Intermittent Fasting For Beginners: What To Eat & Do

Last updated on June 13th, 2020 at 05:38 am

Intermittent fasting has been creeping its way to success for quite a few years now. And, last year it really had it made. Step away kale and keto diet, it’s my time to shine. You had famous people try it and you had your grandma doing it too. So today, let’s talk about intermittent fasting! We’ll discuss (or I’ll monologue my way through) what it is, whether it’s for you and more importantly what you should eat. At the end of this intermittent fasting beginner guide, I will include an intermittent fasting food list that you can use when you do your groceries.

What Is Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting is simply a period of fasting followed by a period of eating. It’s not a diet, it’s a way of eating. You basically consume your calories within a certain time window.

There are a few ways to do intermittent fasting, here are some examples I found in this article:

  • Alternate-day fasting. You eat as you usually would on day one, on day two you eat only once a day and that meal will provide around 25% of your calories. If you’re on a 2000 kcal diet, you get a 500 kcal meal and you’re done for the day.
  • 5:2 Fasting. This is when you fast for two days during the week and eat without food restrictions during the other 5 days. On the fasting days, you can again, consume one 500 kcal meal.
  • Time-restricted: Examples would be the famous 16:8 split – you eat whatever’s on your meal plan within 8 hours of the day and then don’t eat for 16 hours. For example, if you start eating at 9 am, you stop eating at 5 pm. Other options are 18:6 and 20:4, but I find these more restrictive.

See you can get the results and benefits with all of these schedules, but what you need to do is decide which one works best for your lifestyle. If the 5:2 split is more realistic for you right now than the alternate day or time-restricted fasting, why not start there? The point is to get started, try something new and see what happens.

Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting

While intermittent fasting is new for a lot of people, I knew about it from my grandma who ate once or twice a day and took a multi-vitamin because my dad insisted on it. We just didn’t name it (seriously why would you name it intermittent fasting of all things?).

My grandma’s diet consisted of a croissant and sometimes a baked onion with bread. She was very underweight, but she did have her yard where she grew fruits and vegetables and she would snack on them without tracking her macros or calories. Imagine that life now.

Still, after many health struggles, heartbreaks and three heart attacks my grandma lived the longest out of all her siblings and out of my four grandparents. So when research says eating less might expand your life span, it might be onto something.

Now, here are some more benefits of intermittent fasting according to a great Healthline article I found. Intermittent fasting can/might:

  • improve cellular repair
  • promote weight loss
  • be beneficial for your cardiometabolic health
  • reduce inflammation and oxidative stress
  • prevent cancer and Alzheimer’s disease
  • protect against brain damage
  • increase lifespan

See there are many benefits to eating this way. But…

Intermittent Fasting Is Not For Everyone

That being said, intermittent fasting is not for everyone. Restricting your calories can affect your hormones and is best discussed with a doctor if you have a health condition. For example, intermittent fasting is not for you if you have diabetes, are pregnant or breastfeeding or have an eating disorder related to restricting calories (like anorexia or bulimia).

Intermittent Fasting: What To Eat

I have a blog post somewhere hidden on this blog, called “How to lose 10 pounds in a month“. I mentioned there that the only time I was able to lose weight was when I cut out eating after 5 pm. Now, I need to mention: I have never been overweight and never made an actual effort to lose weight other than that one time. I still remember feeling very good, confident, very light and energized during that time.

Most of the time I try to eat healthy, but I also try to keep a healthy relationship with food, so I don’t exclude anything. I have found that eating a more plant-based diet, quitting refined sugar and switching from eating chicken and red meat to fatty fish twice a week has been beneficial for me. Those are simple changes, but I try to integrate them whether I’m doing intermittent fasting or not.

Whenever I get off track for a little bit longer, I start feeling lethargic and like I don’t want to exercise or even go outside. So maintaining a healthy diet is in my opinion super important even when you’re doing intermittent fasting and losing a ton of weight by eating fried chicken and fries as your only meal that day.

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Here’s what to ideally eat when you’re doing intermittent fasting:

1. Leafy Greens and Cruciferous vegetables

Get your greens in every day! Time-restricted feeding isn’t an excuse to skip those foods. This group of healthy vegetables includes spinach, kale, arugula, bok choy, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussel’s sprouts. These vegetables are highly nutritious, low in calories and known for their ability to destroy free radicals and to protect against cancer, cardiometabolic disease, and neurodegenerative diseases.

2. Fish

Including fatty fish in your diet 1-2 times a week is important, because of its omega-3 content. Fish is one of the very few sources of the type of omega-3’s that the human body can actually use. Unfortunately, we can easily not get enough of these fatty acids if we’re not intentional with our diet. This leads to a disbalance of the omega-3/omega-6 ratio which in turn leads to chronic inflammation – the common denominator in all major chronic diseases and weight gain.

I know fish consumption is a controversial topic, but research has found that the health benefits of eating up to two servings of fatty fish like mackerel, salmon and light tuna far outweigh the potential risks. They found moderate fish consumption reduces the risk of death from heart disease by 36% and total mortality by 17%.

3. Nuts And Seeds

Nuts are rich in fiber, protein, fat-soluble vitamins, minerals and healthy fats and will keep you satiated while you’re intermittent fasting. Great options are almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseed, sesame seeds, cashews and pistachios.

4. Red / Purple Fruits and Vegetables

This group includes vegetables like tomatoes, beets, cabbage, radishes, red bell peppers and fruits like berries. These fruits and vegetables contain natural pigments like lycopene and anthocyanin that are beneficial for our health and can help protect us from premature aging – on the outside and the inside. So it’s very important to make them a part of your daily diet.

5. Plant-Based Protein Sources

Tofu, tempeh, lentils, chickpeas, hemp seeds, and beans are all plants (or made from plants) and are excellent protein sources. Most of these foods provide both – fiber and protein, which makes them an excellent choice to keep you full longer when you’re doing intermittent fasting.

6. Whole Grains

My favorite choices here are oats and quinoa, because they’re again – great source of fiber and protein, they’re also easy to cook with and have great nutritional value. Oats, especially, are pretty well known for their cholesterol-lowering ability and they’re great for your digestion too. Make oats a part of your breakfast and include quinoa in salads, soups or one-pan meals.

7. Fermented Foods

Last, but not least: don’t forget about fermented foods! They’re rich in probiotics which are great for your immune system and for maintaining healthy gut flora. This is especially important if you’ve been taking antibiotics lately. Some great options are sauerkraut, yogurt, kimchi, tempeh and last but not least: pickles!

By eating a combination of these foods you will feel satisfied and you will stay full, even if you fast for 16 hours every day. You’ll also get all of the nutrients you need for optimal immune function, to maintain a healthy weight and healthy digestion. Consuming fewer calories might be necessary for losing or maintaining a healthy weight, but having all your nutritional needs covered by eating well is even more important long-term.

Intermittent Fasting Meals

Finally here are some clean eating meal plans that you might enjoy and get inspiration from when you’re doing intermittent fasting:

Have You Tried It?

I hope you enjoyed this simple beginner guide to intermittent fasting! If you haven’t tried it yet and are interested in doing so – hope this answered some questions!

If you have tried IF – what has been your experience? What intermittent fasting schedule did you do? Did you notice any of the benefits I mentioned? Like did you feel your cellular repair skyrocket? Did your lifespan triple? Okay, I know I shouldn’t be making stupid jokes about something potentially so amazing like intermittent fasting…

But let me know if you’ve noticed being more energized and focused or have lost some weight…I think we all can use some inspiration from time to time when it comes to improving our health and fitness!

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