Guide To Intermittent Fasting

Complete Guide to Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting is not a recent discovery in the health and wellness world. In fact, fasting is ancient. The idea dates back to hunter-and-gatherer days. Way back then a quick trip to Trader Joe’s or even to a kitchen refrigerator was not an option. People would sometimes go many days without access to food. And the human body adapted to the circumstance. Human evolution allows the body to function without food for longer lengths of time.

We are no longer a hunting and gathering culture, but our bodies continue to be highly adaptable. Oftentimes the idea of fasting is more of a natural way of eating than consuming many large meals a day. People view intermittent fasting in many ways. Some view intermittent fasting as a diet, lifestyle, or even religious practice. Regardless of the various meanings it may hold to you – there is a commonality: a protocol.

What Is Intermittent Fasting?

Many consider intermittent fasting to be a diet. That said, there is zero focus on the type of food you eat– and there is little to no calorie counting involved. Intermittent fasting is all about timing. It is all about when to consume food. During intermittent fasting, there are specific timeframes for eating and fasting. Studies show that on-and-off-cyclical eating is extremely beneficial for the body. Some benefits of intermittent fasting include increased energy, weight loss, and cellular turnover.

Intermittent fasting is a beneficial eating pattern when you follow the protocol correctly. Yes, there are rules involved for this type of fasting. But don’t worry, it is simple and can easily fit into your daily routine. In fact, there are a few different routes for intermittent fasting. You can pick the one that is most sustainable for your way of life.

Intermittent Fasting Methods – How to Schedule

Three forms of intermittent fasting are widely used today. Each method requires a slightly different schedule. Still, each involves fasting. One option is not better than the other. Decide which fasting method works best in your weekly schedule. If it is easy to incorporate, it will be easy to keep up with.

1. 16/8 Method

First up, is the 16/8 intermittent fasting method. 16/8 is pretty self-explanatory. The schedule requirements are in the name. Eight hours during the day you will spend eating, while the remaining 16 you will spend fasting. Fasting for 16 hours straight might sound intimidating. Take a breath! At least 8-10 of those hours you will be sleeping. A typical schedule for 16/8 could look something like this: fast all morning and eat from 11:00 am-7:00 pm. You can repeat this schedule as often as you would like – daily or a few times a week.

If the thought of going all morning without coffee sounds dreadful – don’t fret. You can still consume zero-calorie beverages during fasting hours. This includes water, tea, and coffee (with no added sugar or cream).

2. Eat – Stop – Eat Method

Another intermittent fasting method is the eat-stop-eat method. The concept involves fasting for one to two, non-consecutive days a week. As in, no food is consumed for an entire 24 hours, once or twice a week. You will spend the remaining five to six days eating balanced meals throughout the day. This method allows you to eat freely on off days. For best results, focus on consuming healthy options.

The rule of thumb with the eat-stop-eat method is to not fast for more than 24 hours. If you decide to fast for two days a week, those two days cannot be back-to-back. You need to have at least a day of eating between. Consuming water throughout the day is important to nourish your body’s cells.

3. 5:2 Method

The third form of intermittent fasting is the 5:2 method. As mentioned, intermittent fasting requires little to no calorie counting. The “little” applies to the 5:2 method. This method is a combination of the other two. Two days a week, you are to consume between 500 and 600 calories in total. On the remaining five days, eat your normal amounts (get it, five to 2, 5:2). Again, for best results, intake healthier, nutrient-dense food options when not fasting.

The same rule of thumb applies to the 5:2 method as the eat-stop-eat method. If you are fasting twice a week, there must be at least one day of eating between the fasts. You should not restrict your diet for two consecutive days in a row.

How Intermittent Fasting Affects the Body Internally

Many internal changes are happening when the body is fasting. These changes are happening at a cellular and molecular level. From cell regeneration to a complete immune system reset, there are many reasons to incorporate fasting into your routine.

1. Cell Regeneration

Fasting regenerates healthy cells in the body through the process of cell autophagy. Think of autophagy as housekeeping for your cells. Your body needs a good spring cleaning every once in a while! Autophagy eliminates damaged and dysfunctional cells that are floating within the body. Autophagy removes damaged cells and replaces them with new and healthy cells.

Consistent autophagy allows the body to remain at homeostasis – and function at an optimal level. In fact, studies show that the cell regeneration process (from fasting) leads to longevity and slow aging.

2. Improved Insulin Sensitivity

Fasting improves insulin sensitivity. In some cases, fasting has even reversed insulin resistance. Improved insulin causes a domino effect of health benefits. Improved insulin reduces blood sugar levels, lowering the risk for diabetes (and pre-diabetes). Improved insulin sensitivity improves other functions within the body. Some functions include decreased inflammation, pain, and gut health.

Why exactly does this happen? Dr. Janine Kyrillos explains it best. “Insulin is the main driver of fat storage. If you are constantly eating, you are triggering insulin production all day long. When people have too much insulin, their cells start to resist the insulin and, in response, the body has to make more. We try to find strategies to decrease the amount of insulin the body makes, so we can improve insulin resistance.”

3. Immune System Reset

Need to kickstart your immunity? Fasting might be the solution. Studies found that fasting throughout the week actually lowers white blood cell count. White blood cells are the sickness-fighting cells. The body is then triggered to create new, healthy white blood cells. When you break the fast, stem cells in the body work hard to replenish the previously recycled cells.

All this to say, fasting regenerates a higher quantity of strong white blood cells. Which is fantastic news for the immune system. The body will be stronger and better equipped to fight off viruses.

Intermittent Fasting & Weight Loss

Weight loss is a common reason for individuals to try intermittent fasting. When fasting for long periods throughout the week, you are not taking in any calories. And reduced calories (from one’s normal intake) transition to weight loss. This is true! Many studies have found that intermittent fasting is an effective way to lose weight. Typical weight loss success can vary anywhere from seven to 11 pounds over 10 weeks. Of course, this number varies from person to person. Factors that influence weight loss include initial weight, activity level, and gender.

Fasting for long periods can also produce ketosis. Ketosis is when the body uses stored fat for energy, instead of glucose (sugars). This process of ketosis allows for weight loss. Weight loss is not simply a physical benefit of intermittent fasting. Healthy fat loss causes a wellness domino effect. Fat loss lowers blood pressure, increases energy, and decreases the chance of disease.

Intermittent Fasting & Muscle Loss

One side effect of intermittent fasting is loss of muscle mass. Muscle loss is a common result in general when losing weight. Intermittent fasting studies show that you can lose lean muscle mass during fasting. Only small amounts. This is more common after fasting for a long period (months).

That said, building and maintaining muscle is important for our body’s strength. We do not necessarily want to lose lean muscle mass. Luckily, there are a couple of options for preventing muscle loss. For starters, plan to incorporate protein into your diet when you are not fasting. Amino acids within protein act as the building blocks for the body’s muscles. Consuming sources with complete proteins allows our muscles to remain healthy.

Another suggestion is about proper timing. Plan your workout session around the time your fast is breaking. This allows you to replenish your body with proteins and nutrients. This also allows for muscle recovery to occur. Regardless, be sure to keep your water intake high if you are working out while fasting. And have a protein bar on standby to break the fast, if needed.

Breaking The Fast

The foods chosen to consume after breaking a fast are important. Opt for food items that are whole foods and a mix of macronutrients. Avoid heavy meals right out of the gate – no carb-loaded meals or snacks and no sugar-filled drinks. Both will instantly spike your insulin levels, causing a rage of hunger.

Break the fast with low-glycemic meals. Examples include leafy greens, avocado, nut butter, bone broth and soup, cooked or raw veggies, fruits, and fermented foods. It is also beneficial to properly portion your meals after a fast. Immediately ending your fast with a large meal, could overload the digestive system. This can lead to painful bloating.

Getting Started With Intermittent Fasting: Sample DayS

Still eager to start intermittent fasting? Great! Looking for guidance on how to plan out your day or week of fasting? Below are sample days/weeks of fasting with the mentioned methods.

Intermittent Fasting Sample 16/8 Day:

  • Wake up at 7 am and grab a glass of water and a cup of black coffee.
  • Work out at 10 am.
  • Break the fast at 11 am with a nutrient-dense, portioned meal.
  • Continue eating a normal, healthy diet until 7 pm.
  • Make a hot cup of tea and enjoy the evening.
  • Head to bed around 10 pm. Do it all again in the morning!

Intermittent Fasting Sample Eat-Stop-Eat Day:

  • Wake up on Monday morning and grab a glass of water and a cup of black coffee.
  • Continue to drink zero-calorie liquids throughout the day.
  • Limit working out to reserve energy.
  • Drink tea in the evening and head to bed.
  • Wake up on Tuesday morning and eat healthy, balanced meals throughout the day/evening.
  • Wake up Wednesday morning and repeat Monday. 24 hours of fasting.
  • Wake up Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday mornings and return to healthy eating.

Intermittent Fasting Sample 5:2 Day:

  • Wake up on Monday morning and grab a glass of water and a cup of black coffee.
  • Continue drinking zero-calorie liquids throughout the day. Add in small snacks throughout the day. The total calories consumed should be between 500-600 calories.
  • Drink tea in the evening and head to bed.
  • Wake up on Tuesday morning and eat healthy, balanced meals throughout the day/evening.
  • Wake up Wednesday morning and repeat Monday. The day should consist of 500-600 calories.
  • Wake up Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday mornings and return to healthy eating.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I drink liquids while fasting?

Of course – you can drink zero-calorie liquids. This includes lots of water, tea, and black coffee (coffee with no added sugar or creamers).

Can I eat anything during the non-fasting timeframes?

Eat as you usually would when you are not fasting. That said, for best results, lean toward consuming balanced, healthier options.

Will I lose weight while fasting?

Yes. Going for periods without food is calorie-restrictive. The fewer calories you put into your body (than on a normal day or week), the more likely you are to lose weight.

Can I work out while fasting?

It’s okay to work out while fasting, but there are pros and cons. Pros: burn more fat, and manage blood sugar. Cons: may break down muscle, have no energy. Be smart and consume water. Also, think through timing. Plan for your fast to end at the end of your workout.

Can I take supplements while fasting?

Yes, you can take regular vitamins and pills while fasting. The exceptions are vitamins and pills in the form of gummies, liquids, or chewable tablets. These often have sugars inside of them and can stimulate an insulin response.

Can anyone do intermittent fasting?

Intermittent fasting is safe for many people, but not all. Please consult with your doctor before starting intermittent fasting.

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