Intermittent fasting can have a multitude of health benefits, if done right. That’s the key, if it’s done right. Intermittent fasting is not about starving the body. You are permitted to eat whatever you wish during the eating window and even consume certain drinks during the fasting period. The trick is understanding how it all works and using these windows properly.
Let’s begin with a little backstory in order to better understand IF.
Intermittent fasting of IF was made popular in 2012 by Dr. Michael Mosley and his book and TV documentary. After Dr. Mosley, several other journalists and doctors began to come out with similar information. According to their research and experience, IF makes a lot of sense. After all, all food that is ingested is then broken down by enzymes in the gut in order to end up as molecules in the bloodstream. Carbs are broken down into sugars which is then used for energy. However not all of it. The sugars that not used for energy and stored in our fat cells as fat. This is how the majority of people begin to see their bodies change. However, sugar can only enter our cells with insulin. Insulin effectively brings the sugar to the fat cells and keeps it there. When we don’t snack between meals, our insulin levels go down and the fat cells can release the sugar to sue as energy. So, when insulin levels go down, weight loss becomes possible. The entire concept of IF is to have long periods of time without calories and sugar so that the insulin levels in the body go down long enough so fat can be burned. This is how IF works. Now about those fasting versus feeding times.
The Difference Between Feeding and Fasting
Intermittent fasting is about breaking about your day into two sessions. The feeding session and the fasting session. It’s a fairly straightforward schedule but it is the time differences that matter. There are many schedules available to choose from. First order of business is to find the one that works best for your lifestyle and daily activities. It might seem overwhelming at first but the reality is that most of already fast for seven to nine hours a day. It’s called nighttime sleep. The average adult gets seven hours of sleep a night, so really IF is just an add on to this.
The most common plan though, is the 16/8 plan. This one involves a sixteen hour fasting window and an eight hour feeding window. However, not everyone has to choose this option. There are other plans with smaller fasting windows such as twelve or fourteen hours. There are even longer fasting windows for those who are more advanced. Some people even prefer alternate day fasting plans. Whatever you choose, just make sure it’s a plan that fits in with your life and daily schedule.
Intermittent fasting can also help you to get more sleep. Instead of staying up late and watching tv on the couch, go to bed earlier! This will help you to stick to your IF schedule and feel well rested for the next day.
What Can I Eat and Drink During the Fasting Window?
During the fasting window, you must not consume any food or drinks that have calories. Which essentially means absolutely no food. However, when it comes to beverages there are actually a lot of options. This is important on a practical level for hydration purposes but also it helps to make your fast easier to bear. Especially in the first few days and weeks when it really takes getting used to. What are some of the symptoms that you might experience? Headaches, nausea, getting a bit light headed. However, all of these can be alleviated with the beverages that are permitted during Intermittent Fasting. And if you do it right, you can take advantage of certain drinks that really help enhance the results of the intermittent fasting experience.
So, let’s begin with the basics.
You can never have too much water. Either flat or sparkling, water is an easy go-to and it can be customized to your taste. Infuse it with citrus fruits like lemon, lime or orange. Cucumber slices, mint and berries are also delicious. Really the only rule here is to not add artificial sweeteners as this will add calories and ruin your fast. Also changing it up throughout the fasting period is great for variety. Perhaps start with lemon water to feel refreshed first thing in the morning and as the day progresses, switch to sparkling water that is plain or infused with other flavors.
Black coffee is actually completely calorie free and so it’s a great beverage choice for when you’re in a fasting period. However, some people find it too harsh on an empty stomach. This often has to do with the type of coffee you are drinking. Not just any black coffee will do. Make sure that you are drinking a high quality brand. As well, drinking coffee black can also increase your heart rate and make you feel jittery. An option here could be to choose a decaffeinated coffee if you do feel too pumped up. The only major rule with coffee is not to add anything to it -no milk, sugar or creamer.
One of the benefits of black coffee is that it can enhance the benefits of intermittent fasting. It has been shown to support ketone production and healthy blood sugar levels. This coincides nicely with some of the goals of diets like the Bulletproof diet or the Keto diet. Want to know more? Check out our article on how drinking black coffee can help IF HERE.
Bone Broth or Vegetable Broth
If you are fasting for twenty-four hours or more (not recommended for beginner fasts) then a broth is recommended. Either making a homemade broth or purchasing from a quality supplier is key here. Canned or premade broths found in grocery stores are most often filed with artificial flavors and preservatives. They are also very high in sodium. This will counteract the effects of the fast and basically bring you right back to square one. Both bone broths and vegetable broths are easy to make and recipes by the thousands can be found online. The idea is that the collagen in these broths are very healing, they lower inflammation and support gut health. Now yes there are some calories in broths but if made from scratch at home, they would stay under the 50 calorie level that is required for a fasting period. Providing you don’t drink the entire pot.
Tea is like a secret weapon of success when it comes to IF. Drinking tea while fasting will help increase satiety and support healthy weight loss. All types of tea are good choices: green, black and white teas all have various benefits and come in different flavors. You can have hot or even cold. Yes! Iced teas are acceptable too! Just not the commercially branded ones that are full of sugar and not a lot of tea.
Want to learn more about which teas to drink while fasting? Read our article HERE and find out. But again, just like with coffee, you cannot add dairy milk, nut milks or sugar of any kind to your tea. So, you really need to restrict your choices to herbal teas and tisanes.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar has always had numerous health benefits but perhaps even more so while following intermittent fasting. It helps to support healthy blood sugar and digestion and can enhance weight loss within this eating schedule.
What Drinks Should Be Avoided While Intermittent Fasting?
Basically, if it’s not on this list then you probably shouldn’t drink it during a fast. Don’t be fooled by words like “zero calorie” drinks. Why? Because the artificial sweetener that is in inside those “zero calorie” drinks is equivalent to sugar. Sugar once ingested becomes carbs in the body and therefor you will be knocked out of your fasting window earlier than intended.
This is a common question for those in the beginner stages of fasting. And at first glance, it may seem like the right choice. After all, many of them claim to be calorie free and they are in a sense because they do not contain sugars or carbs. However, they do contain artificial sweeteners and these can trigger sugar cravings and even raise your blood sugar level.
Pretty straight forward however it still is worth mentioning. When fasting your stomach is empty. Alcohol on an empty stomach as we all know if always a bad choice. You become intoxicated faster, have worse hangovers and severe dehydration. Not to mention that many alcoholic drinks, specifically mixed drinks, wine and others have lots of calories which would thereby negate your fasting.
Although juice can be very healthy if it is pure fruit juice, it is also full of sugar. Even natural sugars from the fruits themselves count. So, despite the vitamins and minerals you can get from pure fruit juices, keep it for your feeding time and not your fasting time.
This includes “Green Juices” or juice cleanses. Although these are meant to detox and cleanse the body. However, they do contain calories and natural sugars that will spike up your blood sugar. Again, not a good choice during the fasting period.
What is a certain fact is that IF or Intermittent Fasting is a very effective way to lose weight, just as long as you follow the guidelines. The guidelines are set around the feeding window and the fasting window and these must be respected. However, drinking the right liquids during your fasting window can help to alleviate the negative symptoms of fasting, for both beginners and advanced IF practitioners.
Now that you know what you drink during your fasting window, it’s easier to plan out which schedule will fit your life best. Remember that it is okay to lead up to a longer window. Start small and work your way up and you will begin to feel the difference right away.