating, so your blood sugar is more stable. Also, your body will use up its stores of glycogen and be forced to use body fat for energy. Finally, several other bodily systems are allowed time to repair because your body doesn’t have to focus on digestion. This period of repair can have several health benefits including weight loss.
Choose a Plan and Ease into It
Intermittent fasting might seem like a daunting task at first. Of course, you are probably used to eating three or more meals at certain times of the day. That’s why you should gradually build up your fasting time to have a higher chance of success. If you want to try the 16:8 plan, don’t start with fasting for 16 hours. Just begin by fasting for 12 hours. If you finish taking your last bite of dinner at 8 pm, don’t consume any calories until 8 am the next morning. Once this feels easy, slowly increase your fasting window hour-by-hour until you reach your IF goal.
What to Consume While Fasting
You probably already guessed that you can’t eat anything during your fasting window, but what about beverages, supplements, and even chewing gum?
One of the hardest hurdles people find when fasting is giving up the cream and sugar in their coffee and switching to black. This is, however, necessary for your body to stay in a fasted state. Even a few calories will halt the benefits of fasting. So, you will need to drink coffee and tea without milk or sweeteners (even many sugar substitutes will throw you out of a fasted state). Water, of course, is an excellent beverage choice while fasting, and you should be sure to drink plenty of it.
Supplements are best taken during your feasting window but are sure to ask your doctor before changing how you take these. Finally, even something like chewing gum can stop the benefits of fasting because you are signaling to your body (through the action of chewing and the consumption of something sweet) that you are eating. Therefore, some digestive processes begin.
What to Consume While Feasting
During your eating window, you can feel free to eat normally. Be sure to eat nutrient-rich foods that will supply you with the calories, vitamins, and minerals that you would typically need on a non-fasting day. While you want to avoid binge-eating during your eating window, you certainly don’t have to cut back on food, although you may find that you are not as hungry as you usually are.
Other Lifestyle Changes That Enhance Intermittent Fasting
- Exercising in a fasted state has been shown to result in more fat loss. Because your body doesn’t have the normal glycogen to use during your workout, it will turn to your stored body fat for fuel.
- Some people find that eating a low-carb diet helps them to fast more easily. They don’t get as hungry during their fasting window.
Who Might NOT Be a Good Candidate for IF
Intermittent fasting is not for everyone, so you should definitely consult your doctor before trying it. If you are on certain medications, their efficacy could be affected by fasting, so your dosage might need to be adjusted by your healthcare provider. People in these categories might not be a good candidate for IF:
- Women who are pregnant
- Individuals with a history of an eating disorder
- People who have significant health conditions or diseases
- Those who have hormonal imbalances
If you have tried too many diets to count or have reached a weight loss plateau, intermittent fasting might just be the key to achieving your weight loss goals. Do your research, talk to your doctor, and set a realistic goal. Remember to ease into it slowly, and you might just find that the IF lifestyle is easy and effective to do.