Intermittent Fasting Guidelines for Beginners

I used to be obsessed with making sure I would eat every 2-3 hours. And even though I ate healthy, I’d get hangry if I’d go too long between meals.

Then I found my friend Intermittent Fasting and that all changed.

Today's nutrition strategy won’t cost you a dime and all you need is a clock. We are not going to focus on WHAT to eat like I have in my last couple of blogs, but instead focus on WHEN to eat.


The strategy of Intermittent Fasting is just another tool in my health toolbox on how to increase variability and change for continued fat loss and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. My clients and I have loved using fasting the last few years, so let’s dive in on how you can get started, too!

Intermittent Fasting is an ancient health practice that has been studied since at least the early 1900’s for things like weight loss and Type 2 Diabetes. If you don’t much about it, it may sound weird or hokey, but it’s simply just a schedule of when you eat.


Today I’m going to do an overview of:

1. What is Intermittent Fasting (IF)?

2. The benefits of IF

3. How to ease into IF as a beginner over a 4-week period


What is Intermittent Fasting?

In the simplest terms, IF is not considered a “diet,” but instead a “pattern” of eating or eating schedule. Your body is always in one of two states: fed or fasted.


In the fed state (anytime your body is digesting food), your body’s insulin levels increase, which makes burning fat a challenge. However, in the fasted state (8-12 hours after your body finishes digesting), your insulin levels are lower and better able to reach into your fat stores and cells.


It has less to do with what you eat and more to do with WHEN you eat. BUT, that doesn’t mean in your feasting window that you should be eating whatever you want or as much as you want. If you follow the meal types I’ve discussed about low carb fat burning meals and carb cycling during your feasting/eating window, you will have better results overall.


I also want to note that IF is not recommended for breastfeeding women, those with eating disorders, or teens. So always talk to your doctor before starting a new nutrition approach to make sure it’s right for you.


How can you benefit from Intermittent Fasting?

1) Decreases inflammation by giving your digestive system time to rest and repair vs. worrying about how to break down the food we eat all day and night. This ends up helping to reduce inflammation in your body.

2) Slows the aging process by promoting human growth hormone, and also helps us burn fat and build muscle.

3) Helps control your insulin levels, which I’ve talked about before how Insulin is our one fat storage hormone. Controlling insulin is one of the most important factors in losing fat and maintaining low body fat.

4) Regulates Ghrelin levels, also known as “the hunger hormone.” This causes fewer cravings, as it prevents you from craving unhealthy food. For me fasting has taught me to really tap into my physical hunger cues vs. just eating because it’s breakfast time or partaking in the bad habit of having a snack watching an evening show.

5) Improves focus, feeling more alert and overall cognitive function. Since blood is not being pumped to your digestive system as much, you end up getting more oxygen sent to other parts of your body like your brain and muscles.

6) Decreases the amount of meals you have to plan and prepare, which for busy moms may be the biggest benefit of them all. Because you have less hours in the day when you’re eating, you typically focus on eating the "old-school" 3 main meals or less without all the snacks in between.

7) And lastly, in longer periods of a fasted state, you can stimulate Autophagy. Autophagy is the process the body takes to clean up and get rid of and recycle broken-down cells that could have turned in to diseases, etc. in our body. Fasting basically stimulates a cleaning crew that gives your cells a deep clean.


How Can You Ease Into IF as a Beginner?

There are many methods that you may have heard of including popular diets like the 5:2, 16:8 or OMAD (One Meal A Day) plan. But we’re going to start super simple and explain how you can ease into this over a 4-week period.


The first step I recommend before you even start a fasting schedule, is to focus on getting your insulin levels in check. Do this for about a month before starting fasting by eating mostly Fat Burning Meals.


When your body is not relying as much on sugar for its fuel, next it’s time to ease into a fasting schedule. I would start with just a 12:12 schedule. The first number is the fasting hours and the second number is your eating hours. So this means you fast or don’t eat for 12 hours and then you feast or eat for 12 hours.


I really consider this just “normal” eating or at least how I grew up in the 80’s.

That could be eating your first meal at 7am and ending your last meal at 7pm. (That means no wine after dinner or handfuls of Cheez-Its from the pantry before bed or any calories at all during that fasting time). And I bet you’re already thinking how fasting will have its advantages!


The schedule is really totally what works for you. Unless you work the night shift, most people will be sleeping much of their fasting time. But if you did work a night shift, you could fast during the day. Either would work.


There is a lot of discussion on what can break you out of a fasted state. I’d say the most effective, black and white version is no food and only non-calorie drinks like still or sparkling water, unsweet tea and black coffee during your fast. You also want to avoid anything artificially sweetened like diet soda, as that can still impact your insulin levels.


However, here’s the gray area: I’m a creamer-in-my-coffee-girl, so I get it if you are too. I’m just trying to maintain my weight, and from my research and personal experience I have been able to still do so by including one serving or 1 tablespoon of organic heavy whipping cream in my coffee in the morning before I break my fast with food later on.


There are no carbs and only 1g protein in the cream that could cause an insulin spike. I limit it to this small amount which is only 50 calories and basically pure fat.


This could be a good starting place for you if you’re not totally ready to cut the cream, however, if you’re not getting results, this would be the first thing I’d try removing.

One other side note, when you are ready to break your fast, I would do so with a Fat Burning Meal.


For your first week follow a 12:12 schedule for the first half of the week and then push back your first meal one more hour to a 13:11 schedule the rest of your first week. To see what these sample schedules look like watch the video below. You could also adjust your last evening meal by moving it up an hour and keep your starting meal still at 7am for instance. With kid’s activities in the evenings and family dinner though this just gets to be a personal preference, depending on how busy you are.

Once you’ve gotten used to this, it's time for week 2. During your second week your fast will be adjusted by an additional hour. You will now aim to be fasting for 14 hours and eating in a 10-hour window. You can decide if you want to try this every day or just several days of the week. I like consistency in my schedule, so I keep just one weekend day in the 12-hour range, while fasting longer the rest of the week. The week 2 chart is also in the video above.


If you like how you are feeling, during your third week you can try stretching your fasting to 15 hours and just eat within a 9-hour window. For women, I recommend working toward staying in that 14-15 hour fasting time for most or about 5 days per week.


During the last week of your month, try stepping up your fasting game with one longer fast the more comfortable you get with it. Varying your fasts, just like your carb intake and what exercises you do make a huge difference in your progress. This can also help increase the benefits of autophagy that I talked about before.


Here are two protocols you could try:

1) If you are fairly close to your weight loss goals, I’d aim for most days doing 14-15 hour Intermittent fasting, one normal 12-hour day, and one day with an extended time like an 17-18 hour fast. CHART IN VIDEO


2) If you have a more significant amount of weight to lose, I’d try doing a One Meal a Day (OMAD) approach once per week instead of the 17-18 hr day. SEE CHART


That is how I implement intermittent fasting for myself and for my clients. Let me know if you have any questions or would like to chat more about how I can help YOU start intermittent fasting.


Let's get FIRED UPP!

Nat


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