Intermittent Fasting for Beginners: Expert Tips to Get Started
Intermittent fasting for beginners can seem daunting. You may be wondering if long periods without food will be sustainable and compatible with your lifestyle, or if you will be too hungry during your fasting periods. The good news is that there are many different types of intermittent fasting, so if you’re looking to get started on a plan, you can choose the style that best suits your lifestyle.
You should think about what you hope to achieve from intermittent fasting – do you hope to see an improvement in your sleep quality? Or maybe you are hoping to lose weight. This can affect the type of intermittent fasting plan you choose, as some types have greater amounts of research behind them.
We spoke to the experts to bring you a complete guide to intermittent fasting for beginners, plus some practical tips to consider when making big changes to your diet.
What happens during intermittent fasting?
Dr. Nirusa Kumaran, Medical Director and Founder of Elementary Health Clinic (opens in a new tab), told Live Science, “One primary way intermittent fasting can help is by driving a process called ketosis. Ketosis is where our body burns ketones instead of glucose for energy. Health benefits of ketosis have been reported, such as improved metabolism and reduced inflammation.
Ketosis showed a positive trend in weight loss and reversal of cardiometabolic syndrome, according to a study conducted in Current nutritional reports (opens in a new tab). In addition to fasting, the state of ketosis can be triggered by the ‘keto diet‘ – a low-carb, high-fat diet.
Ketosis is just one of the changes that occur in the body during intermittent fasting. Kumaran adds: “Other changes that occur in the body include increased levels of growth hormone which can aid in fat loss and muscle gain, improved insulin sensitivity, which means your blood sugar levels is processed quickly and stored fat can be burned for energy and cellular repair – mitochondria and cells have been shown to repair themselves through a process called autophagy, where actually damaged cells are removed and replaced with new ones new cells.
Which type of intermittent fasting is best for beginners?
There are several different types of intermittent fasting, and it may be worth experimenting to find the one that works best for you. If your schedule is flexible enough, you may be able to maintain a more intensive style of fasting, such as time-restricted eating or alternate-day fasting. If you have a family to work with, you may find the 5:2 fast to be less disruptive because you can still enjoy family meals 70% of the time and focus on your fast the rest of the time.
Kumaran describes the main types of fasting:
1) Limited time to eat – for example 20:4, 16:8, 14:10; 12:12 – the first number represents the number of hours you are fasting, while the second number represents the number of hours you have as your window to eat. So, for example, with 16:8, you fast for 16 hours and eat within an eight-hour window. For some people this means skipping breakfast and eating lunch and dinner, but others may choose to skip their evening meal instead.
2:10 p.m. and 12:12 p.m. tend to be best for those new to intermittent fasting, as they are less restrictive in terms of when you can eat.
2) 5:2 Fasting – In this method, you can eat normally five days a week, but for two non-consecutive days you consume 500-600 calories per day.
3) One meal a day – This is where you only eat one meal a day and get all your calories and nutrition from that meal.
4) Two day fast – With this method of fasting, you eat nothing on fasting days – these alternate during the week. For example, if you choose to fast on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday of a week, you normally eat on the days in between, and so this pattern continues.
A review in Nutrition advice (opens in a new tab) indicates that intermittent fasting may be effective in reducing body weight in people of all sizes, with most studies focusing on alternate-day or all-day fasting trials. As such, fasting for weight loss may be better suited to these fasting styles.
It should be noted that some types of intermittent fasting are more suitable for men than for women. Intermittent fasting for women requires a slightly different approach due to the differences in the hormonal composition of women throughout their menstrual cycle.
Intermittent fasting for beginners: top tips
A study in the Annual nutrition review journal also found that the time windows used for intermittent fasting can impact sleep and overall health. Parts of our body’s internal clock are often triggered by food, as well as the amount of light you see. As such, fasting overnight (when you expect to sleep) can have positive cardiometabolic and healing effects on the body, while eating during the time when your body expects sleep can disrupt these processes and cause stress. fluctuations in energy levels. If your goal is to sleep well, a time-restricted eating plan might be best.
Kumaran also recommends caution with intermittent fasting if you have any underlying health conditions, though she notes it can be undertaken under the guidance of a medical professional or nutrition expert.
“There are many medical conditions where it may be safe for you to undertake intermittent fasting under the guidance of a qualified medical professional,” she says. “These can include cardiovascular disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and even certain cancers.”
Gershuni, VM, Yan, SL and Medici, V. (2018). Nutritional ketosis for weight management and metabolic syndrome reversal. Current nutritional reports, seven(3), 97–106. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13668-018-0235-0 (opens in a new tab)
Patterson, RE, and Sears, DD (2017). Metabolic effects of intermittent fasting. Annual nutrition review, 37(1), 371–393. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-nutr-071816-064634 (opens in a new tab)
Tinsley, GM, & The Bounty, PM (2015). Effects of intermittent fasting on body composition and clinical markers of health in humans. Nutrition advice, 73(10), 661–674. https://doi.org/10.1093/nutrit/nuv041 (opens in a new tab)