Last Updated on February 26, 2021 by Lori Geurin
This intermittent fasting guide is perfect for anyone who’s new to fasting or simply wants to learn more. Plus, fasting health benefits, clean versus dirty fasting, reactive hypoglycemia, and fasting schedules.
Intermittent fasting (IF) is now one of the most popular health trends in the world. It’s a great way to burn fat and build muscle! You can lose impressive amounts of weight without feeling hungry. Plus, the health benefits are powerful too. In this ultimate guide to intermittent fasting, you’ll learn all the basics you need to get started with this amazing wellness practice.
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The Ultimate Guide To Intermittent Fasting
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern – a timing concept. It’s not a diet. It is not about what you choose to eat. But it’s all about when you eat (or don’t eat).
It’s eating, or not eating, in a strategic way.
Though IF has recently gained a huge following it’s been around for ages. People were once hunters and gatherers who would go for days without food…out of necessity.
Our bodies are well-oiled machines, designed to withstand feast or famine.
Modern-day eating habits often center around our fast-paced lives. Eating frequent meals and snacks of highly processed and fast food is the norm for many people. But this doesn’t give your body time to rejuvenate and repair the damage these chemicals can do over time.
IF is a natural approach to clean up your cells by a process called autophagy, which boosts your body’s ability to function more efficiently.
Best of all, almost anyone can do it. It’s especially popular with weightlifters and elite athletes in the fitness industry, most likely because it allows you to maintain, and even gain muscle while losing fat.
So let’s take a look at how to do IF.
How Long Should I Do Intermittent Fasting?
INTERMITTENT FASTING TIMES / METHODS
There are different IF eating schedules you can follow. Below are some of the most popular methods.
1. Time-Restricted Eating
There are various forms of this fasting method. A popular one is known as the Leangains protocol (originally developed for weightlifters), or the 16:8 diet plan because you fast for 16 hours and eat all of your food within an 8-hour time period. Or, any other time period you choose. (I’m just using the 16:8 as an example.)
For example, you could eat from 12 pm until 8 pm daily, and fast from 8 pm until 12 pm the following day.
Here are some examples of how you could transition into the 16:8 fasting plan (as opposed to going cold turkey):
16:8 Intermittent Fasting Schedule Examples
Please note in the below schedule that you can drink black coffee, tea, and water as much as you want. I just left that out for simplicity’s sake.
WEEK 1 FASTING SCHEDULE
|Breakfast||8 am||8:30 am||9 am||9:30 am||10 am||10:30 am||11 am|
|Lunch||12:00 pm||12 pm||12 pm||12 pm||12 pm||12 pm||12 pm|
|Dinner||5:00 pm||5:30 pm||6 pm||6 pm||6 pm||6 pm||6 pm|
WEEK 2 FASTING SCHEDULE
|Lunch||12 pm||12 pm||12 pm||12 pm||12 pm||12 pm||12 pm|
|Dinner||6 pm||6 pm||6 pm||6 pm||6 pm||6 pm||6 pm|
Another popular form of this restricted eating schedule is the circadian rhythm diet or body clock diet. The idea here is to eat within the daylight hours within a 12-hour window.
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2. Alternate Day Fasting
This is commonly known as the 5:2 Diet and is associated with British journalist, Michael Mosley. Here’s one example: You eat normally on Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday while restricting your calories to around 500 per day on Monday and Wednesday.
Another variation is doing the restricted calorie days consecutively, such as Monday and Tuesday or Friday and Saturday. In this case, you would eat normally the five other consecutive days.
Or some people like to fast every other day – known as alternate-day fasting. The beauty of fasting is that you can design it to fit your lifestyle and preferences.
3. One Meal A Day (OMAD)
This fasting approach has quickly gained popularity and a following on social media. It’s very effective for weight loss if done correctly but it’s not for beginners. So if you’re new to IF I’d recommend starting with one of the above approaches (like 16:8).
This is a 23:1 fast, so you’re fasting for 23 hours and eating your meal within a 1-hour window. As you might have guessed, if you’re doing OMAD, it’s crucial to have a micronutrient-dense meal because you’re only eating one.
Some people have lost a ton of weight doing OMAD. But, over the long-term, I don’t recommend doing OMAD every day. (And my dietician friend who fasts is adamantly opposed to OMAD.) There are a few reasons for this.
First, restricting your calories every day can eventually lower your resting metabolic rate. (Have you read The Biggest Loser study?) Plus, there are valid concerns about vitamin and mineral deficiencies, people who have to take medication with food, and those who want to work out at a high intensity.
The jury is still out on the long-term impact of OMAD. But from everything I’ve read, if you’re going to try OMAD, I recommend doing it only once or twice a week, but not every day.
Related: OMAD Health Benefits And Precautions
Intermittent Fasting Rules
You may be wondering what you can eat and drink while fasting. I’m going to give it to you straight and keep this section short and sweet. To be successful with your fasting it’s important to do what’s referred to as clean fasting.
This means that you can have:
- black coffee
- unsweetened green or black tea
You want to avoid what’s called dirty fasting, which is essentially everything else and includes:
- coffee creamer
- artificial sweeteners
- everything that’s not listed under clean fasting
For more clarity on this, go to What Is Clean Fasting And How Does It Work.
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So, here’s a common question…
How Does Intermittent Fasting Work? (The Sciencey Stuff)
And here’s the simplified answer…When you eat a meal your body spends several hours processing and digesting the food. During this time, the body takes energy from the food you’ve eaten.
Feeding And Fasting
When you’re eating, or in a feeding state, insulin production tends to be high. This prevents your body from burning stored fat. But, when your body is in a fasting state the blood sugar and insulin levels are reduced dramatically. Plus, there’s a sharp increase in human growth hormone.
All of these physiological changes turn the body into a fat-burning machine…a benefit we love!
Another cool thing that happens when you’re fasting is a process called autophagy. It’s the body’s natural system for cleaning out old, damaged cells. In essence, it recycles junk from your cells that are aging your body and renews them, making everything work more efficiently.
It’s a beautiful thing!
Now, on to a very popular question…
Will I Be Hungry While I’m Fasting?
Yes, it’s common to feel hungry the first few days while you’re adjusting to the new eating pattern.
Like anything else, when your body grows accustomed to doing something for so long, it takes some time to re-calibrate and adjust to the new schedule. Initial hunger may be stronger in some people and not as obvious to others.
If you decide to try IF I urge you to stick with it for at least a month or more before you give up on fasting.
But even longer would be better. It’s one of those things that tends to get better over time.
Once you adjust to the timing schedule, you may find yourself wishing you’d learned about IF sooner. This has been my experience!
I used to get cravings for carbs and sweets several times a day before I started IF, and now I hardly ever feel hungry.
And the strong cravings I used to get many times throughout the day? They’re practically gone! It’s an amazing improvement compared to before.
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And I’m not the only one who thinks so. I get emails, IM’s and messages from readers all the time who are doing IF and experiencing the same amazing benefits!
But don’t take my word for it…
Intermittent Fasting Health Benefits
Here are some of the impressive (and proven) benefits of IF:
- weight loss (1)
- fat loss, especially in the belly (2)
- stronger insulin sensitivity (3)
- increased human growth hormone (HGH) production (4)
- increased metabolic rate (5)
- changes in gene function related to longevity (6)
- cellular repair (7)
- reduced inflammation (8)
- better brain health (9)
- protection against cancer (10)
not to mention some of the other perks…
Added Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
- it’s less time-consuming because you spend less time preparing food and eating meals
- and less expensive because you eat less
- it simplifies your life and gives you more time to do the things you love or need to do
Intermittent Fasting For Weight Loss
As mentioned earlier, one of the awesome benefits of IF is weight loss. Not only can fasting help you consume fewer calories, but it also optimizes some key weight-loss hormones.
In fact, when you’re fasting, your insulin decreases, which tells your body to burn more fat. Plus, short-term fasts boost your human growth hormone (HGH) which causes you to lose more fat and gain muscle.
Pretty cool, right?
Not only that, but some evidence shows that fasting enables you to keep your muscle mass when compared to calorie-cutting diets. And, as we know, having more muscle gives your metabolism a good boost.
Which can help you lose weight.
Not to mention the simplicity of fasting…You wake up. Grab your black coffee, tea (or water), and get started with your day.
There’s no wondering what you should prep and eat for breakfast because if you’re fasting, you don’t have to worry about it. Instead of having to make 3 healthy meals and snacks you can focus instead on 1 or 2 healthy meals.
This frees you up to focus on other things. Simplicity is a wonderful way to live. And if you want to live more simply, the fasting lifestyle fits right in!
Is Intermittent Fasting For Me?
Although it’s generally safe for most, Dr. Eric Berg recommends the following people avoid IF:
- women who are nursing or pregnant
- thin people with neurodegenerative conditions
- babies and small children
- people who have a recent history of eating disorders
For more on this, you can watch Dr. Berg’s video below, 5 Types Of People Who Should Not Do Intermittent Fasting, for more details.
Intermittent Fasting And Hypoglycemia
I was diagnosed with reactive hypoglycemia several years ago. I’ve been doing 16:8 regularly for a few years now and have worked up to doing intermittent OMAD fasts and a few 36-hour fasts.
I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to participate in the Fasting For Freedom last spring.
When I first began IF, I started out slowly to give my body time to adjust to the new schedule. My next goal is to do some 48-hour bone broth and water fasts to help heal my body from untreated Lyme and autoimmune conditions.
It’s been incredibly beneficial for my blood sugar issues and even cured my hypoglycemia. During the fasting periods, I’m cognitively sharper, have more energy, and find it easier to focus.
If you’re not sure if IF right for you, talk to your medical professional.
A Note To Weightlifters And Fitness Buffs
Keep in mind that you may be eating fewer calories overall. Make sure you’re consuming plenty of protein so you don’t run the risk of losing muscle mass.
That said, please note that fasting is not the same as starving yourself and IF has been proven to maintain muscle mass despite the intake of nutrients. This shows how efficiently our bodies are designed to work in tandem with fasting. (I just wanted to mention this in case you’re concerned.)
Supplements such as caffeine (pre-workout), BCAAs, Glutamine, and creatine are good ones to look into taking (if you’re in your eating window). You might like to try this Healthy Coffee Drink Recipe before your training sessions (also, in your eating window).
Keep in mind IF doesn’t take the place of eating a healthy diet of fresh, whole foods, plenty of leafy greens, healthy fats, and high-quality protein to fuel your body.
Intermittent Fasting Ebook
I wrote an eBook all about my experience with intermittent fasting. Like I mentioned above, this method allowed me to burn fat, lose weight (the effortless way) and be healthy….without feeling hungry – even curing my hypoglycemia. If you’d like to learn how I accomplished these great results, you’ll want to check out my book HERE!
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Summary – Intermittent Fasting Guide
I hope you’ve found this intermittent fasting ultimate quick guide to be incredibly helpful and refer back to it in the future.
As you know, IF is an eating pattern. It’s not a diet.
Fasting has powerful health benefits including increased longevity, fat loss, and weight loss, blood sugar regulation, and improved brain health. Clean fasting is the best way to get maximum benefits from your efforts.
There are several different fasting schedules you can choose from depending on your goals and lifestyle. Most people are able to doing fasting and enjoy the awesome benefits. But it’s not for everyone.
You may want to try it yourself and see if you love it as much as I do. It’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor to make sure it’s a good fit for you.
I hope this post has given you a good foundation for starting your intermittent fasting journey! XO Lori
Have you tried intermittent fasting? Any questions about fasting?
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