Intermittent fasting (IF) is currently one of the world’s top diet trends, and everyone from celebrities to progressive doctors to athletes are taking notice. The growing body of research on IF suggests that this eating pattern could be a powerful tool for brain health, metabolic health, and maybe even a longer life.
IF is a term for an eating pattern that cycles between periods of fasting and eating. The philosophy behind IF connects to our ancestors’ eating habits during the days of hunting and gathering when people went through long periods without food. The idea is that our bodies and metabolisms are programmed to eat this way and therefore thrive on this pattern. Most methods of IF include daily 16-hour fasts, or fasting for 24 hours, twice per week. One of the most common patterns of IF is the 5:2 diet. This includes eating 500-600 calories per day on two non-consecutive days of the week and eating normally during the other five days.
While IF patterns do guide people on when to eat, they do not guide people on what to eat during the fasting periods. But, contrary to what you may think, eating is an essential piece to the fasting puzzle.
IF is associated with several unpleasant side effects like hunger, cravings, headaches, and digestion issues, especially when you first begin intermittent fasting. The number one way to combat most of these side effects is to eat the right foods at the right times, including the days of extreme caloric restriction.
How To Burn Fat On Fast Days
On the fasting days when you are eating 500 to 600 calories per day, those calories need to come from food sources that will support your fasting mission – whether that’s to lose weight, prevent disease, or promote longevity.
The right foods to eat while fasting should be high in good fats, low-calorie, low-carb, high-fiber, and rich in protein.
Carbohydrates are the main source of glucose, a nutrient your body uses for energy. Every time you eat, glucose is stored in your liver as glycogen. It takes 10-12 hours for your body to use all the glycogen in your liver. When there is no more glucose in your blood to burn for energy, your body burns turns to fat and burns fat for energy. This is known as a state of ketosis. At that point, your body running on ketones and you’re losing weight, because you’re burning fat. Fasting helps you burn through that glycogen, because you’re not giving your body more glucose to store.
During fasting days, the lower the calories, the more volume of food you can eat. Plus, the fat, fiber and protein will keep you feeling satisfied for longer periods of time.. Bonus points if the foods you eat have a high-water content, because hydration is crucial to preventing headaches and digestion issues during IF.
If your 500-600 calories per day include heavy loads of carbohydrates (the main source of glucose), it will be harder to maintain ketosis, which means it’s will be harder for your body to burn fat. In other words, more carbohydrates means more glucose, which means less fat burning. Sugar should also be avoided since this is a form of carbohydrate and is converted to glucose during digestions. Therefore, the foods you eat during IF should be low in sugar and carbohydrates.
Sample Food Plan For Fast Days
This sample eating plan contains breakfast, lunch and dinner ideas for one day of eating 572 calories during intermittent fasting.
Throughout the Day: Drink plenty of water (about two liters) and enjoy a few cups of organic caffeinated coffee and tea (black or green). The caffeine is a natural appetite suppressant and can help curb cravings. Be sure to properly chew your calories and avoid caloric beverages.
8:00 a.m. – Breakfast (148 calories, 12 grams protein, 2 grams fiber, 1 net carb)
- One large hard-boiled organic pasture-raised egg (78 calories, 6 grams protein, 0 grams carbohydrates)
- ⅛ of an avocado (40 calories, 1 gram protein, 1 gram carbohydrates, 1 net carb)
- 30 chewable or swallowable tablets of spirulina algae. (30 calories, 5 grams protein, 2 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 0 net carbs).
12 p.m. – Lunch (217 calories, 18.3 grams protein, 6.7 net carbs)
- 2 oz of organic turkey breast (50 calories, 12 grams protein, 0 net carbs)
- One-half cup cucumber slices (8 calories, 0.3 grams protein, 1.9 grams carb, 0.3 grams fiber, 1.6 g net carb)
- One ounce of pistachio nuts (159 calories, 6 grams protein, 8 grams carbs, 2.9 grams fiber, 5.1 net carbs)
5 p.m. – Dinner (231 calories, 24.6 grams protein, 3.6 net carbs)
- Four ounces of plain baked salmon without skin, seasoned with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a pinch of sea salt (200 calories, 22 grams protein, 0 carbohydrates)
- One cup chopped steamed broccoli (31 calories, 2.6 grams protein, 6 grams carbohydrates, 2.4 grams fiber, 3.6 net carbs)
- 30 tablets of organically grown chlorella algae (30 calories, 5 grams protein, 1 gram carb. 1 gram fiber, 0 net grabs)
Keeping Energy Levels High
One of the biggest complaints of intermittent fasting is the lethargy that kicks in when you first start fasting. Eventually, intermittent fasting proponents say you will get more energy, but many people will opt out if they aren’t able to carry on with daily tasks as a result. That’s why so many doctors and dietitians recommend eating algae when intermittent fasting – it’s low calories but provides more than 40 vitamins and minerals. It’s hard to beat that dense nutrition for so few calories.
When it comes to eating, everyone is unique. Anyone considering starting IF should listen closely to their bodies.
IF might not be for you if:
• You experience dizziness due to low blood sugar
• Fasting is interfering with your ability to keep up with your responsibilities
• You develop an unhealthy obsession with food
If any of these side effects develop, I recommend stopping the fast.
Pregnant/nursing women, children, people living with diabetes, or people at risk for or with a history of eating disorders shouldn’t fast. If you are managing a chronic disease, always check in with your doctor and registered dietitian before beginning any new diet or eating pattern.