Advertising

Published on July 7, 2021

How to Break a Fast When You’re Intermittent Fasting

Advertising
How to Break a Fast When You’re Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting (IF) is honestly a hidden gem given the fact that the majority of the population has no idea what it is (yet). I’ve been creating content around intermittent fasting since 2012 on YouTube with one of the more popular videos approaching one million views. Let’s just say that I’m not only a practitioner of IF but also an advocate!

I first began fasting while looking for quick and effective ways to lose weight. You wouldn’t believe some of the dumb things I tried before integrating a fasting routine. Needless to say, they didn’t work and just wasted my time and money.

I’ve posted several photos of the process on my Instagram page. I have a post of my weight loss transformation photo from 2014, which showcased the results of my fasting in 2012.[1] Back then, I fasted every day (minimum of 16 hours, sometimes up to 24 hours) for one year straight while training at least six days a week and achieved great results. I documented the journey more in-depth on my “My 1-year healthy lifestyle transformation” blog post.[2]

What Is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting is also known as time-restricted eating. It involves prolonged periods of not consuming food or any calories for that matter. There’s much debate around the topic of what constitutes a true fast, with many debating whether they can consume certain food or beverages without breaking fast.

To be clear, when I was first practicing IF every day for a year straight, I would not consume anything other than water, unflavoured BCAA (branch chain amino acids), and black coffee during the fasting periods.

Advertising

A minimum fast is considered to be 14 hours. However, I like to set the bar a little higher with a minimum 16-hour fast and 8-hour eating window. A common question asked is whether or not sleep time counts as fasted time, and the answer is yes, of course! Technically speaking, if you sleep for seven hours, then your remaining fasting time is only nine hours based on the 16-hour minimum.

How to Do Intermittent Fasting

As briefly explained above, the best approach to fasting is to fast for a minimum of 16 hours including sleep time and to consume food within an 8-hour eating window. Of course, you could be more aggressive and fast for 18 hours, 20 hours, and even up to and over 24 hours in some cases (though, I never personally exceeded 24 hours). The tricky thing about fasting for 20 hours is you’ll only leave yourself a 4-hour eating window, and depending on your goals/objectives and caloric requirements, it can be difficult to consume all the needed calories and nutrients within a 4-hour window.

Personally, whenever I fasted for more than 20 hours, I found it challenging to eat enough food while leaving time for digestion, and in most cases, I ended up consuming my entire caloric intake within a single massive meal, which would take about an hour to eat.

If you are new to intermittent fasting, I suggest starting with a 14-hour fast and 10-hour eating window, then after a few days (or a week), scale up to a 16-hour fast then an 18-hour fast. The sweet spot for many is 18-hour fasting.

You can also get a DNA report from 23andme and submit it to Dr. Rhonda Patrick’s Genome Analysis Tool, and it will make suggestions for your ideal fasting period. My DNA report revealed that genetically I benefit from a 16hr+ daily fast, among lots of other resourceful information.

Advertising

It’s important to note that water is your best friend while fasting! If you are not consuming an adequate amount of water, you’re not fasting correctly. You don’t want to be fasting from food and dehydrating yourself. That can actually be damaging in some cases. Of course, many people around the world dry-fast for personal or religious reasons, and in all honesty, I’ve never been a supporter of that approach, although some argue there are benefits to it, spiritually/religiously speaking.

How to Break a Fast While Intermittent Fasting

How you break a fast depends on your goals. However, most of the time, people fast for weight loss so the following instructions will focus on that.

When I was fasting for weight loss, I had a very strict routine that proved to be quite successful. It’s important to exercise while fasted so your body doesn’t use readily available energy (calories) from the food you have consumed, but rather, seeks energy from stored fat deposits in the body.

It’s quite simple really – if you haven’t consumed food, then your body will need to source energy from fat to perform an exercise. My routine specifically involved 15-minute warm-up cardio at a moderate pace, leading into bodybuilding-style weight lifting (high repetition), followed by 10-minute cool-down cardio at a moderate pace. Keep in mind that heavy weight lifting isn’t recommended with intermittent fasting, thus, why my focus, in particular, was on high repetition (lower weight) bodybuilding.

Once you have completed a workout while fasting, it’s time to consider what food you will consume to break a fast. I’ve always been a proponent of clean eating while breaking a fast, and that means no fast food or sugar. You don’t want to unwind all of your hard work from fasting and exercise by consuming junk food.

Advertising

When I would breakfast after 16, 18, or 20 hours, I would have ready salads, lean meats, such as chicken or steak, and fish. I kept the carbohydrate intake reasonable with brown rice or vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussel sprouts.

Most of the time, when you are breaking a fast with meals, you’ll want to plan ahead so you can allocate enough time for eating the first meal, then digesting it before getting into a second meal. If you are planning to eat all calories within a single meal, keep in mind that it is a bit challenging and may be too taxing on your digestive system. I suggest working your way up to a longer (20-hour) fast with a single meal, however, starting with two to three meals within your eating window.

The common mistake people make while breaking fast is gorging themselves with food, which actually becomes counterproductive and can lead to bloating and discomfort. I urge you to take your time and slowly ease into your first and second meals to ensure that your body is absorbing the nutrients from food and sustaining itself for your next fasting day.

Consider IF to be much like a house of cards in that if you incorrectly stuff yourself with junk food, it can lead to prolonged digestive issues spanning hours, days, or more. Treat your body like a temple, and water-fasting is how you clean and maintain that temple. When breaking a fast, consider all your hard work throughout the day and don’t ruin it with poor nutrition or dietary habits. Focus on the plan, goal, and future results you’ll achieve!

Conclusion

Intermittent fasting is one of the most powerful and effective ways to lose weight, detox, and regulate your body. An important takeaway is to consume enough water during your fast, consider eight to ten 16 oz glasses of water per day, and if you feel hungry, drink water.

Advertising

Look into unflavoured BCAA’s (Branch chain amino acids) as they are beneficial and will ensure your muscles are sustained and recovering well from exercise. BCAA’s are essential, meaning they can’t be produced by your body and must be obtained from food, which is challenging when you are fasting and not eating. BCAA supplements have been shown to build muscle, decrease muscle fatigue and alleviate muscle soreness.

One final takeaway is to plan and execute religiously. This means you should be focused and dedicated to your goals and will not waiver, which can be challenging when you’re hungry at a party or buffet with everyone around you eating while you’re drinking plain water. Trust me, I went to many social gatherings with tons of food and beverages while fasting, and the mental game is possibly the most important aspect of maintaining your fasted state.

As always, I encourage you to reach out to me on social media to share your progress and results with IF, and I wish you all the best in your fasting endeavors!

More Intermittent Fasting Tips

Featured photo credit: Kim Cruickshanks via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Instagram: Adam Evans
[2] Adam Evans: My 1-year healthy lifestyle transformation

More by this author

Adam Evans

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

Try These 13 Immune Boosting Foods Under the Weather? 13 Immune Boosting Foods for a Quick Recovery How to Break a Fast When You’re Intermittent Fasting 11 Health Benefits Of Ashwagandha (Backed By Science) Intermittent Fasting Diet for Beginners (The Complete Guide) 21 Healthy Dinner Recipes to Lose Weight and Gain Muscle Strength

Trending in Diet & Nutrition

1 What Is a Whole Food Diet And Does It Really Work? 2 13 High-Protein And Low-Fat Foods For A Healthy Diet 3 13 Best Foods to Eat at Night (Advice From a Health Coach) 4 How to Break a Fast When You’re Intermittent Fasting 5 How to Lose 10 Pounds in 3 Weeks: 20 Simple Tips

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising

Published on August 24, 2021

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

Advertising
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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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]

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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

Advertising

Reference

Read Next