Intermittent Fasting – Introduction
The Ultimate Guide to Intermittent Fasting for Beginners
When it comes to losing weight and eating more healthily, there are literally hundreds of different diets you can try.
With so many different approaches available, choosing the right one can be tricky.
Each one works for at least someone, but that doesn’t mean it’ll work for you!
In this guide, we will introduce you to intermittent fasting, or IF for short, and explain a little about what it is, how it works, and how it can improve your health and help you lose fat relatively quickly and easily.
What Is Intermittent Fasting – Overview
Fasting is nothing new and has been around for many centuries.
Several religions practice fasting, and it is often linked to internal and spiritual cleansing.
More recently, fasting has become a popular way to lose weight.
In the truest sense, fasting means voluntarily not eating for an extended time.
The severity and length of the fast depend on several factors, including religious persuasion and the purpose of the fast.
Most people are already familiar with intermittent fasting – you fast through the night while you sleep.
However, while fasting means not eating, most fasts encourage drinking lots of water, and some permit other non-calorie beverages, such as tea and coffee without milk.
There are several different types of fast, lasting from half a day to several days without food.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Most people who follow intermittent fasting do so for weight loss.
After all, with close to 50% of the population either overweight or obese, fat loss is a common goal.
Intermittent fasting is a great way to lose weight and keep it off.
But, while intermittent fasting can help you lose weight, it’s also very good for your health.
Think about it like this: if you feel unwell, you instinctively want to eat less.
Your body knows that not eating is sometimes good for you!
TEN proven health benefits of Intermittent Fasting include:
- Intermittent fasting can help you lose belly fat
- Intermittent fasting reduces your risk of developing type 2 diabetes
- Intermittent fasting reduces inflammation in your body
- Intermittent fasting can reduce your risk of coronary heart disease
- Intermittent fasting helps your body rid itself of toxins, which speeds up cellular repair
- Intermittent fasting may reduce your risk of cancer
- Intermittent fasting is good for your brain
- Intermittent fasting may help you live longer
- Intermittent fasting boosts mental focus and productivity
- Intermittent fasting allows you to burn fat AND lose muscle at the same time!
Intermittent Fasting And Fat Loss
Intermittent fasting helps you burn fat and lose weight in several different ways.
Firstly, and most obviously, eating less frequently will reduce the total calories you consume.
When you eat less food than you need to maintain your current weight and activity levels, your body will have to use more stored body fat for fuel.
Assuming you do not eat more than usual between fasts, abstaining from eating will create a significant calorie deficit, leading to increased fat-burning and weight loss.
For example, suppose you usually eat 2,000 calories per day, seven days a week, but decide to do two 24-hour fasts.
In that case, you’ll save 4,000 calories, equating to just over one pound of weight loss.
Shorter fasts, such as the popular 18:6 fast, work the same way.
With this method, you fast for 18 hours, and your eating window is reduced to just 6 hours per day.
This usually involves skipping breakfast and lunch and then eating your first meal toward the middle of the afternoon.
You can then eat 1-2 more meals before heading off to bed.
A smaller eating window means you won’t be able to consume as many calories as usual, so your body will have to use fat for fuel instead.
Unlike longer fasts, this type of IF can be done several times weekly and even daily.
In addition, not eating for an extended period will increase your insulin sensitivity and reduce the amount of glycogen in your muscles and liver – glycogen being stored carbohydrate.
After a period of fasting, and because of increased insulin sensitivity and glycogen depletion, some of the food you eat will be preferentially ferried to your muscles and liver and will not be available for energy.
This will further enhance fat loss.
Fasting has also been shown to increase your metabolic rate, which will significantly impact fat burning.
Finally, intermittent fasting enhances fat loss by increasing human growth hormone and production norepinephrine production.
These two substances can significantly impact weight loss and fat burning.
Human growth hormone is an anabolic or muscle-building hormone that also promotes fat-burning.
Norepinephrine is a stress hormone that, as well as increasing mental focus and energy, signals your body to release fatty acids from your fat cells for easier burning.
Additionally, intermittent fasting has been shown to cause much less muscle loss than sustained low-calorie diets.
And, with appropriate exercise, it can actually build muscle.
This means that you can lose fat and gain muscle simultaneously with IF, which a lot of misinformed nutrition experts still believe is impossible.
In summary, unlike most low-calorie diets, IF optimizes your body for fat loss.
That’s why it’s one of the most effective, respected, and popular fat-loss diets; it works!
Different Ways to Do Intermittent Fasting
There are lots of different interpretations of intermittent fasting.
Some involve short fasting periods and are ideal for beginners or those nervous about going without food for long.
Others are a bit more “hardcore” and better for more advanced fasters and people who don’t mind missing more than a few meals.
Here are eight different ways to do intermittent fasting.
#1. The 12-Hour Fast
This is an excellent place to start if you are new to intermittent fasting.
A 12-hour fast is very manageable, especially because much of the fast happens overnight.
Eat your last meal at 7 p.m., then break your fast at about 7 a.m.
If you are a regular night-time snacker, the 12-hour fast is an effective way to stop that fattening habit.
Twelve hours is the shortest time that can be considered a fast.
Your body only “gets into” fasting after ten hours or so.
Fasts of less than 12 hours are of little benefit as they don’t trigger increased autophagy.
#2. The 16-Hour Fast
Also known as the 16:8 fast, this is one of the most popular IF fasting schedules.
Like the 12-hour fast, you don’t have to go without food for a full day, which makes it accessible and manageable.
It is a step up from the 12-hour fast, so if you’ve tried that and everything went well, this is a good option.
Most 16:8 fasters eat their pre-fast meal at about 8 p.m., fast through the night and into the next day, and then break their fast at noon with a light lunch.
This gives an eight-hour eating window during which you can eat another couple of meals or snacks.
#3. The 20-Hour Fast
With this schedule, you are limited to a four-hour eating window.
If you have your last meal of the day at 8 p.m., you will break your fast at 4 p.m. the following day.
While this is quite a lengthy fast, it’s perfect for fat loss.
A 20-hour fast is more challenging than a 16- or 12-hour one and should only be attempted if your shorter fasts present no problems.
#4. The 24-Hour Fast
For this IF schedule, you forgo food for an entire 24-hour period once or twice a week on non-consecutive days.
This will create a significant calorie deficit, which is good for fat loss.
Going without food can be challenging for some people, and you may feel hungry, tired, experience headaches, or feel lethargic or irritable.
These symptoms will lessen with repeated fasts.
Only attempt a full 24-hour fast if you have successfully completed shorter fasts.
#5. Alternate Day Fasting
If you coped well with a full 24-hour fast, this could be your next choice.
With this method, you eat on a day-on/day-off schedule.
This is quite an extreme form of fasting, but providing you don’t overeat on non-fasting days, it will produce rapid weight loss.
However, such a strict regimen may take a lot of work to maintain in the long term.
#6. The 5:2 Fast
The 5:2 fast is not strictly a fast, but it’s worth discussing because it’s very popular.
It’s also the diet that has introduced many people to intermittent fasting.
With the 5:2 fast, you eat normally five days per week and then reduce your food intake to just 500 calories per day for two non-consecutive days, e.g., Tuesday and Friday.
You’ll experience some of the benefits of IF with this method.
Still, many fasting purists consider this cheating because you eat on your so-called fasting days.
#7. Flexible Fasting: Meal Skipping
This is the best place to start if you are still on the fence about IF fasting.
The next time a mealtime approaches and you notice that you aren’t hungry, skip it and wait until your next mealtime to eat.
It’s very easy to fall into the trap of eating habitually rather than according to how hungry you feel.
Consequently, many of us eat just because of the time rather than because we need the calories.
Meal skipping is an excellent way to get back in touch with hunger and understand that eating at a specific time is not always necessary.
#8. The One Meal A Day Fast – OMAD
As the name suggests, this IF diet method involves eating just one large meal per day.
It’s part of the Warrior Diet, a popular diet and exercise program that mirrors life as a hunter/gatherer and ties your meals to your circadian rhythm.
According to the Warrior Diet, humans are nocturnal eaters and do best when we eat at night and shortly before going to sleep.
Food, it is suggested, will help you sleep better.
Whichever type of IF fasting schedule you follow, it’s essential to understand that while you won’t be eating food, you must still drink plenty of water.
You have enough to contend with while fasting without adding dehydration into the mix.
You can also drink unsweetened coffee and tea but should have them without milk.
Diet soda is not a good idea.
While it IS free from calories, the artificial sweeteners are not healthy.
They could even trick your body into thinking you are consuming sugar.
Water is best!
Breaking A Fast: What Type of Food to Eat
After completing your chosen fast, you may be tempted to reward yourself with a big or unhealthy meal.
After going without food for many hours and even several days, you could easily overload your digestive system if you overeat or pound down a lot of unhealthy food.
If you ignore this advice, you can expect to experience:
- Abdominal pain
This is because, during a fast, the enzymes your body uses to digest the food you eat become less active.
With fewer digestive enzymes, your body will have a harder time breaking down the food you eat.
The longer you fast, the more pronounced this effect will be, and the more carefully you need to reintroduce food to your body.
Also, the main objective of intermittent fasting is lowering your calorie intake so that your body has no choice but to burn fat for fuel.
If you eat a massive meal after your fast is over, you risk consuming more calories than you saved.
Your first post-fast meal should be little more than a glorified snack.
You’ll need to exercise your willpower and avoid overeating.
Still, this small, light meal will gently “wake up” your digestive system so it’s ready for more food in an hour or so.
Good options at this time include raw fruit and vegetable juices, bone broth, natural yogurt, and lightly cooked non-starchy vegetables.
Avoid fats and heavy proteins, as they can be hard to digest.
Your next meal can be more substantial but should still be small and easy to digest.
Consider this meal a light lunch or brunch – even if you break your fast later in the day.
This meal should contain foods you know you tolerate well.
This is not the time to try a new spicy chili recipe!
Good options include vegetable soups, beans and grains, lean meats, fish, or eggs.
Avoid heavily processed foods as they not only contain a lot of calories and too few nutrients, but they can also be irritating and inflammatory.
All subsequent meals should be nutritious and balanced, containing lean protein, healthy fats, and slow-releasing carbs.
Potential Drawbacks and Pitfalls Of Intermittent Fasting
IF is very safe and beneficial, but it isn’t for everyone.
Some of the potential drawbacks and pitfalls of IF fasting include…
- If you overeat when you break the fast, most of the benefits will be lost
- Some people feel tired, weak, or unwell when they do not eat, although this problem tends to be less of an issue after a while
- Severe hunger can force people to break their fast early
- Fasting can cause cravings that are very hard to resist
- Excessive fasting could cause nutrient deficiencies
- If you have a very active lifestyle, you may find you have less energy than you are used to during your fasts
- Intermittent fasting addresses the caloric value of your food but not the quality.
- You can follow an IF schedule and lose weight while eating unhealthy food.
- A good diet should address the nutritional content as well as the caloric content of your food.
If you are currently under medical supervision, pregnant, a nursing mother, or have a history of eating disorders, you should speak to your doctor before starting intermittent fasting.
The Ultimate Guide to Intermittent Fasting – Wrapping Up
You now know more than enough about intermittent fasting to try it yourself.
Not next month or next week, but tomorrow.
You could even start today and skip your next meal.
That’s the beauty of the IF diet; unlike almost every diet, you don’t need to follow a meal plan or buy or cook special foods.
It’s so simple!
Another great thing about IF is that you don’t have to tell anyone else you are doing it.
You won’t have to carry weird and wonderful foods with you or track down specialist, expensive ingredients to cook and eat.
Just skip a meal or two – it’s that easy.
All you have to say to anyone who asks is, “I’m not hungry now; I’m going to eat something later.”
You aren’t even lying; that’s the very definition of intermittent fasting.
Knowledge is power, or so they say, but that’s not strictly true.
Knowledge is only powerful when you use it.
You know as much as you need about intermittent fasting to start using this powerful diet immediately.
But will you?
Or will you procrastinate and put off starting for another week, month, or year?
Remember, the sooner you start IF fasting, the sooner you’ll experience all the benefits this popular diet offers.
With no need to shop, prep, or cook anything, there is no reason you can’t start IF today.
Don’t delay – the only thing you’ve got to lose is fat!
While Intermittent Fasting is effective and great for some people, it is not the only way to achieve weight loss and body transformation.
In fact, it was not my preferred way, and fasting might not be yours.
Thankfully, I came up with a system that works – one that I call System 5: The Hashi Mashi Diet and Exercise Plan.
By focusing on simple, whole foods and a few key exercises, this program can help you achieve your health and fitness goals in a way that is sustainable and enjoyable.
Just as it helped me drop 75 pounds in 6 months.
Whether you’re looking to lose weight, build muscle, or simply improve your overall health, the Hashi Mashi Diet is worth exploring.
So, if you’re ready to take control of your health and change your body, keep reading Hashi Mashi Diet and Exercise Plan: The 5-Step System to Transform Your Body to learn more about this powerful program.
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