- Intermittent fasting (IF) involves alternating cycles of fasting and then eating within a set number of hours.
- Research shows IF supports healthy weight management, healthy energy levels, brain health and healthy aging.*
- Certain nutrients can help you feel your best during fasting periods, including electrolytes, fiber and amino acids.*
In this article:
- What is Intermittent Fasting?
- How Does Intermittent Fasting Work?
- Types of Intermittent Fasting
- How to Get Started with Intermittent Fasting
- What Foods Break Your Fast
- Tips to Stay on Track with Intermittent Fasting
- How Fasting Today Can Offer Support*
Deciding what, when and how to eat is a choice we each have to make for ourselves. No matter what you choose to put on your plate, we want to help you feel your best before, during and after every meal! When you are following an intermittent fasting plan, you deserve to feel your best when you’re in your fasting periods. After all, life doesn’t slow down when you’re in the middle of fast. Also called IF, this is a diet or health plan that limits eating to certain hours of the day. Many people follow intermittent fasting to maintain a healthy weight, while others cite research that supports fasting for healthy energy, graceful aging or brain health.* Some people like to keep things simple and only eat at certain times of day.
If you’re curious about intermittent fasting and want to learn more, keep reading.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting (IF) involves alternating cycles of fasting and then eating within a set number of hours. Humans naturally fast overnight and between meals. Intermittent fasting extends those natural periods to promote certain benefits, based on research. This diet has become quite popular in the last few years, with research showing it supports healthy weight management, healthy energy levels, brain health and healthy aging.*
How Does Intermittent Fasting Work?
Intermittent fasting is a more controlled and planned version of what humans naturally do. We fast overnight, break the fast with a morning meal, then eat at various other times throughout the day. When you eat, this is what happens in your body:
- The food you eat gets broken down (with the help of digestive enzymes) into nutrients, which the body uses for energy, growth and other basic processes.
- Your body uses food for immediate energy or stores it to use later.
- When you fast, the body naturally shifts the levels of certain hormones (including human growth hormone and insulin) to make those stores (body fat) more accessible as fuel.
- Additionally, your body focuses on cellular repair and turnover during fasting periods. (Remember your body only has so much energy and resources, and it can’t really multitask). Certain genes related to longevity and innate defenses also change when you are fasting.
Types of Intermittent Fasting
Before you make any changes to your diet, talk to your health-care provider.
There are many different ways to implement intermittent fasting. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the more popular methods:
- 12-hour fasts: The day is split into equal periods of eating and fasting. This plan is often the most beginner-friendly, since most of the fasting period is spent sleeping.
- 16/8: Also called the Leangains protocol, you fast for 16 hours (until midday or later) and eat during an 8-hour period.
- 5:2 diet: For two days a week (non consecutive days), caloric intake is restricted to 500-700 calories. On other days, the person eats their normal diet.
- Eat-stop-eat: Fasting for 24 hours, one or two times per week. The fast starts after dinner and lasts until dinner the next evening.
Individuals may choose to fast based on lifestyle, health, fitness goals and more. Some people fast for religious or spiritual reasons, too.
How to Get Started with Intermittent Fasting
Before you get started with intermittent fasting, consider your own lifestyle, schedule and goals. The best plan is the one that works for you – and that you can maintain without creating extra stress or work for yourself. (Check out our blog about habits for more guidance on finding the right approach for you.)
It takes time to adjust to new habits and routines, so give yourself grace as you get started. Be honest with yourself about what you need and what you can comfortably commit to doing. Do you wake up ravenous or love eating breakfast? Then you might want to choose a fasting schedule that ends at 8 a.m. but starts at 4 p.m. Do you exercise in the evenings or always have dinner as a family? Then you might want to choose a schedule that runs from 7 p.m. to 11 a.m., for example.
What Foods Break Your Fast
Any food or beverage that provides calories will break your fast. This includes bone broth, green juice, kombucha, raw vegetables, etc. While those are all delicious and provide nutrients, they will break your fast.
Later on, we’ll share how you can support hydration, reduce hunger and promote muscle health without breaking your fast!* (Read: Intermittent Fasting? 5 Drinks That Won’t Break Your Fast Plus a Dozen That Will)
Does It Matter What You Eat?
Intermittent fasting can be combined with any style of eating – vegan or plant-based, Mediterranean, keto, gluten-free, low-carb, clean eating, etc. However, when you choose what to eat to break your fast, think of your body as a high-end sports car. That fancy car will perform best when it has premium fuel, not the cheapest gas at the pumps. Your body is the same.
The foods you eat need to fuel your body until your next meal. That means nutrition matters more than cravings or convenience. Quick-burning carbohydrates, processed foods and sugary drinks will deliver fast energy that burns off fast. Healthy fats, lean proteins and fiber-rich foods (fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds, etc.) will take longer to digest, and they deliver the nutrients your body needs.
A key to success with IF is maintaining healthy, steady energy levels throughout the day. As humans, it’s normal to have energy that ebbs and flows throughout the day, but when you’re fasting, you can’t reach for a healthy snack to replenish your energy. Work, family and school demands still happen, whether you’re ready or not. Keep reading to learn how to set yourself up with all the essentials for a successful fast!
7 Tips to Stay on Track with Intermittent Fasting
Starting new habits takes time, so be patient with yourself. Keep these tips in mind:
- Drink unsweetened tea and black coffee in moderation to help manage hunger and energy. (But don’t overdo it!)
- Stay active – so that you don’t hyperfocus on food during your fasting periods.
- Break your fast with delicious, filling meals with plenty of protein, fiber and healthy fats.
- Shift your schedule so the most demanding tasks and activities happen when you tend to have more energy.
- Start your fast after dinner, so that most of your fasting time is while you sleep.
- Brush your teeth at the start of your fasting time.
- Drink plenty of fluids throughout your fasting period. In addition to water, add electrolytes to your routine. Electrolytes help your body maintain optimal hydration levels. They also help balance blood pressure and acidity, support muscle function and play a role in tissue renewal and repair.
All the Essentials for a Successful Fast: How Fasting Today Can Offer Support*
Our new drink mix, Fasting Today®, is formulated to not break your fast!* With three essentials in one convenient product, it includes electrolytes, baobab fiber and the nine essential amino acids. Simply shake a scoop with 12 ounces of water, then drink up and carry on with your fast.
Fasting Today supports hydration, reduces hunger and promotes muscle health.*