I don’t recommend that you go straight for a 1-2 day fast, but begin by restricting yourself to certain eating windows. Typically people restrict themselves to the hours of 5pm – 11pm. People often refer to their fasting windows by numbers: 19/5 or 21/3, for example, means 19 hours of fasting and 5 hours eating or 21 hours fasting and 3 hours eating, respectively.
Diluting a small amount of apple cider vinegar in 8 ounces of water won't break your fast. In fact, it might actually be a really good idea. According to a study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food in 2018, apple cider vinegar can lead to positive metabolic changes that help promote weight loss. Drinking apple cider vinegar every day may also reduce total cholesterol, triglycerides and LDL or "bad cholesterol" levels.
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.)
Alternate between days where you eat normally, and days where you take in fewer than 600 calories. Some participants will even go so far as to eliminate food altogether during the off days. Just remember to stay hydrated while fasting, and be aware of what your body is telling you. If you find yourself feeling faint (instead of just hungry) then this may not be the best option for you.
And while this may sound difficult, it’s really not. After all, the reasons our bodies store fat in the first place is because we, as a species, aren't really designed for constant eating. The three-square-meals (or more) eating plan is a relatively new phenomenon in human history; for much of our past, feast and famine were the order of the day. Our bodies know how to handle long stretches without food, and they know how to make good use of the “feasts” when they come along.
Cons: On the flip side, if you have a hard time handling cheat days the healthy way, this method might not be for you. Additionally, because the plan is pretty specific and the fasting/feeding schedule varies from day to day, this method can be a bit confusing to follow. (However, the plan does come with a calendar, noting how to fast and exercise each day, which may make it easier.)
How It Works: Warriors-in-training can expect to fast for about 20 hours every day and eat one large meal every night. What you eat and when you eat it within that large meal is also key to this method. The philosophy here is based on feeding the body the nutrients it needs in sync with circadian rhythms and that our species are “nocturnal eaters, inherently programmed for night eating.”
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One potential disadvantage of this schedule is that because you typically cut out a meal or two out of your day, it becomes more difficult to get the same number of calories in during the week. Put simply, it's tough to teach yourself to eat bigger meals on a consistent basis. The result is that many people who try this style of intermittent fasting end up losing weight. That can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your goals.
There are many different variations of intermittent fasting as well. Dr. Dom D’Agostino, the well-known ketogenic diet researcher, suggests doing a longer intermittent fast for 3 days, 3 times a year. This means not eating for 3 days, and eating normally until the next fast. Daily intermittent fasts are recommended as well. He says that it is ideal to have one to two meals after fasting for most of the day to reap the benefits of intermittent fasting every day.
While the idea of fasting can be overwhelming, especially if you haven’t done it before, intermittent fasting can actually be a lot easier than many other types of eating plans. Since you are fasting for time restricted chunks of the day, you’ll be eating less food, which eliminates a lot of the stress around having to meal prep. During the periods of time in which you're eating, you’ll still want to focus mainly on healthy fats, clean protein, and carbohydrates from whole food sources—but this isn’t an excuse to hit the drive-thru and load up on sugar the rest of the time! Here are some of the effects of intermittent fasting:
As with any diet, you’ll get the best results if you’re consistent. At the same time, you can certainly give yourself a break from this kind of eating schedule on special occasions. You should experiment to figure out which kind of intermittent fasting works the best for you. Lots of people ease themselves into IF with the 12-12 plan, and then they progress to 16-8. After that, you should try to stick to that plan as much as possible.
Make sure you still eat enough. Intermittent fasting does help you naturally eat less during the day, but be sure you’re still eating nutritious ketogenic foods to avoid any deficiencies or metabolic issues. Use a website or app to calculate ideal caloric intake and your ketogenic macros for each day, then track them to make sure you’re getting sufficient nutrition.
Also, be aware that when you exercise, your body directly burns away glycogen (a form of glucose stored in the muscles). Fasting depletes these stores, which can mean less available energy for the muscles to use when they need it. This can lead to extreme fatigue and decreased performance. The best fasting tips for athletes are to precede each workout with a low-calorie protein shake designed to deliver creatine, BCAAs, beta-alanine, and other amino acids directly to the muscles as they work them, and then to follow each workout with a whey-protein supplement to replenish depleted nutrient stores in order to speed up the recovery process. These workout supplements won’t add much to your overall calorie count, and will help ensure that your intermittent fasting schedule and your workout regimen aren’t getting in each other’s way.
Cons: Going 24 hours without any calories may be too difficult for some — especially at first. Many people struggle with going extended periods of time with no food, citing annoying symptoms including headaches, fatigue, or feeling cranky or anxious (though these side effects can dimish over time). The long fasting period can also make it more tempting to binge after a fast. This can be easily fixed… but it takes a lot of self-control, which some people lack.
Conversely, a 2013 study completed by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine, presented the exact opposite, showing increased reactions in receptors on the tongue, when participants were given artificial sweeteners. Their study concluded that if the receptors are capable of detecting sweetness, even though calories aren’t present, a hormonal response (insulin release) is likely.
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