When it comes to weight loss and improving your overall health, intermittent fasting is one tool you can’t afford to overlook. The thing is though, knowing how to start out is all-important.
If intermittent fasting is a new concept to you, don’t worry, there’s nothing new about the practice. You may be glad to hear that it doesn’t require any changes to the foods you are already eating. This form of fasting only calls for restricting your intake of all food for specific periods of time to enjoy a flatter stomach.
Is Skipping Breakfast Considered a Fast?
The most common practice, especially for beginners, involves fasting for either 16-18 hours or the entire day. Do this two times a week and you will be an intermittent faster. If you think about it, eating a meal at 6 or 7 pm and not eating again until lunch is definitely a fast.
In our modern culture, our existing habits and what others expect from us is the biggest obstacle to implementing this as part of your lifestyle. But it doesn’t take long before you can see real advantages that come directly from skipping some meals. Use the following 5 tips to start fasting and get the most out of your experience.
1. Start off Slow
Getting off to a slow start is the most important of the 5 tips. Eating is necessary to living, but few of us actually see it like that anymore. Instead, we’ve built it into a habit with certain times of the day to take a meal, and most of us never stop eating between those times.
Thinking about why you eat can help you skip meals.
Instead of thinking of food as life-sustaining and fuel for energy, we use it as therapy. We eat when we are bored, tired, happy, or any other emotion that comes up. The simple truth is, that few of us go without eating long enough to experience real hunger.
It’s important to take in those last two paragraphs. Understanding and believing that information will help you as you start your intermittent fasting (IF). Remember, with IF you’ll only eat during the set windows. You may find it tough to skip breakfast and eat no snacks at all between dinner and then.
Skipping 1 meal two times a week for two weeks is a good start.
In fact, when you’re just starting this adventure you may find it easier to merely skip lunch. That should give you 8 – 10 hours without food. Believe it not, you may find the most difficult part to be not eating the snacks and food you normally consume between meals.
2. Which Technique to Choose?
Who would have thought it? Just skipping a few meals winds up with at least 4 different popular methods of intermittent fasting. These are the 4 most popular and you can quickly see why it’s called intermittent. You eat and then skip eating, and eat again. The main difference is the non eating window, as you will see.
- Eat Don’t Eat. Personally, I think this is the easiest and produces the best results once you start slow and see how fasting affects you. This method is choosing two 24 hour periods each week, and not eating anything but water during those windows. Not two days back to back, but having eating days in between.
- Warrior. This is my least favorite method but seems to be popular. The Warrior Diet involves not eating anything at all for 20 hours and then all you care to eat for 4 hours. The first reason I don’t like it is that it can hurt your stomach to stuff yourself with food after it has shrunk during the 20 hours. The warrior diet could possibly help you lose weight but teaches you nothing about discipline.
- Fasting on alternate days. This could be the best way for squeamish beginners to learn how to get started. Instead of fasting off of food altogether, you count calories and consume no more than 500 on fast days. Like the Eat Don’t Eat method you do this on nonconsecutive days. Use this method a few times and graduate yourself to eating nothing at all 2 days a week for real health and weight results.
- Leangains. The Leangains method is the method I recommend everyone start out with. It’s simply going from 14 -18 hours two times a week with no food. It usually entails skipping the dinner or breakfast meal.
I hope from those four examples you can see that it’s just about teaching your body how to go without eating for a few hours 2 -3 times a week. Just choose any method you like and then adjust it to fit your own lifestyle. Sometimes people sleep late, and they wind up starting later in the day than others. When you are starting out, you may find certain times of the day that cravings get the best of you. If that happens, don’t give up, but change the time you start and finish your own IF techniques.
3. Drink Plenty of Water
This style of fasting is not giving up water. You want to stay well hydrated for several reasons, but with water alone. Leave off all the coffee, tea, soft drinks, and particularly energy drinks.
Drinking plenty of water helps you:
- Remove toxins from your body
- Accelerate fat loss
- Stave off hunger and food cravings
4. Maintain a Calorie Deficit
The two main reasons people use intermittent fasting are to improve/maintain good health and weight loss. With either reason, it’s important to not binge eat when you come off the fast.
If you are dieting its doubly important that during your eating windows you remain at a caloric deficit. If you aren’t sure how many calories you should consume each day, use this online calculator. But you must remember to take that number and reduce your calorie intake by no less than 300 calories a day to actually lose weight.
Technically, because your blood sugar levels remain stable while you fast you can eat more carbs during your eating window. But, to progress toward your weight loss goals, you must continue to consume fewer calories than you are burning for energy.
5. Taking Advantage of Cheat Days
Many people using intermittent fasting to lose weight have either cheat days or cheat meals. If you need the motivation to stay on the fast, either one is a great alternative. Just be sure that you continue with the eating and fasting windows and not cheat when you should be going without food.
After the first time or two, you will get in the swing of going without food for a change and think you are spot reducing belly fat. You will quickly see how much more you actually enjoy eating as you watch the excess pounds disappearing.
2 Common Myths That Discourage People From Fasting
1. Eat Three Meals A Day or Perish
If you grew up in western society, you have undoubtedly been told over and over that it takes 3 meals a day to maintain your energy and health.
That’s is pure myth. I know mom meant the best for us, but there is no scientific evidence anywhere to hold it up. In fact research indicates that eating less and fasting more is the route to the best health. In fact, there are scientific studies that show one meal a day is an optimum route to weight loss.
2. Breakfast is the Most Important Meal of the Day
I think this is the hardest myth to get out from under. And you can believe that the real promotors of this myth about breakfast are the hot and cold cereal manufacturers. That’s where you hear the most claims about breakfast increasing your metabolism.
The truth is that many studies continue to show that missing breakfast has nothing to do with decreased metabolism for the rest of the day. However, it’s too hard for you to believe otherwise, just plan your fasting windows around your breakfast meal. I skip it altogether because I understand it’s a myth. The only way for you to know how it affects you is to try skipping it, right?
How Can Intermittent Fasting Help You Lose Weight?
Between our insatiable appetites for more of everything and our subconscious minds being constantly bombarded with ads that make us crave more food, our society winds up overweight. Eating too much food day after day and year after year keeps our bodies worn down from overwork and junk food.
Going without food for a day can have a profound effect on your body. It gives it a chance to rest, and it changes the production of hormones and enzymes that help with fat loss.
The Main Benefits of Fasting for Weight Loss
- Hormones go up and insulin levels level out. The rate that you burn fat is determined in large part by the metabolic functions formed by hormones. Your body produces growth hormones that increase the breakdown of fat for energy. Simply put: fasting increases the production of these growth hormones. While that’s happening, your body is decreasing the amount of insulin in the bloodstream that causes fat to be used for energy instead of storing it.
- Metabolism and adrenaline levels increase. When this happens your body naturally calls for more calories to burn for energy. Because of the adrenaline increase, energy levels go up and you feel better. Most people think fasting will decrease energy levels, but the opposite happens because of the increased calorie burn.
- Go from using sugar to fat. Because we eat so much and so often during our waking hours, our bodies use sugar or carbs for energy while storing fat. Fasting changes that by shifting your body to using fat stores. Fasting for 24 hours means you’ve used all the glycogen stores and as much as 18 of those hours you were running on stored fat. If you struggle with dieting and still retaining the weight intermittent fasting can help without a drastic diet change.
- Fasting resets your body. You’ll soon learn that skipping a day or two of eating changes your food cravings. You will have much more control of them when they do show up because you re-teaching yourself responsible eating habits. Believe it not, you will notice that you stop feeling hungry during eating or fasting windows.
There aren’t any downsides to intermittent fasting and a lot of benefits. If you want to learn how to control your hunger and cravings, lose weight the easy way, build lean muscle, and reduce inflammation in your body, this post should have given you the tools to get started.