An increasing number of people are trying Intermittent Fasting (IF) – and finding it a great way to increase energy, lose weight, gain mental clarity, ease digestion, boost the immune system, and enjoy better health.
Going on fasts is nothing new. People have been doing it for what seems like ages, primarily for cultural and spiritual reasons. It is only recently that people have embraced it with renewed vigor because of the health benefits that come with it.
There are several ways to go about fasting. Four of the more popular ways include the following:
- Twice a week fasting or the 5:2 method
Using this method, you restrict the number of calories to 500 calories per day for 2 days a week. For the remaining 5 days of the week, you revert to a healthy normal eating pattern.
It does not matter what days you choose for your fasting days as long as they are not successive; maintain a non-fasting day between the fasting days.
- Alternate-day fasting
With this option, you go on modified fasting on alternate days. For example, fast one day (limiting calories to 500 or so) then eat normally the next day.
- Time-limited eating
With this method, you establish eating and fasting windows. For instance, in the 16/8 method, you don’t eat anything for 16 consecutive hours (your fasting window) and eat normally the remaining 8 hours (your eating window).
This technique includes sleeping time in the fasting window. This means that you do an overnight fast (while you sleep) then extend it by omitting breakfast and having a late lunch.
You can also modify time-restricted eating to the 14/10 method. You fast for 14 successive hours and eat during the remaining 10 hours.
- 24-hour fast
With this method, you fast for 24 successive hours. For example, you eat your meal at 12:00 noon, go on a fast for 24 hours, and then eat again at 12:00 noon the next day.
You can do this once a week – or even twice a week. If you do this kind of fast more than twice a week, however, you are likely to experience adverse side effects like headaches, low energy, extreme hunger, lethargy, and irritability.
Foods to Eat When You Are Fasting
Opt for a method or a combination of methods that works best for you. Because you will be abstaining from food for a certain period of time, choosing the right food to eat it during your eating period is of absolute importance. Include foods that will help you 1) sustain your energy even as you resume your fast and 2) give you the nutrients that you need.
Do not use your feeding window as an excuse to binge on junk food or food with empty calories. Avoid reaching out for foods that offer very little nutrition; plan what foods to eat ahead of time.
Your goal is to include fewer meals that will give you the fuel and all the nutrients that you need. At the end of each meal, you should feel full and satisfied. You should feel strong, satiated, and energized – ready to start the next period of fasting.
Do not fill your plate with foods that don’t do anything to bolster your health. Choose foods that will give you the energy and nutrients to tide you over your fasting windows. Opt for filling, nutrient-dense, healthy foods, particularly those that provide fiber, healthy fats, and protein.
Top foods to eat when you are fasting include the following:
Dietary guidelines suggest that your weekly diet should include a minimum of 8 ounces of fish. There is good reason for this.
Fish is filled with high-quality, easily-assimilated lean protein. It is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. It is rich in Vitamins B2 and D3, as well as in phosphorus, calcium, iodine, zinc, potassium, magnesium, and selenium.
With all these nutrients, fish is a great option to include in your diet, especially when you have to contend with a limited quantity of food during the day.
A diet rich in protein allows you to build muscle and feel full, even when you are fasting.
Hard-boiled eggs cook up in minutes. Eat just one egg and you get 6 grams of protein – and feel less hungry as you continue fasting throughout the day.
Nutritionists suggest that you eat foods rich in fiber, especially when you are fasting. Fiber fills you up – and makes you feel full for a longer period of time.
Filling up on leafy greens, as well as on cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, arugula, collards, and bok choy, is a good strategy when you know you have to fast for the next 16 hours. These vegetables are not only filling and dense in nutrients; they also prevent constipation, a problem often associated with most types of diets.
- Whole grains
Whole grains give you energy. They are also rich in protein, fiber, the B vitamins thiamine, folate, and niacin, the minerals iron, magnesium, zinc, and manganese, antioxidants, beneficial plant compounds, and fiber. Even if you eat just a small amount of whole grains, you immediately feel full. You also accelerate your metabolism so you burn more calories.
Include whole grains like popcorn, brown rice, wild rice, whole rye, quinoa, barley, buckwheat, and millet in your diet. Be more adventurous and try the less common grains like bulgur, farro, freekah, kamut, sorghum, and amaranth.
Avocado is a high-calorie food. However, it is an exceptional fruit to include in your diet when you practice Intermittent Fasting.
It is a great source of monounsaturated fat – the good kind of fat. This type of fat – and the creaminess and amazing mouth feel it gives, hits the spot. It gives you a sense of satiation and fullness that lasts hours after you start your next fasting window.
Berries are rich in vital nutrients. They are filled with antioxidants and vitamins that boost the immune system. Blueberries, Goji berries, raspberries, strawberries, acai berries, and cranberries have great nutrients and a satisfying tart-sweet taste that make them a wonderful addition to an IF diet.
- Legumes and beans
You need to incorporate foods that provide fuel if you want to sustain the IF lifestyle. Fasting will make you feel weak and miserable unless you include foods that supply you with energy.
Include black beans, legumes, peas, lentils, legumes, and chickpeas in your eating plan. These foods provide low-calorie carbs to give you the energy that you need.
Nuts may have more calories than other foods but they are usually recommended for people who want to lose weight.
This is because nuts provide a great number of nutrients including protein, good polyunsaturated fat, antioxidants, fiber, Vitamin E, copper, manganese, magnesium, and phosphorus. Almonds, hazelnuts, macadamias, walnuts, pistachios, pecans, and peanuts make for versatile and tasty additions to any diet. They are also inexpensive and widely available.
Fasting is always associated with hunger. And when you are not eating the way you are used to, your gut may complain by way of constipation.
Avoid this unpleasant side effect by including yogurt, kefir, kimchi, tempeh, sauerkraut, kombucha, and miso in your diet. These probiotic-rich foods will improve your digestive health, as well as keep you from feeling miserable when you get hungry.
You may need some time to adjust to an Intermittent Fasting lifestyle. By eating the right foods, however, you increase your chances of success – and enjoy the great benefits that the diet offers.