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Intermittent fasting is a health and fitness trend that has taken the world by storm. Many people hear of intermittent fasting as a weight-loss method, or simply as a method to improve their health. There have been multiple studies that show the benefits of intermittent fasting, but you may still question certain aspects like how long to fast.
Simply put, intermittent fasting incorporates periods where you are not consuming any calories and eating periods. The great thing about intermittent fasting is that it does not restrict certain foods, but rather when you can eat them.
Intermittent fasting should not be referred to as a diet, because it’s not. It is simply a pattern of eating that you may choose to follow.
How Long To Fast
There are a plethora of intermittent fasting programs, and I encourage you to select what works best for you. Despite this, some common eating patterns are daily 16 hour fasts, daily 18 hour fasts, or biweekly 24-hour fasts.
Fasting has been a part of human biology for as long as we can trace back. When humans still incorporated hunter-gatherer practices, we could not rely on the food being available at all times. Because of this, you can determine that fasting has always been utilized, whether directly or indirectly.
Fasting is a huge aspect of various religions as well, most notably in Islam with the acknowledgment of Ramadan.
You are in a fasted state when you consume zero calories. This implies that things like water and black coffee are fine to consume because they have no calories. Once you determine how long you want to fast intermittently, you simply follow that pattern.
If a daily 16 hour fast is the most appealing to you, you would follow this by not eating for 16 hours each day. The remaining 8 hours represent an eating window where you will consume all your calories.
I recommend fasting for either 16 or 18 hours each day. Not eating for 16 hours is something that any person should be capable of. If you feel as though you can go 18 hours, then do so because there will be more benefits in the long run.
Intermittent fasting can be confusing right off the bat, but it’s truly very simple. Considering most adults sleep between 7-10 hours each night, the period where you’re awake and not eating is fairly short. If you sleep for 8 hours and you’re fasting for 16, then you only have 8 hours where you cannot eat.
A Theoretical Example of a 16:8 Intermittent Fasting Plan
9:30 AM – 5:30 PM = 8 hour eating window
5:30 PM – 9:30 AM = 16 hour fasting window
Similarly, if you were to adopt an 18:6 intermittent fasting plan, it would look something like this:
11:30 AM – 5:30 PM = 6 hour eating window
5:30 PM – 11:30 AM = 18 hour fasting window
As I said, how long to fast is completely up to you, choose windows that work for you.
Nutrition When Intermittent Fasting
A common misconception is that you have to eat certain foods when you’re fasting. The main idea behind intermittent fasting is that you can eat anything as long as it’s in your eating window.
Therefore, feel free to eat whatever, but be cognizant of your overall nutrition. I would still recommend keeping trans/saturated fats low and avoiding too many simple sugars. Getting an idea of your TDEE/BMR could be helpful before you start IF, but it’s not necessary.
Exercising In A Fasted State
Pairing exercise with fasting is a great move. When you exercise in a fasted state, you are burning more calories than you normally would. Your metabolism will be better regulated, as will your insulin and cortisol levels.
If you’re trying to shed body fat, intermittent fasting and exercise will provide great results. Assuming that you are following a healthy nutrition plan, like IIFYM, you will likely get leaner than ever before.
A popular myth is that you will lose lean mass by working out in a fasted state. This was refuted in a study where researchers observed the effects of 16:8 intermittent fasting on body composition.
Despite this, if you are concerned that you might lose muscle mass while fasting, you could always supplement with BCAAs intra-workout and whey protein post-workout.
General Tips For Intermittent Fasting
Go to bed early. I cannot stress this enough, intermittent fasting will be way easier if you go to sleep early. I’m not saying that you have to go to bed at 8pm, but being in bed between 10pm-12am each night is ideal. Not only does this eliminate the chance of having a midnight snack, but you will likely wake up with only a couple hours of fasting remaining.
Use caffeine as an appetite suppressant. Caffeine is a great supplement for people trying to lose weight because it suppresses your appetite. I recommend black coffee to anyone that partakes in intermittent fasting. If you wake up in the morning and realize you still have to fast for quite a bit, a cup of coffee can make a huge difference. Your hunger will be curbed, and you will, of course, be energized to start the day. If you are not a fan of coffee, you can always elect to use a 0 calorie energy drink, pre-workout, or caffeine supplement. If you venture this route, just make sure the product has 0 calories so you don’t break your fast.
Intermittent fasting is a pattern of eating that anyone is capable of adopting. The benefits far outweigh the negatives when it comes to intermittent fasting, but it should be known that it’s not for everyone. I vouch for IF simply because I’ve seen results from it now on multiple occasions.
You should note that intermittent fasting can be cycled to your advantage. It can truly help you with plateaus you may encounter on your fitness journey. For more information, check out our intermittent fasting category with detailed articles to get you started.