3 Tips for a Successful Intermittent Fast
Page Medically Reviewed and Edited by Cyrus Khambatta, PhD
Intermittent fasting has become a big buzz word as of late. Many people talk about it as the newest health trend. The thing is, it’s not new, and it does have some fantastic health benefits! If you are living with diabetes, intermittent fasting may be something you should consider. In fact, our friends at Mastering Diabetes have written extensively on the benefits of intermittent fasting. If you are interested in trying intermittent fasting, here are some tips to get you started.
Facts and Tips for Intermittent Fasting
One immediate benefit fasting can do is help you identify why you eat: are you hungry? Bored? Stressed?
Emotional triggers are different from a physiological need for food. Performing a single intermittent fast can help you determine the difference between physiological and emotional hunger.
In addition, intermittent fasting also forces your tissues to burn stored glucose and fatty acids. This is a very effective tool in depleting excess stored nutrients, and can have the following positive effects:
- Reduced fat content in muscles and liver
- Improved liver insulin sensitivity
- Improved muscle insulin sensitivity
- Clearance of stored lipids in blood vessels
- Reduced LDL cholesterol
- Reduced blood pressure
So What Exactly is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is a dietary strategy that focuses on manipulating the timing of your food intake, rather than changing the balance of macronutrients in your food (like a high-fat keto diet or a low-fat, plant-based, whole-food diet).
Start with Your Schedule
When committing to intermittent fasting, it’s important to take an honest look at your schedule and day-to-day commitments. There are multiple potential schedules for fasting and it is important to start by finding one that works best with your lifestyle. There will be different methods and we recommend that you pick one based on your needs. Here are a few of the schedules to look at as you decide what works for you:
- Alternate-Day Fast (ADF) - Think of alternate day fasting as a light switch that’s either “on” or “off.” “On” days signal that you’re free to eat without restriction, and “off” days signal that it’s time to perform a 24-hour fast.
- 16:8 Intermittent Fast - The 16:8 intermittent fast is one of the most common forms of intermittent fasting. In this strategy, you have an 8-hour window during the day that is considered your feeding window (for example, from 12:00pm to 8:00pm). Then, you fast for the remaining 16 hours, from 8:00pm to 12:00pm the next day.
- 20-Hour Fast - Similar to the 16:8 strategy, the 20 hour fast strategy simply divides up the day into 4 designated eating hours and a 20 hour fasting window.
- 24-Hour Fast - A 24-hour fast usually takes place as a part of a weekly schedule of intermittent fasting rather than a daily one. In this strategy, you simply choose one day of the week to stop eating and keep your diet unrestricted for the rest of the week.
- 5:2 Intermittent Fast - Just like the 24 hour fast strategy, 5:2 intermittent fasting manages your food intake over the course of 7 days. The only difference is that in the 5:2 plan you choose two days to fast rather than one day, while the rest of the week you eat as normal.
- OMAD (One Meal a Day) - Perhaps the most concentrated form of day-to-day intermittent fasting, OMAD (one meal a day) is exactly As the name explains. This dietary strategy involves eating a day’s worth of calories in one meal, while drinking water or zero-calorie yet nutritious beverages like green tea like Amla Green or even black coffee to stay hydrated and energized.
Prepare Before You Begin
When learning about intermittent fasting and its health benefits, it can be tempting to rush into it. Before you begin it can help to spend some time researching what intermittent fasting looks like. You will also have a higher chance of success if you are making sure to have items you need on hand. Knowing which items you can have and which you should avoid during a fast can make a world of difference. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Make an intermittent fasting tea - Adding teas that are safe for an intermittent fast can give you a bit of variety while bringing in a series of health benefits. Make sure to add a scoop of Amla Green to your tea for added health benefits.
- Know which items to avoid - When fasting it can help to know which items such as juice or even sweetened drinks you should avoid. Alcohol is one of the common items people don’t think to exclude when intermittent fasting. Since alcoholic beverages all have calories, drinking alcohol during your intermittent fast will break it and reduce the overall benefits.
- Prepare for any side-effects - When you first start intermittent fasting you might find that you will experience headaches, crankiness, or light headedness. These are all normal for beginners. It’s also important to be cautious of fasting if you have a previous eating disorder. Diabetes is another condition to take into account. If you struggle to control your blood glucose due to type 2 diabetes (or any other form of diabetes), you should be careful when you first begin intermittent fasting, and experts recommend working with a doctor or nutritionist.
Don’t Do it Alone
One of the biggest hindrances to making major life changes is trying to do them alone. Finding people who understand and take part in intermittent fasting can make a world of difference. Take the time to find a support person or support group. Working with a doctor or nutritionist can also help the process. Here are a few ways to avoid doing it alone:
- Work with a doctor or a nutritionist - When changing the way you eat it can be beneficial to work with a doctor or a nutritionist. They will be able to look at your overall health and find the intermittent fasting schedule that best works with your health goals and body chemistry.
- Join a Facebook group - Facebook groups that are staffed by authorities and filled with people that are on the same journey are so important. It can be a perfect way to stay motivated and avoid any of the common slip ups that come with starting out. Joining a quality Facebook group can also give you tips for breaking your fast and recipes you might not have considered trying.
- Have a close friend or family member join with you - Another way to stay the course is to have a close friend or family member fast with you. Doing intermittent fasting with someone you are close with will help both of you to cheer each other on and stay the course. Make sure to choose someone who is encouraging and will help you keep going without making you feel bad.
For more information on intermittent fasting, check out this video from Mastering Diabetes:
Page Medically Reviewed and Edited by
Cyrus Khambatta, PhD
Cyrus Khambatta, PhD, is a cofounder of Mastering Diabetes and Amla Green is an internationally recognized nutrition and fitness coach who has been living with type 1 diabetes since 2002. Using an evidence-based approach to nutrition and fitness, he first reduced his own insulin usage by more than 40%, and has educated thousands of people with all forms of diabetes how to reverse insulin resistance using food as medicine. Cyrus earned a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University in 2003, then earned a PhD in Nutritional Biochemistry from the University of California at Berkeley in 2012. He is the co-host of the annual Mastering Diabetes Online Summit, a featured speaker at the Plant-Based Nutrition and Healthcare Conference (PBNHC), the American College of Lifestyle Medicine (ACLM) Conference, Plant Stock, and has been featured on Forks Over Knives, NPR, PBS, KQED, Fast Company, and is the author of the upcoming book Mastering Diabetes.
- Cyrus Khambatta