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Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that consists of cycles of eating and fasting for certain time periods. As a result, your body will experience higher levels of cellular repair, lower levels of insulin, and a higher presence of the Human Growth Hormone, the last of which can help you gain muscle and lose fat. Additionally, short-term fasting can improve your metabolic rate. However, it's important to learn carefully how to carry out this practice safely. Here are some tips for you!
Starting your fast
When trying a new eating pattern such as intermittent fasting, it's preferable to start fasting little by little. Chances are, if you want to start off with a long fast, you won't be able to sustain it. Neither your body nor your mind may be ready for it, which would mean an almost guaranteed failure that can discourage you from trying intermittent fasting again.
Instead, it's best to start with a simple, intermittent 12/12 fast. This means that you'll leave a 12-hour window between your last meal of the previous day and your first meal of the current day, in other words, your dinner and breakfast. Since sleep is naturally part of your fasting, you may only need to have an earlier dinner and delay breakfast a bit to get to the time window goal. You could have dinner at 7 pm and breakfast at 7 am the next day, for example. Once you start feeling more comfortable, you can begin to extend your fasting periods.
If you're thinking of fasting for a longer time period, you need to prepare your body in advance. First, you should start thinking about your eating habits, even before you start. Studies revealed that animal-based products may need to be eliminated from your diet while you fast, because this, paired with skipping breakfast, can have significant positive health effects on lipid (fat) profiles.
During your fast
It's highly important to keep your body up and running with some drinks. Drinking plenty of water is not up to discussion, at least 2 liters a day is recommended by specialists. You can also incorporate some infusions, as well as unsweetened Green Tea. Black coffee is also allowed and advised, as this beverage has been shown to blunt hunger. Dehydration is a common side effect from incorrect fasting, as people receive a lot of water from fruits and vegetables that are suddenly off the table and should be replaced with actual glasses of water.
You can carry out your activities as usual. In fact, it's recommended to exercise during fasting hours, as some studies showed it may help increase fat burning. Fasted workouts can be preceded by branched-chain amino acids for better performance. Training types like weight lifting can help you prevent muscle loss, a common consequence of weight loss methods like intermittent fasting.
Lastly, you should always pay attention to what your body is telling you and how you're feeling. If fasting isn't working for you, or you realize it's causing more harm than good, trying another eating pattern is always an option.
Coming out of the fast
Keep in mind that all this is not much use if, when you stop fasting, you binge-eat or immediately turn to junk food. Instead, fasting is a complement to a healthier life, where you take care of your overall diet and your physical exercises. That's why getting off fasting is almost as important as the fasting period itself. You should do this in a gradual and healthy manner.
A yogurt with cereals, fruits, and seeds can be a perfect first meal to break the fast if you have it for breakfast. Prepare a meal with plenty of vegetables for lunch, like this Thai quinoa with vegetables and you'll have found the perfect option to replenish the nutrients.
Warnings to keep in mind
Fasting is not for everyone! Individuals who are underweight, struggling with weight gain, under 18 years of age, facing a medical condition, pregnant, or breastfeeding shouldn't attempt an intermittent fasting eating pattern, as they need higher numbers of calories to develop healthily. Additionally, if you've experienced eating disorders in the past, intermittent fasting can be mentally harmful as well.
While fasting, you may experience headaches and coldness, and your energy levels may fluctuate, at least until your body's adjusted. If hunger pains are interfering with your life, don't push through. It may happen at first when your body's still getting used to the new eating pattern, but the goal is to feel good, not to starve yourself and suffer. Above all, if you feel poorly or have any doubts about whether or not you can fast, consult with a medical professional first.