Fasting is nothing new—some date it all the way back to the 5th century—we’re talking biblical times. Today, intermittent fasting (cycling between periods of fasting and eating) is currently one of the world’s most popular health and fitness trends and many people practice it throughout their lifetime.
Besides weight loss and fat burning, people (and research scientists) are finding that intermittent fasting can provide significant health benefits. Study after study is finding that fasting can lower blood insulin, reverse type 2 diabetes, reduce inflammation, improve mental concentration, increase the brain’s resistance to injury and disease, and promote longevity and vitality.
If you haven’t already, pop back and read Part 1 of this two-part series on intermittent fasting (IF), where we break down the basics, address the myths around IF, and talk thoroughly through IF’s many health benefits.
In Part 2, we’re going to take all the knowledge you’ve gained on intermittent fasting and help you put it into action. Below, we’ll walk through step-by-step how you can create a fasting plan that works with your schedule and will have you feeling lean in no time.
Intermittent fasting is an eating schedule, not a restrictive diet. It doesn’t change what you eat, but when you eat. There are a few common “schedules” intermittent fasters tend to follow.
The 16/8 Schedule: The first and most popular is the 16/8 hour schedule, where you fast for 16 hours and then eat in an 8-hour window. This style of fasting is the easiest to follow but allows enough fasting time to bring some great health benefits—like weight loss, improved blood sugar levels, better brain function, and increased longevity.
The 5:2 Diet: The second fasting schedule is called the 5:2 diet. When following this schedule, five days of the week are normal eating days, while the other two are fasting days or restrict calories to 500-600 per day. Several studies have shown that this schedule may also bring big benefits, like fat loss, better blood levels, and decreased inflammation.
The Full-Day Fast: Third, we have the 24-hour fast. It’s also common to fast for a full day 1, 2, or 3 days per week. These longer periods of fasting might be more challenging, but they switch our bodies into a self-healing gear that’s mind-blowing.
Many of the benefits of fasting kick in the strongest when we fast for these long periods. For example, autophagy (a powerful process our body uses to fight off diseases like organ failure and cancer and increase our physical vitality) increases an astounding 300% after just 24 hours of fasting.
Alternate-Day Fasting: Those who really want to tap into all the long-fasting benefits tend toward alternate-day fasting. This schedule involves fasting (or reducing intake to about 500 calories) every other day, then eating what you want on non-fast days. The latest research into alternate-day fasting has found significant health benefits, including a reduction in belly fat, body weight, cholesterol levels, inflammation, and age-associated diseases.
Try out the different fasting schedules and see which one works for you. Personally, I love the 16/8 schedule—it allows me to gain many of the health benefits of fasting while still enjoying a pretty normal eating schedule with my friends and family.
For example, each day I eat between 12:00 pm and 8:00 pm. I swap out breakfast for lots of water and then fit all my healthy food and macronutrients in throughout the remainder of the day. At around 7:00 pm, my family and I enjoy dinner together. At night, I can sip on a yummy herbal tea, but I wait until noon the next day to start munching again.
When picking your fasting and eating window, make sure you select time-slots that you can stick to. Pick a schedule that you can keep up consistently—this way, you’ll be sure to see all the great results.
Making sure we’re hydrated is important in our regular day-to-day lives. But it can really make a difference in how you feel during your fasting hours. That said, it only takes about 30 calories to mess up your fast and lose out on many of the benefits! So make sure that you’re sipping on the right stuff.
The good news is that you can still have your morning coffee or tea! Keep sipping on your herbal teas or get in touch with your inner Ron Swanson and pour yourself some black coffee in the mornings to keep some flavor flowing over those taste buds.
Also, water, especially the kind that’s electrolyte-enhanced like Smart Water or Life Water, can take your fasting hours from crummy to cheerful (more on that below). For now, make sure to set up strict boundaries around your fasting hours while staying hydrated so that you can cash in on those big benefits.
Don’t be a bad boss to your body. After hours of your body working to heal and rebuild itself, don’t throw a ton of work on its desk with a big meal of unhealthy processed food. Instead, make sure that you include all your macronutrients primarily through healthy, whole foods during your non-fasting windows.
Enjoy high-protein foods like chicken, eggs, lentils, quinoa, chia seeds, and chickpeas. Load up on the leafy greens and help your body get lean and fight off diseases. Snack on foods with soluble fiber, like beans, legumes, flax seeds, brussels sprouts, and oats to promote healthy digestion. And avoid those sugary, processed, and packaged foods—while sometimes sweet, they’re not good friends to our bodies.
Want a little more info on the best belly-fat-busting foods you can incorporate into your day? We’ve got you covered. Double down on your health and fitness by following these 6 steps to getting your middle slim and trim.
Intermittent fasting results in healthy weight loss, dramatically lower insulin levels, and significantly improved insulin sensitivity, and lower blood pressure. While these changes in your body can help you lose weight, lower your risk of disease, and increase your quality of life, you may experience dizziness, weakness, or headaches if you aren’t fasting conscientiously.
Feeling the effects of low blood sugar during your fast is due to our bodies’ need for potassium, sodium, and magnesium. But the solution is very simple.
During your fasting hours, make sure to supplement with electrolyte water. When you’re eating, sprinkle a little more sea salt on your food. While plain ol’ table salt is stripped of its trace minerals and mixed with anti-caking agents, sea salt and Himalayan salt contain calcium, potassium, and magnesium. An extra pinch of good salt can help you feel more balanced during those fasting hours.
Unlike fad diets that use restriction to starve out our bodies and strong-arm them into losing weight, intermittent fasting helps you drop fat while healing and supporting your body.
I’ve been in the health and fitness industry for over 20 years and trust me when I say this works. I’m leaner than I have ever been and my clients are seeing the same success, plus they’re still eating some of the great foods that they love!
To get your starting on the intermittent fasting train, here’s my free e-book on intermittent fasting that’ll give you the detailed low-down and everything you need to start today!
Fasting is one piece of my health philosophy. There are a lot of other ways we can achieve our health goals, feel more energized, and live a more vibrant life. So join us over on the LEAN program, where we cut through the confusion around dieting, health, and nutrition and walk our fitness journeys together.