Intermittent fasting is the practice of going without food for longer periods of time than you are used to.

It has become popular in the health community to take this window and extend it throughout the morning to take advantage of higher energy levels, mental clarity and improved ability to burn fat.

Learn about the benefits of fasting for gut health

 

Let’s start with some terminology:

Intermittent fasting: Eating patterns that cycle between periods of eating and fasting. So we all practice a mild form of intermittent fasting every time we sleep!

Fasting window: Specific amount of time when you are restraining from eating, or the time between your last meal and first meal. In most people, the fasting window will be from approximately 9 pm to 7 am, which is 10 hours.

Eating window: The time between our first meal and our last meal. In most people, the eating window will be from approximately 7 am to 9 pm.

In order to get the maximum benefits from intermittent fasting, you want to slowly increase the length of the fasting window.

How to get started?

If you are new to intermittent fasting, it is best to start with a shorter fast and build your way up, slowly lengthening the ‘fasting window’. So let’s say you currently stop eating at 9 pm and have breakfast at 7 am, a good way to get started would be to stop eating at 8 pm (less snacking after dinner!) and start eating at 8 am.

This gives you a fasting period of 12 hours. You won’t gain enormous benefits from doing this, but it’s simply a way to allow your body to adapt to going longer between meals.

Stick with this for a while, until you find it easy, like your new ‘normal’.

Next step:

Once you find it very easy to fast for a 12 hour period, extend to a 14 hour fast. So you could stop eating at 7 pm and start eating at 9 am the next day. These are only examples, but eventually, you will figure out what works for you and your own lifestyle and I can promise you that you will eventually adapt to it, and even grow to love it!

THE GOAL!

Eventually, you will be able to extend to a 16 or 18-hour fasting window.

This is when you get the most benefits from intermittent fasting, and I personally find that it’s pretty easy to do… it actually frees up some time in the morning 😉

Example of 16:8: Stop eating at 8 pm and begin eating at 12 pm the next day. This may seem unachievable, but trust me, with a little practice, you can begin to really enjoy this way of eating.

You don’t need to be super regimented about it. Personally I like to stop eating at 7 or 8 pm, and I won’t eat again until anywhere from 12 to 2 pm the next day (depending on how busy I am!). This gives me a fasting window of 16 to 19 hours.

24 hour Fast

When you are becoming really good at the 16:8 or 18:6 intermittent fasting lifestyle, it’s time to push it further…. and try a 24 hour fast. A 24 hour fast is easier than it sounds, because you still get to eat on that day. It involves fasting from dinner to dinner. So you’ll stop eating at 6 pm one day, and eat dinner at 6 pm the next day. 22 or 23 hours would also be perfectly acceptable 😉

It’s great to include 1 or 2 24-hour fast in your routine each week If your goal is weight loss, this will really speed up the process and helps to break from the ‘plateau’, when you feel like you are not losing weight anymore.

If your goal is healing and optimal health, you might like to know that you will really ramp up the autophagy (the process where the body breaks down old, damaged cells and abnormally developing cells to recycle for energy) and human growth hormone stimulation when extending the fast to 24 hours.

It’s also a great strategy to prepare for a longer water fast, as your body will get really efficient at fat burning!

Including a ‘feast day’

It’s a good idea to include a day during the week when you eat a bit more carb, and generally a bit more than usual. This will ensure that you keep reaping the benefits from fasting, and is especially helpful if you are using fasting as a weight-loss strategy. It’s also great for the soul!

 

So what does a week look like when adopting an intermittent fasting lifestyle?

It’s up to you to come up with something that works for you and your own lifestyle, but here is what I find generally works well:

-16:8 or 18:6 fasting 4 days/week

-1 day of 24 hour fast

-2 days of eating ‘normally’, including a feast day where you will eat a bit more carb than usual.

The process of adaptation

At first, while the body is adapting to using fat instead of sugar for energy, many people struggle with cravings and energy instability. This is primarily due to blood sugar imbalances, and the fact that your body is not yet very good at using fat to produce energy. This is especially true if you are eating a diet quite high in carbohydrate.

The good news is that when you are fat-adapted, you are likely to have more energy and mental clarity than ever before!

A few things can help to speed up this adaptation process:

1- Reduce carbohydrate and sugar consumption and consume more healthy fats such as coconut oil, olives, olive oil and avocados. This will help with blood sugar stability and will also teach your body to start using fat instead of sugar for energy.

2- MCT oil, a type of fat that is easily absorbed by the body and utilised for energy, can be a useful addition, especially as you get started. You will still get most of the benefits from fasting even when adding some fats to your ‘fasting window’, even though you are not strictly speaking fasting.

You can eat/drink a 1 tbsp of MCT oil in the morning, and another one later in the morning if needed. This will also help kick start the process of using fat for energy, and will reduce hunger and cravings. Although this might seem counter-intuitive, if your goal is weight loss, adding fat in can actually help, as your body will be learning to use fat for energy… and guess where it’s going to get it when there is no more fat available? In your own fat cells!

As your energy stabilises and your body become ‘adapted’, you can stop using the fat, as your body should now be able to dig into your own fat reserve to get what it needs!

Other tips to make fasting easier

Drink plenty of water. Start your day with at least 250 ml of water, 500ml if you can.

Salt and electrolytes. Add some salt to your water, or electrolytes (make sure they are sugar-free, I like Ultima Replenisher.). When fasting or on a low-carb diet, we actually excrete sodium, so it’s vital to replace it, especially if you are feeling tired or dizzy while fasting. Replenishing with a little pinch of salt or electrolytes can make you feel a whole lot better, quickly.

Keep yourself busy. It’s much easier to fast when you are busy, which is why I usually recommend to do your fasting while at work.

Use exogenous ketones. Ketones are what your body uses as energy when you are not consuming carbs. Until you are ‘fat adapted’, your body is not very good at producing ketones. Exogenous ketones are a supplement that can be used to supply the body with a source of ketones that require almost no processing by the digestive tract and liver. This makes them great not only for helping someone get into ketosis, but also as a quick energy source and performance enhancer for brain and body.

By getting ketones in the system before the body is producing them endogenously gets your brain and body the fuel it needs to thrive in a low blood sugar environment. This is a very helpful tool to feel good while you are adapting to fasting.

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