Whether you're a beginner or not, there's no doubt that intermittent fasting is one of the most talked-about health trends right now. With its known possibilities to help reduce weight and support gut health, here are our best methods for getting started.
One of the main benefits of intermittent fasting – and the reason why we love it so much - is that your body begins to burn stored body fat, rather than depending on sugar for energy.
The beauty of intermittent fasting is that you begin to understand what hunger actually is. You see, just because your stomach is empty, it doesn’t mean that you’re hungry. Most of the time, our mind convinces us that we should be hungry when in fact; we can go many more hours without food. Think about it, how often do you rely on the clock to eat? "Oh, it's 12 o'clock, it must be lunchtime!". Sound familiar?
To put it simply, our bodies are not designed to be full of food all of the time. If you think back to the caveman days, then it would have been completely unnatural for them to eat regularly throughout the day and the same applies to us. It’s only when we begin to restrict the frequency of our meals that we start to burn our body fat reserves. Once you’ve tapped into those reserves, your energy levels should increase, your hunger levels should resume to normal and most importantly, you’ll start to lose weight.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is an eating style that cycles between periods of fasting and eating. Some call it a diet, some call it a lifestyle.
Although intermittent fasting is an effective way to lose weight, it’s less a diet and more a lifestyle choice and can reap some incredible health benefits.
Intermittent Fasting Benefits
Although there are many benefits when it comes to intermittent fasting, its main two benefits are as follows...
1) It gives the body a break from food, allowing it time to enter a self-repair mode.
2) It helps us to safely lose weight without any fad diets.
As we said earlier, our bodies aren't designed to eat every so often. When we eat little but often, we're constantly putting sugar back into our bloodstream and never allowing our liver or pancreas to have a break.
When we fast, however, our insulin levels drop significantly, our bodies burn fat and we allow it to do its job and recover. Here are a few more benefits intermittent fasting may provide our bodies with...
- Increased energy
- Cellular repair and autophagy (when your body consumes defective tissue in order to produce new parts)
- Insulin reduced
- Bad cholesterol reduced
- Increased longevity
- Boosted brain function
- Boosted memory (we become less foggy)
Intermittent Fasting Methods
When it comes to intermittent fasting, there are several methods in which you can choose from. All of these methods involve splitting the day or week into eating and fasting periods.
During the fasting periods, you have no food and allow your body to recover.
These are the most popular methods:
- The 5:2 diet: With this method, you consume only 500-600 calories on two non-consecutive days of the week, but eat normally the other 5 days. Males consume 500 calories, female consume 600.
- The 1:1 diet or alternate-day fasting: This method is very similar to the 5:2 diet, but we alternate our fasting day with a normal day.
- The 18-hour fast diet: For this method, you commit yourself to eat only in a six-hour timeframe each day. Therefore, you are regularly fasting for 18 hours a day. While this may sound extreme to beginners, this is a very popular method for those who now see IF as a lifestyle change.
- The 16:8 diet: This method is very similar to the 18-hour fast diet but instead, you eat during an eight-hour timeframe and fast for the remaining 16 hours.
The 16:8 diet
For those starting out, the 16:8 diet is one of the most popular methods for intermittent fasting - and with good reason too.
While we love the 5:2 and 18-hour fast diets, the 16:8 diet is an easier and more consistent diet for beginners that avoids two days of growling hunger (we're talking to you 5:2).
To get started with the 16:8 diet, you simply work on an hourly basis. Each day you eat within an 8-hour time frame and fast for the remaining 16 hours. There's no calorie restriction either. As long as you eat a healthy Primal diet, then you're good to go.
For example, if you have breakfast at 9 am, you're then free to eat until 5 pm that same day. You'll then fast for the remaining 16 hours and repeat. Our advice would be to choose a time frame that suits you best. While others are happy to skip breakfast and start their eating period at lunchtime, others will prefer to have breakfast in the morning and finish their dinner early in the evening.
Tips for Intermittent Fasting Beginners
Once you've figured out your preferred method for intermittent fasting, we suggest following a few of our Primal tips to help get you started...
1) If you can (and want to), try counting your calories when you first start out. Although we don't count our calories as a Primal lifestyle, it's useful to understand what 500 or 600 calories look like. This way, you're more likely to portion control better. Just because you have a period to eat, it doesn't mean that you're free to pig out and go crazy. Eat as you normally would.
2) Consume as many nutrients and minerals as possible. The more you fill your bodies with nutrients and minerals (aka the foods that will fill you up properly), the less likely you are to feel hungry during your fasting period.
3) Bite the bullet and push on. When you're first starting out, be aware that you'll most likely have days where you feel really hungry - especially around the time when your body 'thinks' it should be eating. Our advice? Push on and find something to occupy your mind with.
4) Be realistic. If you can't fast 7 days a week, then choose the days where you can fast. If that means fasting Mon-Fri and relaxing on the weekends, then so be it. The more realistic you are with your goals, the more likely you are to stick to it.
5) Experiment with different fasting methods. If one particular method doesn't work for you then don't give up, try a different one instead! Everyone is different and what works best for others, may not work for you.
6) Seek motivation. It's always a great idea to boost yourself with a little bit of motivation when you can. We suggest finding some great IF accounts on Instagram or Facebook for extra ideas and tips.
7) To keep yourself filling fuller just before your eating window finishes, we suggest upping your fibre intake with our Primal SlimShotz. Designed to fill your body with fibre goodness, SlimShotz will leave you feeling less hungry throughout the day. And no, it's not packed with any rubbish! For more info, click here.
Before you start your new journey with intermittent fasting, we do, however, always suggest contacting your local GP for professional advice and knowledge.
For further knowledge and Primal inspiration, read our book, The Primal Cure.