If you’re looking for ways to lose weight and get in shape, you’ve probably heard of intermittent fasting (IF). An eating pattern that’s gained popularity in recent years, intermittent fasting involves alternating periods of eating and fasting (or significantly restricting calories). Not only has intermittent fasting been proven to help participants lose weight, but it has also been associated with increased energy, reduced blood pressure, and general cardio-protection. According to an article in Nutrition Journal, obese individuals who participated in alternate-day fasting lost weight and enjoyed heart-health benefits.
While IF clearly offers benefits for overweight and obese individuals looking to boost their fitness levels, fasting on its own doesn’t guarantee success. On the contrary, to succeed with intermittent fasting, individuals need to consume the right foods in appropriate amounts. Learn more about how intermittent fasting works, what foods you should eat on this diet, and what foods you should avoid.
How Intermittent Fasting Works
One of the benefits of IF is that you can choose a fasting style that suits your needs and lifestyle. Here are three of the most common fasting schedules among IF participants:
1. 12:12 Method
With this schedule, individuals restrict their eating to a 12-hour period each day and fast for the remaining 12 hours. For example, if you have your first meal of the day at 8 a.m., you should have your last meal or snack before 8 p.m. You’ll then fast overnight. Because much of the fasting time is spent sleeping, this dietary option is a good one for IF beginners.
2. 16:8 Method
A slightly more advanced form of IF, this method involves restricting food consumption to an 8-hour period. For example, you might have your first meal at 10 a.m. and your last at 6 p.m.
3. 5:2 Method
The 5:2 method requires a bit more discipline than the first two methods. With this eating plan, dieters consume the foods they want five days a week and fast the other two days. It’s important to note that most people still consume a limited amount of calories on fasting days.
Individuals can be successful with all three fasting schedules. The goal is to be consistent and diligent.
IF and Diet
One of the advantages of intermittent fasting over other dietary plans is that it doesn’t involve specific restrictions with regard to food type or quantity consumed. However, experts caution that dieters should still consume healthy foods and avoid overindulging in “junk food.” According to a Greatest article, any individuals looking to lose weight should focus on “nutrient-dense foods,” including fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean proteins, and dairy.
Additionally, intermittent fasting participants should avoid binging or eating more than the usual number of meals on their eating days. Remember, you aren’t trying to make up for the calories you’re skipping on fast days.
While there’s no one meal plan that will make your IF plan successful, most participants benefit from consuming higher-protein meals that help them feel full longer. Strive to make protein your primary calorie source and fill up on low-calorie vegetables. If you’re tired of salads and steamed veggies, think about incorporating roasted veggies and stir-fry options into your diet. Consider using exotic spices to keep your meals fresh and interesting.
Although intermittent fasting doesn’t require participants to avoid carbohydrates the way keto does, many individuals opt to keep carb consumption to a minimum. Not only are these foods high in calories, but they tend not to fill you up for long. Snacking on breads and fruit juices will likely result in you feeling hungry again sooner.
Healthy Foods to Eat While Practicing IF
Wondering how to increase your odds of success with intermittent fasting? Here are some healthy foods and drinks to consume on an IF diet:
Whether you’re fasting 12 hours a day or two days a week, staying hydrated is crucial to both your nutritional health and dietary success. Be sure to get the appropriate amount of water every day, regardless of if you’re eating. If boring water leaves you uninspired, think about adding some lemon or lime juice or infusing your water with mint.
Often described as a superfood, fish is also a great option for IF participants. Full of protein and healthy fats, fish will keep you feeling full longer. Additionally, many types are rich in vitamin D.
3. Cruciferous Veggies
Broccoli and Brussels sprouts sometimes get a bad rap, but they’re rich in healthy fibers. Not only do these foods aid in your nutrition, but they also help keep you full longer.
Here are some other foods to consider adding to an IF diet:
- Natural yogurts
- Boiled or baked eggs
- Grilled lean meats
- Healthy, low-calorie soups, such as tomato and vegetable
- Black coffee or tea
- Sparkling water
Not everyone is a good candidate for intermittent fasting. Talk to your doctor to see if IF could be right for you.