The Principles behind Intermittent Fasting
Even though we sometimes refer to intermittent fasting as a diet, especially when talking about the different ways you can do it, it’s not a diet.
The reason it’s not a diet is that you can literally eat whatever you want (almost) during your eating window.
So, while different methods and proponents will offer different eating plans with the way of eating, you can choose whichever one you want to go with.
* Calories Matter – This plan causes weight loss by limiting the calories you consume. If you can no longer eat at will anytime you want to, you’ll naturally lower your calorie intake. However, you also need to boost your intake sometimes if you’re undereating to ensure you get enough.
* Macronutrients Matter – Most proponents say that while you can eat what you want, you should focus on high-nutrient food and avoid prepackaged high-carb junk food. No matter what plan you choose, you need to eat enough nutrients to be healthy.
* It’s All about Healing the Body – Most people know that when they’re sick, they should not eat as much. Not eating allows the body to put the focus on healing other aspects of itself and putting to use the nutrients and savings (fat) that you have.
* Lowers Your Insulin Burn Rate – When you don’t eat as frequently, you tend not to burn as much insulin, which means your sugar levels will remain more stable. You’re not going to experience as many ups and downs on this way of eating as your body grows used to the plan.
* Turn into a Fat Burner – Your body is going to burn more fat during fasting times than during eating times. If you never fast, you may not burn as much fat. Your body is lazy; it wants to burn energy that is easier to get to such as food you just swallowed.
* Hunger Is a Good Thing – While at first you may be hungrier on this plan than you are on other plans, the truth is, your body will grow accustomed to it. Plus, some of the hunger you think you feel now is really thirst. After a couple of weeks, you should not feel as much hunger other than before you eat. Hunger is good because it brings acid with it to digest your food.
* Simplified Meal Planning – It’s easier to plan your meals on this plan than others, which makes it more likely for you to stick to it. Since you can eat what you want, you’re not going to have to buy any specialty foods unless you simply want to.
* Ends Snacking – You don’t snack on this program at all, unless something serious is going on (then you can enjoy a 50-calorie snack to avoid messing up your fast). When you don’t snack and you let your tummy get empty, your digestion is going to be much improved and eventually you’ll end the constant hunger and low energy attacks that you have now.
The entire idea behind this way of eating is simple.
Let yourself get hungry so that your body can properly digest food.
Give your body a break so that it can figure out what it needs.
Feed your body nutrients that improve health, avoid simple carbs, unhealthy fats and sugars, and eat all you want of the high-nutrient foods during your eating windows.
If you follow these guidelines, you won’t get anything but good results from this plan.
Myths behind Intermittent Fasting
Like most diets, some myths can ruin the experience of the diet and cause people not to get the most benefits from it.
Let’s look at a few of these myths, but let’s also remember that your doctor or a nutritionist is the best source of information regarding your diet, based on your health concerns.
You Must Eat Breakfast
There are no studies that show eating breakfast is beneficial to anyone on any type of diet.
However, having said that, some studies show making your eating window earlier in the day assists with weight loss.
That doesn’t mean it has to be breakfast. If you’re more comfortable starting at lunch, that might be “breakfast” for you.
Small Meals Boost Metabolism
For many years we’ve listened to this myth without realizing it’s just not true.
There are no studies that show eating smaller and more frequent meals is helpful for anything, although there are studies that show it can be bad on your digestion.
People need to be hungry to eat so that their body can break down the food with the right stomach acid.
You’ll Feel Like You’re Starving
Yes, you’ll be hungry on fasting days, and you may even get hungry (or think you are) on non-fasting days.
However, hunger isn’t even bad for you. You cannot starve by not eating for 16 hours, and your body is never going to think it’s staving either.
When you become accustomed to it, you will learn what real hunger should feel like.
You Can Eat All You Want
While you can eat a good amount during your eating windows, you cannot eat “all you want” because that could mean all sorts of things.
Dr. Atkins once stated on an interview on a talk show that he had no idea that people would think he meant you could eat “unlimited food” when he said “eat all you want” of these foods.
So, to be clear, you can eat what you want but make it healthy, and do not eat more than your maximum calorie needs or less than the minimum caloric needs you have.
You’ll Decrease Your Metabolism
This myth comes from the idea of starvation mode setting in and making your body hold on to calories.
This really doesn’t happen, unless you’re engaging in yo-yo dieting which involves losing a lot, then gaining it back.
However, even then if you eat fewer calories than your body uses you will not hang on to weight. It’s science.
You’ll Lose Muscle
Yes, if you fast for a long period of time, you’d lose muscle, but the truth is you really only need to eat when you are truly hungry, and people are not truly hungry every four hours; it’s more like 8 to 16 hours.
Knowing this, it makes no sense to think this plan will make you lose muscle.
You’ll Overeat When Intermittent Fasting
Some people do, but overall most people understand how the diet works and do not overeat.
One study of 33 women and men on the 16:8 plan after being told to eat “all you want” tended to eat about 350 calories less each day.
You’ll Be Malnourished
It’s impossible to be malnourished if you’re eating healthy food on an intermittent fasting plan.
You’re going to get plenty of food and nutrition, so this will not be an issue at all.
If you are losing weight too fast, you can adjust your plan and the food that you eat.
The thing to take away here is that you need to avoid making up your own diet when following the intermittent diet.
Find an expert to follow or hire a coach to help you stick to everything in the right way.
Mistakes People Make with Intermittent Fasting
As intermittent fasting becomes more popular, more people are getting involved in the diet.
This means more people are making mistakes.
People love taking a diet and changing it to suit themselves and while you can do that to a point, be careful that you’re not sabotaging yourself and your health.
Eating Too Much Junk Food
Some people choose to eat foods that have no nutritional value during their eating window, instead of giving their body the nutrition it needs. While it’s true you can eat 1200 calories of Twinkies or 1200 calories of veggies and maintain your weight in both cases, it’s also true that you will not be healthy eating only Twinkies. You need vitamins and minerals, and the best place to get them from is proper food.
Not Drinking Enough Water
This is a big problem during fasting times as well as eating windows. The main reason is that during fasting times, you just forget that you need to drink. During eating times, you just want to eat. To combat this problem, measure out a day’s worth of water each morning so that you can see whether you’re drinking enough without relying on memory.
Switching Fasting Times Last Minute
So, you’ve chosen your eating window, and now you realize that you’re going to miss out on a party. Well, you won’t miss the party, but you will not get to indulge during the party. You could go ahead and change your times, but the truth is, it’s harder to stick to the diet if you do that. Check your calendar in advance so you can arrange your eating windows better but don’t switch last minute; give it a week or so to switch up.
Many people give up too quickly when using intermittent fasting as a weight-loss method. However, if you stick to this plan for at least 90 days, you’ll start seeing really amazing results in not only your appearance but also your blood work. Give it time.
Some people tend to binge eat during their eating window. No matter how you dice it, though, calories count. You can’t eat 10,000 calories during your eating window and lose weight. It’s just not scientifically possible. When people say “eat what you want”, they really mean within certain health parameters.
Not Eating Enough Calories
Other people go the opposite way when eating during their window in that they don’t eat enough food. When you are fasting, sometimes a meal will be 1000 calories and may seem quite large and filling, but that’s okay. You must get in your minimum number of calories each day to ensure you are healthy.
Making Dangerous Decisions
One of the things people do wrong is that they make strange and dangerous choices. For example, they think fasting is working, so they choose to add another day or shorten their eating window. Instead, focus on sticking to the most studied plans and your health.
The important thing about any type of diet is to ensure that you are healthy enough to do it, both mentally and physically.
Some people cannot partake in intermittent fasting because they experience disordered eating which is triggered by fasting.
Pay close attention to how your body feels and put your health first.
Intermittent Fasting: The 5:2 Diet
The 5:2 diet is one of the easiest diets and often the one that beginners choose, although it is a little more extreme than some of the other methods in that you fast for a full 24 hours two times a week.
Eat for Five Days a Week
On the 5:2 diet, you eat normally five days a week. For most people who do intermittent fasting, that means that they eat a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet. However, you can try other methods too. There are plenty of high-carb vegans experimenting with intermittent fasting too and getting great results.
Fast for Two Days a Week
On this plan, you fast for two days. In this case, that means you fast for a full 24-hour period, although you can also extend that to doing the full 48 hours at once so that you can just eat the rest of the week without any concern or worries – as long as you’re also eating healthy food while avoiding snacks between meals.
You Choose When to Fast
The cool part about this plan is that you can choose when to fast and you can move the days around too if you want to. For example, on a normal basis, you may choose to fast during the week so that you can enjoy your weekends more. However, if a special trip is coming up and you know you want to enjoy the food, change the fasting days.
Lots of Flexibility for Newbies
As you can see, this does offer some flexibility for the newbie. During fasting times, you only drink water, nothing else, so that you can stay hydrated. When you do eat, you want to eat high-quality food that is low in carbs and high in veggies and nutrition, in the right calorie amounts for your body.
It is not recommended that you drink or eat anything, but keep in mind that you should pay attention to your body signals. If you feel weak or sick, it’s better to eat a healthy 50-calorie snack than to get sicker. However, it is easier to just say no for 24 hours straight for a beginner than it is to do it other ways.
If you want to try intermittent fasting, while there are easier programs to use, this one is the easiest to keep track of.
Give it a try for a month or two so that you can see the results that it will have on your mind and your body.
You can always try one of the other methods once you realize you can get results from this one.
Intermittent Fasting: The 16:8 Diet
There is research available for this version of intermittent fasting.
It’s been shown to help people lose weight, lower their blood pressure, and reduce their risk of getting diabetes.
This method is a lot easier for most people to do than other versions that require 24 hours of fasting at a time.
This one instead asks that you fast for 16 hours a day, drinking only water and zero calorie beverages, and then eat whatever you like during an 8-hour window in the day.
Keep Your Eating Window Early
Studies show that eating between 7 am and 3 pm works better than choosing other times. However, this does not mean you have to do it that way. It really depends on your lifestyle. If you want to choose to eat between 10 and 4, that’s your choice. Just pick an 8-hour window and stick to that no matter what happens.
Eat Healthy Food
While many proponents of intermittent fasting claim that you can eat whatever you want, the truth is you can overeat and cause yourself to gain weight or not lose as fast. Start out with eating what you want to find out what happens. If you find that it’s not working for you, adjust your diet to consider calories, protein, veggies, and other nutrients. Some of us just happen to eat healthier than others.
You can eat something “bad” for you if you want to, but you should include it in your calorie count. For example, if you want some cake, have it. Just have one serving and enjoy it as you have it. But don’t eat it mindlessly while watching TV. Also, avoid eating between meals.
Whether you’re on a diet or not, staying hydrated is imperative. However, one issue that remains true for most people is that because of ignoring our thirst cues from a very young age, we don’t know whether we’re hungry or thirsty. To combat this problem, divvy out your water each day so that you know by a glance whether you’ve had enough or not.
It’s Really All about Calories
There is no real trick to intermittent fasting other than reducing your calories. The research mentioned showed that on average, participants ate 350 calories less per day than if they were not doing this plan. Find out how many calories you need to maintain the weight you want to be and stick to that caloric level.
Set yourself up for success by being prepared with the right 50-calorie snacks, zero calorie beverages, and healthy ingredients for healthy meal preparation. Plan how you’ll handle fasting times during social events, and you’ll be more likely to succeed.
When you are fasting intermittently, you’ll deal with hunger on your fasting days, but there are ways to combat it.
Doing it will also help you understand what real hunger feels like.
Many of our systems are messed up and don’t know the difference between thirst and hunger.
This diet helps you learn the difference and make good choices.
Seven Fasting Breakfast Ideas
Intermittent fasting is popular and for a good reason – it works.
Sadly, though, a lot of people are not doing it with an eye toward health.
After all, intermittent fasting is just a way to control how many calories you eat by purposefully (with a plan) skipping some meals.
However, you never have to skip breakfast on the plan, and there are some who say you should not skip breakfast ever.
With that in mind, here are some breakfast ideas for fasting days.
1. High Protein Smoothie – You can pack a lot of nutrition into a smoothie. Try making a high protein shake with avocado, almond milk, spinach, and protein powder. The fat will fill you up, the protein will satiate you, and the spinach will give you a punch of energy for your day.
2. What Your Body Wants – You can eat whatever your body wants. At breakfast, you’re coming off a fast since you don’t eat when sleeping. Your body probably is craving something that you need. Now, don’t eat the donuts if that’s what your body is craving, but find something that has the nutrition that can work as a protein bar.
3. Healthy Veggie-Rich Omelet – You need lots of energy to get through your day. An omelet with lots of veggies inside will fill the bill. You can put whatever you want in it, top it with salsa and a dollop of sour cream and you will never believe it’s healthy for you.
4. Black Coffee – While this is not really a breakfast food, this is just to say that it’s okay to drink coffee in the morning. Even if you want to add a splash of cream to it. What you do want to avoid is something that causes cravings, and that is sugar.
5. Protein Bar – When choosing a bar to eat, try to find one that is organic, natural, and does not contain a lot of added processed sugar. Those types of bars are just desserts. Read the labels and choose accordingly. High protein, low sugar, and a lot of added vitamins are best.
6. Tofu Spinach Casserole – If you don’t like to eat eggs, you can eat a tofu spinach casserole or scramble instead. Just add some tofu in a pan, scramble up, add some turmeric, and any seasonings you like, plus spinach and any other veg that you like, and you’re sure to enjoy it. Not only that; you won’t get hungry for hours.
7. A Fifty-Calorie Meal – Did you know that when you are fasting, you can eat up to 50 calories any time you are ravenous and not ruin your fast. Only do this when you’re super-hungry. However, if you are worried about eating breakfast, trying the snack option can work too.
It’s super-important to focus on nutrition first thing in the morning.
It’s also important to arrange your fasting days so that you eat most of your food earlier rather than later.
The only exception is if you live a nightlife and work all night instead of all day.
You need to get your calories and nutrition in the morning, so you have the energy to get through the day.
You’ll find fasting much easier if your eating window is the first thing.
Eight Fasting Lunch Ideas
When it comes to lunch, the issue is often how you are going to cook it, heat it, or store it.
The reason is that most people are not home during lunch.
If you have a microwave and fridge at your work, it’s going to be a lot easier to meal prep these lunch ideas for intermittent fasters.
Buy some containers that work in the freezer, fridge, and microwave.
Then you can easily take healthy meals with you.
1. Lettuce Wraps – Make any type of high protein filling that you like. For example, chop chicken, onion, veggies (anything you want inside) finely and uniformly. Cook fast in a hot pan. Store in your container separately from the lettuce leaves. Hint: You can also use cabbage.
2. Broccoli Salad – Combine uncooked broccoli, bell peppers, scallions, mayo, cheese and vinegar in a big bowl. You can use substitutes such as unflavored yogurt for your mayo, and you can skip the cheese if you want to.
3. Cauliflower Taco Rice Bowl – Buy some riced cauliflower from the frozen section of your grocery store for convenience. Combine a taco meat mixture together and serve over the cauliflower rice in a bowl.
4. Chicken and Veggies – You can make a meal with leftovers to take with you. Just put chicken and veggies in the container. You can eat it with lettuce wraps or cabbage wraps, or just eat it out of the container with a fork.
5. Chicken Fajitas – Make a marinade from olive oil, lemon juice and “fajita” seasoning. Chop your chicken, veggies, and anything you are putting in it in strips, season with the fajita flavorings and then bake in the oven until done. Store just like it is, and heat to eat. Eat with a fork instead of a flour shell. If you want to, you can indulge in a few unfried corn tortillas.
6. Deconstructed Egg Roll – You know everything you put in an egg roll and then fry? Everything inside that egg roll is so good for you. It’s the frying it and the high-carb low nutrition shell that’s the problem. Just eat your egg roll in a bowl, but do cook it first.
7. Chicken Salad – Use any low-carb chicken salad recipe. You can replace any of the ingredients you don’t want to use with something else. For example, if mayonnaise is too high calorie for you at this point in your journey, try using unflavored yogurt.
8. Zucchini Enchiladas – However you normally make enchiladas, try making them as a casserole using sliced zucchini as the flour shells. Just layer all the ingredients in the casserole pan and cook. Get one with a lid, and you can take the dish to work in the same dish you cooked it in.
These meals are good for lunch or dinner.
In fact, most people who embark on intermittent fasting end up not worrying about differentiating between breakfast, lunch, and dinner as much because you should eat whatever you want to eat within the plan you’ve chosen during the times when you’re able to eat.
Seven Fasting Dinner Ideas
When fixing dinner for yourself when you are doing intermittent fasting, it’s important to focus on eating healthily.
Set your sights on eating low-carbohydrate meals and a large number of vegetables in the right amounts to ensure that you reach your calorie quotient each day – whether it’s a fasting day or a non-fasting day.
1. The Large Salad with Protein – Any type of chopped salad can be enjoyed, with all sorts of lettuce, cucumbers, radishes, and corn, topped with a protein like roasted chicken, fish, eggs, or tofu – really any mixture you like. Avoid creamy dressings that are high in sugar. Try using a vinegar-based dressing.
2. Breakfast for Dinner – Everyone loves breakfast for dinner. Eating a low-carb breakfast is a great way to start your day, but it’s also a great way to end your day. Try a frittata full of any veggies you have available, topped with some hard cheese. You’ll love it and so will your tummy.
3. No Rice Stir-Fry Meal – While you can enjoy rice sometimes, try eating some stir-fry meals that aren’t over rice so that you can get more nutrition into your body within your calorie limit. Rice, especially white rice, is relatively high in calories and turns to sugar in your body. Try topping any Asian seasoned meats over stir-fry veggies.
4. Grilled Salmon over Slaw – Any type of grilled fish with any type of veggie-based slaw is great. Try a mixture of shredded cabbage, carrot, and radishes under grilled salmon. You can flavor with Asian flavors like miso and sesame oil and seeds.
5. Roasted Chicken, Wild Rice and Salad – You can buy the roasted chicken from your local grocery, make some mushroom and wild rice pilaf, and then eat any leftover salad with this meal to get it on the table fast.
6. Steak, Veggies and Sweet Potato – You can turn this into any type of protein with a veggie and sweet potato. Sweet potatoes are better in every way than white ones, including providing you more nutrition. For veggies, you can combine any type of veggie, steamed or roasted. The meat can be a steak pan fried with a nice large pat of butter on it with seasonings, or it can be smoked tofu. It’s up to you.
7. Drink a High Protein Smoothie – Chia seeds, kale, blueberries, avocado and milk blended together will make a very satisfying high-protein smoothie that will make you feel great. This is a good thing to have when you’re in a hurry and don’t have time to prepare a sit-down meal.
As you can see, there is a theme here.
Protein, fewer simple carbohydrates, and lots of veggies.
Anyone will get healthier eating this way, whether they’re intermittent fasting or not.
That should tell you that there is no real secret to being healthy, although it seems magical when you are deeply involved in intermittent fasting and the weight is dropping off like crazy.
Eating Tips for Non-Fasting Days
For most people, what they eat on non-fasting days totally depends on which version of the intermittent fasting diet they’re on.
Plans vary, but in general, you cannot go wrong with eating on non-fasting days if you follow these general guidelines.
* Check the BMR Chart – You need to know how many calories you should eat to maintain your weight. The BMR chart is a good way to get the right caloric guidelines. There are two ways to do this. You can go by your current weight, and you’ll still lose weight. You can also go by your desired weight, and you’ll lose weight even faster. Link to BMR chart – https://www.calculator.net/bmr-calculator.html
* Drink Enough Water – Even on non-fasting days, it is important to stay hydrated. Because you are eating more food on the non-fasting days, you may end up not allowing yourself enough water. However, you should still work to drink the amount of water you need to for your current weight and activity level.
* Keep Moving – Don’t use non-fasting days as a reason to not exercise. Moving more is always going to be beneficial for helping you shed weight, but also to tighten up your body and to allow you to eat more calories. Don’t stop working out just to eat.
* Eat Healthy Food First – On non-fasting days you probably want to eat a lot of things that you missed out on during your fasting days. However, it’s better for your health if you eat the things that give you the most nutrition first.
* Eat What You Want in Moderation – After you have eaten the things that give you energy and nutrition, you can use the rest of your caloric limit to eat whatever it is that you want to eat, including cake.
* Experiment – Everyone is slightly different. We may all be human, but each person is very individual in how they handle fasting, eating, and moving more. You may need to eat carbs, or you may need to be more careful on non-fasting days than others. It all depends on you. Take the time to try different methods to find out what works best for you so that you can live this lifestyle in a healthy way long term.
* Be Mindful – This is an important tip for every day of your life, not just non-fasting days. Be mindful of what you are eating. Enjoy what you are eating. When you eat it, don’t just shove it in without thought. Think about the flavors, textures, and more.
* Remember Today Is One Day – You don’t have to eat all the yummy things right now. You will have another non-fast day. You can relax knowing that there is no reason in the world why you can’t eat whatever you want in the future too. Knowing and accepting that can enable you to stop overeating on non-fasting days.
While you can enjoy whatever you want, the biggest key here is moderation.
On this plan, calories really matter on non-fasting days because it can be easy to go overboard.
If you’ve been waiting for a non-fasting day to enjoy one piece of pecan pie, that’s great, but don’t eat two pieces or the whole pie in a day and think you’ll keep losing weight quickly and healthily.
Tips for Dealing with Hunger Pangs
One of the great things about intermittent fasting is that after being on the plan for a while, your hunger pangs will lessen.
However, until then it’s important to know how to deal with it if and when it happens.
Hunger Is Not Bad
You’ve been told your entire life that hunger is a bad thing. Of course, starvation is a bad thing. But being hungry before a meal is normal. You should be hungry long before you sit down to eat each day. That ensures that you can digest your meal properly and that you need to eat. If you’re not hungry, you really don’t need to eat. Your body knows what is best when you allow it to.
Eat Balanced Meals
A body can get hungry even when it has consumed thousands of calories if there is not enough nutrition in the food. This explains why after eating fast food, you can get hungry in an hour. It also explains why it’s so easy to eat an entire bag of chips but not so easy to eat the same amount of broccoli in calories.
Drink Enough Water
Sometimes hunger is really thirst. Most people have been ignoring thirst cues since they started kindergarten. You can retrain your body. Start by measuring out the water you want to drink each day in the morning. That way you can see it all together and can choose to drink before you eat to ensure you’re hungry.
Drink Flavored Sugar-Free Zero Calorie Drinks
Sometimes you just want to taste a flavor, but you’re not really hungry. Drinking flavored zero calorie and no-sugar beverages like green tea can help. However, for some people, it causes cravings so you may want to test this out. Start out with only water, then try flavored waters (with berries, citrus, or other fruit), then move on to the prepackaged types as a last resort.
Brush Your Teeth
You may really just have bad breath. Try brushing your teeth. Go get your teeth professionally cleaned too. Then buy a Waterpik Water Flosser and clean your teeth with water every night to get all the meat and things out of your teeth. This may seem strange, but it does help.
Eat More Fiber
If you’re not including enough vegetables into your diet, you can end up getting hungry too. We all need fiber. Try incorporating veggies into every meal. Put chopped veggies in your eggs, shredded into your chili, and just get more in. You can also try a supplement.
Time flies when you’re busy. The more active you are during your fasting times, the better. You won’t even notice the time if you’re busy doing things. You can be active doing things you like; it doesn’t have to involve working out at the gym (although that is certainly an option).
How much you sleep plays an important role in ensuring that you avoid too many negative side effects from life. If you have low energy due to lack of sleep, your body will send more signals to feed it to get more glucose. But you don’t need it if you sleep enough.
If you can start thinking of hunger as a good sign that your body is working properly, you’ll be able to deal with hunger pangs a lot better.
Most of us think of hunger as something that is bad, but it’s not bad unless you will never get food again.
However, you live in a situation where you will eat again, so the hunger is okay.
Once you accept that, it becomes almost unnoticeable except right before a meal.