The Ultimate Guide to Intermittent Fasting for Beginners

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Intermittent Fasting 101 – What is intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent Fasting For Beginners - More than just easy weight loss?

Intermittent fasting for beginners: This article is to help you start intermittent fasting and start feeling the astonishing benefits sooner.  Much of this article is based on my own personal experiences, and I hope this article will help you.

Intermittent fasting is a pattern of eating whereby you purposefully don’t eat through parts of the day, or certain days in the week.  There are many different types of fasting, and you need to do the one to achieve your goals.

Full disclosure – I only do the intermittent fasting 16/8 version – where I would eat until about 8pm, then eat again at 1pm.  I know that doesn’t exactly work out.  Sometimes I would eat late, but before 9pm, but not too often.  I chose this, because I felt like I didn’t need three meals a day and felt a bit bloated.

Intermittent Fasting Benefits

Intermittent Fasting Benefits - Much more than just weight loss

The benefits of intermittent fasting are obviously fat loss (assuming you don’t try to make up for what you didn’t eat once fasting is over).  Intermittent fasting can lower insulin levels, which may help treat or prevent diabetes.

Interestingly the levels of human growth hormone increase significantly, which can be useful if you want to increase fat loss and build lean muscle.

The digestive system in humans goes through two phases: intermittent fasting for beginners

  • Food digestion phase
  • Detox phase

Since you’re fasted for a larger amount of the day, the detoxification process should have longer to work.  This means the cells are repaired (called autophagy – where the cells recycle and clean up). This means you may age more slowly than others.

The big thing with intermittent fasting is, if you enjoy your food, you can continue to do so. This sort of way of eating isn’t restrictive, although fasting them eating loads of sugar and calorie loaded foods won’t help weight loss.

Intermittent fast is super easy to do. You either eat, or you’re fasting. When you do eat, don’t try to pack in more food, that defeats the purpose. Just drink plenty of water, and when you do eat, enjoy what you eat.

Intermittent Fasting Options

Intermittent Fasting Options - Which one is best for you?

Intermittent fasting 16/8

This version of fasting is concerned with fasting for 16 hours and eating for 8.  If you’re sleeping well, 8 hours or so of your fasting will be asleep.  I found this was easy to do, and even fitted in with my running in the mornings.  In fact, it helped me burn a lot more fat I believe, as my body is forced to use fat for energy.  This is relatively easy to follow, once you get used to ignoring breakfast.  If you have breakfast socially, it will be a challenge.  I found when I first started this, I would smell toast, and think I was hungry.  After a time, I got to appreciate the smell without the associated expectation of food.

Intermittent Fasting 5 2

This version you consume only 500-600 calories on two day with at least a day in between.  The other days you eat normally.  This one is much more aimed at fat loss, but also will be harder as 600 calories is not a lot.  Once your body becomes fat adapted, it will get a little easier.  Make sure on your normal days that you don’t blow out on carbs and try to make up for the 2 low calorie days.  This will make it slower to achieve your desired weight loss goals.

Intermittent fasting 24 hours

This version you would have a day once or twice a week where you would fast for the full 24 hours.  This would give your body a better chance to be burning fat.  This would be easier if you had predictable days where you do not need a lot of calories, as you do only a small amount of easy exercise.

Whichever option you choose, make sure that you drink plenty of water, as this is necessary to make your body work efficiently. If you do not drink water, you may not lose fat.

Intermittent Fasting Before and After

Intermittent Fasting Rules - Before and After

Before you embark upon intermittent fasting, you may feel that you’re eating more food than you need.  That was certainly my reason for starting.

On the other hand, you may do intermittent fasting for weight loss reasons.  If that is the case, then you can use whichever intermittent fasting method you prefer and combine it with a healthy diet and some exercise.  The intermittent fasting will make your body more efficient at burning fat.  If you were to combine this with a low-calorie high fat diet (LCHF), this would further accelerate you to your goals. 

The reason a low-calorie high fat diet would work is that the intent there is to get your body to use body fat for fuel, the same as intermittent fasting would do.

After you have started intermittent fasting, you will probably find that the link between being hungry, and you having to eat will become less. In other words, that you will be able to better control what you do when you feel hungry. I know I did.

After intermittent fasting, I also felt a little “tighter” around the belly. I actually lost 8KG in 8 weeks doing intermittent fasting. But. I also eat a plant based diet. And I run. It could have been any. Didn’t do any harm at least!

What to Eat

Intermittent Fasting - What to Eat

To make intermittent fasting for weight loss work the most effectively, you would select a high calorie, low fat diet. 

There are many such diets out there:

  • Ketogenic Diet (Relatively new – no long-term studies to prove that this is helpful long term)
  • Atkins Diet (Relatively new – no long-term evidence available)
  • Whole Food Plant Based Diet (Not actually high fat specifically, but more low processed carbs, and nothing stopping you adding healthy fats)

With any of these diet, intermittent fasting will get you to ketosis a lot quicker than without it, and therefore make the diets themselves more effective during weight loss.

With a whole food plant-based diet, its effectiveness can be proven.  Cultures that consume plant-based diets and live a lot longer than those eating a western diet are well documented e.g. Okinawa.

There is nothing at all forcing you to eat a weight loss diet – it may speed things up, but you could just do intermittent fasting.  In that case, having two decent meals instead of three, is going to mean consuming less calories.  This in turn, should lead to fat loss.  But that is if everything else remains the same or better (exercise, diet).

Side Effects

Side Effects

Once you get past the hunger, that hunger doesn’t come back until you truly need to eat.  Hunger is often based on habit, so I don’t eat breakfast in the morning.  I’m hungry in the morning.  Once you get past this, with drinking no-calorie drinks only, it won’t bother you.  And when is time to eat, often you don’t feel hungry.  Strange, but true. intermittent fasting for beginners

Stomach gurgles.  When your stomach is empty, it will often make noises.  That won’t go away, but you get used to it.  So does everyone around you, once you explain that you’re doing intermittent fasting.

You may feel grumpy at the start, because of the lack of energy that you’re used to consuming as breakfast.  Being “hangry” will more than likely go away once you get used to it, and your body adjusts.  I didn’t feel this at all.

Due to the lack of energy consumed as breakfast, you may also have trouble concentrating.  You may also be tired.  Once your body adjusts, this should go away.  I sometimes get this, and I have a coffee to help, or a drink of cold water.  I can happily run in a fasted state, so it doesn’t hold you back long.

Intermittent Fasting and Coffee

Intermittent Fasting and Coffee

You shouldn’t consume anything that has calories until you break your fast. 

You do that when it is the right time.  1pm for me. 

This includes coffee – you must have it black.  At least until it’s time to eat, then you can have milk.

If you don’t like black coffee, then water is probably your only other choice. 

Even lemon water contains calories – it’s low, but it will still break your fast.  Your body will stop burning fat, and switch to burning carbs.

Intermittent Fasting and Exercise

Fasting and Exercise

As I mentioned, I often run first thing in the morning.  I always run fasted at that time.  The only exception is running a marathon event.  I can and do happily run a half marathon after intermittent fasting and can still get a fast pace.  I wouldn’t bother with gel for that distance either (just my preference).

One thing that I will say is that if you’re still fasting once you finish your exercise, it will affect your recovery.  So I only do intermittent fasting when I’m not running, otherwise I ache the next day.

IF Vegan

Intermittent Fasting Vegan Style

I eat a plant-based diet, which is the same as vegan.  I don’t eat meat or consume dairy.  Intermittent fasting works well with a plant-based diet, the one thing to watch for is the processed foods often found in vegan diets.  These could be burgers, protein / date balls, fake cheese and so on.  If you do have to consume these foods, keep them to occasional meals, as a lot of this sort of stuff often contains a lot of sugar and carbs (look on the label!)  I mention this only because if weight loss is your goal, then those sorts of food won’t help.

Alcohol

Intermittent Fasting and Alcohol

We all want to know about this.  And really, we all know that it depends on your goals. 

If you wake up in the morning, and have alcohol first thing in the morning, it will break your fast.  As most alcohol contains plenty of carbs.

You can go for alcohol with lower carbs – spirits / liqour, red wine – but you need to be sensible with the amount that you consume.

If you enjoy a bit of alcohol and the amount of carbs, you consume fits with your goals.  Then, of course you can.  If you want a high level of fitness, you might have to give them a miss.  I tend to have a few beers on a weekend.  But if I have a run the next day, I don’t.  As it affects my performance.  It would probably mean that if you have a few drinks, it will take longer before your body starts burning fat.

Intermittent Fasting vs Keto

Fasting and Keto Breakfast

Intermittent fasting produces the same effect of ketosis as a keto diet does.  The differences are that with a keto diet, the restriction of calories, and the increase of fat keeps you in ketosis.  This is when your body can burn fat for fuel.

Intermittent fasting, when you are in the eating phase, unless you ate a low-calorie high fat diet, will take you out of ketosis.  This has benefits and drawbacks related to lifestyle. 

The benefits are that you can eat higher calorific foods, and the downside to that is that you will not burn as much fat.

Looking at a keto diet from a different perspective, intermittent fasting at the start of a keto diet may get you into ketosis a lot sooner, and a lot easier.  If you’re considering a keto diet, then intermittent fasting would be worth consideration.

If a low calorie high fat diet is consumed during the eating phase, then the body would go into ketosis much quicker and continue burning fats for fuel.

But which is best?  The keto diet is a lot more restrictive in terms of what you can eat.  Intermittent fasting might be easier to live with in the longer term, but a keto diet is likely to get a faster fat loss.  The question there is if you can then sustain it.  I can say without a doubt that intermittent fasting is very easy to follow.  As is a whole food plant-based diet, if you wanted a boost to your energy and a reduction in simple carbs.

Intermittent Fasting Science

Intermittent Fasting Science

The science of intermittent fasting is more astonishing the more you read about it.

The science behind the mechanism that causes the benefits of intermittent fasting is largely unknown.  The benefits have been measured in many studies showing:

  • Insulin sensitivity increase,
  • Stress resistance,
  • Reduced morbidity,
  • Increased lifespan.

So, why with such incredible benefits, is intermittent fasting not pushed universally, instead of other unproven and seemingly unhealthy alternatives? intermittent fasting for beginners

Studies show that, for example in Klein et al, show that fasts between 18 and 24 hours show the greatest increase (approx. 50%) in fat oxidisation, as well as the most significant decrease (also 50%) in glucose oxidation.  In other words, 18 to 24 hours of fasting produces the greatest burning of fat, and the body has a much-reduced carbohydrate burning capacity.

A study by Zaunder et al, show that healthy lean male and female subjects had an increase in resting energy expenditure increase during 14 to 36 hours of fasting, and were observed to significantly increase from 36 to 48 hours of starvation.  In other words, the body doing nothing will burn more fat during those times of starvation.

Intermittent Fasting Science of Body Composition

Alternate day fasting has been shown to reduce body weight from 3% to 7%, and body fat from 3 to 5.5kg, and total cholesterol 10 to 21%, triglycerides from 14 to 42% reduction.  In addition, reductions in LDL cholesterol, blood pressure.

Whole day fasting has been shown to reduce body weight 3% to 9%, body fat, total cholesterol 5% to 20%, and triglycerides 17 to 50%.

These studies have not shown a greater reduction that it would be a calorie restricted daily diet.  This means that intermittent fasting, or caloric restriction both works equally as well from a body composition perspective.  It is then up to you which way best fits your lifestyle.

Intermittent Fasting Plan

Fasting Plan

Choose a plan from:

  • Intermittent fasting 16/8 – Fast for 6 hours, eat for up to 8.
  • Intermittent fasting 5 2 – Fast for two days with at least a day between, eat for the others.
  • Intermittent Fasting 24 Hours – Fast for 24 hours, one or two times a week (similar to intermittent fasting 5 2)

Drink plenty of water.

Do not consume anything with calories in it.

No candies, no milk, no fruit in your water, no sneaky morning tea at work.

When you eat, you can either eat what you normally eat, or opt for something healthier, such as a plant based diet, or high fat, low calorie.

Repeat. intermittent fasting for beginners

Personally I would start with 16/8 and move to 24 hours, then 5 2. This is simply so that you can get used to it, without it becoming too hard, and you giving up. If you have the self control to do it, go for it!

Sources:

Progressive alterations in lipid and glucose metabolism during short-term fasting in young adult men, S Klein, Y Sakurai, J.A. Romijn, and R. M. Carroll

Resting energy expenditure in short-term starvation is increased as a result of an increase in serum norepinephrine, Christian Zauner, Bruno Schneeweiss, Alexander Kranz, Christian Madl, Klaus Ratheiser, Ludwig Kramer, Erich Roth, Barbara Schneider, Kurt Lenz

Effects of intermittent fasting on body composition and clinical health markers in humans, Grant M. Tinsley, Paul M. La Bounty

intermittent fasting for beginners