Intermittent fasting has five stages. Within each stage, many things occur that don’t happen when the person is in the fed state. Intermittent fasting helps improve a person’s glucose metabolism and enables the body to be more efficient.
However, some people may question if intermittent fasting works. Some may worry about the dangers or side effects it may cause if practiced inappropriately. A 2019 study suggested that Intermittent Energy Restriction (IER) produces significant weight loss as compared to continuous energy restriction (CER).
In this article, you’ll find ways to maximize the effects of intermittent fasting.
1. Setting the Right Mindset
Many people fail to achieve the desired results of intermittent fasting because they’re not able to establish the right mindset at the start of the process. Without a particular set of goals, they get discouraged easily and tend to quit too soon.
Intermittent fasting isn’t a one-time program and it should be done consistently to make it a habit and a way of life. When doing intermittent fasting, you must have Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bounded (SMART) goals. These objectives will be your guide for assessing improvements.
Moreover, not all can practice intermittent fasting. Children, pregnant women, people below 18 years, and those with a weak immune system should avoid intermittent fasting. Even healthy people should consult a doctor beforehand to ensure their safety.
2. Determine the Method of Fasting
There are several existing methods or eating patterns. Every method may be effective but it works best for an individual who has figured out the process. Here are six popular ways of doing intermittent fasting:
- 16/8 Method: It involves fasting every day for 14-16 hours and an eating window of 8-10 hours. You can eat three or more meals within the eating window. During the fast, you’re allowed to drink water, coffee, and other beverages with no calorie content. These may reduce your craving for food.
- 5:2 Diet: It’s also called Fast Diet and it involves consuming 500-600 calories for 2 days of the week and eating regularly for the remaining 5 days.
- Eat Stop Eat: It’s intermittent fasting with one or two 24-hour fasts per week.
- Alternate-day fasting: It’s a program where fasting is done every other day. You have the option to not eat anything or eating only a few hundred calories during fasting.
- The Warrior Diet: It requires eating small amounts of vegetables and fruits during the day and having a huge meal at night.
- Spontaneous Meal Skipping: Fasting is done by skipping one or two meals when you’re not hungry.
For beginners, a 12-hour fast is the first step. Then one can proceed to 16:8 fasting, as most people do. However, fasting for longer periods may have health effects such as gallstone formation. Women are at a higher risk of this condition regardless of their weight.
Breakfast is important and skipping it isn’t ideal. A study by the American College of Cardiology suggests that skipping breakfast tends to induce atherosclerosis, a condition described as hardening of the arteries.
If possible, choose a diet pattern that you can commit to and follow the schedule religiously.
3. Stick to the Routine
Having a fasting program as part of your routine will make it easy to execute and continue for a long period. To maintain the fasting program, follow the tips below:
- Plan ahead for the activities of the week. Adjust your fasting period a day before if you’re planning to attend a birthday, lunch, and the like.
- It’s better to have dinner as the last meal so that the sleep time is counted as part of fasting.
- Keep yourself busy.
- If possible, do your work out after the fast.
4. Stay Hydrated
Hunger is one of the immediate effects of intermittent fasting. If you cheat during intermittent fasting, you won’t get the required results. Drink something in between to avoid the cravings. The 16/8 method allows you to consume coffee, water, and herbal teas during the fast.
5. Exercise Portion Control
While practicing intermittent fasting, you need to exercise control over the amount you eat.
This can be done by pacing your meals to avoid eating large ones during the non-fast window. When following the 8-hour feeding program, try to consider these:
- First Hour: Eat the first normal meal
- Second Hour: Take a little snack
- Third Hour: Consume the second normal meal
- Fifth Hour: Take a small snack
- Seventh Hour: Eat the last normal meal
Stay hydrated in between the meals and, if possible, use smaller plates for better meal control.
6. Consume the Right Food
Processed foods can leave you feeling hungrier. Moreover, they may increase the risk of obesity and other diseases. Eating the right kind of food is good for portion control. Here are some tips for healthy eating:
- Eat lean proteins like chicken or grass-fed beef.
- Consume foods with healthy fats like avocados and salmon.
- Fill your plate with leafy greens.
- Take some nuts for snacks.
7. Sleep Well
You can’t achieve the desired fasting result when you lack sleep during the entire program. Sleep deprivation may lead to a lower ability to control hunger. Sleep deprivation may also lead to other health problems. It may increase the production of a hormone that stimulates the appetite and eventually decrease the release of leptin that controls hunger. Try to sleep for at least seven hours a day.
The tips above may help you to maximize the effects of intermittent fasting. However, intermittent fasting will work only if you’re committed and practice it consistently. Failures may come along the way but you must keep moving until you find success.