Intermittent Fasting for Beginners
Intermittent Fasting for Beginners: your comprehensive guide to starting with Intermittent Fasting. Foods to eat while intermittent fasting, how the intermittent fasting works, the benefits and the rules.
If you’re looking for a way to lose weight and stay healthy, you’ve probably tried everything (or almost everything) and you’re probably still struggling. If not, you may not have seen many benefits (except for weight loss). However, this may have come at the cost of your piece of mind. You may have started thinking, “Why do I have to suffer so much with so few benefits?.”
Are you sitting down? Ok, I have a revelation for you: you can actually lose weight and, most of all, feel better by practicing intermittent fasting.
I bet you are shaking your head and I totally get it, but trust me: whether to lose weight or to feel better, intermittent fasting works. I’ve been doing it for quite a while and, regardless to weight loss, I feel better both physically and mentally.
Always remember intermittent fasting is a strategy, not a magic trick: this means you need to follow the rules to see results and, most of all, have to embrace a change in your life in terms of what you eat and when you eat. It works only if you commit to it but making sure it becomes part of your routine, not an obsession or a source of stress.
Quick note: the following is advice based on research and personal experience but do not consider this article a medical guide and please consult a doctor if you have a previous medical condition.
This Intermittent Fasting for Beginners guide is divided into small chapters in which you’ll learn more about the principles of this eating pattern, what to eat when fasting, what’s the benefit of this habit. In the end, a list of all the most important questions with answers.
What is intermittent fasting and how do you do it?
Intermittent fasting is not a diet but rather an eating pattern where you alternate between periods of eating and periods of fasting. There are different ways to do intermittent fasting, depending on your needs and also your goals.
The most popular is the 16/8 method where you basically have to fast for 16 hours every day and have an eating window of 8 hours; this method prohibits you from eating anything after dinner and from having breakfast, except for a coffee with no milk or cream.
Another popular method is the so-called Eat-Stop-Eat which involves a 24-hour fast, once a week. Alternate-Day fasting is similar to Eat-Stop-Eat but instead, you fast every other day. Last but not least, Warrior Intermittent Fasting involves eating just one meal a day following the pattern of 20/4: 20 hours fasting, 4 hours eating.
No matter which method you follow, you must stick to three simple rules: fewer (or zero) sugars, more healthy foods (check some of my healthy recipes here) and no snacks in between meals.
Below I’ll explain the reasons why intermittent fasting works because at first glance it seems as if you lose weight because you eat fewer calories. In reality, intermittent fasting works on different levels and losing weight is just one of many benefits.
What happens to your body when you fast?
When you fast, various things happen in your body even if at the very beginning, if you’re not used to this method, you will only feel very hungry. In reality, the following are some of the changes brought to your body by fasting:
- A drop in insulin levels: insulin can cause many problems in our bodies. When you fast, the level of insulin in your blood drops dramatically and this means the body accesses stored body fat and uses this to survive;
- Cell repair: fasting allows cells to start their repair processes. One of these processes is autophagy where cells remove bad proteins.
- Human Growth Hormone: when fasting, HGH greatly increases and this means fat loss and muscle gain.
These three changes, in turn, lead to many other changes in our bodies. That’s why many people prefer intermittent fasting to a traditional diet.
The Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Eating less means weight loss. Fasting allows you to lose weight in a healthier way: your body is, in fact, forced to use the fat stored as fuel instead of using glucose. Glucose is pretty much everywhere in the things we eat but as soon as you change your eating habits and start depriving your body of sugar, your body will react by using stored fat for energy. This leads to weight loss.
Blood Sugar Improvement
Insulin can be extremely dangerous for our bodies (not just for people with diabetes) as high levels of insulin also mean high blood sugar levels which can cause fatigue, the need for more and more sugar and, in the long term, cardiovascular diseases. Intermittent fasting lowers blood sugar and prevents spikes and crashes due to hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia.
Intermittent fasting helps lower many heart disease risk factors such as LDL cholesterol and this helps maintain a healthy heart.
Even if at very beginning it can be hard to adapt to the change, over a medium and long-term period intermittent fasting reduces the impact of leptin (the satiety hormone) on the body: when there’s too much leptin circulating in the body, for example when we eat constantly, the body develops a resistance and this means our bodies don’t react to this hormone anymore and so they need more and more food. Fasting lowers levels of leptin.
Intermittent fasting has been proven to increase metabolism by up to 14%. At the same time, it’s a healthy boost that helps promote good weight loss: sometimes losing weight means you also lose muscle, whereas practicing short-term fasting increases the chances of losing weight without losing muscle tissue.
Reduces dependence on sugar
The more you avoid sugar and fast intermittently, the less you’ll need sugar in your diet. Many people drink apple cider during their fasting time to lower the level of insulin even more and to get used to the absence of sugar.
It’s a routine
On a different, less scientific level, intermittent fasting can be seen as a routine and this allows those who practice it to bring order to their lives and to reduce anxiety and stress. It can certainly be hard to develop the routine at first, especially if you love having breakfast and after dinner snacks but as soon as you start seeing benefits and developing a serious plan, you’ll find this routine beneficial on many levels, for example giving a precise schedule to your days.
Foods to eat while intermittent fasting
During the eating window, you can eat whatever you want. Although, if you’re following the intermittent fasting pattern you’re probably also into healthy food so it’s advised to eat clean: proteins and vegetables have to be preferred, carbs should be avoided or eaten in moderation and sugar should be completely avoided. Eat for your goals, this is the only recommendation possible. You should avoid snacks in between your meals but this is not mandatory and if you feel you need a snack, go for it! Don’t overthink it – keep things simple and you’ll see big changes in your body and in your life!
Intermittent Fasting: popular questions
Can everybody practice intermittent fasting?
This depends purely on your body and your eating habits and lifestyle. As a matter of fact, everyone can follow this eating pattern making sure to adjust it according to their body. Intermittent fasting is not miraculous if it’s not supported by exercise and also a change of eating habits. It definitely requires a certain level of commitment, at least at the beginning, to make sure the body reacts correctly to the changes. But as soon as you start feeling better, it will become an enjoyable habit.
How do I start counting my fasting period? At the beginning of a meal, or when I’m done?
Your fasting period starts when you stop eating. This means if you start eating at 7 pm and finish at 8 pm, your fasting period will start at 8 pm.
Can I drink coffee in the morning?
Yes, you can. And you can also drink tea. Everything with less than 50 calories will keep your body in the fasting mode. No sugar allowed, tough.
Can I exercise when doing intermittent fasting?
Of course, you can! The more you will be into intermittent fasting, the more your body will feel energized. Make sure you add some form of resistance training to your routine to make sure your muscles won’t disappear.
What happens if I’m hungry while fasting?
Usually, the body regulates itself and understands how to behave. You may experience starvation for the first 2-3 days and then everything will be normal.
How often should I do intermittent fasting?
There’s no rule when it comes to intermittent fasting. I’ve adopted it as a lifestyle, so it’s really rare I stop doing it. So you can do intermittent fasting regularly or just now and then; it all depends on you but I’m sure that the more you are into this habit, the less you wanna quit.
If you’ve read this guide, you’re all set: you’re ready to start your Intermittent Fasting Routine and see how it goes! And if you’re looking for more food-related health and beauty advice click here