A Beginner’s Guide to Intermittent Fasting

We all know that when it comes to losing weight, it’s not just exercise that does the trick. The reality is that what we eat, how much we eat, and when we eat plays a big part in staying healthy. And while there are many plans out there that can help shed those extra pounds, the one plan that works for me, and I see time and time again work for so many others, is intermittent fasting.

Some of you may have started it during the Quaran-TONE challenge, and others might be new. Either way, here is a little guide to get started.

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting, or IF, is not a diet plan, but rather a way to cycle your eating. Most people eat three meals a day with a few snacks here and there. With IF, you consume all of your meals, and snacks, into a specific block of time rather than throughout the day. The result is that you end up eating less calories because there is only so much your body can consume and digest in a shortened period of time. Here are some popular methods of IF:

  • Eating within an 8-hour window (11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., for example) while fasting for the remaining 16 hours of the day.
  • Fasting for a full 24 hours (one or a few days a week).
  • Reducing your calorie consumption to 500 calories a day, two days a week (preferably on nonconsecutive days).

Most people choose the first method since it’s the most sustainable and won’t make you feel like you are starving yourself—a struggle many people go through when trying to fast. During the fasting period, water with lemon, or black coffee and tea with a healthy fat are allowed in order to help you get through the day.

Choose whichever method works best for you and your schedule.

The Benefits of IF

Aside from weight loss, IF has been known to provide some other health benefits. Several studies have shown that IF can:

  • Reduce inflammation
  • Produce healthier blood sugar levels
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Improve memory
  • Decrease cholesterol

So you can expect a lot more positive effects than weight loss if you decide to give intermittent fasting a try.

Eating on IF

Once you decide which method of IF you want to try, your food choices are also important. You still want to stick with lean proteins, complex carbs, fruits, vegetables and healthy fats. All your fasting efforts will go to waste if you decide to eat mostly junk during your eating window.

Side Effects of IF

Fasting is not without some side effects if you haven’t done it before. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try it, but you should know what to expect. The most common side effects are:

  • Extreme hunger
  • Brain fog
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Heartburn
  • Feeling cold

The good news is that these side effects tend to go away within 1-3 weeks. But this is also why you should ease into IF. Start off with a longer eating window and see how that goes before trying something more extreme like a full-day fast.

Before you give IF a try, make sure you get the okay from your doctor especially if you have any underlying conditions that may make fasting difficult or harmful. Certain medications require that you take them on a full stomach so that’s another consideration that should be discussed with your doctor.

When it comes to intermittent fasting, some use it as a quick way to lose some weight while others have adapted it as a permanent way to eat. Whatever your reasons are, you will certainly get a lot of extra benefits that are good for both your body and your mind.