If you’ve read my blog before, you’ve probably seen that I mention Intermittent Fasting quite a bit. If you’ve arrived at the point where you are ready to give it a try, congratulations! I think you will find that it is an effective way to manage your weight.
As with any regimen, whether it’s diet or exercise, or even a daily routine, the main key to a long-lasting and effective program is to get started the right way.
To make sure you start off on the best foot possible, here are some things to consider when you start intermittent fasting.
Many people have a misconception about intermittent fasting; they think it is regular fasting. While there are similar aspects, there are differences.
Traditional fasting has been in practice since forever. Obviously, it would be impossible to tell when it first occurred, but using simple logic tells us that even in the earliest known time periods if people didn’t hunt or gather food, they didn’t eat.
No Door Dash or Uber Eats for them.
Fasting is also an important aspect of many religions.
Intermittent fasting, however, is an eating pattern that cycles between eating periods and fasting periods. You should establish a pattern or method that fits into your schedule – it will be much easier to maintain.
Pick the proper method
As mentioned above, intermittent fasting is alternating periods of eating and fasting. There are several different methods to choose from, but here are the most popular ones.
This method includes an all day fast in between eating periods. So (for example) you would eat dinner but then not eat again until the same time the following day. And you would do this once or twice a week. It’s pretty extreme, and I wouldn’t recommend it to a beginning intermittent faster.
Using this intermittent fasting method, you would eat regularly five days out of the week, but on two days, you would consume a limited number of calories. Those two days would be non-consecutive, as minimizing calories for too many days in a row could damage your nutrition levels. This one could work if you have an odd schedule, where your two non-consecutive days would fit in.
Probably the most commonly used method, the 16/8 requires you to set an 8-hour eating “window.” You would then fast for the other 16 hours. This is also known as the Leangains protocol.
Since you are just starting out, I would recommend the 16/8 method because it is the easiest to adapt and mold to an existing life schedule. You can also start with a wider eating window (i.e., 14/10), and work your way to the 16/8, easing into it.
Another good point about this method is that you can set your own times for the eating window. Maybe you go 11 am – 6 pm, or 1 pm – 9 pm. The only catch is that you need to figure out that eating window and stick to it every day. If it moves around on a daily basis, then you are not getting the 16 hours of fasting in between.
One benefit that many people find when doing intermittent fasting is that there are no true dietary restrictions. As I mentioned above, it is an eating pattern more than an actual diet.
However, that doesn’t mean that you have free reign to indulge in whatever you want during your eating window. Again, common sense is used here: if you want to lose weight, you must have a calorie deficit. This simply means that you consume fewer calories than you burn.
But remember, you’re also fasting for long periods of time, so the calories you consume during your eating window need to be ones that will give you enough energy to complete the daily cycle.
If you eat foods that are high in sugar or carbohydrates, you’ll get that “rush” of energy…but it will burn up quickly and then you’ll crash. And if you’re sticking to the cycle, you could have a looooong way to go until your next eating window.
If you are uncertain about your recommended calorie count, speak with your doctor to set goals and understand what your minimum intake should be.
The easiest way to stick to your eating window while ensuring that you maintain proper nutritional levels is to create a meal plan. For example, if your eating window is 1 pm – 9 pm, think of 1:00 as your breakfast time (that’s literally what it is…you’re breaking your fast) and plan to eat something that will give you the energy you need for the rest of the afternoon.
And don’t wait until late in the window to consume most of your calories. The more active you are, the more you burn. And while you can burn calories while you’re asleep, it’s nowhere near the levels needed for actual weight loss.
So, there you go – three things to get you started on intermittent fasting. Understand exactly what it is that you are trying to do, pick the method that fits into your schedule (or that you can work your schedule easily around), and know your caloric and dietary needs to ensure they are met during your eating window.
Most importantly, give yourself time to get into the swing of it because it may not be easy at first. You have to allow your body the time to acknowledge the change and adjust to the new pattern. But with some research and a bit of patience, you will be off to a great start with intermittent fasting.
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