Intermittent Fasting Tips

Tips for Intermittent Fasting

If you are trying to lose weight with Intermittent Fasting and fasting for 16 hours or longer, here are few tips and things to keep in mind for your longer fasting days.

1. When the “intense” hunger strikes, it should pass or ease up within 15 minutes.  Take some deep breathes, drink a big glass of water or some hot, unsweetened tea to help take the edge off.

2. When it’s time to break your fast, try not to begin eating during that period of intense hunger, wait until it passes or eases up before you begin eating.  And when you eat, EAT SLOWLY!  Sit down to eat.  Set your fork down and take a breath between bites.  Eat distraction free, no reading or internet or TV.  Enjoy the company of your dining companions, taste and contemplate your food, how it tastes – these are mindful eating tips but they are especially important when practicing IF so that you don’t mindlessly overeat because you’ve been fasting and gone a long stretch without food.

3. Eat nutrient dense foods first.  This is ideal always, but it’s especially important when you’re practicing longer fasts – you need to nourish your body with good food!  Quality protein, fruits, vegetables, nuts.  Have a treat if you want one, but nutrition should be your priority.  Pay attention to your fullness cues.  As soon as you feel full and satisfied, stop eating.

4. Get busy!  Don’t sit around thinking about how hungry you are or what you’re going to eat next, get up and get moving.  Become fully present in what you’re doing.  Do your best to stay occupied and keep your mind off food.  I like to think about the mornings as “time to wok” – it’s when I get most of my low intensity movement in (light housework, yard work, etc) which is also great for burning stored fat for fuel.

5. Once your metabolism is better adapted at burning fat for fuel (something it is learns to do through IF) consider adding a few short, high intensity workout into your week.  (Short and high intensity is key!)  Even better if you can do so in a fasted state and your body is already cranking away using stored fat for fuel.  Exercise squashes your appetite for a while too.  This isn’t recommended if you’re brand new to IF or starting from a diet that is especially high in sugar and carbs – it could leave you feeling shaky or light headed, so proceed with caution and don’t do anything you feel is unsafe or worrisome.  Be sure to stay hydrated and drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise.

6. When you first begin fasting, you might find that you overeat when you break your fast, but this should resolve itself and even out over the course a few days as your body and brain figure out that you’re not starving or enduring a famine.  You should eventually return to eating a normal sized meals despite having just gone 16 – 19 hours without eating.

7. Eat whenever you are hungry during your eating window.  Calories count, but you are eating to sustain yourself during your next fast.  It’s normal to feel hungry sooner after your last meal than you use to, especially if you’re exercising. and that’s OK – this is the time to eat, so eat!  (Now go read Tip #3 again.)

8. Break up your week with longer fasts and shorter fasts.  I like to do one or two 19, 20, 21 hour fasts a week, doing shorter fasts on the other days – whether it’s for an event or life circumstances or just to cut yourself some slack – it’s no big deal.  12, 14, 16 hour fasting days will eventually seem easy and normal, they will feel like a piece of cake after you’ve done a couple of 19 or 20 hour fast.  A 12 – 14 hour fast is basically eating nothing between dinner and breakfast.  A 12 hour fast still has plenty of benefits and reinforces some of the great lifestyle and habit change that IF can teach us.  (One of the great things about IF is the way it shows times you would mindlessly eat, or if you struggle with emotional or boredom eating, you will be forced to find alternate ways of dealing with the uncomfortable feelings that you dealt with using food in the past.)

9. Intermittent Fasting is easier when eat high quality carbs (i.e., fruits and vegetables) that have a low glycemic index or in conjunction with protein and fat to keep your blood sugar stable.  This helps encourage your body to become efficient at burning stored body fat for fuel and keeps you from feel the rebound hunger that comes with a blood sugar crash after eating too much sugar or a lot of carbs.

10.  I prefer to finish my last meal of the day a couple hours before bedtime.  If you ate enough during your eating window you shouldn’t feel true physical hunger in the evening hours.  If I feel slightly hungry before bed, that hunger feeling is gone when I wake up in the morning (or even in the middle of the night.)

11. Get plenty of good quality sleep!  A sleep deficit often leads us to feeling hungrier than usual and disrupts our hunger and satiety hormones.  You need to make sleep a priority, it’s important for your overall health but will also make a difference in achieving your weight loss goals.

12. Give yourself permission ahead of time to break your fast sooner rather than later if you are feeling anxious about fasting.  It can be scary to think “I’m going to be so hungry!  It’s going to be awful!”  Knowing that “if it gets really bad, it’s OK to eat” can help alleviate some stress and can save you from sabotaging your efforts because it seems overwhelming.

Are you an accomplished faster and have some tips to add?  Please share what works for you in the comments below!

25 Responses

  • bernadette says:

    I would like to know for how long you have been doing this as I would love to try it out…..in fact its noon and the last time I put food in my mouth was at 9 last night and I used to eat every 2 hours …but lately I was gaining weight again and that is so so frustrating…this seems so so interesting and not so difficult…any activity?

    thanks

    • Hi Bernadette,

      I’ve been practicing IF on and off since early 2011. I took a hiatus during my pregnancy in 2012, but with only that exception, I’ve been doing it for a few years. And yes, regular exercise too, even in a fasted state (once your metabolism has adapted to be better at burning fat for fuel.)

      • bernadette says:

        Dear Alison,

        Thanks for your reply. Today is my second day. Doing well so far. All I do is walking for 45 min … am doing that before I break the fast. ..is that good you think?

        Thanks

        • Walking is great! If when you’re ready, some high intensity intervals can be great for fat loss as well. (I like to do 6 – 10 [30 second] sprints with a minute rest in between. “Sprint” can be defined as anything where you are giving maximum effort… but as always, proceed with caution and consult a health care professional if you are unsure about what exercise routines will be safe for you.)

  • Sherie Butcher says:

    I tried intermittent fasting before my son’s wedding in June 2013 and lost about 10 pounds very quickly. I began IF again yesterday & would like to lose about 30 pounds. Hoping this time works as well for me! I really dislike counting calories & feeling deprived when eating out. I also like the idea of only feeling “extreme hunger” once in a 24 hour period!

  • bernadette says:

    So here I am approaching my nearly 24 hour mark without food! Yay… now for a power walk and than I eat. . Definitely better than counting calories. . I just hope it works when it comes to shedding weight

    • I’m glad you’re having a positive experience! I like to think of IF as one of many tools that can be used to aid weight loss and for health too. It’s still important to remember though that’s not a magic bullet, IF lead me to get a better understanding of the ways in which I would use food that had little to do with real hunger. (i.e., boredom, stress management, etc.) Weight loss boils down to a calorie deficit, your food quality and quantity still matter, but I definitely feel that IF can be an easier way to achieve a calorie deficit without counting calories and feeling deprived.

  • Bernadette Ellul Felice says:

    Let me know how it goes Sherie . . I need to loose 20 pounds

  • Sherie Butcher says:

    Thanks Alison & Bernadette! Today I have gone around 22 hours with the fast. I was starting to get a headache & hadn’t intended to go more than 18 hours anyway, so I ate something. I remember from doing IF before, after the first few days, it becomes easier & there is a feeling of satisfaction that losing the weight is possible!

  • Jenny says:

    can I have drinks like lemon water with stevia while I’m fasting, or matcha powder tea with spirulina or chlorella powders added…. Or maca powder drink…. Or maitake mushroom powder drink….all without sugar added. Just water

  • Jenny says:

    can I have drinks like lemon water with stevia while I’m fasting, or matcha powder tea with spirulina or chlorella powders added…. Or maca powder drink…. Or maitake mushroom powder drink….all without sugar. Just water added.

  • bernadette says:

    Jenny. …I stick to coffee and herbal teas….all fine

  • Dave G says:

    Heya, Ive been trying out my own version and just wanted your thoughts? My regime was formed as it fitted around what I felt my body needed, and the convenience to be able to fit it in and around my ‘normal’ life.
    Monday to Thursday I wake up at 6:30 and normally have a light breakfast eg bowl of cerial at 7.30. at 12:30 I have my main meal of the day. This is usually a standard canteen style meal from the canteen at work. I will then not eat again until breakfast the following day.
    On a Friday I have breakfast and lunch as normal, but I also have a light meal in the evening, normally around 8:00.
    Saturday and Sundays I start with a light breakfast normally around 8:30 and will fast until around 8:30 that evening.
    I play squash for up to 2 hours monday evenings, and I play high intensity 5 a side Soccer tuesdays and thursdays.
    I might have the odd aditional swim here and there most weeks, but never with any great regularity.
    I have noticed I feel better in myself and my digestion has improved massively, but I seem to be staying the same weight. Do you have any suggestions to help me improve the weight loss? Im 6ft tall and weight approx 14.5st
    Thanks!

  • Miriam says:

    Thanks for this, Alison. I’ve been doing IF for a little over a month and I’ve lost 10 pounds. Definitely happy with that pace, but was looking for tips like these from a woman who’s been there. One thing I’ve noticed is that I have had a somewhat jagged weight decline (e.g., down a pound one day, up the next, and then down a few pounds). I wondered if you experienced that at all. By the way it is refreshing to find a woman who has had a positive experience with IF offering her insight. There seem to be more women writing off trying IF, particularly after Stefani Ruper’s much debated article. I’m glad that I decided to try it. Haven’t felt this good in years!

    • Hi Miriam, thanks for your comment! A jagged weight decline is pretty normal in my experience, it sounds like what you’re doing is working though! Glad to know you’re feeling so great, way to go!

      I’m unfamiliar with the article you’ve mentioned here, I’m curious to check it out. Thanks for mentioning it.

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  • Tiffany J says:

    Hi,

    I enjoyed learning all that you have provided about IF. My question is, I have a significant amount of weight to lose around 70lbs. Would you recommend IF along with eating healthy and exercise alone to accomplish my goal?

    • Hi Tiffany, healthy eating and exercise should definitely be the foundation of any weight loss effort, you can always try IF and see if it works for you. It will take some trial and error, but it’s worth a try in my opinion!

  • Esha haq says:

    Hello Alison, I gave birth 4months ago and I wasn’t sure if I should be IF while breastfeeding.When I came across your experience I felt very comfortable with starting IF with 16hr fasts,but now milk supply is not enough for my 4month old,I would like to know how to incorporate fenugreek supplements in my diet.The supplement slows down sugar absorption,would it be safe while IF? Please if have any recomendations. Thank you

    • Hi Esha, I can’t advise you with fenugreek, but if you’re feeling like your milk supply has been effected by IF, then I would recommend not practicing IF right now, or at least not practicing IF every day or perhaps doing shorter fasts if you wish to continue breastfeeding.

      As a side note, if you were my friend in real life, I would ask what makes you think your milk supply is low? It’s normal at this stage of infancy/postpartum for moms to feel like they’ve “lost their milk” because their breasts feel softer than they use to in the early weeks after birth. But if you are still getting a normal amount of wet diapers (it’s normal for bowel movements to slow down for older, exclusively breastfed infants – even days between BM’s is normal) and baby comes off the breast satisfied and is gaining weight well and in other ways thriving, your supply is most likely fine.

      But if you feel like you need to take a supplement to increase your milk supply that has decreased due to IF and you want to continue breastfeeding, IF might not be right for you at this time.

  • Barb` says:

    Dave G should try the word regimen rather than regime. I love IF, and I really appreciate all of the reading here. I have MS, and I’ve been reading on 3-10 day fasting for resetting my immune system; it seemed way over my head. I stumbled on IF, and I’m just finishing my first 5-day stretch. I feel great. I always had to force myself to sit and eat breakfast, so that’s gone now. I’ve had different sized windows, not having found this great website until today, but all less than 8 hours. My pants are fitting much better, and I don’t have to suck my gut in to get my belt on the hole it’s supposed to be on (for now). I’m thrilled!! I’m empowered!! I’m feeling happy for the first time in a long time. Thank you so much for sharing your journey.

  • Esther says:

    How long does it take to see or notice any affect?

  • Brett says:

    New to IF but not to clean eating and working out. I read and hear from so many fitness trainers that eating MORE calories is the key to weight loss. A friend of mine told me about IF; I’ve been reading about it all week and decided yesterday to give it a try. So we will see. But my question is: What about those small 5-6 meals that’s being preached?



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