The Complete Guide to Intermittent Fasting

The Complete Guide to Intermittent Fasting

1. WHAT IS INTERMITTENT FASTING?

Fasting has been practiced across the globe in various religions and cultures for thousands of years. Recently the ancient practice of fasting has taken on new twists making it a very popular health and fitness trend.

It is known in the health and fitness world as intermittent fasting.

Intermittent fasting (IF) is a cyclic eating pattern that alternates between periods of fasting and eating. It is important to note that IF does not specify what types of food you should eat, rather focuses on when you should eat them. Intermittent fasting resembles more of an eating pattern than a diet because there are no calorie restrictions.

The various methods of intermittent fasting schedules include;

  • 16:8 Method
  • 5:2 Diet
  • Eat-Stop-Eat Method
  • Alternate - Day Fasting
  • Warrior Diet

Amongst the various types of IF methods, the most popular style of fasting is the 16:8 method, which consists of a 16 hour fast.. Many intermittent fasters state that the 16:8 method is easy, convenient, and sustainable, increasing its appeal.

2. 16:8 INTERMITTENT FASTING?

16:8 intermittent fasting is a pattern of eating that allows you to have an 8 hour window of eating, and a 16 hour fast. A 16:8 IF can be repeated as often as you like, anywhere from daily to once or twice per week, depending on your personal preference.

Out of all of the different intermittent fasting methods, this method is considered the least restrictive and most flexible.

While there are many health benefits from 16:8 fasting, studies have shown that it can be particularly beneficial for athletes. Our article “Everything you need to know about intermittent fasting 16:8discusses these benefits in detail. 16:8 IF has also been shown to have additional health benefits including weight lossimproved blood sugar, and increased brain function.

3. HOW TO INTERMITTENT FAST...

The first thing you should know about how long to intermittent fast and the 16:8 method, is that it is safe (assuming you do not have any underlying health conditions), simple, and sustainable. To get started, the first thing you need to do is pick an 8-hour window where you will consume your entire food intake for the day. Remember that your food intake should be limited only to your 8 hour window.

Many people schedule their 8 hour window of eating between noon and 8 PM. By doing so, you only fast overnight and skip breakfast. The time frame in the noon to 8 PM fast allows you to enjoy two balanced meals and a few snacks throughout the day.

Another popular time frame is an eating window of 9 AM to 5 PM. This option allows for a healthy breakfast around 9 AM, a normal lunch around noon, and a light early dinner or snack around 4 PM before your fast begins from 4 PM to 9 AM (next day).

Both fasting options allow adequate time for you to consume nourishing and healthy meals.

It doesn’t matter which option you choose, however consistency is important.

In order to maintain blood sugar levels, and keep hunger under control, it is important that the meals and snacks you consume are spaced evenly throughout your 8 hour eating window.

In order to ensure that you are receiving the adequate amount of nutrients, it is also equally vital that the type of food and beverages consumed during the 8 hour period are nutritious and whole.

Every meal and snack should include a variety of whole foods such as:

  • Protein: Meat, poultry, eggs, fish, legumes, nuts, seeds, seafood.
  • Healthy fats: Olive oil, coconut oil, avocados.
  • Whole grains: Quinoa, brown rice, buckwheat, barley.
  • Vegetables: Cauliflower, kale, spinach, broccoli, cucumbers
  • Fruit: Bananas, apples, berries, oranges, pears.

It is important to note that during the fasting period, drinking non-caloric beverages is allowed. In fact, maintaining good hydration may also help curb hunger during the fasting period. Calorie free beverages such as water, unsweetened tea and coffee are good sources of hydration. Though 16:8 intermittent fasting does not have any food restrictions, binging on junk food can negate any positive effects that 16:8 intermittent fasting may have.

Therefore, make sure that you plan ahead to ensure that your 8 hour window of eating is filled with whole and nutritious foods, rather than fast food.

4. HEALTH BENEFITS OF FASTING

The simplicity, and convenience of 16:8 intermittent fasting makes it a very popular “diet.” Individuals following this eating pattern have found that the amount of time and money committed to food and preparation each week reduced once incorporating IF into their daily routines.

Simplicity and convenience aren’t the only benefits of 16:8 intermittent fasting. There are numerous health benefits associated with this eating pattern as well, such as:

  • Increased Weight Loss: According to several studies published by the International Journal of Obesity, research has found that intermittent fasting for weight loss, even for a few hours per day, helps to decrease caloric intake as well as enhance the metabolism and increase weight loss.
  • Improved Blood Sugar:2014 study found that intermittent fasting lowers blood sugar levels and reduces fasting insulin, which may help decrease the risk of diabetes.
  • Enhanced Longevity: Preliminary research found that short-term, repeated fasting was an effective tool in prolonging the life span in mice.
  • Increased Brain Function:review article found that intermittent fasting may prolong the health-span of the nervous system, which may lead to new approaches for preventing neurodegenerative diseases.

    5. INTERMITTENT FASTING MEAL PLAN

    Before you start any intermittent fasting plan, it is important to talk to a health professional before you get started to ensure that it is right for you. There are mixed opinions on whether or not certain intermittent fasting protocols can cause female hormonal imbalances. Therefore, women should be especially cautious before starting an intermittent fasting eating regimen. If fasting for 16 hours is too difficult, consider shortening your fast to 14 hours.

    To help get you started, here is a detailed 7-day meal plan for a 16:8 intermittent fast. This meal plan is designed for the following time frame: 12 PM – 8 PM eating window; 8 PM – 12 PM fast

    During fasting period (8 PM – 12 PM):

    • Drink non-caloric beverages (water, unsweetened tea & coffee)

    Day 1

    12 PM - Lunch:

    3 oz grilled chicken

    2 cups salad

    ½ cup quinoa

    ¼ avocado

    Dressing: olive oil and balsamic vinegar

    3:00 PM - Snack:

    ATH Build Paleo Double Chocolate Chip Cookie Bites 

    6:00 PM - Dinner:

    3 oz grilled salmon

    ½ cup brown rice

    2 cups grilled vegetables

    Salmon seasoning: olive oil, lemon pepper, paprika, salt

    7:30 PM - Snack:

    Banana

    Peanut butter

    Raisins for topping

    Day 2

    12 PM - Lunch:

    2-egg spinach and feta omelet

    ¼ avocado

    1 slice dark rye or whole wheat bread, toasted

    3:00 PM - Snack:

    ½ cup whole grain pretzels

    ½ cup hummus

    Celery sticks

    6:00 PM - Dinner:

    3 oz grilled salmon

    ½ cup brown rice

    2 cups grilled vegetables

    Salmon seasoning: olive oil, lemon pepper, paprika, salt

    7:30 PM - Snack:

    ATH Peanut Butter Build Shake

    Day 3

    12 PM - Lunch:

    Taco Salad-

    3.5 oz. shredded chicken

    2-3 cups chopped salad

    ¼ avocado

    ¼ cup pico de gallo

    1 whole-wheat tortilla

    3:00 PM - Snack:

    ¼ cup rolled oats

    Assorted berries

    Maple syrup to lightly sweeten (optional)

    6:00 PM - Dinner:

    Kale and sausage rigatoni from Pinch of Yum

    7:30 PM - Snack:

    Dark chocolate

    Almonds

    Day 4

    12 PM - Lunch:

    Whole-wheat wrap

    Lettuce

    Tomatoes

    3 oz. grilled chicken

    Hummus

    3:00 PM - Snack:

    Red bell pepper

    Guacamole

    6:00 PM -Dinner:

    Baked potato with sour cream

    Steamed vegetables

    3 oz. grass-fed grilled steak

    7:30 PM - Snack:

    Apple slices

    Peanut butter

    Day 5

    12 PM - Lunch:

    Avocado and egg toast

    1-2 slices whole-wheat or rye bread, toasted

    1-2 boiled eggs

    Avocado

    Dash of cayenne, salt & pepper

    3:00 PM - Snack:

    Cherry tomatoes with mozzarella

    6:00 PM - Dinner:

    Sesame noodle bowls from Pinch of Yum

    7:30 PM - Snack:

    ATH High Protein Waffles

    Cottage cheese

    Berries

    Honey

    Day 6

    12 PM - Lunch:

    1 whole-wheat wrap

    ½ cup low sodium tuna, drained

    1 boiled egg, sliced

    Sprinkle of grated cheddar cheese

    1 tomato sliced

    ½ handful lettuce leaves

    3:00 PM - Snack:

    Slice fruit

    Cheese

    6:00 PM - Dinner:

    Red lentil soup from NYT Cooking

    Optional: ¼ - ½ avocado & whole-wheat roll

    7:30 PM - Snack:

    2 cups popcorn

    Day 7

    12 PM - Lunch:

    Greek lentil power bowls from Nutrition to Fit

    3:00 PM - Snack:

    Hard-boiled egg

    Sliced carrots and cucumbers

    6:00 PM - Dinner:

    3 oz. grass-fed beef

    Whole-wheat hamburger buns

    Lettuce

    Tomato

    1 slice of cheddar cheese

    Olive oil roasted sweet potato

    7:30 PM - Snack:

    ATH Probiotic Frozen Yogurt

    6. FOOD GROUPS AND SERVING SIZES

    It is important to remember that intermittent fasting is not a restrictive diet and does not follow a specific caloric value.

    The following chart is a suggestion of serving sizes and types of food that you should eat. If you find that you are fully satiated with less food or require more food for optimal function, listen to your body.

     Food Group Minimum Daily Servings  1 Serving Equivalents 
    Carbohydrates (whole-wheat or whole-grain) 6-8 Servings
    • 1 slice of whole wheat bread 
    • ½ cup muesli, rolled oats, quick oats
    • ½ cup cooked rice
    • ½ cooked pasta, noodles, quinoa, polenta
    Protein  2-3 Servings
    • 1 cup cooked legumes/beans
    • 3 oz fish, poultry, grass fed beef
    • 2 large eggs
    Healthy Fats 2-3 Servings 
    • 2 tsp olive oil
    • Small handful of nuts or peanut butter
    • 1/3 avocado
    Vegetables & Fruit 3-5 Servings 

    Non-starchy vegetables:

    • 1 cup raw vegetables or leafy greens
    • ½ cup cooked vegetables

    Starchy vegetables:

    • ½ medium potato or sweet potato
    • ½ cup corn
    • ½ cup peas
    • ½ cup carrots

    Fruit:

    • 1 medium whole fruit: apple, pear, orange, banana, apricot
    Dairy 2.5 Servings 
    • 1 cup milk
    • 1 cup yogurt
    • ½ cup ricotta cheese

     

    IMPORTANT THINGS TO REMEMBER

    There are many different ways you can choose to fast. Experiment and pick a time frame that works for you and your schedule. Before you start any type of intermittent fasting regimen, talk to your doctor or healthcare professional, especially if you have any underlying health conditions.

    16:8 intermittent fasting is an easy, and simple eating pattern that can help aid in weight loss and provide other health benefits. It is important to always listen to your body, and to fuel your body during your eating window with whole and nutritious foods. Hydration is also very important. Maintaining hydration with non-caloric beverages throughout the day is vital.

    Happy fasting!


    Leave a comment

    Please note, comments must be approved before they are published