5 Tips for Successful Intermittent Fasting

Dr. Lisa Metzgar Contributes to Vitacost Blog | Vitacost.com/blog

by | Read time: 4 minutes

Intermittent fasting (IF) is anything but a new concept. Since the dawn of time, mankind has regularly gone through moments of scarcity and famine. In fact, humans had to work for their food if they wanted to eat at all. Inevitably, there were times when food wasn’t available yet, the human race survived another day or two without eating. Thus, the body learned to adapt quite efficiently. It found a way to produce energy so the body would have the strength to hunt and gather food. That source of energy was fat.

Close-up of Woman’s Hands Holding a Mini Red Clock Symbolizes How to Intermittent Fast Successfully – Read These Tips | Vitacost.com/blog

Why try intermittent fasting?

It makes sense that if there is a way to store fat for energy, there must be a way to tap into those fat stores. Enter: Intermittent fasting.

When the body goes without food for a period of time, it switches to a fat-burning mode, or ketosis. During this period of time, the body produces more adrenaline and human growth hormone to provide much needed energy in the absence of glucose. Fasting ketosis is also a time for repair. There are many health benefits to giving your body a much-needed rest from having to constantly process food.

How do you do intermittent fasting?

The practice of IF is actually quite simple in theory. You go for periods of time without food, followed by periods of eating. Of course, there are several strategies you can follow:

16/8 fasting – Fast for 16 hours and eat for eight. Often, the person will fast from 8 pm to 12 pm the following day to overlap with bedtime.

Alternate-day fasting – Fast every other day, or cut down to about 500 calories every other day.

5:2 fasting – Fast two days per week and eat normally for the other five. Instead of completely fasting on those two days, you can cut down to about 500-600 calories.

Monthly fasting – Fast just three to five days out of the month.

There’s no right or wrong way to do intermittent fasting – whatever works for your lifestyle and keeps you healthy. Personally, I prefer the 16:8 method. I eat my last meal by 7:00 pm at the latest, and then don’t have breakfast until about 11:00 am the next day. I have two main meals for my day and sometimes throw in a healthy snack. Sounds pretty simple, right?

The struggle begins when your mind starts telling you that you’re stressed or bored. Worse yet, you stare at a clock that says it’s time for your next meal without recognizing whether your body is even hungry. Thankfully, there are a few easy strategies to help make your fasting period a little easier to manage.  

5 ways to succeed at intermittent fasting:

1. Put a little coconut oil in your coffee. Pure fat does not harm your fasting time, because it has zero influence on your insulin levels. Studies suggest that coconut oil helps reduce blood insulin concentration. When you raise your insulin levels by eating sugar and starches, you start to feel hungry. Fat, on the other hand, keeps you in ketosis. Healthy fats also keep you satiated and helps your body burn its own fat for fuel. 

2. Get out and do something to pass the time and free your mind of food. Go for a walk or tackle that project you’ve been wanting to do for ages now. Getting your mind off your stomach will help you power through your fasting period.

3. Drink some water. The centers in the brain for hunger and thirst are very close together. That means thirst is often mistaken for hunger. Drinking water also helps keep your stomach feeling full.

4. Make sure you are eating clean, healthy foods during your feeding window. Sugar spikes your insulin levels, causing you to crash and feel hungry again much too soon. Eating a diet full of protein, vegetables and healthy fats will keep your insulin from spiking. If you’re trying to lose weight, combining a low-carb and high-fat diet will work wonders with intermittent fasting. 

Insulin is also a fat-storing hormone. That means as long as you have an abundance of insulin in your blood, your body won’t access your fat stores for energy, especially not those abdominal fat stores. Combining the intermittent fasting with a low carb diet also helps with insulin sensitivity. Insulin resistance occurs when the body isn’t given a break from constantly producing insulin. Your body becomes more and more resistant and has to produce more and more insulin to help get the glucose out of your blood and into your cells. 

5. Keep your gut microbiome in balance to help you stay healthy. Some studies show that individuals whose gut bacteria are out of balance tend to feel hungrier. A natural yeast supplement can help keep your microbiome in balance and your gut healthy.