Intermittent fasting (IF) is one of the more popular ways to eat if you’re looking to heal your gut or lose weight. But many who have tried it failed or gave up thinking it is too restrictive and(or) complicated. As a health coach and intermittent faster myself, I can tell you, it doesn’t have to be.
I first turned to intermittent fasting because the high-protein diet I was on was driving me batty. Instead of enjoying my meals, I became obsessed with numbers and food prep… Did I meet my daily macros today? …Did I fit in my calorie budget? …Did I track everything in MyFitnessPal?
That all changed with the switch to IF. But the switch wasn’t seamless. I had to work out how to best integrate intermittent fasting into my life—and that meant making it easier on myself in the beginning. That’s what I hope to help you do after you read this post.
So, what exactly is intermittent fasting?
For those of you that don’t know, IF is a way of eating where you cycle between different periods of eating and fasting. There are tons of variations that work for different people depending on your lifestyle and eating habits. Check out these 6 types to see what I mean.
~Always check with your doctor before starting a new dietary habit.
Some awesome benefits of IF
Compared to my high-protein plan, IF is a time-saving way to eat whose benefits help me stay sane and motivated. One of the main benefits I’ve noticed is that it has reset my body to a natural eating pattern—I no longer feel the need to watch what I eat! Another perk is that it’s rebooted my slowing metabolism. There are studies that suggest that fasting triggers the human growth hormone. This may slow down the aging process or at least delays metabolic decline. How awesome is that?
IF has plenty of other benefits too. Here’s a list of some of the things you can expect after incorporating IF into your life.
- Feel hungry less often (2 nice nutritious meals a day satiates perfectly).
- Tap into real hunger signals.
- Feel satiated sooner hence eating smaller portions.
- Save time from chasing food around all day.
- Notice your body is more sensitive to junk food and overeating - -to the point of feeling discomfort afterward.
- Find an end to mid-afternoon crashes following a big lunch.
- Observe heightened sensitivity in your taste buds e.g.the first bite at breakfast tastes AH-mazing!
- See a reduction in bloating, constipation, and many other digestive issues.
- Health conditions such as migraines and asthma will improve.
- Feel more energetic and emotionally lighter.
Now, let’s look at 3 things you can do to make IF easier for you
As a newbie or just hitting a few stumbling blocks on the way, I have 3 pro tips to streamline your approach and make intermittent fasting work for you. Keep in mind that it takes a few days (sometimes weeks) before your body adjusts to this new eating regime.
1. Don’t focus on the hours and numbers.
Instead, move your first meal by 3-4 hours after you wake up. You don’t need to plan exactly when to stop eating for the day either. Instead of the hours and numbers, focus on eating nutritious whole-food meals, especially greens. You should feel satiated for hours and begin to have fewer and fewer cravings. Once you reach that stage where you’re having fewer cravings (typically, after a couple of weeks), extend your fasting window and choose the best type of IF for you.
Pro tip: don’t be afraid to include all three macros–fats, carbs, and protein in your meals and snacks. The combination will help you step away from the dinner table feeling satiated.
2. Drink your way through your fasting window.
No, I don’t mean booze. Drink coffee, tea, and plenty of water. You may add lemon to your water to ease hunger pangs. If you’re not watching your sugar or cream intake you can add a touch of milk and/or sugar to your coffee especially if it will help curb your hunger. My personal favorite thing to drink during my fast is peppermint tea.
Start small. You might be able to fast for only an hour or two at first but you’ll be able to increase the length of your fast bit by bit. I promise. Experiment to find your best IF style and your fasting hours. I’ve always found it hard to eat first thing in the morning before my (first) cup of coffee so eating later works for me. But you may find it easier to eat early in the day rather than later, and if you’re following the 16/8 type, for example, it might be easier for you to between 8 am and 4 pm. I find that a lot of how you feel the next morning depends on what, when, and how much you eat the evening before so experiment with different fasting and eating windows.
IF Q & A
How long will it take to see results? Depending on your health goals, your fitness level, age, what you eat, and how much water you drink, it can take anywhere between 24 hours to a few days to see a significant reduction in bloating and digestive complaints. And it can take about 10 days to several weeks to notice weight loss.
Can you fast and work out? Walking is fine but I wouldn’t recommend strenuous activities during your fasting window; you might get dizzy working out on an empty stomach. And you should fuel up properly before a hike, resistance training, and during a busy day.
Who should not fast? Fasting is not recommended for people with diabetes, who are taking certain medications, people with a seizure disorder, or women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Where to get more information? You can get more information about IF on Autumn Elle’s wonderful blog.
If your goals are to reset your metabolism, improve digestion, lose weight and make your life a bit easier, IF may be right for you. And with these tips, I hope it will feel less restrictive and complicated if you do try it.
Michaela is a Health Coach, Personal Trainer, and Nutrition Specialist living in the UK. She is passionate about helping women become stronger and healthier on the outside as well as on the inside. When she's not working, you can find Michaela reading or satisfying her love of food. She likes to make delicious meals, and connecting with others over... you guessed it, great food!