Intermittent fasting plans

Intermittent fasting is a system of time-restricted eating. Eat a variety of lean meats, low-fat dairy, vegetables, fruits, beans, and lentils when you are on an intermittent fasting diet.
Intermittent fasting is a system of time-restricted eating. Eat a variety of lean meats, low-fat dairy, vegetables, fruits, beans, and lentils when you are on an intermittent fasting diet.

Intermittent fasting is one of the popular methods to reach and maintain a healthy weight. It's a system of time-restricted eating. Different plans involve fasting for differing amounts of time, some for 16 hours every day or fasting for an entire day combined with days of eating normally. Whatever your intermittent fasting plan, you must eat a balanced diet during the eating period or days. Your body needs a certain amount of calories, proteins, essential fats, vitamins, minerals, etc. But controlling your caloric intake is a must to get the desired weight loss benefit.

You can choose from several intermittent fasting plans based on your lifestyle and weight loss goals.

16:8 fasting plan

16:8 is a time-restricted eating plan. You eat during an 8-hour window in the day and then fast for 16 hours. You should eat two or three balanced, nutritionally complete meals during the eating window. 

The 5:2 fasting plan

You may not like to control your eating every day. The 5:2 diet plan requires fasting two days a week and five days of normal eating. For two days of each week, you can fast all day or restrict yourself to 500 calories or less. The other five days of the week you can eat regular meals. There are very few food restrictions in this diet plan. Avoiding alcohol on fasting days is recommended to ensure success on this plan.

This plan is sustainable. You can follow it for a long time. Remember to drink a lot of liquids on your fasting days — you should try to drink three liters of calorie-free fluids. You can expect to feel hungry on your fasting days when you begin this plan. Later, your body will get used to it.

Alternate day fasting

This plan requires fasting for 24 hours on alternate days. 

Intermittent fasting benefits

The desired benefit is, of course, weight loss. You can expect to lose about 1 to 2 pounds (½ to 1 kilogram) a week with intermittent fasting. 

Other benefits of intermittent fasting:

People with type 2 diabetes who use intermittent fasting have better glucose level control. Intermittent fasting lowers blood glucose and HbA1C levels. People with type 1 diabetes, who take insulin injections, should not try intermittent fasting.

Intermittent fasting for weight loss

When we eat, our body gets energy from food. When the body takes in more food than it needs for energy, it will store the excess in the liver or muscles as glycogen. The liver converts excess glycogen into fats and sends it off to fat-storing sites. During fasting, glycogen becomes a source of energy. If food is still not consumed, the body starts using stored fats for energy.

If you're eating too frequently, the body never needs to use up its stores of glycogen and fats. Intermittent fasting forces your body to use its stores and reduce the stored fat. By following a controlled eating plan, intermittent fasting creates a 25% calorie deficit every week, enough to lose weight slowly and steadily.

Calories considerations

Traditional diet plans for weight loss have focused on continuous calorie restriction, which is hard to sustain and results in regaining weight. Intermittent fasting limits caloric intake, but the body adapts to it well. 

Some intermittent fasting plans consist of days of eating and fasting. On the fasting days, your calorie intake is zero to 25% of your needs. On non-fasting days, you can have up to 125% of your daily calorie needs.

What do you eat on intermittent fasting?

The intermittent fasting plans are sustainable because they don't severely restrict your eating. During the eating window, or on the non-fasting days, you can and should eat a balanced diet with enough calories and other nutrients. But if you overeat or consume high-calorie foods, you won't achieve the weight loss you want.

Getting a diet plan from a dietician is helpful. They will ensure that your meals provide all the elements of a balanced, nutritious diet. The American Heart Association and Health Canada recommend that a healthy diet should consist of 55% carbohydrates, 20% fat, and 25% protein.

Proteins are vital nutrients. They help you feel full for a longer time. Low-calorie lean proteins such as fish, skinless chicken or turkey, beans, lentils, and pulses (legumes) are suitable. Lentils and pulses are low in fat and rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and protein.

Whole-grain foods have starchy carbohydrates. They release glucose into the blood slowly and prevent spikes of blood sugar. Whole grains are also good sources of fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Vegetables, low in calories but high in fiber, are crucial micro-nutrients. You should include plenty of vegetables in your meals, as the fiber aids satiety and helps with digestion. Fruits are similarly rich in fiber and vitamins but often have a lot of carbohydrates. 

Dairy is necessary for bone health. Choose low-fat yogurt, milk, and cheeses. Nut milks are also a good option for their low carbohydrate content. 

You will need plenty of liquids, especially on the fasting days of the 5:2 plan or alternate day plan. Aim for three liters of calorie-free fluids daily, including water, sugar-free or zero-calorie drinks, and tea or coffee without milk and sugar.

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What do you not eat on intermittent fasting?

You're practicing the discipline of intermittent fasting to reach and stay at a healthy weight. You must avoid foods that hinder your weight loss effort, including the following:

Sugar

Table sugar, honey, and maple syrup sweeten food. Sodas, sweets, biscuits, chocolates, and ice cream contain high quantities of sugar. Avoid them when on weight loss plans.

Refined carbohydrates

Highly processed foods like pasta, white flour, white rice, and some breakfast cereals release glucose rapidly into your blood.

Animal fats

Butter, cheese, cream, lard, and icing usually are rich in saturated fats.

Processed foods

Cakes, pastries, biscuits, packaged foods, and pies are highly processed foods. They usually have large amounts of added sugar and saturated fats.

Processed and red meat

Lean meats are best for weight loss. Avoid cuts with visible fats. Processed meats like bacon and sausages have a lot of saturated fats.

Conclusion

Intermittent fasting is a weight loss plan you can stay with for a long time. It doesn't require you to remain hungry all the time and lets you eat the foods you like, within reason. When choosing what to eat, you should take advice from a dietician. It's crucial to limit your calories and fats to benefit from intermittent fasting. Choosing lean meats and low-fat dairy and including lots of vegetables, fruits, beans, and lentils will give you variety without exceeding the calorie limits of your plan.

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Medically Reviewed on 5/20/2022
References
SOURCES:

Ageing Research Reviews: "Impact of intermittent fasting on health and disease processes."

Canadian Family Physician: "Intermittent fasting and weight loss: Systematic review."

Metabolism: "Weight regaining: from statistics and behaviors to physiology and metabolism."

National Health Service: "Diabetes My Way — Intermittent Fasting," "Intermittent fasting."