What Is Intermittent Fasting? A Detailed Beginner's Guide| Everyday Health (2023)

Before trying intermittent fasting, set yourself up for success by following these steps.

1. Decide on the Type

If your goal is weight loss, consider how much weight you want to lose. If it’s significant, it may make more sense to start with alternate-day fasting, though it’s more challenging, says Varady. This way, you can lose a good amount of weight in the first couple of months, which can keep motivation up. Then you may switch to time-restricted eating because it’s easier to stick with longer term, she says.

2. Set Your Window

If you’re going to try time-restricted eating, you’re going to have to decide on your eating window. This can be done by preference. Some clients tell Bauer that they simply don’t need to eat in the morning, so they’ll start their eating window with lunch, have a snack, and then eat dinner. Others will scrunch all three meals into the smaller eating window.

Not ready to go all the way? Try a 12-hour fast, which is the most natural pattern for people to fall into, says Bauer. It’s not as stringent, but it stops nighttime eating, which can help you lose weight and decrease heartburn or sleep problems caused by consuming food too close to bedtime, she says.

3. Plan Fasting Days Strategically

Fasting may trigger unpleasant emotions like “hanger” (anger caused by being hungry), as well as fatigue and headaches, Susie says. She recommends looking at your week and being mindful of the days that you need to perform especially well, like a day when you have a presentation for work. Those are not the days to plan a fast.

Similarly, if you have an important social function (a birthday party or another celebration), it can be really tough to fast on days when special foods are a big component. Looking ahead to fit IF around your lifestyle, not the other way around, is key to making this work for you long term.

4. Still Reach for Nutritious Foods

The belief that during feasting periods you can eat what you want is not quite true, especially if you want to do this healthfully. “Fasting is not a replacement for healthy eating,” says Bauer. To get the nutrients you need, focus on foods with lean protein, fiber, and low-GI carbohydrates, fruits, and vegetables, she says. Drink plenty of water throughout the day. This will ensure that you don’t get dehydrated, which only exacerbates side effects like headaches.

5. Slide Your Window

Again, if you’re following time-restricted eating, know that you don’t have to keep the same eating window every day. You can adjust it depending on your commitments. For example, if you have special brunch plans, then slide your window up so that you can participate — and feel happy and satisfied (not deprived) while intermittent fasting.

6. Consult a Healthcare Professional

You might have a lot of questions about if IF is right for you, what to eat, or how to make it work in your own life, especially if you have underlying health conditions. In that case, it’s best to reach out to a registered dietitian nutritionist for guidance on how to do this safely, says Susie. You can find one in your area using the nutrition expert finder tool from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics at EatRight.org.


What Is Intermittent Fasting? A Detailed Beginner's Guide| Everyday Health? ›

A Beginner's Guide. Intermittent fasting involves limiting your daily food intake to a certain window of time. It's become popular for weight loss and overall health improvements. For weight loss, knowing what to eat while intermittent fasting will make a difference.

What is intermittent fasting a detailed beginners guide? ›

Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern where people limit their food consumption to certain hours of the day. Some research suggests that it may have benefits beyond weight loss, like improved brain and heart health. Intermittent fasting (IF) is currently one of the world's most popular health and fitness trends.

What is intermittent fasting for dummies? ›

What is intermittent fasting? Many diets focus on what to eat, but intermittent fasting is all about when you eat. With intermittent fasting, you only eat during a specific time. Research shows fasting for a certain number of hours each day or eating just one meal a couple days a week may have health benefits.

What foods to eat for intermittent fasting? ›

Some options include:
  • vegetable oils such as canola, olive, or sunflower.
  • brown rice, whole wheat bread, and other whole grains.
  • whole fruits and vegetables.
  • fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids and other protein sources such as beans and legumes.
  • salt-free seasonings such as herbs and spices.
Feb 16, 2023

What is 16 8 intermittent fasting a beginners guide? ›

16:8 intermittent fasting is a form of time-restricted fasting. It involves consuming foods during an 8-hour window and avoiding food, or fasting, for the remaining 16 hours each day. Some people believe that this method works by supporting the body's circadian rhythm, which is its internal clock.

Can you drink coffee while intermittent fasting? ›

The short answer is yes, you can drink coffee while intermittent fasting. However, this answer comes with a big caveat: You can only drink black coffee while intermittent fasting. Coffee drinks with cream, sugar, or other forms of calories will break your fast.

Can you drink coffee while fasting? ›

The bottom line. You can drink moderate amounts of black coffee during fasting periods, as it contains very few calories and is unlikely to break your fast. In fact, coffee may enhance the benefits of intermittent fasting, which include reduced inflammation and improved brain function.

What can I drink during intermittent fasting? ›

Some naturally calorie-free drinks and beverages can help keep you full, provide optimal hydration, and reduce your appetite without breaking your fast. Beverages that you can drink while intermittent fasting includes water, mineral water, seltzer, tea, coffee, apple cider vinegar, and flavored water.

How many hours of intermittent fasting? ›

The rules for this diet are simple. A person needs to decide on and adhere to a 12-hour fasting window every day. According to some researchers, fasting for 10–16 hours can cause the body to turn its fat stores into energy, which releases ketones into the bloodstream.

What is the first rule of intermittent fasting? ›

The first rule of intermittent fasting is … don't break your fast! Without a strong, intact, periodic fast, you won't reap the benefits of intermittent fasting.

Does lemon water break a fast? ›

Long story short - the answer to the question “Does lemon water break a fast?” is no, lemon water does not break a fast. Lemon water contains almost no calories and zero sugars, it doesn't raise insulin levels, which means it will not break your fast (1).

What not to eat while intermittent fasting? ›

Foods to Avoid When Intermittent Fasting

You should limit foods that are calorie-dense and contain high amounts of added sugars, heart-unhealthy saturated fat, and sodium. To maintain a healthy diet as part of your intermittent eating regimen, limit these foods: Snack chips. Pretzels and crackers.

Can I eat banana while fasting? ›

Banana can be consumed during fasting to increase the energy of the body. There is no feeling of hunger after eating banana and the strength of the body also increases. If you are a diabetic patient, then you should not consume more than 2 bananas in a day.

How many pounds can you lose with 16 8 fasting? ›

The Research So Far. A systematic review of 40 studies found that intermittent fasting was effective for weight loss, with a typical loss of 7-11 pounds over 10 weeks.

What are the best hours for intermittent fasting? ›

Consider a simple form of intermittent fasting.

Limit the hours of the day when you eat, and for best effect, make it earlier in the day (between 7 am to 3 pm, or even 10 am to 6 pm, but definitely not in the evening before bed). Avoid snacking or eating at nighttime, all the time.

Why is 16 hours the magic number for fasting? ›

Both 12-hour fasting and 16-hour fasting can be effective for weight loss, but 16-hour fasting may be more effective because it may lead to a greater reduction in overall caloric intake (through a more condensed eating window) and promote more significant reliance on fat burning.

What is the best intermittent fasting method for beginners? ›

For some people, this means skipping breakfast, and eating lunch and dinner, however others may choose to skip their evening meal instead. 14:10 and 12:12 tend to be the best for those new to intermittent fasting, because they are less restrictive in terms of when you can eat.

How many hours should beginners intermittent fast? ›

The rules for this diet are simple. A person needs to decide on and adhere to a 12-hour fasting window every day. According to some researchers, fasting for 10–16 hours can cause the body to turn its fat stores into energy, which releases ketones into the bloodstream. This should encourage weight loss.

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