You are probably here reading this guide because you want to consider intermittent fasting (IF) to achieve your health and fitness goals. You may have heard how effective it is for weight loss, overall physical health, and mental health. Many people claim to have changed their lives doing this practice, but how true are they?
Indeed, there are volumes of research that talk about the positive findings and benefits of intermittent fasting. Medical professionals and nutrition experts have published reliable information about it on the Internet. Also, thousands of people post blogs and testimonies about their experience on IF.
This quick start guide will save you the trouble of reading through thousands of pages of studies and testimonials. It is a condensed version of the most relevant info and tips regarding the subject. You will find all the fundamental knowledge you need to determine if this lifestyle is for you.
If you decide that it is worth a try, there is a simple guide below on how you can quick-start your intermittent fasting journey. You will also learn some valuable recommendations and tips to help you get the most from this method of eating.
Why Should You Fast Intermittently?
Understand that intermittent fasting is not a traditional diet. There are many reasons to integrate it as part of your lifestyle. It does not involve calorie-counting and will not restrict you from eating specific foods.
The idea is to abstain from eating throughout the fasting hours and eat only during the designated eating hours. Whether you want to lose weight or increase your health and vitality, this practice is so flexible that you can adapt it as part of your lifestyle right away.
Intermittent Fasting is not a Fad
A fad diet is a short-lived trend that promises to burn your body fat away in a short time but does not deliver long-term results. These diets come and go because people realize they are not sustainable in the long run.
Intermittent fasting is different. It is here to stay because it is a lifestyle that delivers endless benefits, based on research. It has been practiced for millennia by different cultures around the world for physical and spiritual gains. It is only now that it has become embraced as a choice for a healthy lifestyle.
The practice of fasting will not go away anytime soon because health experts are acknowledging its health benefits. In the past, some health experts usually do not recommend skipping meals. Today, nutritionists and medical practitioners see the value and advantages of fasting that they now recommend IF to their clients.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Scientific research for over 75 years proves how potent intermittent fasting is for health. Here are the powerful benefits you can get by following the practice:
- It enhances metabolism
- It decreases cholesterol levels
- It reduces blood pressure
- It lessens oxidative stress
- It enhances mental function
- It raises longevity
- It improves insulin sensitivity
- It reduces inflammation
- It lowers the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
- It lowers the risk of cancer
Who Should Not Do Intermittent Fasting
Of course, intermittent fasting is not always for everyone. Before attempting to practice IF, you should consult with your doctor if you have certain medical conditions. You should not fast if you are:
- Have diabetes
- Have a history of eating disorders
- Have a heart condition
- Below 18 years old
- Under medication that require meals
Intermittent fasting has a lot of benefits that can help improve your quality of life. Research backs this up. As a disclaimer, though, you should check with your doctor before practicing IF, especially if you have underlying conditions or are taking medication.
How to Do Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting is not a complicated practice. It does not require a hefty investment, unlike some lose-weight-quick schemes. All it takes to quick start your journey is to:
Step 1: Determine Your Goal
The goal is not always to lose weight. Although this may be the primary reason you are reading this guide, you should set a personal health goal based on the following:
If your goal is to lose weight, you will have to watch what you eat as well. Avoid calorie-dense foods as much as possible. That means you have to eliminate rich deserts from your food plan.
Remember that to lose weight, you have to maintain a calorie deficit. This is the only way you can optimize weight loss. It does not necessarily mean you have to eat bland foods. Just make sure you consume less of the foods that contain high calories, but low in nutrition.
If you want to get better results, you can include a workout routine during your non-fast days. Go for cardio and strength training activities 3-4 times a week to help you lose weight and gain muscle mass.
Mental and Spiritual Health
People from different cultures practice fasting for spiritual purposes. It helps promote gratitude, compassion, and humility. You can also incorporate fasting with prayer, as is done by spiritual practitioners from both the East and the West for purification purposes.
You can use fasting as a way to improve your mental cognition and focus. Scientific research shows that intermittent fasting enhances learning, memory, cognitive function, focus, and alertness. To enhance this effect, it is best to add nutritious meals to your food plan and avoid as many processed foods as possible.
Health and Vitality
Fasting can provide you with better health and vitality overall. It can help you detoxify your body and make you feel more energized. It gets rid of the sluggish feeling that is often felt when overeating. Some other benefits you will reap include balanced digestion, improved hair and nail quality, and better skin complexion.
If this is your goal, you have more freedom and flexibility in what you can eat. Remember to focus on getting as much nutrition from food as possible. You can take light exercises as well to enhance the effects of the fast.
Step 2: Choose an Intermittent Fasting Plan
There are variations of intermittent fasting plans to choose from, but there are three of them that are easy to follow.
The 16/8 Method
This is by far the most popular and the easiest to practice. It requires that you fast for a full 16 hours and eat only during an 8-hour window. For example, you start your 16-hour fast after dinner at around 8 pm. You can break your fast around noon the following day.
This method makes sense because you will less likely be hungry after a good dinner. Then you spend around 6-8 hours of sleep. The morning you wake up, you do not necessarily feel the need to eat.
After fasting for 16 hours, eating at noon is like having a late breakfast. You can have a light snack in the afternoon or skip it altogether. By around 7:30 pm, eat a nutritious dinner. Around 8 pm, repeat the process of fasting.
Practice this method by alternating two days of fasting and two days of eating normally. As soon as you gain experience, you can alternate fasting for three days and eating normally for the next three days.
Keep your body hydrated at all times. Drink water as much as possible. What about coffee? You can drink coffee or tea during fasting hours as long as it is unsweetened.
If you find it hard to sustain a 16-hour fast, start with a 10 to 12-hour fast and build your way up to 16 hours. You can experiment with the times you break your fast depending on the time of the day you are usually active.
The 5:2 Diet
This plan is the closest to a traditional diet, but with a bit of a twist to help you achieve your health goals. The idea is to eat normally for five days a week. For the remaining two days, you have to limit your caloric intake to around 500-600 calories.
Technically, you do not have to follow a fasting window on those two days. You can divide the 500-600 calories over three meals. The easiest method to achieve this is to eat low-calorie foods like fruits and vegetables.
If you work during the weekdays, it is best to schedule your fast during the weekends. However, you can schedule them separately, i.e., Tuesday and Thursday. There is no hard and fast rule on this one.
The challenge is how to divide the low-calorie meals. You have to do a bit of research on the 500-600 calorie plan so you can have a variety of options to eat during your fasting days. If you want, you can divide them into two separate meals or just eat one meal a day, if you can.
The Eat-Stop-Eat Plan
This plan is straightforward and simple. For the week, choose a day to fast for a full 24 hours. When you get the hang of it, you can fast for a full 48-72 hours. You eat normally for the rest of the week.
Doing this fasting plan can detox your body and reset your digestive system. It can also get your body into ketosis and activate autophagy. Hence, the body cleans itself.
It is an extreme challenge for beginners, so it is best to gain experience from the previous fasting methods before attempting this one.
Intermittent fasting can be challenging but can give you a lot of benefits. Therefore, start with the 16/8 method first. Your body will soon adapt to the absence of food during certain hours of the day. You can attempt to do the Eat-Stop-Eat plan when you have enough fasting experience. Have fun and experiment to find what works best for you.