I did a Facebook Live not long ago to talk about intermittent fasting. I got a number of emails afterward asking if I could put together a guide to all of this. I thought on the matter and decided I could do it. So here we are, a Beginner’s Guide to Intermittent Fasting.
Intermittent fasting is like exercise. Inherently, it’s pretty good for you. Fasting burns fat, boosts growth hormone, and slows the aging process, if you do it right. It also increases autophagy. (I’ll let you look that up on your own.) And like exercise, we need to consider how much we need starting out, and what kind, exactly. Do we fast with water or with juice? Is that even really fasting, if you do it with juice? These are all questions I will try to answer for you.
We know too much exercise isn’t a good thing, but we don’t say exercise is unsafe because of that. Yet this is what you hear about fasting–that it isn’t safe, or that it isn’t safe for women, etc. Now, there are obviously medical reasons why some people may not want to fast, in the same way there are medical reasons why some people may not want to do high intensity exercise. That isn’t what I’m talking about. For this post, we’ll assume you are not an invalid. I understand the term invalid may be politically incorrect.
Fasting is a stressor not all that dissimilar from exercise. When applied in the right amounts, there is eustress, or a positive adaptation. When applied in the wrong amounts, there is distress, or a negative adaptation. The goal of this guide is to get you familiar with a few of the more popular forms of intermittent fasting, so you can ease your way into it, and find a method that works for you.
I’ve picked five popular approaches to dig into.
5 Popular Fasting Methods for Getting Started
Method #1: Infrequent Eating
Metabolic changes toward being in a fasted state occur between 4-6 hours after the absorption of a meal. What does this tell us? It tells us that at least one way to practice fasting is to just not eat as much. In other words, to not eat as frequently, to put more space between our meals.
Part of what fasting teaches us is that hunger is OK and is actually productive, sometimes. We don’t want to never be hungry. On the other hand, we do want to avoid “hangry”–which, more often than not, is our inability to control our emotions when hungry. This is a skill we should all need to learn. This is a skill that fasting can teach us.
Putting your meals 5-6 hours a part may not be the most popular method of fasting, and may not even technically be fasting, but it is a start. This is the easiest way to begin.
Method #2: 5/2 Fast
The 5/2 Diet blew up a few years back after a journalist co-wrote a book about it with a nutritionist. The book was such a success that Wiley contracted me to do a For Dummies version of it (“Fast Diets for Dummies“). The plus side of this for me, was that I got to expand on other forms of fasting as well. That would be a good resource for you, if you want a book on all this.
So, the 5/2 Diet. It’s very simple. Twice a week, you eat two 500 calorie meals, and that’s it. The meals should be healthy, obviously, and not like, two slices of pizza each. Big salads, bowls of veggies and lean protein–that sort of thing.
Again, the 5/2 Diet may not even be technically fasting, it all depends on how you time your meals. But it works and for the same reason any of these methods work–reduced caloric intake. Calories in/calories out. Fasting makes it easy.
Method #3: Eating Window
I think this one got started with The Warrior Diet, by Ori Hoffmeckler. I’m not saying he invented it, I’m only saying he made it popular. The idea is you condense all the eating you’re going to do into a number of hours. This “eating window” may be in the afternoon, or at night. I prefer night. I’ve found I sleep better that way.
The Warrior Diet calls for a “controlled fast”, where you may have some live, light foods throughout the day (raw fruits and veggies, namely; maybe a little protein), and one rather large meal at night. The other option is to keep it strict, nothing but water or water or coffee or tea, until you eat.
The eating window is adjustable depending on where you’re at. For beginners, it may be eight hours or so. For people who are further along, maybe it’s four hours.
Method #4: Micro Fasting
Micro-fasting is skipping breakfast, more or less. This builds off the fasted state you’ve acquired in your sleep and many say when they skip breakfast (or eat very lightly at breakfast) they find they are more focused and alert. This why I sometimes call Micro Fasting the Productivity Diet.
Whenever I micro-fast I’ll have my first meal around 1pm, which is (typically) my post workout. Fasted exercise is worth talking about, and I will talk about it, later. Later as in another post.
Method #5: Intermittent Fasting (The Classic Approach)
This is where you just don’t eat for a day. The best method–or at least the one that I like–is going from dinner to dinner. So you have dinner tonight and then you don’t eat again until dinner tomorrow. This one is more challenging for some, but not all: Since you do this only once a week, you may find it easier than the more frequent bouts of fasting.
I find this approach to be a lot fun. I feel so light at the end of the day–and hungry, there is that–but I love the challenge of it, the adventure, even. I don’t do longer fasts often, maybe only once or twice a month, but feel immensely rejuvenated when I do. I would recommend everybody try this at some point, even if you don’t make it a regular thing.
If you do try this method, remember that 24 hours is the goal, but that you don’t have to start there. Work your way up to it. Add an hour or two every week, or every other week, and see how you feel.
Conclusions and Recommendations
If you’re wondering if fasting is for you, there is only way to know and that is to try. I do believe with the right approach, and a little guidance, fasting is something anyone can benefit from. And once you get into a rhythm with it, you’ll likely find, as many do, that fasting is something you really enjoy and want to stick with.
Start with the 5/2 Diet or Micro-Fasting.
Here are a few resources to get going with.
==> My 30-Day Hormone Optimization Challenge (5/2 Approach)
I put this together challenge together, which comes free as part of my Inner Circle, to give you a plan for getting your body back in balance, and dropping weight with a simple, sustainable approach to eating, not-eating (fasting), and exercise.
==> Fast Diets for Dummies (A mix of everything)
This is my compendium and analysis on the popular forms of intermittent fasting, along with a few plans on getting started. It’s a little more in depth than what you read here.
PS – Juicing is not fasting.