You’ve probably heard of fasting as it has been trending a lot in the last couple of years. It is an ancient way of living since humans didn’t have access to food for extended periods of time.
But what is fasting and how can you get started? We’ve made a simple guide that helps you understand the basic principles of fasting and what you should be aware of before you start.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent Fasting (IF) is an eating pattern where you cycle between periods of fasting and eating. It is used to describe several different approaches to the short-term abstention from food, which have shown to have several potential benefits. Fasting is not the same as starvation and calorie restriction and you should rather focus on when and what to eat.
What happens to your body when you fast?
Several physiological things happen in the body when you fast. The human growth hormone levels in the body increase and insulin levels decrease. Intermittent fasting has shown to impact changes in body composition and stabalizing the glucose levels and some people (can) use it as a weight loss strategy.
Which Intermittent Fasting methods exist and how do I get started?
There are several different ways in which you can do intermittent fasting with one thing in common - they all split the day or week into periods of eating and fasting.
Here are the most common methods at different levels:
The 16:8 method: Ideal if you’re completely new to fasting, as it invites you to skip breakfast (and/or lunch) and restrict your daily eating window to 8 hours and fast for the rest of the time (16 hours).
Tip: the easiest way of implementing this method into your daily routine is by skipping breakfast and trying not to think about previous or next meal. However, it doesn’t matter when you start your 8-hour window.
If you think this was a little too easy, try and restrict your daily eating window to just 4 hours - known as the 20:4 method.
The 24-hour method: If you are already familiar with the 16:8 method and it felt good during it, you could try to work your way up the 24-hour method where you also skip lunch and dinner. Then, when you have tried it a couple of times, you preferably do it every 1-2 weeks.
If you’re more experienced with 24-hour fasting, then perhaps you could do a 24-hour fast up to three times per week (as shown below).
The 5:2 method: With this alternative method, you consume a very low amount of calories (500-600 calories) on two non-consecutive days during the week, but eat normally for the remaining five days.
Fasting Do's and Don'ts
- Fast whilst you are busy (e.g. working)
- Make your first meal relatively small and low-glycemic
- Your last meal should be low carb as this will ‘speed up the process’
- Drink plenty of water
- Go for a walk
- Don’t fast during the weekend or when you don’t have anything to do
- Don’t do cardio
- Don’t give up (after fasting 1 or 2 times)
- Don’t fast when you are stressed
- Don’t fast when you are sick
- Don’t add sugar to your coffee or tea
Who should avoid fasting?
- If you are pregnant or breastfeeding
- Children (under the age of 18)
- If you are malnourished or underweight
We always recommend to consult your local health practitioner or doctor before trying Intermittent fasting.
Most common questions & answers
Is fasting dangerous? If you are healthy and well-nourished, there is nothing dangerous about not eating for a while. You might be hungry, feel a little weaker and your brain may not perform as well you’re used to but this is only temporary until your body adapts to your new eating pattern.
Can I exercise during a fast? Yes! Some suggestions could be walking, yoga, or other light exercise.
Can I drink liquids and beverages during a fast? Yes, you can drink water and black and herbal teas (limited). Do not add any artificial sweeteners or lemon to your water though.
Can I take my supplements while fasting? Yes, you can. However, some supplements may work better when taken with meals such as fat-soluble vitamins. You should be aware of the calorie content contained in the supplements to not break your fast. The number of calories contained depends on the specific supplement.
To sum up, intermittent fasting is great for some people, but not everyone. Try it out and see how you feel. If you find it easy to implement in your daily routine and feel good while doing it, it can be a powerful tool to improve your lifestyle.