How to get started with intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting 101

Intermittent fasting for beginners

Intermittent fasting has risen in popularity as one of the most effective ways to lose weight. Interest in this approach is not only due to its weight loss effects but also for its health benefits. But what exactly is intermittent fasting? Intermittent fasting is an eating approach that cycles between periods of eating and fasting. When fasting, you’re abstaining from food for long periods. This can last from 12-hours, 16-hours, a few days, or even a month.


While fasting has long been practiced for religious and cultural reasons, the idea of intermittent fasting for weight loss started to gain attention around 2013. This was due to a BBC documentary by the name Eat Fast: Live longer. Interest in this approach only grew further when journalist Katie Harrison wrote the book 5:2 diet based on her own experience. Finally, the best-selling book “The obesity code” by Dr. Jason Fung pushed the idea further.

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Intermittent fasting 101

Intermittent fasting is a dieting pattern that alternates between periods of eating and fasting. What has made this approach so unique is that it doesn’t focus on what not to eat but when to eat. With this plan, you abstain from foods for 16-hours or even 24-hours when fasting. Even though most people think of this trend as a recent discovery. The human body is well adapted to fasting. Fasting was practiced by our hunter-gather ancestors who didn’t have access to food as easily as we do now.


As a result, they would often go without food for long periods. Our bodies are naturally adapted to go without foods from time to time rather than eating all the time.


Food next to clock


How to get started with intermittent fasting

To get started with intermittent fasting for weight loss, you first need to figure out your goals. How much weight do you want to lose? By starting with your goals in mind it will be easier to determine just which intermittent fasting schedule is best for you.


You want to choose a schedule that is easy to add to your lifestyle. Keep in mind that you might have to experiment and try out different schedules before you find one that fits your needs perfectly. Next, you want to make the calorie counts with the right weight loss foods.


Yes, you’re fasting to cut calories but if you eat the wrong foods, your effort will go down the drain. Come up with a rough meal plan to use. Also, keep in mind that you need to eat filling foods as you’re going to be fasting. Choose high-volume foods that will keep you full for longer.

Intermittent fasting for weight loss schedules

Intermittent fasting schedules

There are different schedules you can use to incorporate intermittent fasting into your lifestyle.


1. 16:8 fasting 

Perhaps the easiest form of intermittent fasting. The 16:8 fasting approach involves staying without food for 16-hours and then eating only within 8 hours. Even though it might sound difficult, this is as simple as either skipping breakfast or dinner to meet your required 16-hours. This approach is the best for beginners who are new to fasting for weight loss.


2. Alternate day fasting

Also known as the 4:3 fasting, this approach involves alternating between periods of eating and fasting. With this approach, you eat on the first day and fast the next day. This approach is more advanced as it requires you to abstain from foods for 24-hours.


This approach also gives some leeway for those who cannot completely abstain from foods. You’re allowed to eat 500-calories on fasting day if you do find completing abstaining to be too tiresome.


3. Eat stop eat

This intermittent fasting approach involves dieting for 24-hours on two non-consecutive days. The eat stop eat approach was developed by Brad Pilon as he was researching the effects of fasting for his graduate paper. This approach requires you to completely abstain from foods for 24-hours. Even though it’s very demanding, you will only need to do this for 2-days of the week.


5:2 Intermittent fasting schedule


4. 5.2 fasting diet

The 5:2 diet requires that you fast for two non-consecutive days of the week but eat normally on the remaining 5-days. However, you’re allowed to eat 25% of your normal calories on fasting days. This means that for someone who eats 2000 calories, you will be allowed to eat 500 calories. You can eat these 500-calories in one big meal or divide it up into different small meals throughout the day.


5. warrior diet

Also known as the one-meal diet, the warrior diet was developed by a former Israeli special forces officer. This approach involves fasting for 20-hours and then eating within a 4-hour window. This fasting plan encourages users to eat a one-big meal within a 4-hour window. Unlike other intermittent fasting schedules, this approach offers a guideline on how to gets started and the best foods to eat.




6. Spontaneous meal skipping

The idea here is that humans are not meant to eat throughout the day as most people are used to. That’s why this approach calls for spontaneous meal skipping. Whether due to time constraints or other reasons, users are encouraged to skip some meals. On the day you’re not feeling hungry at lunchtime or breakfast, skip the meal.


This approach emphasizes that the human body is well adapted to fasting just like our ancestors. Besides, this approach also allows you to be more in tune with your body rather than just eat because it’s time to eat.

Read more: Best intermittent fasting schedules to use


Why intermittent fasting work for weight loss


How intermittent fasting works for weight loss

Intermittent fasting works for weight loss and here’s why;


1. Kickstarts ketosis

Normally our bodies burn glucose for energy. As you eat throughout the day you supply your body with glucose. However, when you’re in a fasted state, your body uses up its glucose. To supply your body with the energy it requires, your body taps into stored fats for energy. This metabolic process is what is known as ketosis. When trying to lose weight, you want your body in this fat-burning state.


The more fat your body can burn the better Fasting is the fastest way to get into ketosis unlike other methods that take days to achieve this metabolic rate, it is achieved after 12 hours of fasting. Diets such as the ketogenic diet are also effective at kickstarting ketosis


2. Reduce calories intake

Isn’t it amazing just how much food we can consume daily? With 16-hours of your day spent in fasting, you’re able to automatically cut the number of calories you consume drastically. Reducing calories has been used by many people to lose weight fast but with fasting, this process has been made as simple as skipping dinner or breakfast.




3. Sets up the body for weight loss

Fasting is good for the body and science has proven just how effective these changes can be for weight loss. First fasting lowers insulin levels making it easy for the body to access and use stored fats


Second, it increases levels of human growth hormone (HGH), which is the hormone that aids in muscle growth and utilization of body fats. Lastly, it increases levels of norepinephrine, a fat-burning hormone. All these changes that happen to the body make intermittent fasting a powerful weight-loss tool. Read more: Health benefits of fasting as proven by fasting


4. Can be sustained long-term

Intermittent fasting is a safe and healthy process that can be done daily. Unlike popular diets that can prove too costly or often inconvenient, fasting is easy to adapt to your lifestyle. As a long-term weight-loss strategy, it improves your health too meaning you’re not at risk the longer you do it unlike programs such as the cabbage soup diet or military diet.


How long will it take to start losing weight with intermittent fasting

How long will it take to start losing when fasting?

We know intermittent fasting for weight loss works, but how soon should you expect to start seeing results? If you’re eating as you should on your intermittent fasting plan and not overcompensating during your eating window, then you will start losing weight immediately. The CDC recommends that you aim to lose at least 2-pounds weekly. That should be your benchmark for healthy weight loss.


However, depending on other factors such as how much you’re eating and the type of foods you’re eating. You can expect to lose even more as you get started with intermittent fasting


Intermittent fasting and exercise

Weight loss exercises are a great way to burn extra calories but should you be doing them while fasting? Intermittent fasting will not interfere with your exercise routine. However, if you’re just getting started you should start with light exercises such as walking. Also, schedule your workouts at the end of your fasting.


You’re likely to feel hungry after your workouts and you might end up breaking your fast if you do it at the wrong time. Other than these precautions, it’s perfectly safe for you to do exercise as you fast.


Benefits of Intermittent fasting

With intermittent fasting, you’re not just reducing calories. There are other health benefits to intermittent fasting such as;


Improves heart health


  • Improves heart health

Intermittent fasting is good for your heart.  Research shown on the effects of intermittent fasting shows that it helps reduce bad cholesterol in the body. Also, it reduces levels of triglycerides ( a type of lipid fat found in the blood ). Both of which are risk indicators for heart diseases.


  • Longevity

Animal studies also show that fasted rats lived longer by as much as 36% – 80%. Even though human studies are lacking, these studies shown that intermittent fasting can slow down aging and improve lifespan.


  • Inflammation

Research shows that with intermittent fasting, blood markers for inflammation were significantly reduced. These markers are a key driver in causing chronic diseases.


  • Brain health

Intermittent fasting improves brain function by aiding in the growth of new cells. It also increases the production of the brain hormone BDNF. By doing so, it slow-down the progression of diseases such as Alzheimer’s.


  • Blood sugar control

A recent small study done on participants with type 2 diabetes revealed that intermittent fasting was able to significantly decrease blood sugar levels.

hungry woman


Cons of intermittent fasting

1. Hunger

Let’s face it, getting started with intermittent fasting is going to be hard. You’re making a transition from constantly eating to abstaining from food for long hours at a time. You will feel hungry often once you get started. However, this will pass as you get used to fasting.


2. May promote overeating

With intermittent fasting, there is no calorie counting and no foods are off-limits. Overeating may occur especially for beginners during eating periods. You’ve been abstaining from foods for long hours and you will be tempted to overeat once you’re done fasting


3. Hard to stick with

Even though you’re bound to lose weight fast with intermittent fasting. It can be quite hard to stick with. You’re constantly going for long periods without your favorite foods and constantly fighting cravings.


Intermittent fasting tips for quick weight loss


Rules to follow for success

1. Quality of your food matters

Just because no foods are off-limits doesn’t mean you can eat all the junk food available. Imagine all the discipline that went into fasting for hours only to undo it by loading up on empty calories. Break your fast with healthy whole-grain foods and vegetables that will keep you satisfied and full. Make every bite count, don’t binge on crisps or cookies, you’ll end up feeling hungry 2 hours into your fast. If you’re unsure of foods to eat, make sure you have enough high-protein, vegetables, fats, and some carbs on your plate always.


2. Drink lots and lots of water

Water is one of the best weight loss drinks you can consume. Not only is it readily available, but it’s also a zero-calorie beverage that benefits your body in many ways. Besides, keeping your body hydrated at all times will trick your brain to feel fuller.




3. Keep yourself busy

Going into a fast when you have nothing to do is like torture. All you think about is all the food you can’t have. Schedule your fasting hours when you’re busy, up and about. That way your mind is too distracted to remember you’re on a fast.


4. No sweeteners, no calories during fasting

Even though you’re allowed to drink coffee and tea. This should be black and free of any additives. That means no cream and absolutely no added sweeteners as you risk breaking your fast.


5.  Avoid snacks during your eating windows

No matter how healthy the snacks might be, it’s very easy to pack on unnecessary calories when sacking. A handful often turns into more very easily when snacking.


Reasons why you're not losing weight on intermittent fasting


Why you’re not losing weight with intermittent fasting

If you find that you’re fasting but you’re still not losing weight, here are some reasons to consider;


  • You’re overcompensating

One of the most common mistakes people make when intermittent fasting is overeating once the fasting period is over. However, by doing this, you’re undoing all the weight loss benefits. Since intermittent fasting helps you lose weight by reducing calories, when you overeat, you’re making up for those lost calories. Hence cutting out the benefits.


  • You’re not fasting long enough

Another common reason why you might not be losing weight is that you’re not fasting long enough. Each intermittent fasting schedule has several hours you’re supposed to meet. However, some people might give in to hunger and break the fast. This will also significantly impact your weight loss goals and might derail you.


  • Your intermittent fasting plan is not right for you.

Choose the intermittent fasting plan to use based on how much and how fast you want to lose weight. Don’t choose meal skipping yet you want to lose a lot of weight. While some people who need to lose some weight might only need to fast for a few days weekly, this might not work for you if you need to lose a lot of weight.


  • You’re not sticking to your schedule

Another reason why you might not be losing weight with intermittent fasting is that you’re not following through with your schedule. Stick to your schedule and use the guidelines as provided. If you choose to use a 5:2 diet, then only eat the allocated 500-calories, don’t eat more just because you’ll be fasting later on. If you’re using 16:8 fasting schedule and you get hungry after 12-hours, don’t break your fast. These are the common mistakes that can make you gain weight while intermittent fasting.


Intermittent fasting for weight loss

Final thoughts on intermittent fasting 101

Intermittent fasting is not a diet but rather a dieting pattern that cycles between periods of fasting and eating. It has been proven to be a very effective weight-loss tool as it boosts metabolism, reduces calories consumed, and kickstarts ketosis. To get started with fasting you have to choose which intermittent fasting schedule works best for you. During your fast, stay hydrated by drinking lots of water. Break your fast with raw fruits, fermented foods or bone broth to wake up your digestive system.


When eating, choose healthy whole-grain foods that will keep you full for long. Intermittent fasting for weight loss is a safe and effective approach that can be maintained long-term.

Intermittent fasting 101: The ultimate guide