Intermittent fasting for beginners – everything you need to know

Let’s talk about intermittent fasting.

Breakfast is generally regarded as the healthiest meal of the day, but that is not necessarily the case.

Many spiritual traditions consider fasting an effective and powerful tool for spiritual and physical practice. Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, and other ancient medical traditions encourage us to incorporate fasting into our dietary habits.

The benefits of intermittent fasting are also being studied in modern research.

In recent years, intermittent fasting has gained momentum and popularity around the world, though it is not a new concept. It emphasizes limiting the amount and times of eating.

Typically, when we think about nutrition, we focus on what we eat and less on when we eat. It is important, however, to broaden our perspective.

What is intermittent fasting?

By definition, intermittent fasting (IF) involves abstaining from eating and drinking for a defined period of time. It is important not to confuse IF with other calorie restriction approaches. Intermittent fasting is more of an eating pattern or habit than a diet or nutritional approach.

In the culture of abundance in which we live, we have constant access to food, and we get to eat somewhere between 3-6 meals a day + snacks (try to honestly place yourself on the scale). By fasting intermittently, the body can rest from constant digestion, which depletes our energy reserves. In the meantime, the body is able to perform other essential functions at the cellular level while reducing energy consumption.

What are the benefits of intermittent fasting?

Similarly to other topics I write about in this blog (Grounding | Earthing, for example), a division should be made between health benefits derived from ancient medical traditions or from intermittent fasting advocates and those derived from research.

Where appropriate, I include references to research.

Energy levels may be significantly improved by intermittent fasting

There are many testimonies and reports of intermittent fasting participants experiencing a significant increase in energy levels, as opposed to some restrictive diets.

Helps regulate weight

Fasting intermittently helps the body switch to burning fat for energy, supporting the body’s natural mechanisms. Furthermore, it is relatively simple, so it is easier to maintain.

According to a comparative study between intermittent fasting and caloric restriction, IF is safe and effective over time.

Might support heart health

Studies show that intermittent fasting improves cholesterol and triglyceride levels. According to another study, fasting strengthens the heart in a similar way to regular physical activity. 

Might prevent Alzheimer’s and other degenerative diseases

The body is constantly getting rid of cells that have completed their job. This process happens in all organs and tissues and is called autophagy. It allows the body to perform a wide range of physiological processes and facilitates proper rhythm.

In a 2010 study, fasting for short periods resulted in an increase in neuron autophagy. This shows that in fact, this vital function of the body is better performed when fasting. Having fewer damaged cells in the brain, especially amyloid involved in Alzheimer’s, reduces the chance of neurological decline in the future.

Different intermittent fasting approaches

12:12 fasting

Probably the best way to start your journey is with intermittent fasting. In this timeframe, there is a window of 12 hours for eating and 12 hours for fasting. In this case, for example, you can eat your last meal no later than 8:00 PM and your first meal at 8:00 AM. 

It is a reasonable and moderate approach that largely frees the already problematic concept of late meals and snacks. 

It gives the body what it needs anyway – rest for the digestive system at night, and due to the short fasting window, it is easy to overcome hunger and regulate it. As the body shifts into a fasting state around 8-12 hours after the last meal, the results of this fasting framework will be milder than those of other fasts.

Either way, it’s a good start.

16:8 fasting

The 16:8 fasting method is one of the most popular ways to do intermittent fasting. You fast for 16 hours a day and eat for 8 hours (for example, just between 12:00-20:00). The approach is common because it suits most people’s lifestyles. You can skip breakfast or dinner depending on your preferences. Moreover, 8 hours is a sufficient time window for not feeling too deprived of food, and sleep is a significant part of the fasting window.

With that being said, a fast lasting 16 hours may be challenging for those who are not used to it. Fasting usually takes a week or two to adjust to and then becomes easier.

5:2 fasting

5:2 fasting is an alternative approach. Instead of completely avoiding food for a specified period of time, we restrict our caloric intake for part of the week. During the 5:2 fast, you eat normally for five days a week, and for two days, you limit your caloric intake to something in the region of 500 calories for women and 600 calories for men.

This way, not everyone has to go through a complete fast, especially if they’re not used to it. However, on days when calories are restricted, it may be a bit of a hassle.

Intermittent fasting every second day

This method involves alternating between a day of normal eating and a day of intermittent fasting for a period of time (as outlined in the division we chose). It is a way to implement intermittent fasting in a more gradual manner, although it will take longer to see results.

The Warrior Diet (20 hours of fasting)

A kind of intermittent fasting known as the “Warrior Diet,” was developed by Ori Hofmekler. He designed a nutritional framework based on the Spartans’ eating habits that encourages high-intensity physical activity and a diet of unprocessed foods within a 4-hour window.

Obviously, this diet is not for everyone, especially not for beginners, but it may be suitable for experienced people who enjoy eating only a small portion of the day.

This diet is said to help people overcome excess eating in the time windows intended for eating. This is because it is very rare to eat too much within such a dietary framework.

Intermittent fasting tips for beginners

Identify the right fasting framework for you

There are all sorts of ways to implement intermittent fasting into your life. I recommend doing it gradually, adapted to your age, physical condition, and mental state. A wrong nutritional framework can cause more harm than good, but a gradual approach over time can lead to long-term benefits.

Gradually break the fast

A few hours after fasting, there may be a strong sense of hunger and a tendency to consume food quickly and in large quantities. It is recommended to return to eating gradually, chew a lot and eat slowly to help the digestive system return to its normal functions.

Avoid overeating

Not only can overeating cause bloating, pain, and discomfort, but it may also negate the benefits of intermittent fasting. In any case, keep in mind that the feeling of satiety is not merely a function of quantity, but of the quality and type of food.

Prepare healthy meals and snacks in advance

When transitioning from the fasting window to the eating window, comfort foods are more likely to be eaten at the expense of nutritious foods rich in nutrients. Planning the menu and preparing food in advance can help mitigate this.

Keep hydrated 

Water and unsweetened herbal tea are the easiest and most suitable drinks to consume during a fast. Coffee promotes fat burning and reduces appetite, but despite my love of coffee, it’s critical to remember that it dehydrates, so keep that in mind.

Maintaining an adequate level of hydration is vital to maintaining energy levels.

Adjust physical activity levels

In a routine of intermittent fasting, it is possible (and recommended) to engage in regular physical activity. However, it is always advisable to consult with a professional and adjust the time and nature of exercise to fit nutritional needs.

During fasting, extreme activity can cause injuries, exhaustion and decreased performance, so it is recommended to avoid it. When fasting, mild activities (light aerobics, yoga, etc.) are suitable, and they should take place early in the fast.

Notice if hunger is a need or a comfort

Hunger can be a tangible and real feeling that the body needs food, or, in many cases, it can be a feeling that arises from emotional discomfort. This is a favorable time to sharpen your sensitivity to subtleties and nourish the body and mind.

It may very well be worth eating and making adjustments if you experience significant and prolonged hunger between the time windows.

A fast should be stopped if hunger is accompanied by dizziness or fatigue.

Listen to your body

It is very important to pay attention to any new sensations that arise – headaches, dizziness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, even emotional or mental symptoms. This is true for any change that we introduce into our lives.

If you notice any of these signs, you should stop fasting.

In contrast, there are natural side effects, such as an increase in hunger or fatigue. These are part of the body’s adaptation process to the changed routine, and as long as they occur moderately and improve over time, they shouldn’t necessarily trigger a break.

Healthy approach to intermittent fasting

It is highly recommended to consult a professional before starting intermittent fasting. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, and those with eating disorders should exercise extra caution when fasting intermittently.

Disclaimer

This website is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, or for advice regarding the use, change, or discontinuation of any medicine. You should always contact a qualified person before making any medical changes.

About The Author

Gilad Peled

Gilad Peled

Hi! I'm Gilad, a passionate writer about Digital Wellness, Holistic Productivity and Biohacking. A proud dad, digital entrepreneur and life-coach. Happy to share the knowledge I picked up along the way.

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