There are so many diets, fads, and lifestyle options out there that it’s bound to drive you crazy trying to keep up with all of them. Even so, it’s important to keep trying to be healthier and live a healthier lifestyle. So when a friend asked me what intermittent fasting was, I was excited to look up more of the info and science behind it.
Intermittent fasting is a planned pattern of eating and abstaining from food in order to help you better control what you eat. While there’s a handful of specific patterns, the basic premise is this: you only eat during a short window of time each day. That way, binge eating, overeating, and emotional eating become less of an issue. And it helps in giving you a better handle on choosing healthier options and your health. It can also help your body learn to use healthier fuel more efficiently.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is a pattern of eating. It’s eating your food within a certain timeframe or window each day.
But because intermittent fasting doesn’t regulate what you can or cannot eat, it’s not really a diet. It’s just an eating pattern you follow. You still have to decide what you eat – you just have a shorter timeframe to eat it in.
In some iterations of IF, it’s eating all of your meals within 8 hours on some days. During the other 16 hours, you can still drink water or other things, though you do try to avoid anything rich in calories or sugar.
This is to help your body burn its fuel more efficiently – and encourage your body to burn fat stores more readily – especially when you’re going for 16 hours without eating.
That being said, there are several variations to intermittent fasting – that we’ll talk about in a moment.
Intermittent Fasting Protocols
With intermittent fasting, there’s not just one way to do it. I’m most familiar with the way I learned it on Nerd Fitness, but there are more ways to do it. It’s amazingly flexible – and I’m sure folks are coming up with new ways to individualize it all the time.
So here are some of the more popularly touted versions:
This is the most popular option – and you’ve got an 8 hour window every day to eat. Then, you fast for the other 8 hours. Ideally, you stick to this pattern every day of the week.
This is the one I use most often – I try to stick to eating between 10 AM and 6 PM. That way, I can eat when I’m hungry – and I choose to fast after dinner. Why? Because that’s when I’m craving sweets. And that’s when my kids are in bed, so I could totally eat the sweets.
But sweets aren’t the best fuel choice for my body, so I’m choosing not to eat then to cut out that emotional eating time frame.
The 5/2 protocol lets you eat on your regular schedule 5 days each week. Then, you’ve got 2 alternating days each week where you fast for up to 24 hours.
Now, don’t go without food entirely. You can eat some – just limit how much you’re eating in that 24 hours. Most sites I’ve read say they eat about 500-600 calories on these 2 “fasting” days each week.
Personally, I’m not a fan of this kind of protocol. It sounds like torture. But some people swear it works for them. And on hot days when I’m super active? I could totally see how drinking just a single protein shake would leave me feeling full for the day.
With the warrior protocol, you eat one large meal at the end of every day. Yup – you go 24 hours between meals.
Again, too extreme for my personal situation. But it works well for others.
Eat-Stop-Eat for 24 Hours Protocol
This one is like the 5/2 protocol, except with just one 24 hour period of fasting each week. And during that 24 hours, you try to avoid calories all together.
You’d still drink, but limit yourself to calorie-free choices. Again, this one is a bit extreme for my personal tastes. But it works well for others.
Tips for Starting with Intermittent Fasting
As I’ve dabbled in intermittent fasting, I’ve noticed a few things. And they’ve helped me stick with it better – and see better results. Ready?
- Pick your protocol first. It makes the transition a ton easier if you’ve got the planning in place to support your new eating pattern. Make sure you know what you’ll eat, when you’re eating it, and how much. In other words, make sure you’re meal planning!
- Don’t go crazy at first. If you’re planning on going to one of the hard-core versions of IF, start with one of the easier ones first. Or if you’re wanting to do the 16/8 Protocol, start with a modified plan: stop eating by 7 every night. Then, start delaying your first meal of the day by an hour. Ease your body into it slowly if you’re not used to fasting for 16 hours at a stretch.
- Listen to your body! If things aren’t working – don’t try to cram that round peg into a square hole. There are lots of options to make your eating plans better.
For example, while pregnant I was still intermittent fasting, but it wasn’t recognizable as such. I focused on fasting between meals – and stopped eating after 7 PM. That way, I was making sure that I was healthy, the baby was healthy, and that there weren’t any issues there. But I was also being more intentional about what and when I was eating.
Because emotional eating and overeating is an issue – but it’s a lot easier to manage it with intentional intermittent fasting.
More on Intermittent Fasting:
- Beginner’s Guide to Intermittent Fasting & Printable Meal Timing Calendar from Nerd Fitness
- Intro to intermittent fasting – Nerd Fitness forum
- Intermittent Fasting 101 — The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide – Health Line
My Must-Have Resources:
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