I wanted to put together the complete guide to fasting that was easy to understand. I’ve got tons of passion, and I’ve seen too many guides out there which are so full of jargon and depth that it’s tough to work out exactly where to start, and what you’re going to get out of fasting.
So consider this a really easy intro guide on how to get started with fasting, and to understand what water fasting results will look like. I’m not going to cover drive fasting, because that really falls outside where I’m willing to go in terms of health. Water is vital, and doing a completely dry fast for many hours could be detrimental to many people.
Buckle up, knuckle down, and I’m telling you that in the next five minutes you’ll understand exactly what intermittent fasting is, how to do it successfully, what to eat after fasting to best effect, and tell you what problems you can encounter.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
As the name suggests, intermittent fasting is doing shorter periods of fasting rather than longer-term fasting.
It fits perfectly into most people’s lifestyles because it’s so flexible. It brings some significant benefits, which I will cover in a moment.
There are infinite varieties of fasting strategies that you can do, but what you are looking at is a strategy of no more than 24 hours and no more than twice a week. There are three of these 24-hour strategies, you can choose to try. But I’d never really do it more than twice per week, otherwise, you are heading into a serious calorie deficit situation which I would never recommend you do.
To give you an idea, because I can’t tell you every variation, these are the three main types of intermittent fasting that people do:
16/8 Method is also known as the LeanGains protocol. The core of it is restricting eating into an eight hour period during the day and only eating normal volumes of food in those eight hours. In effect, you are chopping out food completely for 16 hours.
But it’s flexible because you can time it, and you can move that time slot. So one day you could eat between 1 PM and 9 PM because you want to go to lunch with your friend, and then have an early evening meal with your family. But three days later, you could move that eight hour period to fit into your lifestyle in another way or be more challenging by chopping out two meal times.
5:2 Method is sometimes also known as the 5:2 diet. This is where you consume around 500 cal per day on one, or two days of the week (hence 5:2). They are nonconsecutive days as well because you should never run 500 cal over two consecutive days.
Although this gives you as many as two tough days per week, with some life planning you can avoid problems around social life. As long as you are eating normally at other times, you are in effect chopping out around 3000 cal per week with little detrimental effect.
Eat-Stop-Eat is the third main variation on intermittent fasting. This method involves cutting out all food for 24 hours on one or two days of the week, to get great water fasting results in just a few weeks.
But this strategy is also flexible. Because it’s not literally two days where you get up and not eat until you get up the next day. It’s a 24-hour period. So you could run it from 12 midday until 12 midday for example. This makes it flexible in terms of avoiding problems with lifestyle. What’s important is the 24-hour gap, not that it’s done in a rigid single day 24 hour period.
The Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting
So now you understand the different strategies in doing intermittent fasting, let’s just take a look at the main benefits of doing it:
- The main benefit is it helps you to lose weight. I say it’s the main benefit, but as the main goal of doing it for most people, and it’s the main visible benefit.
Intermittent fasting can be far more productive than a diet because you don’t feel like you’re on a diet. You are cutting out up to 2 days calories each week, while eating relatively normally.
Dieting is tough, and being on a calorie-restricted diet having to cut out carbs, fat, and sugars as much as possible can be really horrible because you crave them the instant you cut them out.
Also, if you don’t get dieting right, if you cut the calories down too fast and for too long, it can cause the body to go into its starvation mode. That’s when it starts to store fat and actually burns muscle because muscle burns more energy.
So done right, conservatively, intermittent fasting has the ability to get you to lose a significant amount of weight over a few weeks without feeling like you’re trying.
- The second main benefit of intermittent fasting is that it’s been scientifically proven that when you do go into a moderate fasting state levels of key hormones increase. The growth hormone is one example, which is crucial to muscle growth.
- Insulin sensitivity improves, and levels of insulin can significantly drop in a short space of time.
- The cellular repair can happen more quickly because your cells initiate the process is far more readily.
- Gene expression also improves. This helps to protect against disease. This also is a process that starts to happen very quickly after you get into a fasting state.
- Other health benefits are predominant. It’s been shown that fasting may reduce levels of bad LDL cholesterol. It can also help lower inflammation, blood sugar, insulin resistance, and many other key factors in heart disease and other serious conditions. Intermittent fasting can also help with brain health because it can increase a key brain hormone that initiates the growth of fresh brain cells.
- Intermittent fasting also speeds up the metabolism. This means you will have more energy, burn fat more readily, and your body will process the energy you take in far more efficiently.
Is Intermittent Fasting Safe?
So now we’ve taken a look at the different types of intermittent fasting that are the most frequently done and understood the benefits, let’s look at the downsides by answering the question: is intermittent fasting safe?
The complete guide to fasting would never be complete without mentioning the negatives, which unfortunately is something a lot of guides simply don’t do.
Let’s be clear, there are some things to be aware of:
- If you have a current, or historical eating disorder then intermittent fasting is something you really shouldn’t get involved in. A history of bulimia, anorexia, binge eating, all of these things can be triggered again, or made worse, through a focus on controlling your diet.
- Females should be cautious of using intermittent fasting techniques if they have fertility problems or irregular periods. A lack of regular calories has been shown to make these problems worse. In rat studies, female specimens lost fertility and could miss cycles.
- If you are underweight you shouldn’t intermittently fast to aggressively. If your BMI is on the low side, you should stick to once a week.
- Anyone with diabetes, problems with regulating blood sugar, low blood pressure, taking specific types of medication, are dramatically underweight, are pregnant or breastfeeding, should not be looking at doing intermittent fasting.
The Three Most Common Strategies For Intermittent Water Fasting
As I said earlier, there are three main strategies when it comes to intermittent fasting. All have their pros and cons, and it can be confusing to understand which one could be best for you. For me, I’d start with the 16/8 LeanGains protocol method. My reasoning for that is you are cutting out calories, but it can include night time hours, and is flexible on when you do it, and how.
As long as you don’t overeat within the eating period of eight hours each day, then it’s an effective way of losing weight with minimal pain.
So if you’re in a situation where you know that the next day you want to do a fast, but you suddenly told you are going to meet someone for lunch, say lunch and you can’t miss it, you can just shift the time. You could fast during the morning, have your lunch at 1 PM, and then eat again at 8 PM.
You’ll then need to go 16 hours before eating again, which takes you through to lunchtime the next day. In effect, you’re actually only skipping breakfast, and you’re also including your sleep calorie burning.
If you’re feeling good after that, you could try the 5:2 method next, and then go for the 24-hour fast. Third, if you’re feeling bold.
You may not need to go that far, depending on the goals you have set yourself. So for me, that’s the progression I would recommend to you.
One thing I want to say though is you must try and building healthy eating habits. This isn’t just about chopping out calories and then eating rubbish. You must make sure you are eating good food when you can, but not being fanatical and obsessive.
Build healthy habits, and you’ll find they become natural after a few fasts. You’ll eat what you naturally do, you’ll eat healthily, and you’ll just chop out a few meals while reaping the benefits of doing so.
Should You Focus On Daily Or Weekly Fasting?
Some people get confused about whether they should focus on daily fasting, or how often fast during each weekly period. For me, I would start by doing it once per week for a month. Start with the LeanGains protocol, and see how you feel after a month.
You’ve then got a choice between bringing in other types of fast alongside it, or replacing it with another sort of fast from month to see how that goes instead.
But an alternative strategy to then focus on is doing it twice per week, my recommended maximum. Once you’ve done the LeanGains method for a month at twice a week, you’ve mastered that, and you can then look at doing one of the slightly more difficult methods once per week for a month, and then twice per week.
The key point here is consistency and learning. Try and get a pattern, learn how your body acts.
A great way of deciding how to do things is to use a calorie tracking app month to start your first month of fasting.
That way you can see how many calories you take in on an average day, through the week. You can spot trends, you can spot the types of food you eat, and when.
Surprisingly, you may find that there are days, or even more generally all the time, where you are close to a specific pattern of fasting anyway. Could be specific days where you have a very low-calorie intake because of work patterns, or it could be a day when you don’t eat for 16 hours anyway.
That will start to give you clues on the method, and they could work best for you how quickly you can ramp things up to get the results you want
Don’t Get Obsessive About The Fasting
Part of building healthy habits is to not get obsessive about this. That’s how food control problems start, leading to eating disorders. You should see it as a gentle, holistic way, of helping you to lose a bit of weight, and gain some momentum and improved health benefits as well.
Also, don’t get obsessive about when you fast. Be flexible, then you won’t make it a stressful experience.
What I mean is, if you’re fasting, and a one-off event happens, don’t sweat it. Say your friend calls you and says you want to come round and watch the football. He wants to order pizza, don’t worry about it. Have pizza and enjoy football.
Just compensate in the next fast by doing that one properly. If you start to care too much, you’re making an enemy of food, and the fasting period becomes obsessive.
Does Intermittent Fasting Help You Lose Weight: Water Fasting Results
Let’s talk specifically about water fasting results. Water fasting is definitely all I’m talking about here, where you are still drinking water during your fast. I would not consider cutting out liquids as well. Sure, you shouldn’t be drinking calories, but dry fasting for 16 hours for example is something I would never do.
But water fasting results can be significant. If you do it twice per week, you can drop around 4 pounds in a week. That will be not consistent, and it will tail off, but it could mean that within a month you lose half a stone without really trying because you have cut out those calories while maintaining a normal attitude to food when it’s around.
The thing to watch out for is that you are not cutting out too many calories though. If you are, then you are in danger of overeating at the end of the fasting period. You will be ravenous. So whichever way you are doing fasting, if you are shaking with hunger at the end of the fast, then you need to look at your nutrients before the start of the fast, and the method and timing within the day/days of the week that you are doing it.
What To Eat After Fasting?
I want to finish here by telling you that anyone can fast successfully and easily. Use the tracking app and spot your patterns. As I said, you may find you are basically fasting at times anyway.
Think about it this way. At the weekend you could sleep in late, and then have a late breakfast, around lunchtime. You may not have eaten since 7 o’clock the previous night. That’s already going to be around 16 hours, you’ve already done a fast.
I also want to finish it by touching on what to eat after fasting. I have already mentioned if you are bingeing when you finish your fast then you have something to address.
You want slow burning calories, carbohydrates, and proteins. Good food, whole grains, oats, lean meat, eggs, all those things which burn in the body slowly.
After your fast, you will want good food rich in nutrients also has a slow-burning protein element to it, things like:
- Lean fish and meat
- Plenty of vegetables
- Whole grains
- Wholemeal pasta
- Leafy green vegetables
- Light cereals
You should avoid heavy foods, with lots of fat, butter, or things like that in them. You don’t want stodgy foods rich in fats, carbohydrates. To avoid grabbing for pizza, burgers, white pasta, loads of bread.
You have to wake your system up gently, kickstart it, and feed it the nutrients it needs to get started again. Also, for many people, your stomach could be sensitive so these light meals can also really help to avoid problems.