This information is meant for people who are already familiar with Fasting and Intermittent Fasting (IF), but are beginners and do not have much experience with the process. For an introduction on how to start fasting on a regular basis please refer to specific articles and videos on that subject, or get in touch with me for more in-depth guidance on the best way to get started.
IF is relatively new and is currently booming as more and more people are trying it for different reasons. Recent studies reveal incredible health benefits generated by different variations of IF, ranging from cellular rejuvenation and weight loss, to the reversal of certain diseases like diabetes. I have been Fasting and Intermittent Fasting for almost two years. The results have kept me hooked, and I am constantly expanding my research and knowledge on the subject, while developing my own approach.
There are many different variations and modalities related to this practice. For example, the most common IF modality is the 16/8, where one fasts for 16 hours straight (including hours spent sleeping) and has an eating period of 8 hours. Another is fasting for 24-72 hours once a week or a few times a month, which is currently my preferred method. Each individual is different, and thus needs to find what works in terms of convenience and physical tolerance. Based on my first year experimenting with IF, I decided to write down a list of practices that make fasting easier, as well as the pitfalls and common mistakes that can put a damper on the process.
Please get in touch with me if you would like more info or have questions about this, or any other nutrition related practices. It goes without saying that if you are pregnant or nursing, you should not engage in this practice. A mild to severe illness (even just a cold or flu) may be difficult to handle at first, so always seek the advice of a professional before giving it a go.
Here is my list of the 8 Dos and Don’ts of Intermittent Fasting:
1. Adaptation Period
There will always be an adaptation period when you begin the practice of IF on a regular basis. Some people like to fast every single day, while others find it more effective to fast every other day. Some take the weekend off or one day a week to eat normally. On days that you are not fasting you should still eat healthy and in moderation, not gorge on junk food or other comfort foods. The adaptation period may take a few days to several weeks. Everyone’s body is different, so don’t compare yourself to others; just learn to listen to your body and its needs. If one day you feel terrible and have a headache, or just feel the need for nourishment, then eat; don’t deprive yourself if the feeling is unbearable.
2. Drink Plenty of Water
Water is the body’s most essential nutrient. In fact, this type of fasting is also referred to as “Water Fasting”. Most people do not drink enough water and are usually deficient, though they do get a certain amount of water from the food they consume. When you are not eating at all, however, water will be the most important substance you put into your body. The moment you feel hungry you should drink water until the sensation goes away. Most hunger is actually thirst, but the signals get crossed due to the mind’s addiction to certain foods. I recommend drinking good quality water. In other words, avoid tap water and bottled “purified” or “drinking” water that is sourced from the municipal water supply. Natural spring water with a high pH level (7.5 or higher) is best. Some people think bottled distilled water is best, but only if it is sourced from a natural spring, otherwise it is most likely just distilled tap water, which may still contain plastic & chemical residues.
3. Start with a Longer Feeding Window
When you begin fasting for the first time and enter your adaptation period, it is best to gradually increase the length of your fasting window so as to not overwhelm your body. Start with 10 to 12 hour fasting windows, and then gradually build up to 16 or 18, or whatever your target is, in a space of about 2 –3 weeks (which is also part of your adaptation period).
4. Ease into the Feeding Window
Another common mistake people make when they are new to IF is that as soon as their feeding window starts they want to binge on steaks, fried chicken, pizza, etc. This approach does not work because they end up replacing all the fat and calories they just burnt during the fasting period. The best way to break a fast is to ease into the feeding window with a healthy juice or smoothie, and then 15-30 minutes later eat small portions of fruits and/or veggies. About an hour later you may eat a larger meal. As a rule of thumb, the longer the fasting period the more need to ease into the feeding window. The last meal of the feeding window should be the largest and nutrient-dense. Another important factor is to make sure not to eat large meals after sunset, when the body’s circadian rhythm prepares for sleep, and digestion slows down significantly.
5. No Food During Fasting
I know it sounds obvious, but I’ve heard people say they are fasting while they drink juice or eat a few nuts and seeds. The moment you eat anything with more than a few calories you have broken your fast (hence, “breakfast”). There should be absolutely no food or sweet beverage being ingested while fasting. Only consume water or tea (I recommend Green Tea), and there should be no sugar, milk, fruits or anything sweet or with calories added to your water or tea (i.e. no lemon or berries in water). Adding one or two spoonfuls of Apple Cider Vinegar to a warm glass of water is also OK, and usually accelerates the body’s fat-burning process already underway.
6. No Hard Workouts During Fasting
A “hard workout” means something different to each person. If you are a seasoned weight lifter you probably do not need to worry about this one. But if you work out occasionally and spend most of the day in front of a computer, you should try not to over-exert yourself while fasting during your adaptation period. Even if you work in construction, for example, and have some heavy lifting, you probably want to leave the fasting for another day. Heavy workouts and strenuous activity should be done during the feeding window, which ensures a proper recovery and antioxidant availability, assuming that you are eating healthy nutrient-rich foods instead of junk food. Depending on convenience, it can also be beneficial to do a short 15-20 min set of light cardio or calisthenics at the end of the fasting period, right before your feeding window starts.
7. Get Plenty of Sleep
Sleep is severely underestimated in our culture. We stay up late watching TV or looking at our phones, or just suffer from insomnia caused by stress or other reasons. It is essential to get at least 7-8 hrs sleep if you plan to fast, otherwise you will feel terrible in the morning and will probably break your fast early. It is possible to get through a fast after a short night sleep once you have mastered the adaptation period. But sleep deficit always catches up and the day starts to feel lousy. The immune system may also be adversely affected from lack of sleep. Best to be safe and always try to get a good night’s sleep.
8. Eat Healthy as Much as Possible
This one doesn’t need much of an explanation. It should be simple logic and common sense: Put as much nutrient-dense, whole, living, plant-based food into your body as possible, and avoid animal proteins, dairy products, and processed foods as much as possible. Your body will thank you later. Good luck and enjoy your water fast!