Intermittent fasting is probably what you’d think. It’s fasting… intermittently. Or, to be a bit clearer, it’s skipping meals. But while missing a meal will certainly mean fewer calories throughout your day, the magic of intermittent fasting isn’t just in how it reduces food intake, but in how it helps your body make better use of the calories you keep.
So what’s the first step in getting started? Each method has its own guidelines for how long to fast and what to eat during the “feeding” phase. Below, you’ll find the five most popular methods and the basics of how they work. Keep in mind, intermittent fasting isn’t for everyone. Those with health conditions of any kind should check with their doctor before changing up their usual routine. Note that personal goals and lifestyle are key factors to consider when choosing a fasting method.
Alternate-day fasting. Go back and forth between feasting days and fasting days. Eat like a king or queen one day, then eat nothing the next. This will probably be the most challenging fasting option for most people. If you try it, make sure you’re eating a ton on your feast days, otherwise you’ll fall into a major calorie deficit and you’ll likely feel miserable.
After determining your preferred protocol of intermittent fasting, you should start planning out your diet for the days that you do eat. On a standard keto diet, 75 percent of total calories should come from fat, 20 percent should be from protein and 5 percent should come from carbs. When getting started, however, you can start with a modified keto diet instead, which is often considered more flexible and easy-to-follow. With this diet plan, about 40–60 percent of calories should come from healthy keto fats with 20–30 percent from protein foods and 15–25 percent from carbohydrates.
Your body contains proteins and other structures that constantly become dysfunctional or die. This isn't a bad thing; it's a necessary process for optimal health. However, if these dead tissues aren't cleared out from the body, they can cause cell death, contribute to poor cell and organ function and even become cancerous. Enter a process called autophagy.
So, if your goal is ketosis, intermittent fasting can help you get into ketosis even faster. Simultaneously, the keto diet makes intermittent fasting more doable because your body is already adapted to fasting with ketones. In addition, most people naturally eat less frequently on keto because of the high satiety level, so you’re likely already used to bigger windows without food.
Eat normally for five days of the week, taking in fewer than 600 calories on the remaining two days; fasting days should be non consecutive. This is a slightly less arduous variation of the every-other-day fasting plan, but it also puts you in the fasted state for significantly less time. Consider using this particular intermittent fasting schedule as a stepping stone to something more advanced.
The problem is that we tend to spend so much time in the fed state, fueling our bodies exclusively with glucose, that we become addicted. Once the flow of glucose stops and our insulin levels drop, we start getting hunger pains. This is one of the reasons that overweight individuals — people with more than adequate energy stores in their fat cells — often have such a difficult time cutting back on food intake. They’re not starving, but they’re not getting the glucose their bodies are used to.
In animal studies, after two weeks of intermittent fasting, female rats stopped having menstrual cycles and their ovaries shrunk while experiencing more insomnia than their male counterparts (though the male rats did experience lower testosterone production). (6) Unfortunately, there are very few human studies looking at the differences between intermittent fasting for men and women, but the animal studies confirm our suspicion: Intermittent fasting for long periods of time can sometimes throw off a woman’s hormonal balance, cause fertility problems and exacerbate eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder.
This is the same as the 8-to-6 window plan, but you are extending your fasting time an extra four hours. I personally practice this plan during the workweek. I'm not a breakfast person, so I just enjoy a few cups of herbal tea to start my day. With this plan you will be eating only between the hours of 12 p.m. and 6 p.m. for a full 18 hours of fasting within a 24-hour period.
So, what exactly is a relaxed approach to intermittent fasting? Again, since there’s little research done on intermittent fasting, we’re dealing with a bit of a gray area. The opinions also tend to vary depending on which site you visit, or which health expert you ask. From what we’ve found, the general guidelines to brief intermittent fasting for women are:
There are different types of intermittent fasting, but the most common involves only eating within a certain window of time each day. For example, you might only eat between 12pm and 6pm each day, giving you a 6-hour “feeding” window when you eat all of your calories for the day. That means you’ll be fasting for 18 hours in between. Your intermittent fasting ratio would then be 18/6.
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In fact, the authors of this book said that they had patients who only changed their eating habits with this twelve- to sixteen-hour “fruit” fast each day. They did not follow the diet’s other rules or count calories, and they still lost weight and got healthier. This strategy might have simply worked because the dieters replaced junk food with whole foods. In any case, people found this dietary change effective and easy to make. Traditionalists won’t call this fasting; however, it’s important to know that you may have options if you absolutely can’t abstain from food for several hours at a time.
In addition, the refined sugar found in most beverages digests quickly, spiking both your blood sugar and your insulin levels. It's also highly addictive. Your body doesn't just want more, it needs more. In fact, according to a review published in Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care in 2013, sugar and sweetened beverages and foods induce reward and craving responses in the brain that are comparable to the responses triggered by addictive drugs, which continue the cycle.
If you have an addictive relationship with food and you struggle with portion control, track your calorie intake in your meals to make sure you’re not overeating. If you skip breakfast, you might be so hungry from this that you OVEREAT for lunch and this can lead to weight gain. Again, the important thing here is that with intermittent fasting you’re eating fewer calories than normal because you’re skipping a meal every day.