The Basics of Intermittent Fasting For Newbies
Intermittent fasting (IF) may help tame poor eating habits, it did for me. Are you trying to stop snacking late at night? Are you starving as you wake up? Do you want to stop eating all day long? Do you think about food after just finishing your meal? I have been there! Let’s explore why intermittent fasting might be a good option for people trying to change and gain control over their relationship with food.
Of course, this is not medical advice and you should consult your doctor about your individual medical needs. I am merely providing a resource of my personal experience and connecting you with the research I discovered along my journey.
How Does Intermittent Fasting Work?
With Intermittent fasting you will be focused on creating a window of time when you eat and a window of time when you are not eating (fasting).
According to Dr. Cabo and Mattson’s Article published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the evidence suggests that eating within a 6 hour window each day and fasting for an 18 hour window each day can “trigger a metabolic switch”. What they are talking about is having your body be fueled by ketones when you are using this intermittent fasting method v. using glucose for energy.
According to their article, this metabolic switch may have increible benefits including improved ability to resist negative impacts of stress and “decreased incidence of diseases, including cancer and obesity.”
Another study confirmed that having your 6 hour eating window earlier in the day (the last meal of the day being 3 pm) may also improve the health benefits of intermittent fasting.
You Have To Start Somewhere
If you are currently not mindful about the times of day you are eating, you might be eating first thing in the morning and continuing to eat right up until you fall asleep. If this is the case, I have been there. Create a note on your phone and track the first and last time of day that you eat for 3 days.
Once you have an idea of your eating window, you can gradually work towards your personal intermittent fasting goals. For example, let’s say after 3 days of tracking I ate breakfast at 7:00 a.m. and my last snack of the night at 9:00 p.m. With this schedule my eating window is 14 hours and my fasting window is 10 hours a day.
If my goal is a 4 or 6 hour eating window I will probably need to create smaller milestones along the way so that I do not struggle so much that I quit.
In this example, I would simply say, for this week I will not eat past 8:00 p.m. Then each week or every 3 to 5 days I would reduce the time of my last meal of the day by 30 minutes or an hour depending on my ultimate goal. I could then do the same for my morning routine (increasing how long I wait to eat after waking).
As you continue to reduce your eating window it should be getting easier for you. If your hunger during your fasting window is not decreasing you may not be eating the proper nutrients or calories to sustain you during your eating window.
Another factor if decreasing your eating window is not becoming easier is perhaps you went too fast and you need to backtrack a little bit.
Ideal Intermittent Fasting Schedule
This is totally up to you and your doctor. For me, I was very successful with 18/6 (fasting for an 18 hour window and eating within a 6 hour window) and 20 (fasting)/4(eating). When I tried to do OMAD (one meal a day) it caused me to give up and then I fell off the bandwagon completely. Everyone’s experience will be different and what works best for me may not work for others.
Some people have a lot of success with OMAD and even alternate day fasting where they fast for one entire day and eat the next day. I have never tried this but considering OMAD did not work for me I do not care to try this method. Ultimately, you have to do what is best for you and your body.
It is going to take some trial and error to figure out what schedule works best for you and also you may consider varying the schedule depending on your intended results.
From my own experience, the first 3-5 days are the hardest of any change to your eating schedule. Once you get through that it becomes easier to maintain the eating schedule you are in.
What Time of Day Should The Eating Window Be?
The answer to this is whatever time of day you can be successful with long term. Changing eating habits is not a sprint but a marathon. This will also highly depend on people’s work schedule and other lifestyle needs.
I saw the most success in losing weight with Intermittent Fasting when I finished by eating window by 5:00 p.m. For example: if I was doing 18/6 then I would first eat at 11:00 a.m. or if I was doing 20/4 then I would first eat at 1:00 p.m.
What Can Be Consumed During A Fasting Window?
During your fasting window you can have zero calories drinks as long as they do not have any sweeteners/additives. Tea, Coffee, Water and Seltzer are great options.
I am choosing to write on this topic because it is an area of interest for me and a journey that I am on. I am not an expert.
If you are looking for more information in Intermittent fasting I would check out Dr. Berg as he has great Youtube videos on Intermittent Fasting. Jason Fung, MD has written many books on diet, nutrition and particular diseases including The Obesity Code. His books are available on audible as well.