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You heard Intermittent Fasting can help you quickly shed off the pounds. You are aware of the positive impact it can have on your health. And – equipped with this knowledge –you can’t wait to give your first fast a try. Let’s go!
Not so fast (no pun intended.)
Maybe – in your enthusiasm –you plan to fast without any clue of how to best approach it or without knowing the hidden pitfalls. This can quickly lead to frustration, breaking your fast before you planned, or even worse: You end up gaining weight because you couldn’t stop yourself from binge eating when breaking the fast.
I’ve written down the 5 most important things you need to know before you start fasting.
After reading this article, you will be confident in starting intermittent fasting to crush your weight loss goals.
Serious Talk: Who Shouldn’t Fast?
In some situations, it’s a bad idea to do any type of fasting at all. For example,
- Pregnant women
- Under the age of 18
- Specific medical condition
If you are any of these above, make sure to speak with a doctor before getting started.
1. Have a clear plan in place before starting your fast
If you don’t have a solid plan, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
Because when you go from eating whenever (or whatever) you want, to fasting through regular meals. Even days where it may seem you eat very little at all. Things are going to get a little difficult, for the short term, at least. You may struggle with self-control, which can resort to binge-eating and other emotional actions.
Not to mention no energy left for exercise or other planned activities. That’s why it’s crucial to:
- Plan your start & finish time, no matter what type of fasting you follow.
- Plan what days to do weight training and/or cardio.
- Plan your meals ahead of time, so you make the right food choices. This will help you eat fewer calories throughout the day. And prevent you from binge eating after your fasts.
2. Choose low-calorie, nutrient-dense foods (Secret sauce for fighting off hunger and cravings)
You’ve probably read from countless weight-loss gurus about eating whatever you want during an eating cycle. This might work for some –but for the majority of people (me included) –it doesn’t.
Yes, intermittent fasting can make weight loss easier. But it is NOT a license to eat as much as you want.
Not only does your body need vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients to stay healthy. The “calories in vs. calories out” principles still apply. Meaning –for weight loss –you should be in a calorie deficit.
Eating low-calorie, larger volume foods are your best options. They help you stay full for longer and they reduce hunger pains and cravings. Here are some examples of these low-calorie, larger volume foods:
- Honeydew Melon
- Soba Noodles
- Plain Rice Cakes
- Popcorn, air-popped
- Bok Choy
- Turkey Legs
- Chicken Breast
- Eye of Round Steak
- Almond Milk, unsweetened
3. Give your body and mind time to adjust to fasting. Recognize the symptoms of fasting!
Don’t expect to get used to fasting immediately. It’s going to take some time to adapt to your new way of eating. At first, you might experience things like:
- Increased irritability
- Less focus and energy
- Hunger pains
- Food cravings
But here’s the thing: This will only last for a short while. It will get easier each day. And once you train your body for fasting? You will stop experiencing these symptoms. And have a lot MORE energy and focus than you normally would.
4. Expect your stress levels to increase. Here’s how to tackle the stress.
Maybe you haven’t taken into consideration that fasting can increase your stress levels.
But it does. Why?
Because fasting increases the stress hormone, “cortisol” And this puts you at more risk of binge eating.
You might be able to control these urges under normal circumstances. But if you’re already under a lot of stress from your everyday life. It can become tough to resist food cravings.
Here are my stress-busting actionable tips that I use:
- Be in bed before 9pm.
- Aim for 7-8hrs sleep
- Exercise for 30 minutes a day.
- Join a Yoga class
- Meditate or listen to calming music
- Have a short 45-minute nap during the day
- Do something creative or start a hobby
- Consider taking these supplements that have been shown to lower stress: Lemon Balm, Green tea, Valerian, Omega-3 fatty acids, Ashwagandha.
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5. Yes, yes, I know. The drink more water than you usually would tip. But let me explain WHY.
Did you know even a 1 percent deficiency of water can lead to many dysfunctions in your body.  That’s why it’s crucial to stay hydrated at all times. It will help you maintain the following chemical balances in your body:
- Your acid-base levels
- Eliminating waste from your lungs, skin, and colon
- Regulating your hormones
- Transporting nutrients to your cells
So how much do you need to drink, exactly?
Well, it depends on your size, weight, and activity level. But also, on the type of fasting. When you’re not fasting, you need to drink about half your body weight in ounces. You can maintain this level when you do one of the more accessible types of Intermittent fasting, like the 12 hour or 16 hours fast.
But when you’re fasting for entire days?
You lose more bodily fluids than you usually would. This is because about 20 percent of your hydration needs are typically met through food. That’s why you need to drink a lot more than usual. This will also help you with weight loss:
- Your appetite will be suppressed because it takes up space in your stomach, which makes you feel full.
- You will be less inclined to drink other liquids with calories
- It will increase the process in your body called lipolysis, which metabolizes stored fat
- It will help your muscles and joints to move correctly during your workouts. This decreases the change of muscle cramps and fatigue.
So make sure you don’t just drink when you’re thirsty. Instead, make drinking water a part of your daily routine like any other meal.
Stop reading. Start fasting.
Nothing is stopping you from making fasting a part of your everyday life. You should be on the right path to weight loss and fasting like a pro with these 5 actionable tips!
I’ll leave you with this beautiful quote I read the other day. And couldn’t agree more with: “Fasting empties the stomach and the mind; freeing up space to refuel our bodies with the Bread of Life.”
― Allene van Oirschot
Founder of EWS. Research writer and test performance hacker, avid intermittent faster, and weight loss specialist. Improve your health and torch fat by downloading the 31 Day Fasting Method.