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Intermittent Fasting Guide: How To Do It - For Beginners

Intermittent fasting can help encourage the body to detox, improve immunity, and also help improve mood and mental performance. This type of fasting consists of a planned system where you do not eat solid food for 16 to 32 hours straight, a few times a week and then you go back to normal eating, preferably choosing a diet that is low in sugar and fat.

To benefit from this type of fasting, the most common strategy to begin it is to not eat for 14 to 16 hours and only ingest liquids like water, and tea or coffee without sugar. However, this lifestyle is only recommended for healthy individuals and it requires the consent and support of a doctor, nurse, or health professional who knows about this type of fasting to guarantee it is done correctly and it is good for your health.

Intermittent Fasting Guide: How To Do It - For Beginners

The 4 main types of intermittent fasting

There are different ways of doing this type of fasting, but in all of them, there are periods of food restriction and periods of eating. The main types of intermittent fasting are: 

  • 16-hour fasting - this consists of not eating for 14 to 16 hours, including the sleep period, and then eating during the remaining 8 hours of the day. For example, having dinner at 6 pm and then only start eating again at 10.00 am the next day;
  • 24-hour fasting - this consists of a whole day and night fast, two to three times a week;
  • 36-hour fasting - this consists of not eating for one and a half days. For example, eating at 6 pm on one day and then not eating the whole of the next day and eat at 6 am on the following day. This type of fasting should only be done under doctor supervision by those who are used to fasting;
  • 5:2 diet - this consists of eating normally for 5 days and restricting food intake for 2 days by reducing calorie intake to around 500.

In the fasting period, you are allowed to have water and tea or coffee without sugar or sweeteners. It is common to feel very hungry in the first few days and then in the next few days, the body gets used to it. If you feel extremely hungry, just eat something light as it is not advisable to feel unwell if you are trying to adopt this habit.

What are the health benefits?

The main benefits of intermittent fasting are that it:

  1. Speeds metabolism: contrary to popular belief that fasting slows down your metabolism, this is only the case in longer fasting periods, such as those above 48 hours. In short and controlled fasting periods, there is an increase in metabolic rate, which helps you burn fat. 
  2. Regulates hormone production:  these include insulin, noradrenaline, and growth hormones. Fasting helps to balance body hormones that are linked to weight loss and weight gain, for example, there is a decrease in insulin and an increase in noradrenaline and growth hormones.  
  3. Fights flaccidity:  this diet does not decrease muscle mass like other diets that imply a big decrease in calories. Fasting also helps increase muscle due to the production of growth hormones.
  4. Removes dysfunctional cells: this happens because the body becomes more active in removing dysfunctional substances and cells that can cause diseases like cancer.
  5. It is anti-aging: because it stimulates the body to live longer, by preventing diseases and making organs and body tissues live longer.

Additionally, due to hormone regulation people who are on this diet notice their brain is more alert and active, and they have a general feeling of being well.

What to eat after fasting

After the fasting period, it is recommended that you only eat easy to digest, low fat and low sugar food, in order to achieve better results. 

Recommended foods

When you break your fast, it is important to ingest food like rice, boiled potato, soup, purees, boiled egg, and lean or grilled meat as these are easily digested by the body. Additionally, the longer you go without eating, the less food you should have, especially for the first meal. This is in order to guarantee good digestive capacity and well-being.  

Foods you should avoid

Avoid deep-fried food or food that is cooked in a lot of fat, such as french fries, deep-fried chicken, white sauce, ice-cream, cookies, or pre-made frozen food like lasagna. 

In order to lose weight when doing intermittent fasting, it is also important to do exercise, such as walking or going to the gym. However, do not do so on an empty stomach and seek the supervision of a physical activity practitioner.

Is intermittent fasting for everyone?

Although it has numerous health benefits, intermittent fasting is not recommended for people who have diseases like anemia, high blood pressure, low blood pressure or kidney disease, or those who require prescribed medicine on a daily basis.

It is also not recommended for:

  • People who have had or have anorexia or bulimia;
  • Diabetics;
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding women.

However, even those who are apparently healthy should have a check-up with a general practitioner to assess their overall health and carry out tests, such as blood sugar level tests, before starting this type of diet. 

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