If you’re new to intermittent fasting, or thinking about giving it a try, here’s a quick list of the most fundamental rules you’ll need to follow and some mistakes you’ll need to avoid.
Intermittent Fasting Basic Philosophy
The use of short term fasting has shown to have a dramatic influence on specific hormones related to weight loss and weight management. The intent of intermittent fasting is to use meal timing to influence, and utilize, fat burning mechanisms already present in your system.
This includes your metabolism, hormones, blood sugar, and other weight loss variables.
While most diets focus on consumption, and calories, the most important element of intermittent fasting is when you eat, and when you don’t.
Here’s the most important intermittent fasting rules.
When To Eat
Separate your day into two blocks of time. One for eating and one for fasting.
You don’t need to obsess about calories with intermittent fasting. As explained above, it’s about meal timing, as well as quality of food choices.
As you reach the later stages of a short term fast, usually 12-16 hours per day, your body will begin increasing natural growth hormone secretion and other hormones regulating appetite and body fat. It also influences your blood sugar and how your body repairs its cells.
So when should you eat?
The first thing you want to do is decide how long you want your fast to be each day. 12 hours is a bare minimum, and optimal for first timers, and 20 hours is considered extreme.
Then all you have to do is separate your day into “eating” and “non-eating” time frames. So, if you fast for twelve hours and start eating at 8am, you have until 8pm to consume all of your daily calories.
Once you enter the “non-eating” time frame you aren’t allowed to consume any more calories until the following morning.
What To Eat
Intermittent fasting doesn’t require specific foods or diet.
Once you’ve decided how long you want to fast each day, it’s time to decide what content you want to consume. Unlike most diets, there isn’t a fixed requirement regarding the type of food you eat.
This makes intermittent fasting very flexible and allows it to be combined with other diet philosophies like low carb, paleo, vegetarian, and simply eating healthy.
You will want to keep a close eye on your calorie total, however. It isn’t necessary to enter a huge calorie deficit, because your hormones, blood sugar, and other weight loss factors are doing all the heavy lifting for you.
But you can’t stay in a calorie surplus and lose weight on intermittent fasting unfortunately. A minimum deficit of 200 calories is more than enough to lose weight efficiently.
Many dieters have lost weight and gotten leaner while using intermittent fasting without restricting calories. Meaning they didn’t change what they ate every day, they just followed the eating and non-eating time frames without significant changes to daily calorie totals.
The larger your calorie deficit, the more significant weight loss you can expect.
When To Exercise
Exercising during your non-eating time frame is recommended.
If you’ve heard the phrase “fasted workout”, it was likely part of an intermittent fasting schedule. Trying to exercise, especially if it’s cardio, can be very challenging if you’re at the later stages of a fast but it’s proven to be effective for fat loss.
Your body will have a progression of preferred resources with calories consumed being at the top of the pecking order. When you don’t have calories from a meal in your system, your body is more likely to tap into fat stores for use while exercising.
Don’t Break Your Fast
The absolute most important rule is “don’t break your fast”.
It’s more important than how many calories you eat each day, or how you structure your meal timing. The core principle needed to take advantage of intermittent fasting is consecutive non-eating hours.
If you never enter this fasted state because you’re constantly snacking every few hours you won’t reap the rewards of improved blood sugar, increased growth hormones secretion, and decreased appetite.
Beware of foods that are labeled zero calorie, as most will have trace amounts of calories that can break your fast if you eat enough of it. Drink lots of water, and include a fiber source and healthy fats with your meals.