Although people have been fasting for thousands of years for various reasons, it has recently entered the mainstream as a way to boost health and help with weight loss. The learning curve to applying fasting to your life can be pretty steep. If you are thinking about giving it a try, make sure you understand how to implement and stick with fasting.
Intermittent Fasting Choices
There is not a set one size fits all fasting pattern that people use. You can choose to fast certain days of the week and eat normally on others or limit the number of hours you fast each day. Although the combinations are as varied as the days and hours in the week, there are some fasting schedules that seem to work better than others.
The 16/8 Plan
If you want to try fasting, but you aren't sure about drinking lemon water for three days in a row, then the limited eating pattern of the 16/8 plan might be for you. When you adopt this type of intermittent fast, you restrict your intake during 18 hours of each day, usually from around eight in the evening until noon the next day. Then, feel free to eat normally for the remaining eight hours.
This is one of the most popular ways to incorporate fasting into your diet. If you struggle without food for the full 16 hours, you can try a modified 14/10 fast that appears to produce similar benefits.
The 5/2 Plan
If you are ready to embrace a full-day fast, then you should check out the 5/2 diet plan. It allows you to eat normally for five days each week, and then restrict calorie intake to around 500 or 600 on the other two days. You want to make sure that there is at least one non-fasting day between the two. It has been shown effective to help with weight loss and may be easier to stick with than straight calorie restriction.
What to Eat Between Fasts
Although most fasting plans say you can eat whatever you want between fasts, that isn't exactly true. You want to fuel your body during this limited window. Look for whole foods to provide a variety of vitamins and minerals. Vegetables, whole grains, and fresh fruits are solid choices. Lean meats, fish, and legumes make great sources of protein. If you aren't getting enough, supplement with a high-quality protein powder to stave off hunger and help preserve muscle mass.
What Is Allowed During a Fast
Fasting periods don't have to feel like torture. You can consume a very limited number of foods or drinks during this time, though. Basically, you want to ensure you don't take in more than 50 calories at any time. Key players will be water (maybe with a twist of lemon), black coffee, and tea. Technically, you can chew gum during a fast since you aren't eating it, but the chewing motion will increase saliva production and make you feel hungry. Which makes sticking to your fast difficult.
Yes, You Will Feel Hungry (at First)
There is no way around it. Unless you already eat on a very restricted schedule or sometimes forget whole meals, you are going to feel hungry as your body gets used to intermittent fasting. Expect it feel less so after a few days, and back to normal after a week or so. Remember that it takes about two months to fully develop a new habit, so be vigilant so you don't slip back into old eating patterns.
What You Can Expect From Fasting
Research is discovering a wide range of potential health benefits of intermittent fasting. Beyond its ability to assist with weight loss, it is linked to lower blood pressure and insulin levels, reduced insulin resistance leading to lower risk of diabetes, and improved body composition. Some studies have pointed to a link between fasting and preserving cognitive function, although long term studies are still needed.
If you have been thinking of trying intermittent fasting, go ahead. Be prepared for the hunger and slight irritability in the first week or so, but push through them to realize the health benefits of this lifestyle change.