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A Beginner’s Guide to Fasting

By October 4, 2018Diet, Food for thought, Health
fasting

Is counting calories and adhering to a specific diet difficult for you? Well, fasting saves you the trouble. It boosts your metabolism and reenergizes your system among other benefits.  

What is Fasting?  

There is a common misconception that fasting is about starving yourself. No. It is about not eating within selected intervals of time. You will come across many diet tips that seem to contradict one another. It becomes overwhelming and you may end up giving up on improving your diet. It is a different case Fastingwith fasting. It is about not eating for a given period.  

Now, instead of eating three meals a day or small meals spread out through the day, you will set aside a given duration for eating. It can be hours in a day or given weekdays. Within this time, you are allowed to eat healthy meals.  

You cannot feast on processed sugars, junk, and potato chips yet expect fasting to work for you. Therefore, adhere to whole grains, raw dairy, vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, and good fat. Enjoy some cheese and chocolate if you like.  

Fasting does not tie you down to one way of living or eating. It is a great addition to your routine that can help you with your weight loss journey or even maintain a healthy weight once you get there.  This is where different types of fasting come in. Continue reading. 

Types of Fasting 

Remember, we said fasting is all about eating within set periods. It depends on how long you are planning to spend without eating.  

The Daniel Fast  

Fasting has a religious connection. According to the Bible in the book of Daniel, he fasted. The Daniel fast involves eating whole foods like fruits and vegetables, but not meat, dairy, or grains. This type of fasting does not allow you to drink coffee, juice, or alcohol. The time frame for this fast is 21 days.  

Intermittent  

This type of fasting ranges between an average time of 14-18hours without eating. However, if you have the energy you can go to a maximum of 32-36hours without solid food.  

Time-Restricted  

Many people adhere to this type of fasting without knowing they are fasting. Usually, you refrain from food for 12-16 hours. For example, most people take dinner at 7 pm or 8 pm then go to sleep until say 7 am. Some people may forget to take breakfast until around 10 am. If you count the hours such a person goes without eating, they fall in the time range of time-restricted fasting.  

However, when the time to eat comes, make sure you are feeding on healthy meals as much as your body needs but not overeating. Eating much more than you should will cause unnecessary weight gain. This type of fasting is easy to adhere to. You do not need to make big changes in your eating routine.  

Alternate Day Fasting  

Alternate Day fasting is about having fasting and non-fasting days. They should alternate. Therefore, there are days you eat and others that you do not. It can be difficult following such a routine but it is possible if you are willing.  

However, alternate fasting does not necessarily mean that you refrain from food altogether. You can reduce your calorie intake to a quarter of your usual intake. For example, you can consume 1000 calories on your non-fasting days then take 250 calories only on your fasting days. It is only reasonable that your body will need some food to carry out its normal functions during your fasting days.  

Alternate day fasting is not a sustainable long-term plan, as it can be hard to implement and adhere to. Try it and see how far you can go. You may not stick to it forever, but it’s a good way to start your weight loss journey. 

5:2 Fasting  

This type of fasting is about eating your normal way for five days of the week and then limiting food intake during the remaining two days. During the two days, you only take 500 calories a day or a maximum of 600 calories.  

Warrior Fasting  

This entails you eating fruits and vegetables within the day and then a large, whole, balanced meal in the evening.  

How Are You Supposed to Fast?

Fasting does not have to be as hard as some people make it sound. It is simpler when you have a guideline on how to do it. 

First, identify the type of fasting you would like to engage in. Time-restricted fasting would be a good place to start considering it is more achievable than other fasting types. 12-16 hours of not eating will not be as hard, as you will be asleep the better half of the hours. The rest you can fill up during the day. If you have ever done time-restricted fasting, then you can advance to the other challenging types. 

Second, come up with goals. What do you want to get out of fasting? Is it losing weight, having more energy, being healthier or feeling better? Jot down your goals and place them at a place you can easily see as you fast. Doing so encourages you to achieve your fasting goals 

Third, you need to plan your meals and buy the foodstuff you will need. Planning has to do with what you will be eating each day and when you will be eating. A meal plan keeps you disciplined so you only eat what you should and when you should. With time, you will get used to it. 

Fourth, your body is everything. It is the key to feeling well when fasting. Listen to what it is telling you. If you are a beginner in fasting, it will take a few days for your body to adjust to the new routine.  

Even when the 12-16 hour fasting takes its toll on you and you need a snack, eat something that is small and high in nutritional value. If you are not hungry after your fasting hours are up, you do not have to eat just because it is non-fasting time. This shows that your body is adapting to the change in your lifestyle. 

Monitor your fasting and write down your experiences. Identify any patterns and your general feeling each time you fast.   

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Fasting 

Fasting attracts common questions among those new to it and those who have already tried it. 

How long do I need to fast? 

Fasting does not involve ridiculous rules. It is as simple as it gets. It is not about the hours you put in but about how comfortable you are with a given type of fasting. Intermittent fasting is manageable even for beginners.  

One of the tips to help you fast accordingly is eating when you feel hungry. Avoid starving your body. If you feel you need a snack then take it. It would be a bad idea to fast when preparing for a marathon. If you are changing your diet, do not put pressure on yourself to get it right overnight. Instead, make small changes gradually until you are used to your meals containing whole foods only. Then, you can consider fasting.  

Which liquids should I take when fasting? 

The kinds of liquids you take depend on the type of fasting you choose. During fasting hours, it is prudent to stick to drinks low in calories such as tea, coffee, and water. This is for time-restricted fasting.  

Alternate day fasting and other types allow you to drink any liquid as long you watch the calories. For example, drink milk during no-eating periods.  

At all means, avoid drinking alcohol. It will not do your fasting efforts any good.  

Should I exercise as I fast?  

Time-restricted fasting is excellent for exercise. When you wake up at 7 am, you can exercise before eating anything. If you feel energized in the morning, this would be a great time to work out before heading to your job.  

However, for the other fasting types, exercising can be difficult considering they lower your energy levels due to your low-calorie intake. Therefore, you should avoid strenuous tasks like running or lifting weights, consider practicing some light yoga or going on a walk.  

What Benefits Do You Gain from Fasting? 

We have covered a lot about fasting so far. The one question you may still have is what are the benefits of fasting?  

Fasting and Weight Loss 

There are many studies that show fasting helps with losing weight. It does so through cutting down weight and reducing excess body fat. Fasting also lowers toxins, enabling your body to fight issues such as acne. It allows you to shed belly fat and at the same time retain your muscle mass.  

Boosting the Production of Human Growth Hormone (HGH)   

The human body releases the growth hormone that curbs obesity, fosters muscle-building, and burns extra fat. HGH strengthens your muscles to better your workouts. Now, if fasting boosts the production of the growth hormone, then your system will have more amounts to ensure it carries out its functions in a more effective manner.  

Fasting and Athletes 

Fasting is good for athletes. For example, it helps them build muscles, lose fat, and improves their overall strength. This improves their performance. However, it is important for athletes to eat quality protein 30 minutes after workouts. It enhances muscle build-up and burns fat.  

Enhancing Insulin Sensitivity 

When you eat too many carbohydrates and sugars, you expose yourself to type-2 diabetes. Your body might become so resistant to insulin that it begins to stop responding to it. Fasting ensures you are sensitive to insulin. Your body reacts as required when it releases insulin, which is to converge sugars (glucose) into glycogen for storage.  

Controlling the Hunger Hormone 

Restrictive diets increase the production of the hunger hormone. The hormone tells your mind that you are hungry. Increasing the amount of the hormone means you are likely to feel hungry more often than you should. Once you get used to fasting, it can assist you to normalize the hormone. This way, you eat when your body needs to, as the hunger hormone will be under control.  

Lowering Cholesterol Levels 

Bad cholesterol is never good for your body. It is linked to heart diseases. Fasting allows your body to burn cholesterol, reducing its levels in your system. 

Fasting Precautions  

Fasting is not for everyone, even with its helpful benefits. For starters, people with diabetes and hypoglycemia should never fast. It will adversely affect their glucose and insulin. They should wait until the two components are normalized.  

If you are expectant, or breastfeeding, avoid fasting. Pregnant and nursing mothers need calories to sufficiently meet the nutritional needs of their unborn babies and infants respectively. Cutting on calories, which is what fasting does for some part of the day, would be detrimental. Your body needs the calories to ensure it provides enough food for you and your unborn child or nursing baby.  

If you are suffering from a certain health condition or you are using other medications, speak with your doctor about fasting. Nevertheless, for many people, fasting is beneficial to their health and general well-being.  

Summary  

  • Fasting requires you to eat only during certain periods of the day.  
  • Intermittent fasting entails time-restrictions on eating and alternating the days you fast. 
  • To successfully fast, remember to choose a particular type of fasting, set goals, and purchase the foods you will need. 
  • Fasting comes with various bodily benefits, for instance, reducing body weight, lowering bad cholesterol levels, ensuring sensitivity to insulin, and encouraging the secretion of the Human Growth Hormone. 
  • Fasting is not for pregnant women or nursing mothers. Those with diabetes and hypoglycemia should not fast. If you are using any drugs, consult your doctor about whether you should fast.