A Comprehensive Beginner’s Guide to Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss

by Rich Jones

The rise of intermittent fasting for weight loss has been swift. The Internet seems to be full of different advice and guidance on how to safely go about this method of dieting, to allow you to shed some unwanted pounds. There’s a fair bit of science behind some of it, so it’s not recommended you dive straight in without doing your research. For example, certain types of illnesses or conditions are not conducive to intermittent fasting. Naturally, you don’t want to make yourself unhealthy while you’re trying to get healthy! If you have Type 1 Diabetes or think you may be pregnant, it is not recommended you use this type of weight loss technique. As with any diet, health, or fitness routine, it is recommended that you always consult your family doctor beforehand, just to make sure you can safely get started.

With that out of the way, let’s get down to the basics and take you through our comprehensive beginner’s guide to intermittent fasting for weight loss.

What is Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss?

Intermittent fasting for weight loss works on the principle of reducing caloric intake to help you lose weight. However, it’s done in a specific way. Weight is lost through having a window of time – usually daily and sometimes even weekly – where no food is consumed. While the body is in fasting mode, it turns to stored fat for energy. In turn, this helps you shed excess pounds.

The term ‘intermittent fasting’ covers a huge range of plans, windows of time, and ranges of caloric decrease. It’s the overall term used for following a regimen of having a consistent eating period following by a non-eating period. Intermittent fasting for weight loss has recently seen a rise in popularity, but it first came to the fore on the Leangains.com website.  The term was coined by the website writer, Martin Berkhan. It again entered into popular consciousness through the 5:2 diet plan, which was written about by British journalist Michael Moseley. Today, there are numerous plans and methods, so it’s easier to find the perfect fit for your lifestyle.

Which Intermittent Fasting Plan Should You Choose?

Which plan of intermittent fasting for weight loss that you choose to follow depends entirely on you. You must speak to your doctor beforehand – particularly if you have any illnesses – or suffer any side effects once you begin. They may be able to help provide you with advice and guidance if you’re having trouble choosing between several of the intermittent fasting plans that are out there today.

Examples of Intermittent Fasting Plans

  • One of the most popular plans, which first came on the scene back in 2012, was the 5:2. This was a period of 5 days eating, followed by 2 days of consuming only 500-600 calories. It became very popular across the world and has now seen many offshoots and variations created.
  • As opposed to this weekly intermittent fasting plan, the majority of newer plans concentrate on a daily regimen.
  • One of the most widely publicized is the 16/8. This is a daily eating window of 8 hours and a fasting period of 16 hours. It can be followed for as long as you need and can be broken at any time. 
  • Another plan, the ‘eat-stop-eat’, involves a full 24 hours fast, usually done once or twice each week.
  • The ‘alternate day’ intermittent fasting plan is where you eat one day and fast the next, continuing until you reach the desired effects.

There’s no end to the choices that are available, and it’s up to you to find an intermittent fasting plan that fits in with your health and lifestyle. Pick a plan that seems workable for you, that is both realistic and attainable, in order to give yourself the best chance of success.

Preparation

With any change in lifestyle, it’s imperative to prepare yourself beforehand. Preparation can be mental or physical, or both, but also practical. Taking a trip to the supermarket and stocking up on healthy foods is the best way to start your prep for intermittent fasting for weight loss. While you’re following any intermittent fasting plan, your diet should consist of lots of fruit, veggies, lean protein, good carbs, and healthy fats. You need a healthy mix of food groups, as you would normally.

One of the best ways to prepare is to rid your home of unhealthy stuff. This is particularly important for an intermittent fasting plan, as you’re likely to be pretty hungry when your eating window opens. What you don’t want to do is binge on high fat, sugary, unhealthy food just because you’re hungry. That will defeat all of your hard work. Instead, have a varied meal plan in place with dishes you enjoy, that are easy to make, but healthy. That will help stop you from reaching for something that may jeopardize your progress.

Keto and Intermittent Fasting

It’s not uncommon for the keto diet and intermittent fasting to be undertaken at the same time. The keto diet is a high fat, low carbohydrate diet. By replacing your carb intake with fat, the body enters a state called ketosis. This state encourages the body to use fats as a form of energy, as it doesn’t have enough carbs to do this. Continuing with the diet plan will eventually change how your body functions. It’s been compared to Atkins, which works along the same broad lines.

Many people follow the keto diet and combine it with intermittent fasting for weight loss, as a way to supercharge and speed up their progress. This can seem quite restrictive in the beginning, with no bread, pasta, rice, beans, or pulses. However, these can easily be replaced with high levels of healthy fats. Examples include avocados, olive oil, non-starchy greens, chicken and beef, and other proteins. It can take a bit of getting used to, but many people swear by it as a way to improve their intermittent fasting for weight loss results.

FAQs

Can you drink coffee while intermittent fasting?

In a word, yes. Generally, if you opt for a drink that has less than 50 calories, your body will still consider itself to be fasting. You can also choose to have a few drops of milk in coffee or tea without breaking your fast, as long as you stick to 50 calories or below.

How much weight can you lose with intermittent fasting?

This really depends on you, the plan you choose, your metabolism, and how much you weigh before you start. It is suggested that around 7-11 pounds can be lost over the course of 2-3 months on a plan of intermittent fasting for weight loss. This will also depend not only on your caloric intake, but caloric use as well. A program of regular exercise alongside intermittent fasting is ideal, not only for weight loss purposes, but also for your overall health.

What can you eat or drink while intermittent fasting?

Nothing is off-limits when you’re in your eating window, but it’s not recommended you pop to KFC for a bucket of chicken every time you need to eat. You should stick with healthy foods, such as fruit and vegetables, nuts, seeds, and unprocessed foods. That will give you the best chance to get real results from intermittent fasting for weight loss.

Is intermittent fasting good for you?

There are studies that show various health benefits that come from intermittent fasting. Some research is being conducted that suggests intermittent fasting can actually increase cellular longevity, and, at least in theory, help people to live longer, healthier lives. Many people who have successfully lost weight using intermittent fasting then continue the process for several years due to the health benefits, and for weight maintenance. There are also some studies suggesting that one of the intermittent fasting benefits may be staving off the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease.

While greater research still needs to be done, intermittent fasting for weight loss is generally safe and can provide you with numerous health benefits. Just remember to check with a doctor or healthcare professional before you begin. You also want to ensure you are monitored for any health conditions or medication effects that may change with a change in diet.

How long should you intermittent fast?

Like which plan to choose, the length of time you may undertake a program of intermittent fasting depends on the individual, to be honest. An intermittent fasting plan can consist of anything from daily fasting to weekly fasting. Intermittent fasting 16/8 is a very popular plan, which means you fast for 16 hours of the day and have an 8-hour eating window. 16/8 intermittent success stories are pretty widespread across the Internet, but the plan you follow will depend on your lifestyle and how your body responds to your intermittent fasting plan. Some people start with milder plans, step it up to more extreme plans, and when they reach their weight loss goals, reduce to a more mild plan. Others continue a mild plan of fasting for many years after reaching their weight goals. There’s no right or wrong way to use intermittent fasting.

What are the side effects of intermittent fasting?

The biggest side effect of any type of intermittent fasting is feeling hungry. Others range from being dehydrated (so keep your water intake high), feeling tired, and being irritable. Once your body adjusts, however, these initial side effects may dissipate over time.

Can intermittent fasting make you gain weight?

If you eat nothing but junk food during your eating window, yes, it can. This pretty much wipes out all the benefits of intermittent fasting.  The point of fasting is to reduce your calorie intake. If you end up consuming more than you would without fasting, then not only will you not lose any weight, but you’re highly likely to gain it. Intermittent fasting plans must be accompanied by healthy eating and drinking for them to be successful. They’re also aided by a good program of regular exercise.

How long should a woman do intermittent fasting?

Intermittent fasting for weight loss or health in women is no different than in men (with the aforementioned exceptions for pregnancy, expectant mothers, and those who are nursing – always consult with your doctor). The actual length of time that a given woman may use intermittent fasting can depend on the woman, her health, family, work, and general attitude. There’s no limit to how long you can be on an intermittent fasting plan. Some women make it part of their lives, and others use it for short-term loss.  How women use it – and what plan they choose – is a personal choice.

Is intermittent fasting dangerous?

Extreme fasting can be dangerous, just like all eating patterns. However, if you research the plan, eat healthy foods, and keep hydrated, you’re likely to remain healthy. If you follow a sensible intermittent fasting meal plan, there’s nothing to show that it’s a dangerous practice.  Proper review of your diet and nutrition, along with discussion with your doctor to review any contraindications, are always the best way to approach a diet plan. Provided you are healthy, eat proper nutrients during your eating periods, and don’t have pre-existing conditions or medications which would interact with fasting, it’s a perfectly safe method of weight loss.

How can I reduce my stomach fat?

Intermittent fasting has proven a successful method for reducing stomach fat, particularly among women. As well as following your intermittent fasting plan, you should also avoid sugar and sugary drinks, alcohol, and do some exercise to target the problem areas. Weight loss plus toning via exercise is really the ideal combination for getting rid of stubborn visceral or belly fat.

Can you lose weight with intermittent fast?

Yes! That’s why most people choose to undertake intermittent fasting, with a small minority doing it for the health benefits only. There are plenty of intermittent fasting success stories across the internet. People often incorporate an intermittent fasting plan into their lives for the long term. Others do it purely to lose a few pounds after returning from vacation or when they have a big event coming up. Many people combine intermittent fasting and working out as a way to speed up the weight loss process. What you do is entirely up to you.

Conclusion

Like any diet, there are a whole host of different opinions on intermittent fasting. Some people swear by it, and others aren’t so sure. While academics will continue to study intermittent fasting for weight loss and the benefits of intermittent fasting (as well as the side effects) for health, it’s certainly proving a popular way to lose weight. As with everything, finding a way to fit an intermittent fasting plan into your day to day life will give it a far greater chance of success. The only real way to assess intermittent fasting for weight loss is to try it for yourself! You have nothing to lose…but a few pounds!

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