Intermittent Fasting for Beginners 2024 Guide

Author: Veruska Anconitano, Award-Winning Food Travel Journalist, Sommelier & Outdoor LoverAuthor information
About the author
Veruska Anconitano
Veruska is a a food travel journalist with awards to her credit, such as World Best Food Travel Journalist. She holds a certification as a sommelier and she is also an ardent lover of the outdoors. Aside from this, Veruska is a Multilingual SEO and Localization Consultant and co-owns multiple websites that cater to a global audience.
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Intermittent Fasting for Beginners: your comprehensive guide to starting with Intermittent Fasting.  After almost 4 years of Intermittent Fasting, I can explain everything to you: how it works, foods to eat while intermittent fasting, 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 peace of mind. You may have started thinking, “Why do I have to suffer so much with so few benefits?.”

Well, I’m not revealing to you the secret to lose weight without suffering but to explain to you one of the possible alternatives you have to lose weight in 2024 and, most of all, to feel better.

The alternative is called Intermittent Fasting, and I’m sure you’ve heard of it already since it’s actually living its best moment!

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.

In this guide, I don’t want to suggest you need to change your habit but simply explain what intermittent fasting is, what its benefits are, and how you can practice it without feeling overwhelmed.

That’s why the following advice is based on research and personal experience but do not consider this article a medical guide. 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 plan. In the end, a list of all the most important questions with answers.

So sit back and enjoy this intermittent fasting for beginners’ guide and I hope you will start practicing it and have all of the benefits (and possibly even more) that I’ve been having for the past 4 years.

What Is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting is not a diet but rather an eating pattern where you alternate between periods of eating and periods of fasting.

Yes, it’s easy as it sounds! You eat at a certain time of the day and then stop eating until the next eating session occurs: no snacks in between, no sodas. And, above all, prolonged fasting will bring you from one eating session to another one.

Since it is an eating pattern, it doesn’t indicate what food to eat but rather when to eat; the biggest rule to follow is eating nothing during the fasting periods, except for water and coffee.

Keto diet concept. Balanced low-carb food background. Vegetables, fish, meat, cheese, nuts on a dark background.

How To Do Intermittent Fasting?

There are different ways to do intermittent fasting, depending on your needs and also your goals.

These are the most popular methods:

1. 16/8

The most popular is the 16/8 method. You have to fast for 16 hours every day and have an eating window of 8 hours. Usually, people following this pattern choose to skip breakfast and eat during a time-variable period from 1 pm to 9 pm. If you decide to start your day with lunch, you cannot eat anything after dinner, and you cannot have breakfast, except for a coffee or tea with no milk or cream. You may also decide to start with breakfast and skip dinner. Overall, 16/8 is the easiest IP method, the best one to kickstart your habit.

2. Eat-Stop-Eat

Another popular method is the so-called Eat-Stop-Eat, and it works exactly as its name suggests: you eat regularly then fast for 24 hours, once or twice a week. The unrestricted eating days can’t become a way to escape dieting to get the most out of your fasting days. You need to watch out for what you eat and avoid consuming more than your body needs.

3. Alternate-Day fasting

The Alternate-Day Fasting method is quite popular among people in need of losing weight. Explaining it is quite easy: you switch off between days of eating and days of fasting. Not everyone can hack it, so it really takes a lot of initiative and courage to follow this pattern. But once you start, it becomes “easy” to keep going.

4. Warrior Intermittent Fasting

Finally, Warrior Intermittent Fasting involves eating just one meal a day following the pattern of 20/4: 20 hours fasting, 4 hours eating. This is the method that usually overlaps with the OMAD Diet (One Meal a Day). Bear in mind: if you follow the Warrior Diet, you’re not allowed to eat everything you want, but you always need to go for unprocessed, healthy, and organic food choices.

What’s the Best Type of Intermittent Fasting?

When it comes to dieting and eating habit, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. What’s important is to eating well during the non-fasting periods. It’s also fundamental to adapt your IF choice to your lifestyle, not the opposite:

intermittent fasting must make your life better, not becoming a burden!

The 3 Rules of Intermittent Fasting

No matter what method you follow, you must stick to three simple rules: fewer (or zero) sugar, more healthy and unprocessed foods, and no snacks between meals.

Read Also: How and Why Cut Sugar from Your Diet

What Happens to Our Body When We Fast?

When we fast, various things happen in our body even if at the very beginning, if you’re not used to this method, you will only feel starving. In reality, the following are some of the changes brought to our body by fasting:

  • A drop in insulin levels: insulin can cause a lot of problems for our bodies. When we fast, the level of insulin in our 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, which 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

Many studies have been done on intermittent fasting, and all have shown that IF can have incredible benefits, not just in terms of weight loss and control. These are the main health benefits of intermittent fasting.

Fasting Benefits

1. Weight Loss

Eating less means weight loss. Fasting allows you to lose weight more healthily: 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. Of course, you really need to watch out for your intake of calories and the type of food you eat: IF is not an excuse to eat more than what your body asks you to eat, nor an excuse to eat more junk food.

2. Blood Sugar Improvement

Insulin can be very dangerous for our bodies (and not just for people with diabetes) as high insulin levels 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.

3. Heart health

Intermittent fasting helps lower many heart disease risk factors such as LDL cholesterol, helping maintain a healthy heart.

4. Decreases Hunger

Even if at the 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 resistance, and this means our bodies don’t react to this hormone anymore and so they need more and more food.

Fasting lowers the levels of leptin and decrease hunger.

5. Boosts metabolism

Intermittent fasting has been proven to increase metabolism by up to 14%. Simultaneously, 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.

6. 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 vinegar during their fasting time to lower the insulin level even more and get used to the absence of sugar. I myself have taken the habit of drinking apple cider vinegar to support my fasting time. I must say that the results are just incredible in reducing the dependence on sugar and cravings I had for sugar.

7. It helps to build a personal routine

Having a routine is fundamental for humans, and it helps keep things under control. That’s why, on a different and less scientific level, intermittent fasting can be seen as a routine that allows those who practice it to bring order to their lives and 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.

What to Eat During Intermittent Fasting?

You can eat whatever you want during the eating window, paying attention to ingredients to avoid worsening your health and weight.

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 your life!

What Can You Drink During Intermittent Fasting?

You can drink water, coffee, tea, and other non-caloric beverages. Do not add sugar or cream, or milk to your coffee or tea. Apple cider vinegar is a powerful beverage to drink during your fasting window because it helps increase your stomach acid. This results in better digestion and better absorption of essential nutrients from the food you eat.

Intermittent Fasting Side Effects

It goes without saying that practicing intermittent fasting can also have side effects, and that’s why you need to listen to your body and customize your eating habit according to it.

The most annoying side effect is hunger: at the beginning, you may feel weak, and you may think your brain is not functioning well because of the lack of food. It’s a normal reaction that our body has when we change our habits, but this will automatically disappear after a few days of doing it.

Even if IF seems to be recommendable to anyone, you need to be aware of the potential problems it may cause if you have the following problems:

  • Have diabetes
  • Have problems with blood sugar regulation
  • Have low blood pressure
  • Take medications
  • Are underweight
  • Have a history of eating disorders
  • Are pregnant

So make sure you consult your doctor if you want to try Intermittent Fasting and have underlying conditions.

How to Get Started with Fasting?

You may not have realized yet, but very often, we’ve already come across Intermittent Fasting in our life. We may have the habit of skipping breakfast, or sometimes we skip lunch: both these two things are qualified as Intermittent Fasting patterns, no matter if done casually once in a while or always.

To give a structure to your fasting habit, you have to start with one of the methods above, which works best for you and your lifestyle and give it a go. Do not start hard. Take things slowly with the 16:8 method; otherwise, you may end up wanting to quit after a few days.

Intermittent Fasting for Women and Men: the differences

Women and men are meant to be different biologically, reflecting on the eating pattern that we choose. Intermittent Fasting works differently for men and women.

Women experience period every month and are affected by hormones more than men, especially during specific days of the month; for this reason, it is always recommended to listen to your body and, especially when your period is approaching or when you’ve your period, to adjust your eating pattern accordingly.

Make sure you monitor how your body responds to IF and adjust your diet if necessary.

Intermittent Fasting: FAQs

If you have questions about Intermittent Fasting, here I’ve summarised the most frequent ones.

1. Can everybody do 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 and adjust it according to their body. Intermittent fasting is not miraculous if it’s not supported by exercise and 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.

2. When do I start counting my fasting window?

Your fasting period starts when you stop eating. This means if you start eating at 6 pm and finish at 7 pm, your fasting period will start at 7 pm.

3. 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 fasting mode. No sugar nor milk, nor cream are allowed.

Can I exercise when doing intermittent fasting?

Not only you can, but you also should and must! 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 ensure your muscles won’t get shrunk because you’re eating less. If you want to build muscle, keto is a great diet to follow together with intermittent fasting. Read more about the Keto Diet!

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. If you keep experiencing starvation, it means you do not intake a good amount of nutrients during your eating period: make sure you eat enough and eat protein that will support your fasting period without the risk of becoming hungry.

Remember: the more carbs you eat, the more hungry you will be during the fasting time. That’s why you don’t necessarily need to cut down on carbs but that you have to get all macronutrients (proteins, fats, and carbs) to be well

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 I rarely stop doing it. So you can do intermittent fasting regularly or now and then; it all depends on you, but I’m sure that the more you are into this habit, the less you want to quit.

How long does it take to see results from intermittent fasting?

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. Results can become visible after a week or a few weeks. It really depends on your metabolism, your habits, and your previous situation.

Do not get obsessed over results.

Make sure you keep going, and you’ll notice a sudden change that will make you go for IF more and more.

Should kids do Intermittent Fasting?

No, kids should always be exempted: their metabolism is a work in progress, and their body needs to grow naturally.  In the children’s case, it should all be about making healthy choices and ensuring they exercise: these two elements are vital parts of any child’s development. 

Ketogenic Atkins Diet

Intermittent Fasting: The Bottom Line

Intermittent fasting is a dietary pattern that involves regular, short-term fasts. Many studies have been conducting on IF and all point out the benefits of this eating pattern. Despite the different methods that have been developed, there’s one thing to say about Intermittent Fasting that is fundamental: this is an eating pattern that can and must be customized according to anyone’s lifestyle and experience. You may end up feeling better if you follow a modified version of the 16:8 (e.g., a 10:14 or a 12:12 and so on) or to skip food entirely for two consecutive days, to name a few. You may even discover that fasting doesn’t work for you at all!

Find a rhythm, a pattern, a habit that makes you feel good and use Intermittent Fasting as a way to gain knowledge about yourself, your body, your mind: if weight loss is one of the biggest reasons why people enter the IF pattern, the truth is that this routine can be beneficial in so many ways that it’s hard to get rid of it.

At the end of the day, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for food, health, and nutrition. The best eating pattern is the one you can stick to in the long run, adjusting it to your life and needs.

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