Updated: May 20
In the previous blog post, I went into great detail on why you might consider intermittent fasting. Whether you are interested in weight loss, disease prevention or treatment, longevity, avoiding cognitive decline, or all the above, intermittent fasting clearly has some upside. Today, I’m going to outline for you the various ways you might implement fasting into your life. Please remember, I am NOT a doctor, nor do I play one on TV. Please do NOT take any of the below information as medical advice, and please CONSULT YOUR DOCTOR before trying any dietary changes.
As some of you know, I have played with almost all the various forms of intermittent fasting: daily, weekly, monthly, spontaneously, fat fasts, you name it. To be honest, I felt benefits from all of them but also noticed challenges. If you choose to try one of the below intermittent fasting regimens, I urge you to be scientific about it. Start a journal where you write for a few days what you are eating and when. Note what results you are hoping to achieve with fasting and why. Then set a timeline for how long you’ll try the new protocol and see what changes you notice. Do you get the results you anticipated? Were you challenged in some ways? What changes did you make along the way? Etc.. The point is to be aware of the changes you make and see how you can manipulate your fasting/diet protocols to best suit YOU!
Before I get into too much detail about the ways you might go about IF, I’d like to first talk about who should NOT fast. First of all, women like me. While I enjoyed dabbling in IF, I finally had to give into the fact that it was not really benefitting me. Women of child-rearing age, can become quite hormonally disrupted when calorically restricted. The skipping of meals can signal to their bodies that food is scarce and that it might be best to shut down the reproductive processes.(1) In addition, women (or men for that matter) with a history of disordered eating need to be aware that intentionally fasting may bring back some of their negative thought patterns.(2) Those with a history of anorexia, bulimia, or bingeing should be wary when engaging in any fasting protocol. Lastly, anyone who is already underweight should not engage in caloric restriction.(3) However, if an underweight individual can do intermittent fasting without decreasing overall calories, then it might be okay. Just make sure that those meals between fasts are quite robust and even track calories at the beginning to make sure there are no further deficits.
How to Fast
Well, put plainly, don’t eat! Ha. Just kidding. There is one thing I’d like anyone who is fasting to keep in mind: the quality of the meal that breaks your fast is critical. While fasting may help you off set the negative effects of the previous meal(s), it should not be ended with a smorgasbord. Make sure that no matter how long you have fasted for, you plan out your “break-fast” carefully. Do not eat it mindlessly, do not start nibbling your way through the fridge and cupboards. Instead, plan what a healthy portion of protein you’ll be having, what kind of veggies will populate your plate/bowl, and what sort of starch (if any) will top you off. If you do this, you’ll be able to feel the way your digestion as reset itself, enjoy the lightness and clarity you garnered during your fast, and move on through your day guiltlessly.
Ways to Fast
Daily: While it may sound like the craziest, it actually is the easiest. Most humans benefit from giving their digestion a few hours break as they sleep. Simply said, “rest and digest.” You begin to garner the benefits of autophagy from just 12 hours of fasting. So start by just finishing dinner around 12 hours before the time you plan to have breakfast. Many of us do this without even thinking about it. The daily 12 hour fast is also a great way to get rid of that late-night snacking habit.
Weekly or 5:2: This means you do a slightly longer fast of 16 or more hours on one day, and then leave 5 or 6 days between fasts. You would simply shorten your eating window on your fasting days. So if you skip breakfast one day and wait until lunch to break your fast, you’ll have done this successfully. Again, with the longer fasts, be careful to plan out your first meal carefully and eat it mindfully.
24 Hours Monthly or Quarterly: This pattern replicates more what you would find in many religious practices. It’s also an easier to work fasting into a busy lifestyle. You simply need to find a day every month or so that looks like you can lay low and enjoy some downtime. Speaking from experience here, I’d recommend you have a robust meal right at the start of your fast with sufficient protein and fat, and aim for a relatively light meal of mostly cooked foods (not raw) upon breaking the fast. This will allow for easy digestion.
Other Fasting Protocols: These would include things like a “fat fast” that allows you to more quickly get into ketosis to jumpstart your low-carb efforts. This would mean a 90% fat diet for several days until ketosis is achieved (as monitored by keto sticks or breath analyzer).(4) I have also tried a “protein fast” where you have a whole day with only 15g of protein or less to achieve a similar effect of autophagy without having to starve yourself. You would do this weekly. A protein fast can also be used as a way to get a “carb-refeed” in when following a chronically low-carb/ketogenic diet.(5,6) Lastly, you can also follow something called the Fast Diet. This is a protocol that asks you to eat only 500 calories or so on 2 days out of the week.(7)
Notes on beverages/non-caloric foods/drinks
You might find that when you initially start fasting you have a hard time just sticking to water. This is totally understandable, but likely mostly psychological, especially for the shorter fasting periods. Sipping on tea (unsweetened of course) is a great option. For the 24 hour fasts, I recommend a light cup of broth if you find yourself getting light-headed. But try to keep the caffeinated beverages to a minimum, and drink plenty of filtered water. Keep in mind that the point of this is to detoxify your body, allow your cells to clean house, and give your digestion a chance to rest and digest.
I’d love to hear from you now:
What, if any fasting protocols have you tried?
What worked and what didn’t?
Do you have any questions on how to implement fasting into your life?
If so, I’m here for you! Chime in in the comments section or contact me directly.
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