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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

Intermittent Fasting Diet for Beginners (The Complete Guide)

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Intermittent Fasting Diet for Beginners (The Complete Guide)

This guide will take a beginner through the basics of why to start intermittent fasting, how to start an intermittent fasting diet, and incorporating it into your routine.

I’d like to preface this article by saying that I’ve recently received my own personalized DNA report from 23andme, and then submitted it to Dr. Rhonda Patrick’s Genome Analysis Tool for another comprehensive report which comes from querying one’s DNA through a large research database.

The report actually showed that my DNA favors the use of Intermittent Fasting 16+ hours, in conjunction with the use of Resveratrol (Grape Seed extract, Red Wine and other sources), and an exercise regime which includes High Intensity Interval Training, and low repetition heavy weight lifting.

Funny – that’s exactly what I have felt naturally included to do over the past 5 years! I’ve simply begun supplementing Resveratrol, and needless to say I’m super excited to learn that Intermittent Fasting, HIIT Cardio, and heavy weight lifting are encoded into my DNA – as being shown with emerging genome research and technologies.

Now let’s learn more about what intermittent fasting is.

What Is Intermittent Fasting?

Quite simply, Intermittent Fasting (“IF”), also known as Time Restricted Eating, is a method of consuming food within a certain time-frame (“window”) each day. The application of IF essentially puts your body into a ‘fasted state’, in turn a catabolic state — a state of breaking down larger molecules into smaller ones within the body.

You may be breaking down fats into fatty acids, proteins into amino acids, even glycogen or other sugars down into glucose. Generally speaking the goal of IF is to optimize catabolic activity and anabolic activity. During the fasting window, you are in an elevated state of fat burning.

Other benefits include increased growth hormone, meanwhile insulin levels are low and fat handling is optimized because in theory, fats in the body are transported and stored as triglycerides (the break down of fats into fatty acids).

How To Start Intermittent Fasting

Firstly, let’s cover the basics of IF and how to start intermittent fasting effectively and make it sustainable starting by addressing the typical problems people face.

It’s important to note that a staple of intermittent fasting is hydration! You absolutely must hydrate throughout the day and while fasting, beyond the amount of water you would normally drink.

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When fasting, a good rule of thumb is if you feel hungry, drink some water, or chew some 0 calorie or no sugar gum and you’ll start feeling better.

3 Major Problems People Face with Fasting

1. Difficulty scheduling fasting time and eating window due to work or other life circumstances

I suggest starting the fast just before bed time, or a couple hours before bed, because it affords that 6-8 hours of sleep time that you won’t be eating.

Often, people reach out to me and raise the concern of scheduling due to shift work (police, nurses, doctors, firefighters, and more) or a hectic family life. Trust me, I understand it takes some planning to make IF work, but it’s always workable into the schedule.

When your schedule isn’t always the same, such as shift workers, I suggest adapting two or three types of fasting schedules.

For instance, you can focus on fasting at least 18 hours on the days when it works best for your schedule, and back-off to 14 hours, or 16 hours on days when it’s not convenient. You can setup fast-day-A which is according to a certain shift time or family time, then fast-day-B, and fast-day-C; each with a different scheduling approach.

What I’m getting at here is not to throw the baby out with the bath water! Just because your fasting days aren’t always the same, don’t give up hope on IF with the notion that it doesn’t work for your schedule — make it work!

If you’re serious about getting results, you will find a way, and after all it is called ‘Intermittent’ fasting.

2. Difficulty consuming adequate nutrients (macro-nutrient and micro nutrients) during the eating window

This happens either due to lack of readily available food or simply feeling too full to eat (not spacing out meals).

To tackle this download calorie and nutrient tracking apps such as MyfitnessPal to keep yourself honest and hold yourself accountable.

I especially like apps because if you are undertaking something like weight loss, you can get friends involved and support each other. Simply put, leave the guess work out and make sure you set goals and stay on track to getting the desired results.

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Next, I suggest meal preparation either 3 days, 5 days, or 7 days in advance. You can choose a day of the week such as Sunday, and spend an hour or two preparing bulk meals for the week that you can store in the fridge with ease.

Don’t leave yourself scrambling last minute each day looking for something to eat, that will almost always leave your timing off and your calories under for the day.

Remember the goal with IF isn’t to starve yourself; it’s to eat your meals and required calories within an eating window.

3. Not knowing whether to eat before or after training, or how soon after training

Firstly, if you are looking to lose weight, then absolutely eat after your workout. In fact for your workout, I suggest warm-up fasted cardio, and cool-down cardio to really burn that excess fat!

There’s a few opinions about how soon after a workout you should eat, ranging from some bodybuilders claiming it’s important to replenish the muscles (which may have been depleted of lactic acid during the workout) with quick digesting carbs such as a banana or pineapple slices.[1]

This approach may work for some bodybuilders, however for IF newbies, I suggest dragging out that period of fat burning (riding the Thermagenic wave caused from your workout), and potentially boosting the production of human growth hormone (HGH) by waiting up to 90 minutes to eat after a workout.

I know you may feel like you’re starving at that point, but trust me, the benefits are worth the wait!

HGH critically influences everything from bone density to muscle mass and organ reserve to general cell reproduction in the body’s systems, so waiting a little longer to eat will yield an even bigger return on your IF investment.

My Typical Intermittent Fasting Day

I’ll explain more with an example of my typical day which has me fasting (stop eating) at 11:00pm, or on days when I need more calories 12:00am, which is approximately the time I go to sleep.

I’ve actually been working to cut that back to an earlier bed time for added REM sleep benefits — which I’ve touched on in my previous article. Now back to a typical fasted day, which upon waking between 7am-9am still has me in a fasted state as I hadn’t been consuming food during sleep time.

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Now you may be thinking “duh, you don’t eat in your sleep!”.. However there have been times when I wake up in the middle of the night (on non IF days) and consume easily digestible proteins, such as cottage cheese, which digests very easily (for me at least) while sleeping and offers up many benefits in terms of protein synthesis.

For the purposes of this article, we need not get into this particular regimen, so let’s get back to the typical day!

I continue in the morning fasting by either consuming only water, or if I do have morning coffee, it will be black if I want to be 100% sure I remain in a fasted state.

Before moving on, I would like to address the fact that this is a HOT topic in the intermittent fasting/time restricted eating and biohacking community. The debate is whether or not having something such as MCT (Coconut) oil in coffee would bring one out of a fasted state, and it goes beyond that to whether or not even black coffee would kick someone out of their fasted state.

My personal opinion is that the body evolves over time, and if one has been practicing IF for several years their body has adapted to certain learned/programmed behaviors.

In my case, I’ve gone the route of just water when I began fasting, to then a few years later applying the MCT Oil approach, to several years later being able to have small amounts of butter, cream, or cane sugar and not having a feeling that I’ve broken fast. This is highly debated in the weight loss, biohacking community as I have mentioned, and I believe this is something that isn’t fixed for every human being.

The general rule that floats around is to remain below 35 calories to remain in a fasted state, however again this is up for debate as our genetics vary as I indicated at the beginning of this article. The take away here is to start intermittent fasting strictly with water to be sure you aren’t breaking fast, then stay in tune with your body and refine your mind-body connection as time goes on to determine how you feel and what your body requires.

Back to the day! I will either have just water, or some form of coffee until I break fast at either 3pm, or I’ll often wait right up until 6pm. If you recall my fasting begun from when I stopped eating the day prior (11pm or 12am same day), and begun eating between 16 hours to 18 hours later.

I’ve made a couple videos on YouTube explaining that the ideal starting point for fasting is 16 hours, however if you’re really new to IF, it’s fine to start with 14 hours for the first few days to a week.

During my eating window on a fasted day, the amount of calories varies depending on if I’ve exercised that day or not. It’s also important to note that my goals are not to lose weight at this point, but to gain lean muscle.

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If one is looking to lose weight, the best use of intermittent fasting is to exercise fasted in order to burn up those fat deposits as energy. If I have exercised for the day, it’s crucial that I eat an extra meal or two in order to ensure my calories are not in a deficit and that I’ve reached my macro-nutrient (protein, carbs, fats) target.

If you’re looking to lose weight with fasting, it’s not just a good idea to exercise fasted; but when you reach your eating window, avoid junk food and sweets!

Your aim should be clean meals that aren’t too difficult for your body to process/break down, that way when you reach the time for your second meal (still within the eating window), you aren’t backed up still digesting the first meal.

I usually recommend a lighter first meal such as salad and salmon, or even a vegetable soup. The second meal can be a bit more heavy, as can the third if you are squeezing three meals within your eating window.

On my typical fasting day I will have between 2 to 4 meals, again depending on whether I’ve exercised.[2]

Key Takeaway

The biggest takeaway from this article is that you should:

  • Fast minimum 14/16hrs to start and work your way up to 18/20hrs if you can, and make sure you hydrate!
  • Use apps and technologies to track progress and food/nutrient intake.
  • Workout fasted and do cardio or HIIT (high intensity interval training cardio) for maximum weight loss resulted.
  • Prepare meals in advance so you aren’t scrambling last minute!

There’re many other points we could cover with regards to building muscle, and timing fasting around certain types of workouts, however this guide is merely to get your feet wet with intermittent fasting and I believe you should now be confident in doing so!

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me — where I post holistic health content, and more!

More Resources About Intermittent Fasting

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Adam Evans

BioHacker, competitive athlete, researcher in many fields including health and fitness, science, philosophy, metaphysics, religion.

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Published on August 24, 2021

What Is a Whole Food Diet And Does It Really Work?

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What Is a Whole Food Diet And Does It Really Work?

I’ve been a dietitian now for a long time (more years than I care to mention), and if there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that fad diets are best avoided. This is why I’m so pleased that whole food diets are being talked about more and more.

Rather than a “diet,” I prefer to think of a whole food diet as a way of life. Eating this way is balanced, and it is a great way to support your all-around body health and longevity. Plus, it’s delicious and—in my opinion—not limiting either, which is a massive bonus.

A well-balanced diet follows some fairly basic principles and, in essence, consists of plenty of the following:

  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Lean protein
  • Nuts
  • Water

This is essentially all a whole food diet is. Unfortunately, there isn’t an accepted definition of the whole food diet, which means that there are some highly restrictive versions around and some involve principles to frame your diet around rather than strict rules.

Read on to learn more about the whole food diet as a framework for eating rather than a strict rule book of dos and don’ts that restricts your lifestyle.

What Is a Whole Food Diet?

By definition, a whole food diet consists of eating foods that are as close to their natural form as possible. It’s easy to get lost in a quagmire of organic, local, or pesticide-free, but a whole food diet is basically food in its most natural form. Obviously, spices can be ground and grains can be hulled, but you get the idea. You eat the whole food rather than what’s left after being refined or processed.

In other words, it involves a lot of cooking because whole foods do not involve anything processed. That means no premade sauces, dips, or convenience foods like chocolate bars, sweets, or ready-meals. It also includes things like tinned vegetables and white bread.

Why? Processed and convenience foods are often high in salt, saturated fat, and additives in comparison to anything homemade. Because of this, their toll on your overall health is higher.

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Can Other Diets Also Be Whole Food Diets?

Here’s where it gets confusing—yes, other diets can also be whole food diets. Eating a whole food diet is a lifestyle choice, but many other diets can exist within a whole foods construct. So, diets like the MIND Diet and Mediterranean Diet are also whole food diets.

For example, here are the foods involved in the MIND Diet:[1]

  • Green, leafy vegetables five times a week
  • Five or more different colored fruits and vegetables every day.
  • Berries five times a week
  • Five or more servings of nuts a week
  • Olive oil five times a week
  • Whole grains five times a week
  • Oily fish twice a week or take an algae-based omega-3 supplement
  • Legumes and pulses five times a week
  • White meat/mix of plant-based proteins twice a week
  • Vitamin D supplement
  • Minimally processed foods
  • No more than one glass of wine a day
  • One or two coffee or tea a day max
  • Two liters of water a day

That’s pretty much a whole food diet, right? As long as any meat or plant-based proteins are as unprocessed as possible, then it can be a whole food diet.

Other diets, like a vegan diet, for instance, could be whole food diets or not. It really depends if processed foods are included. Some food substitutes are really heavily processed, so it’s important to read labels really carefully. But it’s only some, not all.

And here’s where it gets woolly. If you don’t need to eliminate certain food groups for whatever reason—ethical, health, religion—then a whole food diet can be great. But if you do exclude certain foods, then it could be beneficial to include certain “processed” foods. This is to make sure that you don’t miss out on vital nutrients to keep you healthy.

Processed Foods That Are Okay on a Whole Food Diet

Many brands of cereals are fortified with B vitamins, which can be hard to come by on a plant-based diet.

For example, vitamin B12 (needed for maintaining a healthy nervous system, energy, and mood-regulation), is largely found in animal sources. It is something that those on a plant-based diet need to keep an eye on, as studies show that around 20% of us are deficient. And we also know that 65% of vegans and vegetarians don’t take a B vitamin supplement.[2]

So in that case, choosing a cereal fortified with B vitamins would be a good option, if done wisely. By that I mean use your discretion and check the labels, as many brands of cereals are packed with sugar and additives. But you can strategically choose minimally processed foods using a whole foods mentality.

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As a rule of thumb, if there are any ingredients that you can’t pronounce, don’t understand, or sound artificial, they probably are best avoided.

Benefits of a Whole Food Diet

In a 2014 analysis by Yale University, they concluded that “a diet of minimally processed foods close to nature, predominantly plants, is decisively associated with health promotion and disease prevention.”[3]

A diet rich in fruit and vegetables or other high-fiber foods like whole grains and nuts is really important in maintaining good long-term health and preventing health problems like diabetes and cancers. These kinds of foods also help our bodies to cope and control the effects of inflammation.

In fact, one review from 2019 stated that “diets high in plant foods could potentially prevent several million premature deaths each year if adopted globally.”[4] This is a big endorsement for a whole food diet.

Whole Foods and the Gut

Whole foods are loaded with fibers that are sometimes lost during processing or refinement. Fiber is essential for a healthy gut because aside from its traditional “roughage” reputation, it also feeds the healthy bacteria in your gut, providing a whole host of other benefits.

They also provide a lot of variety, which the gut loves. The more variety, the better. So, even though you might fall in love with certain recipes, it’s important to mix up the kinds of whole foods you eat to maintain a healthy gut. Aim for 30 different whole foods each week. It’s easier than you think!

Whole Foods and the Brain

The brain is a really hungry organ, and it uses 25% of the total energy you consume from your food. Everything it needs to function at its best is—you guessed it—a whole, unprocessed food.

In fact, the best diet recommended for brain health is the MIND Diet. In one study, it was shown that people who follow the MIND diet closely had a 53% reduced rate of developing Alzheimer’s.[5]

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Some of the best whole foods for the brain are:[6]

  • Oily fish
  • Nuts
  • Eggs
  • Berries
  • Broccoli
  • Whole grains

Is It Easy to Follow a Whole Food Diet?

Once you’ve got your head around having “ingredients” rather than “ready-to-eat” things in your kitchen cupboards, it’s actually very easy. The only issue is the lifestyle and habit changes that come along with it.

It is very likely that for many people, following a totally, religiously whole food diet may be unattainable at least some of the time. For example, there are days where you don’t get time to make your lunch or if you want to enjoy social eating. Similarly, people who have young children or who are working more than one job are unlikely to be able to follow a whole food diet all of the time.

Sometimes, we put ourselves under pressure to be as perfect as we can with diets like this, which can lead to an eating disorder called Orthorexia, which is a preoccupation with healthy eating.

This means that following a whole food diet, in principle, can be healthy and accessible for some people but not for everyone. It also means that those with previous disordered eating, as always, need to avoid any form of dietary restriction or rules around their diet.

Is a Whole Food Diet Boring?

Absolutely not! The beauty of this way of eating is that there are barely any recipes that are off-limits. If you can make it yourself using natural ingredients, then it counts. So, dig out your recipe books and get familiar with your spice cupboard.

Here’s my advice if you’re just starting: stock up on coconut milk and canned tomatoes. You’ll use them all the time in sauces.

Best Hacks for Sticking With a Whole Food Diet

Here are some tips to help you stick with a whole food diet and develop this lifestyle.

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1. Practice Batch Cooking

Especially in the beginning, if you’ve been used to eating more convenience-based or packaged foods, you’re likely to feel like you spend the majority of your life in the kitchen. So, I’d suggest getting your cookbooks out and planning around five things to make per week. If you make double, or even triple portions depending on your household, you’ll have enough quantity to last several meals.

For example, his could be homemade granola. Make it once, and that’s breakfast sorted for a week. Whole food diet ingredients like oats, quinoa, buckwheat, nuts, and seeds are all delicious, and great nutritional resources to keep you feeling full until lunchtime.

I also love to make big stews, sauces, and curries that can happily be reheated and added throughout the course of a few days.

2. Make Your Own Convenience Foods

Sticking to a new way of eating can be really difficult, especially for your willpower. So, it’s very important to make it as easy as possible for yourself.

Pre-chop. Pre-chop. Pre-chop.

If you’ve got a container of carrot sticks on hand or can happily munch on a few pieces of melon from the fridge, use those—it’s almost easier than grabbing something from a package. This can extend to your other vegetables, too. If you get your veg delivered or buy it from a market, choose a few things to slice after you wash them. That way, if you need a speedy lunch or a lazy dinner, it’ll be ready in minutes.

Ready to Try a Whole Food Diet?

If you’re looking to maximize your overall health, well-being, and vitality, I’d absolutely suggest a whole food diet. But, as with everything, it’s important to do what works for you and your own lifestyle.

Featured photo credit: Louis Hansel – Restaurant Photographer via unsplash.com

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Reference

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