Intermittent Fasting (IMF) has proven to be an effective dieting tool to help lose body fat because of the many ways it can influence your hormones and metabolism.
Here’s what you can expect on an intermittent fast
– Increased metabolic rate
– Increased growth hormone secretion
– Improved insulin sensitivity
– Increased lipolysis & fat burning
– Decreased blood sugar levels
– Decreased inflammation
How To Intermittent Fast. Steps 1-6
1: Daily Calorie Total
2: Diet Content
3: Length Of Fast
4: When To Fast
5: When To Eat
6: Avoid Common Mistakes
Step 1: Daily Calorie Total
Intermittent fasting is best viewed as a tool to help you lose body fat, and not just as a way to lose body weight. Because short term fasting influences growth hormone secretion in the later stages of a fast, it helps preserve muscle mass. So most of the weight you lose will be body fat, and not lean muscle.
It’s entirely possible to lose body fat without going into a large calorie deficit, but it will be difficult to lose body fat if you’re in a calorie surplus. So the absolute first thing you want to establish, before jumping into the fast, is your daily calories
You don’t have to be ultra restrictive with calories, but if you’re in a calorie surplus it will make losing body fat more challenging.
Use the following calorie calculators to determine the proper calorie range:
Step 2: Diet Content
Intermittent fasting is a structure and meal timing plan, that tells you when to eat, but there aren’t specific diet content guidelines you have to follow. IMF tells you when to eat, but not what to eat.
Your diet content is entirely up to you. IMF is often used in tandem with other diet philosophies like Atkins, paleo, Mediterranean, or simply just eating healthy and “clean”.
If you don’t have a diet preference, and you’ve never tried IMF, you should probably start with a low carb diet plan, and not an ultra strict zero carb plan.
Step 3: Length Of Fast
Once you’ve decided your daily calories and diet content, you need to decide how long you want to fast each day. While fasting for short periods, like 8-10 hours, helps manage calories and discipline, it doesn’t reap the benefits of IMF because of its length.
The real benefits of IMF begin around the 12-13 hour mark of your fast. This is where you’ll begin to experience short bursts of increased growth hormone secretion as well as other metabolic changes. The deeper you can go into a fast, the more benefits you’ll gain.
If you’re going to fast, make sure your schedule will allow a minimum of twelve consecutive hours for best results.
Beginner: 12 hours
Intermediate: 16 hours
Advanced: 20 hours
Related: Does the Eat Stop Eat diet work?
Step 4: When To Fast
As with diet content, the intermittent fasting philosophy doesn’t dictate the time of your fasting or eating period. There isn’t a “best” time to fast. The most important rule of IMF is consecutive, uninterrupted fasting hours.
Whatever works with your schedule is fine. Some people prefer to extend their fast until noon, while others prefer to begin their fast mid-day so they can eat a big breakfast the following morning.
Example fasting schedule:
Begin Fast: 6 pm (no more calories past this point)
End Fast: 10 am (next day)
The example above would give you 16 consecutive hours of fasting, which is an excellent range for fat loss.
Step 5: When To Eat
Depending on your daily calorie allotment, you may find it challenging to consume all your calories in the designated eating time period. If you decide to fast for 20 hours, and your daily calorie total is 2,500 – those will have to be pretty big meals to get all those calories in.
You have a specific time frame to get all your calories for the day, and the more disciplined you can be with your eating and non-eating time periods the more successful you’ll be.
Sticking with the same 16 hour fasting example as in step 4, here’s what your eating time frame would look like:
Begin Eating: 10 am
End Eating: 6 pm
All of your daily calories must be consumed within this time frame. Eating a small snack after 6 pm, will break the fast and diminish your daily progress.
Step 6: Avoid Common Mistakes
Here’s some of the most common mistakes people experience when trying intermittent fasting:
While a twenty hour fast can strip away fat really fast, it’s not an ideal starting point. It’s considered an advanced fasting time frame, especially if it’s done everyday. Try the shorter 12 or 16 hour fasts before progressing.
Take all your supplements during the eating time frame. Amino acids found in some supplements can disrupt the effects of your fast.
It’s best to drink water during your fast, and limit or avoid drinks with artificial sweetener.
Don’t Try To Cheat
Try to accept the non-eating period for what it is. No eating. Avoid using soups, broths, zero calorie foods, and zero calorie drinks during your fast.
Test Different Time Frames
IMF is very flexible in regards to the fasting and eating time frames. Use your mood and energy to help find what works best for you. If you aren’t a morning person, and you need breakfast, schedule your time frames to allow morning calories. It’s okay to experiment.
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