How to Stay Safe While Trying Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting is currently one of the world’s most popular fitness trends. While often mistaken as a diet, it’s really more of a dieting pattern — one that involves alternating cycles of fasting and eating on a strict schedule.

Many suggest that limiting the window in which you consume calories can spur weight loss, improve metabolic healthand even help you live longer (all claims backed by research), but, as with any fitness regime, it’s important that doing so safely be the highest concern.

What is intermittent fasting, exactly?

Intermittent fasting is a dieting pattern in which a person splits their days into distinct fasting periods and eating periods. While you already fast overnight while you sleep, this method extends the fasting period through the breakfast hours — sometimes even further.

Some of the most popular fasting routines are as follows:

  • 16/8 Protocol — Fast for 16 hours, then eat for a tight 8-hour window (typically between noon and 8 PM).
  • 24 Hr Protocol — Skip two meals one day, where you are taking 24 hours off of eating (a.k.a. eating a normal schedule, finishing eating at 8 PM, then not eating until 8 PM the next day).
  • The 5:2 Protocol — Two days during the week, eat only 500-600 calories. Eat normally the other five days.

While the assumption might be that by skipping a meal or two you will consume less calories, and therefore lose weight, the system is actually a bit more complicated than that. All calories are not created equal, and the timing of meals can have a lot of influence on how your body reacts to the food you consume.

Lots of things change in the body when you don’t eat for a while. These processes allow our bodies to survive in the face of famine!

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Why does it work?

During a “fasted state,” your body doesn’t have a recently eaten meal to use for energy, so it’s more likely to pull from fat stores. Fasting also teaches your body to use the food it consumes more efficiently, burning fat as fuel when you deprive it of calories.

What are the risks associated with intermittent fasting?

You should not fast if you are:

  • Underweight (BMI of < 18.5)
  • Pregnant
  • Breastfeeding
  • Under 18 years of age

You may fast, but should have supervision, if you:

  • Have diabetes mellitus (type 1 or type 2)
  • Take prescription medication
  • Have gout or high uric acid

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What can I do to protect myself and do this safely?

First things first, you’ll want to start slow. Say, for example, you’re pursuing the 16/8 protocol. Work your way up from 12 hours to 14 to 16, gradually increasing the number of hours you abstain from food in order to smooth the transition. Remember: you can rely on tea, coffee and water to get you through the early hours till it’s time to eat your first meal.

Second, cultivate some serious body awareness. During the first few days (if not weeks) of intermittent fasting, it is likely that you will experience some fatigue, brain fog and fluctuations in blood sugar and insulin levels. It’s also likely that you will face some serious junk food cravings! Work on cultivating body awareness in order to strengthen your ability to recognize your symptoms and address them.

Third, put hunger pangs in their place. A growly stomach isn’t necessarily cause for alarm and there’s no need to respond with urgency. Get comfortable with the feeling, drink a little tea to take the edge off, then move on.

Fourth, give yourself time to get into a groove. Routine is your friend! Establish phases — liquids till 11 AM, exercise midday, a conscious meal at lunchtime, then a full, calorie-dense dinner in the evening — and keep them consistent. Soon, this routine will become your new normal, giving you more brain space for other activities.

Fifth, do not starve yourself. There is a fine line between fasting and starvation. Remember: the goal of intermittent fasting is not to decrease the amount of calories you consume (you need them!), but to make eating more purposeful. Make sure you know your unique calorie requirements and use meal tracking tools to make sure you’re getting the nutrients you need to stay healthy.

Have you tried intermittent fasting before? How did you like it?

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58 comments

Veronica Danie
Veronica Danie2 months ago

Thank you so very much.

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Veronica Danie
Veronica Danie2 months ago

Thank you so very much.

SEND
Veronica Danie
Veronica Danie2 months ago

Thank you so very much.

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Chad A
Chad Anderson2 months ago

It is really hard to commit to the idea because you hear so much back and forth about it.

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Janis K
Janis K2 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Chad Anderson
Chad Anderson2 months ago

Thank you!

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Latoya B
Latoya Brookins2 months ago

I've been eating so much junk. It makes me want to retry fasting and then try a week of just smoothies.

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Chrissie R
Chrissie R2 months ago

I don't feel the need to fast....

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Latoya B
Latoya Brookins2 months ago

I fasted for half a week and my stomach didn't even growl.

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Janis K
Janis K2 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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