If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve already tried one or more restrictive diets in an effort to lose weight. If so, you’re not alone. Popular diets such as paleo, keto, weight watchers, Whole30, or plant-based diets have one thing in common, they restrict certain foods and can be hard to stick with long term.
Intermittent fasting (IF) is an easier, more sustainable way to lose weight. It’s flexible, so you can fit it into your schedule. and it allows you to enjoy your favorite foods, so you can pair fasting with any eating pattern.
Which Fasting Protocol Should You Choose?
There are many different styles of intermittent fasting. Each one encourages you to fast for a period of time then allows specified “eating windows,” or hours during the day where you’ll eat. Fasting protocols vary from being intense (such as alternate day fasting) to more moderate (such as 14:10 or 16:8).
Common IF protocols include:
14:10 or 16:8: The 14:10 is probably the easiest schedule to follow. It asks you to fast for 14 hours, then allows you to eat as you typically would for the next 10 hours. With the 16:8 protocol, you fast for 16 hours and have an eating window of 8 hours. You can easily practice both by skipping breakfast or eating an early dinner the night before.
One Meal a Day (OMAD): This protocol has a fast-to-eat ratio of 23:1 — you fast for 23 then eat all your nutrients in a one-hour window. It’s not for everyone, since it’s very restrictive. But if you choose to try it, you can schedule your eating window during dinner time, or any time that works best for you.
5:2: The 5:2 protocol allows you to eat as you typically would five days a week, then fast completely or consume minimal calories (500 for women, 600 for men) on the other two days. Fasting days don’t need to be consecutive, and most people allow at least one “typical eating day” between fast days.
So how do you know which protocol is right for you? It will depend on your body type, schedule, and preferences. Your experience with fasting, and whether you’re male or female can play a role as well. Women generally have a more challenging time fasting for long periods, so if you’re female, it’s best to begin with one of the more moderate fasting protocols.
Start with small changes, like pushing your breakfast back an hour or two so you ease your way into fasting. As your body adjusts and becomes more comfortable with fasting, you can work up to longer fasts.
How To Start Intermittent Fasting
If you are interested in intermittent fasting but don’t know where to begin, start with a little experiment. Try to eat an early dinner around 6:00 pm, then don’t eat anything else that night.
When you wake up in the morning, try to skip breakfast or put it off until later. You can drink water or unsweetened tea or coffee if you would like. Try to distract yourself with tasks like working, cleaning, walking, or other activities that take you out of your kitchen. Around 10:00 am have your first meal. Congratulations you just fasted for 16 hours!
The IF process is very flexible. Maybe you’d prefer to eat later around 8:00 pm, then skip breakfast and have lunch. Alternatively, if you’d like a big breakfast in the morning, stop eating around 3:00 or 4:00 in the afternoon.
However, you choose to fast, remember to eat normal-sized meals, and try to avoid snacking during your eating window. To help you feel satisfied between meals, include a high-quality protein source and plenty of non-starchy vegetables at each meal. Both protein and fiber will keep you full longer.
How Will Fasting Help Me Lose Weight?
There are numerous ways intermittent fasting can help you lose weight. By decreasing the amount of hours you spend a day eating, you can lower your total calorie consumption in an effortless way. No counting calories, no tracking macros, and no limits to foods you enjoy.
Fasting helps you burn more fat because it works with your hormones to turn your body into a fat-burning machine. When you eat constantly, your insulin levels spike and you store body fat, which works against weight loss. When you fast, the need for insulin is decreased and your body is able to use your stored body fat for fuel.
Intermittent fasting can also teach you to listen to your body’s hunger cues to promote a better relationship with food. When you have periods where you don’t eat, it’s easier to notice when you’re truly hungry or when you’re simply snacking out of boredom, stress, or habit.
Be careful not to undo the work of your fast by stuffing yourself during your eating windows. If weight loss is your goal, it’s essential to eat healthy, balanced meals during your eating windows. If you fill up on junk foods or overeat, those extra calories will undermine your efforts.
Lose More Weight with These Fasting Tips
If you begin with short, manageable fasts of14 or 16 hours, you can slip into intermittent fasting effortlessly. However, if you do find it difficult to extend your fasting hours, here are a few tricks that may help you:
- Eat enough high-quality protein at every meal.
- Get a good night’s sleep. Poor sleep can lead to food cravings.
- Stay hydrated. Your body can easily mistake thirst for hunger. Having a drink – especially a hot drink such as unsweetened coffee or tea – can satisfy your cravings and make you feel like you’ve eaten.
- Distract yourself. Believe it or not, hunger is a passing feeling. If you don’t focus on it, it will pass.
Intermittent fasting for weight loss has the same guidelines as fasting for any other reason. Pay attention to how your body feels and responds to fasting. Stay hydrated and take it easy while you fast to avoid headaches or fatigue. Fasting isn’t for everyone, if you don’t feel right when fasting, remember to respect your body and find something else that works for you.
Weight loss is achievable, and IF can help you reach your goals without needless measuring, restricting, or keeping track. As with any weight-loss strategy, consistency is crucial. Pairing healthy eating with regular fasting can help you get to the weight you’ve always wanted.