The beginner’s guide to intermittent fasting (IF) may be just what you’re looking for if you’re planning to try out this weight loss method. There’s a plethora of available information on IF, and you may be confused as to which kind of schedule you should follow.
How Do You Start Intermittent Fasting for Beginners?
As the name suggests, intermittent fasting refers to periods when you eat and periods when you fast. The diet works not by restricting the food you eat but the time frame during which you eat. This approach comes in a number of variations such as:
- The 16:8 schedule – on this, you will fast for 16 hours and eat only during the remaining 8 hours. The conventional wisdom is that you eat your first meal at noon and complete your last one by 8 PM. Though, you can choose the actual 16:8 hours to suit your lifestyle and convenience.
- The 5:2 schedule – this refers to days and not hours. So, you eat normally for 5 days of the week and restrict the calories on the other 2 days. During fasting days, women should aim for 500 calories, and men can consume 600 calories. Important: do not fast on consecutive days!
- Eat-stop-eat – this is a stricter and more restricted version of the 5:2. You eat normally for 5 days and fast completely for 2 days of the week. During the 2 fasting days, which should not be consecutive, you eat no solid food but only have no-calorie beverages or water.
- Alternate-day fasting – as the name suggests, you switch to fasting every other day, restricting your diet to 500–600 calories.
- Skipping meals – this is an unstructured version of IF. Two or more times a week, you simply skip a meal. You may not experience a great deal of weight loss on this method, but it’s easier to follow.
- The Warrior diet – this is a diet that only permits you to eat one large meal, preferably in the evening, during a 4-hour window. In the earlier part of the day, you are restricted to eating only small quantities of vegetables and fruit.
So, How Many Hours Should You Fast?
When you explore the beginner’s guide to intermittent fasting, you may find these schedules very restrictive and difficult to follow. It’s a good idea to start slow and fast for 12 hours and eat for 12, or fast for 14 hours and eat for 10.
For women, the 14:10 schedule is easier to follow. For men, this can vary as some men find alternate-day fasting easier to follow.
Working your way slowly will make it easier for you to adjust to a certain intermittent fasting type. You can eventually increase the fasting periods and decrease the eating windows.
What Should You Eat
Most diets focus on eating healthy foods, and intermittent fasting is no exception.
Do keep in mind that your body needs nutrients to function optimally. When you eat junk and processed foods that are not nutritious, you won’t be able to lose weight.
During your eating period, you should eat and drink:
- Whole grains and whole-grain flour
- Beans, legumes, and lentils
- Lean meat such as chicken or turkey
- Fish and seafood
- Probiotics like yogurt
- Fermented foods and drinks such as sauerkraut
If you follow an intermittent fasting routine, avoid eating a lot of red meat and alcohol. If you must, restrict your meat intake to once in a while and drink wine instead of other alcohol. Also, avoid eating sweet foods and desserts as much as possible for the best results. In case your nutritional needs are not met by your diet, do take some vitamin and mineral supplements.
Should You Do Intermittent Fast Every Day?
If you can follow a daily intermittent fasting schedule, your body gets used to the cycle, and you may not feel as hungry as you do when you start. Your body adapts to the change in eating patterns.
Let’s face it; we are used to eating several times a day. And if you gradually ease into intermittent fasting, you will find it gets easier.
However, suppose you feel that you simply cannot do this. In that case, you can try expanding your eating window to 12 or 14 hours and eating a lot of vegetables and fruits, which are filling and yet not very calorific.
Do you find this very restricting? Then opt for skipping meals occasionally. Whatever method you adopt, know that eating fewer calories and eating healthier will enable you to lose weight and improve your health.
What Is Clean or Dirty Fasting?
Surprisingly, you can follow a clean fasting schedule or play it out a little bit dirty.
These terms refer to defining what kind of foods break the fast. The clean path defines a zero-calorie approach: you cannot drink or eat anything other than water, plain black coffee, green tea, or any type of herbal tea.
While dirty fasting, you might consume drinks that contain less than 50 calories, such as lemon water, coffee with MCT oil, bone broth, or zero-calorie drinks. You might even enjoy a piece of gum or an occasional mint.
Both of these methods are valid. As a beginner, you might want to start fasting dirty and go clean once you get a handle on your new routine.
How Gender Impacts Your Fasting Routine
From a biological standpoint, gender can impact the success of intermittent fasting. Male and female body composition and metabolic systems are different from each other. Physical activity, hormone levels, caloric intake, and fasting impact each of us differently.
Due to these reasons, males tend to benefit from fasting more than females. Females also should not focus on long-term fasting or drastic reduction in caloric intake.
Over thousands of years, the genetic makeup of females benefits most from the constant intake of high-quality calories, which eliminates such fasting regimes as 20:4 fasting from a female routine. The optimal amount of fasting would be 14 hours per day.
For males, skipping breakfast or skipping a day of eating might be just what the doctor recommended.
In both cases, the most important thing is to avoid hangriness, a state when you become very upset while hungry. The key here is to balance out your meals and eat highly nutritious meals throughout the eating window.
Generally, try to eat high-protein and high-fiber dishes to stay satiated for longer.
How Much Weight Loss Can You Expect in a Month on Intermittent Fasting?
Many factors go into how much weight you actually lose on intermittent fasting. Weight loss will depend on your current weight, metabolism, what you eat, and your activity levels. Obviously, if you follow a healthy eating pattern and exercise every day or a few times a week, it will help you shed weight faster.
Intermittent fasting may enable you to lose between 0.5–1.5 pounds a week. In 4 weeks, you could lose anything between 2–6 pounds.
Frequently Asked Questions About Fasting
- What can you drink while fasting?
Generally, you can drink plain water, unsweetened coffee, and various teas. If you’re not sure if you can make it, you can try “dirty fasting” and enjoy drinks that contain less than 50 calories during your fasting windows, such as water with lemon or bulletproof coffee.
- Should you mix intermittent fasting and exercise?
Combining fasting with exercise is generally a great way to boost your metabolism and improve your overall health. Everyone should increase their heart rate for 150–180 minutes per week or about 30 minutes per day to stay healthy. However, if you’re trying more strict fasting regimens such as the Warrior diet, you shouldn’t train too hard.
- What is dry fasting?
Dry fasting is a dangerous practice that eliminates not only food but also water from your diet. It isn’t recommended for most people, as dehydration raises multiple health issues.
- What can you eat or drink while on intermittent fasting?
Fasting works best if you follow a balanced, high-quality diet. You can achieve it by following a simple proportion. Half of your daily food intake should include non-starchy vegetables, a quarter of it – lean protein, and the final bit should consist of whole grains or starchy vegetables. You can easily follow it if you visualize this proportion on your plate.
- Can you chew gum while fasting?
Chewing gum should not be a common practice, but it might help people start out and ease into fasting. Keep in mind that this would be considered “dirty” fasting, and you shouldn’t overdo it, as more than 50 calories might kick you out of the fast.
- Can you drink green tea while on intermittent fasting?
Green tea and other kinds of teas are encouraged to drink while fasting. Make sure you don’t add any sugar, milk, or artificial sweeteners.
- How to gain muscle while intermittent fasting?
Muscle grows when you exercise and have enough high-quality protein in your diet.
- Should you expect intermittent fasting diarrhea after breaking fast?
Intermittent fasting might cause digestive problems, including constipation or diarrhea. While you shouldn’t expect to get it, you might want to keep this in mind, especially if you start your day with a cup of coffee. To avoid digestive problems, stock up on high-fiber and probiotic foods.
- Can you have a cheat day while on intermittent fasting?
As with any diet or eating routine, cheat meals are fine, as long as they don’t become a cheat day. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Focus on staying on track long-term, and if that requires an occasional cheat meal – it’s okay! Enjoy your dish, savor the flavors, and come back to your old routine as soon as possible.
- You can follow any intermittent fasting type depending on your needs and preferences.
- It’s important that you eat whole foods and foods that have more nutritious value than empty calories since your diet is restricted.
- Avoid processed and junk foods, alcohol, and sodas as much as possible.
- You will experience weight loss, feel lighter, and lose fat. When you follow IF consistently, you can experience many health benefits as well.