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Intermittent Fasting: How To Do it Safely

Intermittent Fasting: How To Do it Safely

Intermittent fasting is a dieting method that has recently grown in popularity, with claims that it can support weight loss and metabolic health, and maybe even extend life span. It’s popular for offering guidance over when to eat, not what.  

That’s why it’s important that a fasting plan coincides with healthy eating.

You can find a number of different methods on the internet, as different people will have more success with some methods than others.

The most popular method is the 16/8 fast - in which all your daily meals fit into one 8 hour window, while you fast for the remaining 16. This can be as simple as skipping breakfast and then not eating anything after dinner.

There are many other fasting methods, such as restricted calorie days, alternate fast days, shorter eating window, and spontaneous meal skipping.

As with all dietary changes, it’s important to take care when embarking on a new one, to ensure that you won’t have any unpleasant surprises.

So how do you do it safely?

First off, it’s recommended to have a chat with a healthcare professional before starting intermittent fasting, especially if it’s a big change from your usual diet, or you have diabetes, problems with blood sugar regulation, low blood pressure, take medications or have a health issue.  Intermittent fasting isn’t recommended for pregnant or lactating women, children or teens, the elderly, underweight people, or individuals vulnerable to eating disorders.  If you work is highly active and strenuous, or even stressful, it is also wise to seek advice from a healthcare practitioner experienced in fasting methods.

The best way to safely start intermittent fasting is to ease yourself into it gradually.

  • For a 16/8 fast, it’s best to ease in by gradually increasing the fasting period from 12 hours to 16, and doing this every other day, then eventually transitioning to a 16 hour fast.
  • To build up to full day fasts, start with 14-16 hour fasts and build up to 1 or 2 full 24 hour fasts on non-consecutive days.
  • For a 5:2 fast, eat normally for a total of 5 days each week, and gradually decrease your calories on two non-consecutive days down to 25% of your normal. This can also be built up to alternate day fasting - eating 25% of your normal one day, and your “normal” diet the next.

You may have to try a few different methods to find one that works for you. You may even find that you respond best to a modified method or less structured plan.  Pay attention to your body and how easily you find it to stick with each method, as you’ll find the best results from the method you can sustain long term.

In addition to choosing the right method, there are some other things you can do to fast safely:

  • Pay attention to your body - stop if it feels like it’s detrimental to your health
  • Stay hydrated! Drink plenty of water. Coffee and teas are diuretic and have the opposite effect.
  • Watch your energy levels – if you find yourself losing energy, getting lightheaded, dizzy, or craving stimulants, like sugar and caffeine you may need to reduce or stop your fast.
  • You can keep taking your supplements with your meals. On 24hour fasts it’s best to stop any non-wholefood supplements on these days as they may not absorb well or make you feel nauseous. 
  • If you’re fasting to lose weight stay active and plan exercise around the times you’re eating, to prevent low energy and muscle mass loss. Exercising in a fasted state can also influence cortisol and blood sugar levels negatively impacting weight loss efforts.  Alternatively gentle exercise each day can be planned at any time.
  • Be prepared – you may experience some side effects - hunger, mood swings, lack of concentration, reduced energy, headaches and bad breath on fasting days are not uncommon. You may have to deal with an adjustment period, but if any of them feel like too much, it might be best to reduce your fast or stop altogether.

The most important thing when fasting is to eat nutritious foods when you are eating.  Eating lots of heavily processed and calorie-dense foods may prevent the weight loss and health benefits you were hoping to achieve. If you find you’re struggling to keep up with the right nutrients, look into a wholefood based multivitamin or superfood supplement such as a Spirulina, Greens Daily Blend or Greens Super Blend. 

If hunger is taking a toll on your concentration or energy levels, try our Energy Pack for a stressed lifestyle.