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Beginner's Guide to Intermittent Fasting: Doing It the Right Way

Unlike our cave-dwelling ancestors, we have unlimited access to food, and we can satisfy our cravings by just phoning our favorite pizza places.

No need to chase down animals or gather berries just to get in a week’s worth of meals. We can simply get up from our couches, grab something from the fridge, and gobble it down as we return to our binge-watching sessions.

The result? More calorie intake, less exercise.

Today, there are a wide range of diseases caused by overeating and a lack of physical activity–from obesity and diabetes to heart conditions.

But with intermittent fasting, you can have better control over when and how you eat.

How Does It Work?

Intermittent fasting means going without food for short periods. It helps the body adjust the hormones related to metabolism and stored fat.

Because it doesn’t restrict what you can or cannot eat, it isn’t considered a diet. Instead, it’s commonly referred to as an eating pattern or a weight control tool.

To do this kind of fasting, you can choose from different methods or schedules. For instance, you can allow yourself to eat within a 5-hour window and fast for the rest of the day.

No matter which method you choose, intermittent fasting helps extend the period when your body burns fat. It increases metabolism, improves cognitive function, and reduces the risk of heart disease, among other benefits.

What Is the Best Method?

In general, there is no “best” method to do intermittent fasting. It’s all about what works best for you and what your preferences are.

In other words, only you can answer this question. And as long as you fast for at least 16 hours a day, your chosen schedule or method won’t matter that much.

Let’s take a look at the most common methods:

  • 16:8 or “Leangains” - Eating within an 8-hour period and fasting for 16 hours. As it usually involves skipping breakfast, many people find this routine the easiest to maintain.
  • 20:4 or “The Warrior Diet” - Eating within a 4-hour period and fasting for 20 hours. Because of its extreme nature, it’s recommended to eat plenty of proteins, veggies, and healthy fats during the 4-hour window.
  • Alternate Day Fasting - Another extreme method that isn’t recommended for beginners or people with certain medical conditions. This involves fasting or undereating every other day for 24 hours.
  • 5:2 or “Eat Stop Eat” - Involves eating normally five days a week and fasting or reducing your food intake for two nonconsecutive days of the week.

How Can You Start Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting sounds easy at first, and it is designed to be easy. But according to veterans, the first few weeks of intermittent fasting can be extremely challenging.

To make it a bit less difficult, here are a few tips for starting and sticking to the habit:

  • Start slow. Gradually work toward reducing your eating window.
  • Brew black coffee or tea. Suppressing your appetite is easier with caffeine.
  • Drink more water–preferably cold. Because we often mistake thirst for hunger, you have to stay hydrated, especially during your fasting period.
  • Have a good night’s sleep. A lack of it can lead you to overeat.
  • Spice up your meals. By adding more flavor to food, you can have an easier time preventing any feelings of hunger.
  • More nutrients, less refined carbs. Refined carbohydrates can increase cravings. So as much as possible, enjoy nutrient-dense meals, which will make you more satiated.

Who Should NOT Do It?

Some people do intermittent fasting to control weight gain. Others enjoy it for its other health benefits, like stress relief, energy boost, and improved focus.

But intermittent fasting is not for everyone, especially those who:

  • Are pregnant or nursing
  • Are under 18 years old
  • Previously or currently have an eating disorder
  • Have diabetes, blood sugar problems, or low blood pressure
  • Have other medical conditions, such as heart disease and epilepsy

So before starting this eating plan, it’s best to consult with your doctor.

Intermittent fasting isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to losing weight and living a healthier lifestyle. Plus, it has different effects on everyone. The only way to find out whether it works or not is to try it out for yourself.

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