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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

Intermittent Fasting Diet for Beginners (The Complete Guide)

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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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

Intermittent Fasting Weight Loss for Beginners (A How-to Guide)

Intermittent Fasting Weight Loss for Beginners (A How-to Guide)

Intermittent fasting weight loss is a type of diet that’s rapidly growing in popularity and becoming the way to lose weight. Scientists and nutrition experts like it, too. New books and articles on the topic are being published daily. Intermittent fasting is also popular with followers of the Paleo diet since our ancestors appear to have eaten this way for thousands of years.

I’ve been following this type of diet myself for 2 years. Doing so helped me lose and keep off 70 pounds without ever having to count calories, limit carbohydrates, or eat 6 to 7 meals a day.

This article teaches you all about intermittent fasting weight loss and details why it is one of the best weight loss diet hacks around. Once you finish, you will be able to implement it into your diet and experience the benefits it offers almost immediately.

What Is Intermittent Fasting?

As you may have figured from its name, intermittent fasting weight loss is a diet plan where you set fasting periods during the day. This is usually between 16-20 consecutive hours, but it can be as little as 12 hours or as much as 24 hours (or even 36 hours).

While fasting you can eat and drink low calorie or calorie-free foods. Think coffee, tea, water, and vegetables.

The more time you spend fasting every day, the better your results. You can do these fasts as often as you like. Again, the more often you do so, the better[1].

Getting Started With Intermittent Fasting

Following this diet plan is super simple. All you have to do is choose a period of time during the day that you will fast. This should be between 16-20 hours.

The longer you fast each day, the better. Don’t worry about calorie restriction or measuring carbohydrates. Just focus on going about your day until it’s time to eat.

It’s best to choose a set period of time to conduct your fast. I like to fast from 8 PM to 4 PM the following afternoon. I’ll then have my first meal of the day and a snack or two a few hours later. Once 8 o’clock rolls around, it’s back to fasting.

My experience with intermittent fasting is that it’s best to start with a 16 hour fast (i.e. 8 PM one evening to 12 PM the next day) for the first 1-2 weeks. Once you are comfortable with this schedule, you can increase the amount of time you spend fasting. Do this by adding 30 minutes to each fast until you get to where you are fasting for 20 hours at a time.

You don’t have to fast every day in the beginning either. You may be more comfortable breaking in slowly with 2 or 3 days per week, or trying alternate day fasting. Add additional days of intermittent fasting as you become more comfortable with this style of eating.

Intermittent Fasting Schedules

There are several different fasting schedules you can choose from when you start an intermittent fasting diet. Here are some of the most popular.

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The 16/8 Method

This method of fasting involves fasting every day for 14-16 hours and eating during an 8-10 hour window. Many people who are getting started with intermittent fasting will find this the easiest schedule to keep. You can eat your last meal around 8 PM and not eat again until noon the next day, for example. This sounds simple, as you’re really only skipping breakfast, but you’re actually fasting for 16 hours in this case![2]

16/8 Method of Intermittent Fasting

    The 5:2 Method

    This fasting method involves eating normally five days each week and restricting calorie intake to 500-600 calories for two (non-consecutive) days. On fasting days, women should eat around 500 calories, and men should eat around 600 calories.

    5:2 Diet for Intermittent Fasting

      Alternate-Day Fasting

      As its name suggests, this type of intermittent fasting involves fasting every other day. As with the 5:2 method, some people find it easier to eat 500-600 calories instead of going on a full fast each fasting day.

      Alternate Day Fasting
        The Warrior Diet

        This type of fasting is considered by many to be the most difficult and follows a 20/4 eating schedule. For most of the day, you limit your food intake to small amounts of fruits and vegetables (low-calorie foods). For four hours each day, you eat large-portioned meals to get in your day’s calories.

        Because of the intense nature of this method, it’s only recommended for those who have been on an intermittent fasting diet for a while and feel comfortable with it.

        The Warrior Diet

          Tips to Make Intermittent Fasting Easier

          1. Drink Plenty of Water

          Squeeze a little lemon or lime juice into your water to help get rid of any cravings you experience. You can also drink coffee, tea, or other calorie-free beverages. After a few weeks, you will find that intermittent fasting keeps you from craving sugar entirely.

          2. Take in Caffeine in the Morning and Early Afternoon

          The caffeine in coffee and tea may actually make intermittent fasting weight loss a little easier since it’s good for curbing your appetite. Be careful not to overindulge, as this may lead to you feeling a little too wired. I also recommend these natural energy boosting tips to keep you going during the day.

          3. Avoid Artificially Flavored Drinks

          One type of calorie-free drink that should be avoided are diet sodas and other beverages that use artificial sweeteners like Splenda and Sweet & Low. Studies show that the can actually stimulate your appetite[3] like a drink that contains sugar and causes you to overeat.

          4. Don’t Gorge at Your First Meal

          The first meal after your fast should be the amount of food you typically eat. Binging will only make you feel awful and diminish the benefits you get from the fast.

          To avoid this, try creating meal plans, at least for the first few weeks. This will help you get into the rhythm of eating regularly portioned meals during your eating window.

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          5. Minimize Processed Carbohydrates and Sugars

          While intermittent fasting does make it possible to eat a little looser than normal, you should still eat as little bread, pasta, rice, etc. as possible.

          Focus instead on eating protein from beef, fish, or pork, carbohydrates from vegetables, fruit, and sweet potatoes, and healthy fats from foods like almonds, avocados, fish, and olive oil.

          You can find some carb sources that will aid your weight loss journey here.

          How Intermittent Fasting Helps You Lose Weight

          Eating this way has many benefits with regard to weight loss. The first is that when you’re fasting, your body will be forced to use its stored body fat for energy. After several hours of not eating, your body will use up its sugar stores, which will cause it to start burning fat for energy, a process known as metabolic switching. 

          Mark Mattson, Ph.D., a neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins explains this effect in simple terms:

          “Intermittent fasting contrasts with the normal eating pattern for most Americans, who eat throughout their waking hours…If someone is eating three meals a day, plus snacks, and they’re not exercising, then every time they eat, they’re running on those calories and not burning their fat stores.”[4]

          Burning calories this way, instead of from the food you’re eating throughout the day, will help you experience significant weight loss, but specifically lose weight from any excess body fat you’re carrying.

          This means that you won’t just be thinner, but you will also look better and be much healthier than if you lose weight the old-fashioned way[5].

          Intermittent fasting can help optimize the release of the key fat-burning hormones in your body. This is especially true for the two most important hormones: human growth hormone (HGH) and insulin.

          Human growth hormone plays a key role in turning on your body’s fat-burning furnace so that it gets the calories you need to work and play from stored body fat. Studies show that fasting can significantly increase the production of HGH[6].

          The influence intermittent fasting has on insulin is just as impressive and possibly more important. Keeping your insulin levels low and steady is key to losing excess fat and keeping it off.

          Diets that are rich in processed carbohydrates (bread, pasta, rice) and simple sugars (candy, cookies, and soda) have the opposite effect. They cause your insulin levels to rapidly spike and then crash every time you eat one of these foods. The net result of this phenomenon is that your body will store more of what you eat as excess body fat instead of burning it off as energy.

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          Chronically elevating your insulin levels like this can also lead to the development of type 2 diabetes, obesity, and other chronic health problems. Intermittent fasting easily solves this problem.

          One study found that men who participated in intermittent fasting had “dramatically lower insulin levels and significantly improved insulin sensitivity”[7].

          This happens because you’re not giving your body food, so it will not produce insulin, allowing insulin levels to balance out until you eat again. This helps your body stay in a calorie and fat-burning state. You’ll also find that it gives you more energy throughout the day.

          Another great weight loss benefit of intermittent fasting is that hunger pangs and cravings that may normally plague you throughout the day will be reduced, if not altogether eliminated. This is probably due to its ability to balance your insulin and blood sugar levels and, in turn, help correct other hormonal imbalances.

          Intermittent Fasting Weight Loss FAQs

          Now that you know what intermittent fasting is and how to get started, it’s time to answer your other questions.

          Below are answers to the questions frequently asked about intermittent fasting. These answers should help you and make getting started a lot easier.

          How Much Weight Will I Lose?

          The amount of weight you lose with fasting is determined by how often and long your fasts are, what you eat afterward, and other factors.

          One study published by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that average weight loss on an intermittent fasting diet was around 9lbs after 12 months, and weight loss was most successful in those who strictly adhered to their chosen diet[8].

          Can I Work out While Fasting?

          Yes, you can. In fact, doing the right type of workout while fasting will help you lose weight faster and even build muscle.

          If you are a hardcore athlete who often exercises for an hour or more each day, intermittent fasting may not be the best choice for you as this amount of exercise requires fuel to keep you moving and build muscle. However, light to moderate intensity workouts 2 to 4 times a week should work with intermittent fasting.

          The best workouts to do while fasting for weight loss are strength training workouts. This means anything from standard strength training to kettlebell or body weight workouts. Combine these with lighter forms of exercise like walking, jogging, or yoga.

          You could also try this 30-Day Resistance Band Workout Challenge alongside your intermittent fasting diet. It will help you get into an exercise routine while easing into your new eating routine.

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          Focus on doing 3-4 total body exercises per workout with as little rest as possible between sets. Doing this will help you burn more calories during and after your workout. You’ll also build muscle, which will help you look and feel better as the weight comes off.

          Remember, exercising can increase hunger, so try working out in the hour or two right before you are scheduled to break your fast[9]. Your body will be primed for a meal, and your hunger won’t get the best of you.

          Won’t I Lose Muscle When I Fast?

          First of all, you aren’t fasting long enough for your body to start breaking down muscle for energy. You have, perhaps, hundreds of thousands of calories from your stored body fat to use before that will begin to happen.

          If you’re trying to build muscle while fasting, you’ll need to ensure you’re getting enough calories, especially through protein, at each meal between fasts.

          Is Fasting Safe?

          As long as you are healthy, not pregnant, and aren’t taking medications, fasting is safe. Like all diets, you should discuss it with your doctor before beginning an intermittent fasting diet.

          I also feel that it may not be smart to follow this type of diet when you’re especially stressed. Since this diet can be a little stress-inducing at first, doing so when you aren’t able to be relatively stress-free and rested probably isn’t a good idea.

          Are There Any Supplements I Can Take to Make Fasting Easier?

          As with any other weight loss plan, it’s a good idea to take a few nutritional supplements to make sure your daily requirements are met. This includes a once or twice daily multi-vitamin, fish oil, and vitamin D.I’ve also found taking 10 grams of branched-chain amino acids before and after my workouts really helps, too. They’re great for giving you more energy during your workout and decreasing post-workout muscle soreness.

          For supplements to specifically help with digestion, check out this article.

          The Bottom Line

          Now you know what intermittent fasting is and how it can help you lose weight quickly and safely. If you want to give it a try, find a fasting schedule that fits with your lifestyle, and give it a go.

          More About Intermittent Fasting

          Featured photo credit: Toa Heftiba via unsplash.com

          Reference

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