What and when you eat during the feeding window also depends on when you work out. On days you exercise, carbs are more important than fat. On rest days, fat intake should be higher. Protein consumption should be fairly high every day, though it will vary based on goals, gender, age, body fat and activity levels. Regardless of your specific program, whole, unprocessed foods should make up the majority of your calorie intake. However, when there isn’t time for a meal, a protein shake or meal replacement bar is acceptable (in moderation).
Since all of your hormones are so deeply interconnected, when one hormone is thrown off balance, the rest are also negatively impacted. It’s like a domino effect. As the “messengers” that regulate nearly every function in your body — from energy production to digestion, metabolism, and blood pressure — you don’t want to disrupt their natural rhythm.
AN IMPORTANT CAVEAT: Intermittent Fasting can be more complex for people who have issues with blood sugar regulation, suffer from hypoglycemia, have diabetes, etc. If you fit into this category, check with your doctor or dietitian before adjusting your eating schedule. It also affects women differently (there’s a whole section dedicated to that below)
To make “down” days easier to stick to, Johnson recommends opting for meal replacement shakes. They’re fortified with essential nutrients and you can sip them throughout the day rather than split into small meals. However, meal replacement shakes should only be used during the first two weeks of the diet — after that, you should start eating real food on “down” days. The next day, eat like normal. Rinse and repeat! (Note: If working out is part of your routine, you may find it harder to hit the gym on the lower calorie days. It may be smart to keep any workouts on these days on the tamer side, or save sweat sessions for your normal calorie days.)
To start, recognize that the bulk of your weight-loss is going to come from fasting, not from working out. Exercise will have other benefits, of course, like building and preserving muscle tissue, improving performance, and increasing endurance, but it won’t be where you’re really taking off the pounds. With this in mind, if your priority is to lose weight, you’ll need to be prioritizing meal planning over working out. As you start intermittent fasting, you may need to pull back from regular strenuous exercise, at least until you feel like your body is used to your new schedule.
Crescendo fasting only requires you to fast a few days a week instead of every day. My experience is that women get a lot more benefit from doing it this way without accidentally throwing their hormones into frenzy. This is a more gentle approach that helps the body more easily adapt to fasting. And if women do it right, it can be an amazing way to shave off body fat, improve inflammatory markers and gain energy. (7)
So does that mean you should abstain from your caffeine fix when fasting? According to Dr. Josh Axe, D.N.M., C.N.S., D.C., founder of DrAxe.com, bestselling author of Eat Dirt, and cofounder of Ancient Nutrition, tea and coffee are fine to consume as long as you don't add any milk or sweeteners. He explains on his blog, "If you're on a time-restricted fast and you're in no-eating hours, it's best to stick to no- or low-calorie drinks like water, coffee, (with no milk) and tea. If you're on an alternate day diet or something similar, even during low calorie hours, you can technically drink whatever you'd like — but remember, this will count against your calories." Dr. Palanisamy also agrees that during fasting, the "appetite-suppressing effects of coffee are probably beneficial."
When you eat a meal, your body spends a few hours processing that food, burning what it can from what you just consumed. Because it has all of this readily-available, easy to burn energy (thanks to the food you ate), your body will choose to use that as energy rather than the fat you have stored. This is especially true if you just consumed carbohydrates/sugar, as your body prefers to burn sugar as energy before any other source.