What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern where you cycle between periods of fasting and eating. It can be used for weight loss, to improve insulin sensitivity, or simply as a way of eating that works best for you.
How Does Intermittent Fasting Work?
When you're intermittent fasting, you'll need to decide on an eating and a fasting period. The length of these periods will depend on your goals and your schedule. The most common is the 16/8 intermittent fasting schedule.
This involves a fasting window for 16 hours and eating all of your meals within an eight-hour window. For example, you would stop eating at dinner and then not eat again until lunchtime the next day. This would give you a 16-hour fast.
However, it's generally recommended that you start with a 12-hour fasting window and a 12-hour eating window. For example, you could fast from dinner to breakfast the next day. If you're new to intermittent fasting, starting slow and working your way up is essential.
You can repeat this cycle as frequently as you'd like — from just once or twice per week to every day, depending on your preference.
The Symptoms Of Intermittent Fasting
When you first start intermittent fasting, you may experience some side effects as your body adjusts to this new way of eating. These side effects are usually mild and temporary, and they may include:
The most common symptom of intermittent fasting is hunger. This is to be expected as you are, after all, going without food for long periods. However, if you find that your hunger is unmanageable or you're feeling faint, it's essential to listen to your body and eat something.
You may also experience cravings, especially for sugary or high-carb foods. This is because your body is used to having easy access to energy in the form of glucose. When you're intermittent fasting, your body has to adjust to using stored energy, which can lead to cravings.
Headaches are another common symptom, especially if you're not used to going without food. Again, this is because your body is adjusting to using stored energy.
You may also find that you have low energy levels, especially in the beginning. This is normal, and your energy levels will increase as your body gets used to intermittent fasting.
Brain fog is also common, especially in the beginning. This is because your body isn't used to running on stored energy, so concentrating may be difficult.
You may also find yourself feeling irritable or cranky. This is normal and will pass as your body adjusts to intermittent fasting.
You may also experience dizziness, especially when you stand up too quickly. This is because your blood sugar levels may drop due to the low food intake.
If you're experiencing any of these side effects, don't worry! They are all normal and will likely go away after a few days. To help ease your symptoms, ensure you drink lots of water and stay well-hydrated.
What To Eat On An Intermittent Fasting Meal Plan?
Now that we've answered the question of what intermittent fasting is and what you can eat while intermittent fasting, let's get to the good stuff - the food! There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as everyone's needs differ. However, there are a few general guidelines that you can follow:
1. Make sure that your meals are nutritious and filling. This will help to keep your energy levels up and reduce your hunger.
2. Include plenty of healthy fats, like avocados, olive oil, and nuts. Healthy fats will help to keep you satiated, and they are an essential source of energy.
3. Include plenty of plant protein. Protein will help to keep your energy levels up, and it will also help to reduce your hunger.
4. Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits. Vegetables are a great source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, which are important for good health. Fruits are also a great source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, though they should only be eaten during the first meal of the day. Try a wide variety of whole foods, such as apples, bananas, berries, oranges, peaches, pears, tomatoes, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cucumbers, leafy greens, etc.
5. If you're intermittent fasting for weight loss, you may consider cutting back on high-carb foods. This is because carbs can cause your blood sugar levels to spike, which can lead to cravings and overeating.
6. Cook meals that you will enjoy eating. This will help to make intermittent fasting more enjoyable and less of a chore.
7. Take your time eating meals until you're full. This will help your body to adjust to intermittent fasting, and it will also help to prevent overeating.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- A bowl of oatmeal with fresh fruit and nuts.
- Avocado toast with eggs
- Smoothie made with almond milk, banana, spinach, and chia seeds
- Vegan yogurt with granola
- Salad with grilled tofu or tempeh
- Black bean soup
- Chili made with lentils, quinoa, and veggies
- Veggie wrap with avocado, hummus, and greens
- Veggie stir fry over brown rice
- Spaghetti squash with marinara sauce and vegan "meatballs"
- Roasted sweet potato, kale, and red onion salad
- Cauliflower "rice" bowl with black beans, salsa, and guacamole
Why Is Timing Important?
The timing of your meals is essential when intermittent fasting. This is because you want to ensure that you're giving your body enough time to digest and absorb the nutrients from your food.
If you eat too close to bedtime, for example, you may not be able to digest your food properly before you go to sleep. This can lead to indigestion and discomfort.
It's generally recommended that you eat your last meal of the day at least three hours before you go to bed. This will give your body enough time to digest your food properly.
If you're intermittent fasting for weight loss, you may want to consider eating your last meal of the day even earlier. This is because intermittent fasting can help to increase your metabolism and promote fat burning.
Whatever your health goals, it's crucial to find an intermittent fasting schedule that works for you. And make sure to pay attention to your body's cues. For example, if you're feeling hungry or lightheaded, you may need to eat something or drink some water.
Health Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting Diets
Intermittent fasting has a number of potential benefits, including:
It helps you lose weight: One of the most common reasons that people fast is for weight loss. Intermittent fasting can help to boost your metabolism and burn more fat. However, how much weight you lose depends on if your calorie intake is less than the calorie you are burning.
Improved mental clarity: Intermittent fasting has been shown to improve mental clarity and focus. This is likely because intermittent fasting helps to increase levels of BDNF(brain-derived neurotrophic factor), a protein that helps to protect and repair your brain cells.
Improved insulin sensitivity: Intermittent fasting can help reduce insulin levels and improve your body's insulin sensitivity, which is important for good health.
Increased energy levels: Intermittent fasting can help to increase your energy levels. This is likely because intermittent fasting helps to improve insulin sensitivity and reduce inflammation.
Lower risk of heart disease: Intermittent fasting can help lower your risk of heart disease by reducing your LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
Reduced inflammation: Intermittent fasting can help to reduce inflammation, which is a significant contributor to chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. This is beneficial for both your physical and mental health.
Increased lifespan: Intermittent fasting has been shown to increase lifespan in humans. This is likely because intermittent fasting helps to protect against age-related diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
Tips And Tricks To Help You On Your Intermittent Fasting Journey
If you're new to intermittent fasting, here are a few tips and tricks to help you get started:
Start with shorter fasting periods: If you are starting your intermittent fasting journey, start slowly. Try decreasing your feeding window by 30 minutes to one hour every day until you find your optimal eating window.
Drink lots of water: It's important to stay hydrated when intermittent fasting. Be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day, especially during your fasting period.
Eat a balanced diet: Filling up on nutrient-rich foods helps round out your diet and supports a healthy weight. When you eat, include a balanced meal with plenty of healthy fats, proteins, whole foods, and veggies. This will help ensure you get the nutrients your body needs.
Don't overdo it: Intermittent fasting is meant to be a healthy eating pattern, not a way to lose weight quickly. Be sure to listen to your body and don't overdo it. If you're feeling tired or hungry, take a break from fasting and eat a nutritious meal.
Keep a journal: Keeping a journal is a great way to track your progress and see how intermittent fasting affects your body. Be sure to write down how you're feeling, what you're eating, and any changes in your weight or health, like your mood, energy level, blood sugar, and blood pressure. This will help you to make adjustments as needed and live a healthy lifestyle.
Talk to your doctor: As we mentioned, it's always best to speak with your doctor before starting any fasting regimen. This is especially true if you have any medical conditions or have diabetes, low blood pressure, or a history of disordered eating. Intermittent fasting may not be suitable for everyone, so getting the green light from your doctor before starting is important.
With this information, you should know exactly how to schedule meals when starting an intermittent fasting plan. And while it might seem complicated at first, once you get into the habit of fasting, it will feel like second nature and fit seamlessly into your days. But remember, always start slow and gradually work up to more advanced plans.
Thanks for reading! We hope this article has helped you to understand intermittent fasting better and how it can be used to improve your health. Need more info on intermittent fasting? Try our 6-week intermittent fasting program now!