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The Beginner's Guide to Intermittent Fasting

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The Beginner's Guide to Intermittent Fasting

Diets are hard to stick to. You must follow a strict set of rules. You have to omit certain things from your diet. You have to count calories. There’s nothing wrong with any of these things, of course. It’s difficult considering that it’s not the only thing you have to do in your day. Let’s not get started with the amount of apps that help track your meals. Doesn’t everyone know how annoying it is having to input everything? Even the best apps out there can’t tell you the exact calories of that sandwich you ate from the deli down the corner. It’s not like it’s a branded company. You’re not going to ask them where they source their bread from. Yeah, diets are hard. There’s good news, though. Have you heard of intermittent fasting? No, it’s not a monk ritual. It’s more of a mindset. At its simplest, intermittent fasting is only eating during certain times of the day. Still confused? Well, we’re here to explain everything to you.

 

  1. What is Intermittent Fasting?
  2. Intermittent Fasting Variations
  3. Are There Any Food Restrictions?
  4. Is it Right for Everyone?

 

 What is Intermittent Fasting?

 

It is an eating pattern! It cycles between periods of fasting and periods of eating. It’s not your traditional diet. There’s no food list. The only restriction is when to eat. You block out a period of time per day to eat, and then fast the rest of the time. Most people actually commit to this way of eating without realizing it. Say you always skip breakfast. If you haven’t eaten anything since dinner the night that is considered a fast. In fact, that is one of the many popular methods of intermittent fasting.

IF has been around for a long time, but didn’t become popular until 2012. Journalist Dr. Michael Mosley’s documentary “Eat Fast, Live Longer” put it in the spotlight, along with other books around the same time. Its benefits include weight management, improved health, reduced risk of chronic conditions, and improved brain health. Each of these benefits comes from a lower caloric intake as well as decreased insulin levels. The decreased insulin levels are what helps you lose weight during fasting periods. More studies need to be done, but current signs suggest that it's a viable method toward a healthier lifestyle.

Woman holding calorie counter

Intermittent Fasting Variations

 

There are several popular types of IF patterns. With so many variations, there’s one or two types that can fit your lifestyle. Whichever one works for you is the one you ought to choose. Some are more relaxed, and some are more extreme than others. Whichever one you choose should be the one that is easiest for you to stick with.

 

The 12 Hour Fast: If you’re on this eating pattern, that means you choose a 12 hour period where you don’t eat anything at all. This works well for beginners on IF. Most would include the eight hours of sleep as part of the fasting period. You could either skip dinner or breakfast and that would set you in your 12 hour fasting period. Some research indicates that fasting for more than ten hours can reduce the risk of cancer. Most of the research have been animal studies, but research says the results are promising.

 

The 16:8 method: Also known as the Leangains diet. On this plan, you can eat for a period eight hours, and then fast for the rest of the time. Most people choose to skip breakfast and eat at noon, with their last meal ending at around 8pm. From 8 until noon the next day, they fast. A study on this method showed improved metabolic health and lower chronic disease.

 

The 5:2 Diet: Also known as the Fast Diet. On this plan, you eat normally for five days out of the week and then restrict calorie intake for the other two days. Those two days should only have about 500-600 calorie meals per day, including drinks.

 Eat-Stop-Eat: Or fast for 24 hours once or twice a week. You fast for one day, eat the next day and then fast again, if that’s how you want to do it. To make things very simple, let’s say the last meal you had was dinner at 7pm. The next time you eat again will be dinner at 7pm the next day. Many people find this to be a very difficult eating pattern. It can cause headaches and irritability. If it’s your first time on IF, you might want to stick to one of the previous three.

 

The Warrior Diet: This is the most extreme form of IF. While it is an effective weight loss plan, the intense calorie restriction is not right for everyone. The Warrior Diet was created by a former member of the Israeli Special Forces, Ori Hofmekler. For 20 hours out of the day, you eat very, very little and then overeat for four hours at night. Many experts find this very risky. It can lead to eating disorders. It may also lead to nutrient deficiency if you don’t eat the right foods. So long as you focus on good, healthy foods, however, it might be something to look into for the short term.

buffet table with sushi

Are There Any Food Restrictions?

One of the things that attract most people to IF is the fact that there are no restrictions to the foods you eat. During the non-fasting periods, people can eat whatever and however they want. There are no meal plans or food restrictions. If you wanted to eat hamburgers and fries all day, you could do so. It’s up to you.

 

If you want the best benefits out of the eating plan, you should focus on eating lots of fruits, vegetables and lean proteins. Maybe you prefer having a meal plan to adhere to. If that’s the case, combine one of the other diets with IF. Take the Mediterranean Diet, for example. You can create meal plans and then fit them into your eating pattern. Or maybe you like the Paleo diet. With IF, you can modify just about any diet plan and use it alongside whichever pattern you decided on. You don’t even have to choose a diet plan at all. It’s all about calorie restricting without having to count your calories.

 

For instance, if you choose to stick to the 16:8 diet, you always skip breakfast and eat at noon. Then, from noon to 8pm you can eat whatever you want. A good rule of thumb is to eat a large lunch and have a lighter meal in the evening. The science states that eating a larger meal closer to bed time expends less calories. Therefore, you lose less weight or even gain weight. So, maybe it’s time to rethink your biggest meal. For dinner, maybe you can even have a date and nut bar with some yogurt.

 

The main point is to lower your caloric intake. Eating at a deficit means your body will use stored fat for fuel and you’ll lose weight. The great thing about IF is that you can stick a “cheat day” in every so often. If you wanted to have a cookie or slice of cake, it could still fit into your eating pattern. There’s no need to worry so much about what you can and can’t eat. IF is great for those busy people who can’t find time for breakfast or cooking a big dinner. You can make the pattern work for you as intense or as loosely as you need it.

 chattering teeth biting doughnut

Is IF right for Everyone?

 

There are some concerns when it comes to Intermittent Fasting. Those who are under 18, underweight, pregnant, or struggling with eating disorders should not start on IF. IF can promote disordered eating in those already predisposed.

 

For some, it just might not work. Some, specifically women, have reported overeating during non-fasting periods. They obsess over what they plan on eating when their fast is over. This leads them to overeating when the time comes. When they do eat, they choose decadent goodies rather than fruits and vegetables. That seems to be the largest complaint factor. People believe they can eat whatever they want during non-fasting periods. And while this might be true for the most part, it’s not at all healthy to binge eat on junk food the entire time.

Choosing to eat only healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and nuts is a good rule of thumb. If you have a craving for sweets and junk food, it’s okay to indulge sometimes. Just make sure it’s more like once a week, not every day.

Snack Less Has Your Back

 

Intermittent Fasting can be a great way to lose weight and be healthier. If you find yourself struggling, perhaps a little help might be in order. Snack Less can be right there for you just before you start your fasting period. Grab one of our fruit and nut bars and you’ll have all the fuel to take on that long fasting stretch. All thanks to the Hoodia parviflora, you won’t even feel hungry!

 

Better yet, go for one of our chewing gums. They’re zero calorie so you can chew on them during your fasting breaks and get the same benefits. No grumbling stomach for you. When it’s time to eat, you’ll eat less and keep to your goals. Sounds great, doesn’t it?