Have you ever wished for something that would help you lose weight, make your life simpler, and not cost lots of time or money?
Well, we’ve found it.
This practice can speed up your weight lose, make your life easier, and the best part? It’s free, and it frees up your time.
So what in the world is it?
That’s right: intermittent fasting.
According to Merriam-Webster, intermittent means “coming and going at intervals; not continuous.” We know what fasting means – not eating.
Intermittent fasting is simply a practice in which you don’t eat for hours at a time. Trust me, it’s less miserable than it sounds! Particularly when paired with calorie restriction, IF can be a great way to lose weight.
How to intermittently fast
Intermittent fasting is a practice that can have a huge effect on your weight loss with very little effort on your part. It’s also a very flexible practice, meaning pretty much everybody can find a way to work it into daily life. Simple!
There are three main fasting methods to consider, and we’ll look into all of those during this article. The best way to get the idea behind intermittent fasting is to just jump right in, so let’s get started.
The three fasting variations
Time-restricted feeding (TRF) is a method of fasting in which you set a daily fasting period, and a shortened eating window of 3-12 hours. People who use TRF typically skip either their breakfast or their dinner, and include time in bed as fasting hours. (It makes them go by faster!)
Common variations of time restricted fasts are:
- 16:8 (16 fasting hours, 8 eating hours)
- 18:6 (18 eating hours, 6 fasting hours)
- 20:4 (20 fasting hours, 4 eating hours)
- 23:1 (23 fasting hours, 1 eating hour)
Don’t feel as though you have to be as strict with yourself as some of these schedules, though! Try out different schedules and find what works for you.
A second variation of fasting is alternate day fasting (ADF). Alternate day fasting simply consists of a 24 hour fast, followed by 24 hours of non-fasting. In other words, you eat every other day. (Fasting for 23 hours and eating one meal per day actually also counts as alternate day fasting, according to Wikipedia.)
Finally, whole day fasting is a third option. Whole day fasting consists of various combinations of fasting days and non-fasting days. On feeding days, your diet is normal. On fasting days, people usually consume between 400 and 600 calories (as in the 5:2 diet).
Where should you start with intermittent fasting?
Perhaps the easiest variation of intermittent fasting (at least, in my experience) is time-restricted feeding (TRF). During a time-restricted fast, you decide which will be your eating hours and which will be fasting hours. Which hours you choose doesn’t make a difference, which is probably why this method is great for those who need some flexibility.
Typically during a time-restricted fast, your eating window is limited from 3-12 hours. You can adjust those hours to fit your schedule, and fast for more or less time based on what you’re comfortable with. Here’s a sample schedule from Maria Emmerich of Maria Mind Body Health:
Personally, I prefer time-restricted fasting because it’s the easiest. I like to eat, and on my less-strong days, I would definitely feel discouraged if I couldn’t eat at all. With TRF, I can skip one meal, whichever one I choose, and feel less deprived and down on myself. I find that it’s easier to stay consistent this way.
I’ll use myself as a real life example. When I’m intermittent fasting, I make sure to stop eating at 7:00 pm. (This gives me time for dinner at around 5:30 and a dessert or snack afterwards.) I go to bed at around midnight, and sleep until 8:00 am. Still, no eating. I wait until 11:00 am, then make breakfast. (Brunch? Whatever!)
This means I’ve just fasted from 7:00 pm until 11:00 am, which makes 16 hours. I then have an 8 hour window to do all of my eating for the day. Personally, I tend to feel as if I’m missing out when I don’t have 3 meals a day, so what do I do? Simple – I just fit all three meals into that 8 hour period. I usually eat breakfast at 11:00, lunch at around 2:00, and dinner at 5:30.
Following this schedule means that when it’s time to eat, I’m not usually as hungry as I would normally be, had I gone for longer breaks between my meals. That means I’m still getting three meals a day, while taking in fewer calories without even realizing it.
One of the best parts about time restricted fasting is that I can change my eating window to accommodate my schedule and preferences. People who work jobs that keep them constantly busy – doctors and nurses, for example – can benefit from not having to stop work to eat.
How does intermittent fasting help you lose weight?
As with everything low carb and ketogenic, to really understand how intermittent fasting works, you have to know the science behind it.
Well, good. I’m good with science. But don’t worry; I’ll keep this simple because intermittent fasting can be incredibly overwhelming at first.
There are two phases that your body goes through when it comes to having eaten: fed and fasted. Your body is considered to be in the fed state just after you’ve eaten, and for three to five hours after, while your body is digesting food.
During that time, your insulin levels are higher, and your body is burning energy using that new food. However, once that food has been digested fully and no new food has been eaten, your body is in its fasted state. Because your body doesn’t have food to burn as energy, it pulls from the fat stored on your body, and uses it as fuel instead.
Obviously, burning fat is a good thing.
The catch is that it takes a while to get to that state. After eating and digesting, your body enters what’s known as a post-absorptive state. This is a sort of in-between time when your body isn’t processing a meal, but you’re not in the fasting state yet. According to James Clear (and science), “the post-absorptive state lasts until 8 to 12 hours after your last meal, which is when you enter the fasted state.”
That’s why saying “I slept for 8 hours, so doesn’t that count as fasting?” doesn’t actually work. You have to fast long enough to enter that actual fasting state.
Are coffee and tea okay during fasting hours?
Dr. Rhonda Patrick of Found My Fitness says that your fast ends as soon as you consume anything other than water. Personally, that’s how I choose to fast, too. However, according to Jimmy Moore, from Living La Vida Low Carb, fasting shouldn’t be so strict. In an interview with Leanne Vogel, Moore mentions Jason Fung of Intensive Dietary Management:
“One of the things that Jason Fung is very adamant about is fasting shouldn’t be complicated. Fasting doesn’t need to be this, ‘Oh my gosh I have to just drink water and nothing else, or I’m a complete failure in my fast,’ and so when he was giving me some consultation on doing my own fasting he said, ‘You know, throw in some bone broth, and add some sea salt to it to kind of balance out electrolytes, if you’re worried about that,’ which I was. Then he said, ‘If you need something else …’, like I drank some Kombucha as part of one of my fasts as well, and it really helped.”
So to be honest, even amongst the fasting experts, there really isn’t one definite answer.
My best advice is to find what works for your body. If you find that your body isn’t responding well to a water only fast, or you’re really missing caffeine, add some black coffee or green tea to your mornings. Go from there and adjust as necessary until you find what works best for you.
Benefits of fasting, aside from weight loss
As previously mentioned, intermittent fasting can speed up your weight loss. For a lot of people, that’s the only benefit they need.
First, check out this great infographic from The Renegade Pharmacist:
The science behind fasting clearly shows that it’s beneficial to us in more ways than one. Healthline provides a great article that spells out the following benefits.
- The levels of insulin in your blood drop dramatically, regulating your blood sugar. (1)
- The Human Growth Hormone (HGH), which helps with fat burning and muscle growth (2)(3), can increase as much as five times (4)(5).
- Cellular repair processes are better able to take place (6).
- You’re likely to lose weight, particularly belly fat (7)(8).
- You can reduce your risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes (9).
- Oxidative damage and inflammation are reduced, thus protecting against numerous diseases (10)(11)(12)(13)(14).
- Several risk factors for heart disease, such as blood pressure and cholesterol, are improved (15)(16)(17).
- Fasting could possibly reduce your risk of cancer (18)(19)(20)(21).
- Fasting improves metabolic features that are good for your brain. (22)(23).
- You could potentially lower your risk of Alzheimer’s disease (24).
- Intermittent fasting can potentially increase your lifespan! (25)(26)
Tips for making intermittent fasting work for you
- Start slowly – You don’t have to jump straight into fasting. Slowly increase your time between meals until you’re comfortable going for longer.
- Drink other fluids if necessary – If you find that you need coffee in order to function, and you just can’t drink it black, add a teaspoon or two of cream. It’s just fasting; you’re not going to completely lose out on the benefits if you don’t stick to it with 100% accuracy. As NerdFitness says, “80% adherence that you stick with for a year is better than 100% adherence that you abandon after a month because it was too restrictive.”
- Find a schedule that works for you – While lots of people who do a time restricted fast skip breakfast in the mornings, that might not work for you. If it doesn’t, don’t force it. Figure out a schedule that meets your needs, and go with it – even if you do get funny looks from time to time. (“You’re skipping dinner? What??”)
- Try fasted exercise – It helps your body burn even more fat, and lots of athletes find that they have extra energy and stamina. (And yes, exercising on keto is a great idea, even though it’s not totally necessary.)
- Keep yourself busy and distracted – We fall into habits and routines easily, and if snacking at nighttime or in between meals is a habit of yours, it might be hard to break it. The old adage “idle hands are the devil’s playthings,” has never been more true! If they’re busy knitting, then they’re too busy to shovel popcorn into your mouth without thinking. Try not to think about what you’re missing until you break those habits.
- Create new habits – Figure out what fits with your new eating schedule, and make it a habit. If you want to break your fast with a huge brunch at noon, make it something to look forward to. Try to eat at around the same time every time, until it becomes routine. Remember: your previous habits were just habits. You were accustomed to eating at certain times because you did it often. It’s not that difficult to make some changes that become routine in time!
- Don’t panic – If you give in and sneak some food, don’t panic. You’re not going to gain 15 pounds overnight. Just take it one day at a time and listen to your body. If you’re miserable and hate your life while you’re fasting, it’s possible that you probably just shouldn’t fast! See what works, and go with it!
Intermittent fasting can be a great tool that accelerates your weight loss. One of its best features is the fact that you can modify the practice so that it fits your lifestyle. Don’t be afraid to do things differently than others; what works for one person won’t necessarily work for someone else, so find your best practice, and stick with it!