It seems like trendy diets and eating plans are a dime a dozen these days. You may have experimented with a low-carb, paleo, or gluten-free diet in order to shed a few extra pounds. And, even if you’re not on a specific diet for weight loss, you may be in search of better personal nutrition. In either case, you could benefit from intermittent fasting, the practice of alternating time periods for eating and for abstaining. It’s not about starving or depriving yourself; the goal is to get the most out of your scheduled meals. Here, I’ll give you the details on this popular lifestyle modification and help you to attain great intermittent fasting results. There’s a reason everyone’s talking about it: it really works! Whether you’re trying to lose weight or just improve your health, intermittent fasting can help you to achieve positive changes.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
This probably isn’t the first time you’ve heard mention of intermittent fasting. It’s become a major wellness fad over the last several years, and users of the intermittent fasting method are seeing good results. Unlike most diets, it doesn’t necessarily require calorie restriction or the elimination of certain foods or food groups. Intermittent fasting simply means cycling between periods of eating and periods of fasting. A popular and effective pattern is 16:8 fasting: fasting for 16 hours and eating during the next 8. If you don’t sit down for dinner until 5 PM, for example, you might choose 10 AM to 6 PM as your eating period. Then, from 6 PM until 10 AM the following day, you fast: no after-dinner or late-night snacking allowed. Calorie-free beverages are permitted, so you can have a morning cup of coffee or tea before your next eating period begins. And, of course, drinking plenty of water is recommended during both the eating and fasting periods.
The Health Benefits of Fasting
So what’s so great about skipping that 10 PM trip to the snack cupboard, anyway? Is a late-evening meal here or there really going to make a difference? Yes! You’d be surprised at what a positive impact on your health these small changes can make. Here are some of the results and benefits of intermittent fasting you might enjoy:
- Weight loss/fat loss—for some users, fasting can be more effective than even the best diet to lose weight.
- Improved insulin sensitivity and glucose (blood sugar) control, decreasing your risk of Type 2 diabetes
- Lower cholesterol and blood pressure, leading to improved heart health
- Decreased acid reflux (heartburn), especially if you’re a bedtime snacker
- A potential lower risk/slowed progression of neurodegenerative diseases
- Better sleep (Who doesn’t need this?)
As you can see, intermittent fasting can help you to improve your overall wellness in a big way, if you do it properly. If you can stick to it in the long term, it can help you to stay healthy for years (and decades) to come. Now, let’s take a look at a few ways you can make it work for you.
How to Get Optimal Intermittent Fasting Results
If this is your first time experimenting with intermittent fasting, you’ll want to review these simple guidelines before getting started.
Talk to Your Doctor
Before you begin a new dietary or exercise plan, it’s a good idea to check in with your general practitioner. An expert care provider who knows your health history can tell you whether fasting is safe and recommended for you. Note that if you’ve ever struggled with an eating disorder, it is not advisable for you to try intermittent fasting.
Choose Fast and Feast Periods that Work for You
16:8 fasting is a great way to get started, as it’s realistic and attainable. If you finish eating 3 hours before bedtime and sleep for 8 hours, you’ve completed 11 hours of fasting by the time you wake up! As I mentioned earlier, you should choose an 8-hour eating period that works for you. If you’re absolutely ravenous when you wake up, for example, you might want to try a 9 AM to 5 PM window. (Of course, that means an early dinner!) If you wake up without much appetite, you might prefer something like 10 AM to 6 PM or even 11 AM to 7 PM. It really depends what works for you. Just be sure to finish your last meal of the day at least 3 hours before you go to sleep to prevent nighttime heartburn.
Some people choose to fast for several days at a time. This is called a prolonged fast, and it may or may not be right for you. It’s best to ask your doctor if this is something you should try. As an alternative to true prolonged fasting, you might try ProLon fasting, which provides the benefits of a fast while reducing the risks.
What to Eat During Intermittent Fasting
Because this isn’t a diet, per se, there are no hard-and-fast rules about what you can and can’t eat to see results of intermittent fasting. If you’re pescetarian, vegetarian, or vegan, you can stick to your usual meal plan. The same is true if you’re on a diet specifically designed to control your glucose level or avoid an allergen. If you’re not on a specific diet, and you want to improve your eating habits, now is a great time! Be sure to eat some of the following at each meal:
- Lean protein: chicken, fish and seafood, legumes
- Whole grains: brown rice, whole-wheat bread, whole-wheat pasta
- Fruits and vegetables: leafy green veggies, like kale, and fresh, seasonal produce
- Fat from healthy sources: olive oil, avocado, nuts
Making intermittent fasting a part of your wellness plan doesn’t have to be difficult. You can choose a schedule that works for your lifestyle and continue to eat the foods you enjoy. By making a few adjustments to the timing of your meals and snacks, you may see a big change quickly. You don’t have anything to lose (other than any unwanted pounds, of course), and you’re likely to see a major improvement in your health. Think of it as an investment in the present and future you!