Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss: The Comprehensive Beginner’s Guide

This beginner’s guide to intermittent fasting will cover everything from the weight loss benefits of intermittent fasting to some of the most frequently asked questions about intermittent fasting – specifically how to fast for fat loss. I will also share some of my favorite intermittent fasting tips for weight loss that helped me successfully shed 70lbs of fat and keep it off.

While there are countless health benefits of intermittent fasting, in this article, I will focus primarily on the weight loss aspect – as this seems to be the topic that generates the most interest in the fasting community – not to mention some of the best results!

How Can I Lose Weight Intermittent Fasting?

One of the more popular reasons people turn to intermittent fasting is thanks to its ability to safely and effectively accelerate weight loss. 

Look at it this way: Your body needs energy to function. The easiest way for your body to access this energy is through the food that you eat. When too much food comes in, the remainder gets stored in your body as fat. 

But what if you suddenly cut off the incoming food supply? Would your body just shut down and turn off?

Of course not, or else our species would have been extinct thousands of years ago! And why would we have these built-in fat reserves in the first place if they didn’t serve a purpose?

Your body still needs energy from somewhere to keep functioning at an optimal level, so once it runs out of readily available food energy, the buck doesn’t stop there.

Instead, the focus is redirected to the body’s fat reserves and stores of damaged cells and proteins, burning these calories for fuel until you eat again. 

This stage is where insulin comes into play. Look at insulin as the “gatekeeper” standing between you and your fat reserves. Insulin levels naturally go up after we consume foods – particularly when we eat sugars and starches – both of which cause a dramatic spike in insulin that is detrimental to weight loss. 

It isn’t until we’ve run through our “easy energy” glucose stores that insulin levels start to fall again, allowing your body to finally start tapping into its reserves where it begins burning fat for fuel.

In other words, as long as insulin is present, your fat storage remains locked. Less time in the fed state = lower insulin levels = more time in the fat-burning zone.

Why Intermittent Fasting Works for Weight Loss

Reset Your Metabolism with Intermittent Fasting

As a society, we have been conditioned to believe that eating six meals a day is not only appropriate but necessary if we wish to keep our metabolism running at an optimal level. “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day! Rev up that metabolism, because if you don’t give it food, it will break forever!”

As we now know, this couldn’t be further from the truth. To keep your metabolism in tip-top shape, you need to give it space to do what it does best. Working around the clock digesting a steady stream of food is not its primary purpose. 

When we never allow our bodies a break from eating, we lose our ability to make this critical power “switch” from food for fuel fat and cell waste for fuel.  Eating constantly causes a buildup of excess fat, diseased cells, and other damaged proteins to collect within our bodies. This can wreak havoc on not only your weight but your overall health and well-being. 

Intermittent fasting retrains your body to tap into these alternative sources for fuel when food is not available. Fasting pushes the total body “reset” button on everything – from your metabolism to your energy levels to the way your body handles your excess weight and cell waste.

When these processes are not functioning correctly, not only are you are more likely to be overweight, but a sluggish and overworked system can quickly lead to disease and poor health. 

Put Weight Loss on Autopilot

Remember the old infomercial “set it and forget it”? That’s intermittent fasting in a nutshell. Set your feeding window and let your body do the rest. 

Because it is more of a behavioral adjustment than a mental one, many people find intermittent fasting to actually get easier over time, unlike many other mainstream diets that involve restriction and restraint.

Obsessive thoughts about food take the backseat as this new way of eating (and fasting) begins to feel second-nature. Once the short adjustment period has been made, fasters are often surprised to find that not only is the weight falling off, but it’s happening with nearly no outside intervention at all.

No More Head Games

Do you have an uncanny ability to sniff out loopholes and “game the system”? Do you deserve a gold medal in mental gymnastics and bargaining? (I’m not the only one, right?) If you are nodding your head in agreement at either of the above two questions, then intermittent fasting may be the weight loss strategy for you.

You see, the rules of intermittent fasting are stupidly simple: Eat during these hours, fast the rest of the time. That’s it! Case closed! 

As much as intermittent fasting works as a physical tool for weight loss, it can also act as a “mental reset button” – helping you to overcome psychological blocks that may be standing in the way of your weight loss goals.

Intermittent Fasting Do’s and Don’t’s

DO drink plenty of water

DON’T add creamer or sweetener to coffee

DO break your fast correctly

  • It’s critical to break your fast correctly, especially for your first meal of the day. Take advantage of this period of “true” hunger to fill up on a nutrient-dense meal, as this will signal to your body that you are not in “starvation mode.” This also sets the tone for a successful and effective feasting period ahead.

DO plan ahead

  • Plan your “break-fast” the night before. Life tends to throw us curve balls – so part of your preparation needs to account for those times things don’t necessarily go as planned. It’s helpful to have a couple of safe options readily available to hold you over until you can break-fast properly. Set yourself up for success by keeping some soups and nutritious frozen meals stashed away wherever you spend the most time. 

DON’T go into your fast with an all-or-nothing approach. 

  • Many yo-yo dieters have a terrible habit of throwing in the towel when things don’t go exactly according to plan. This mentality can lead to disordered behavior around food that has the power to derail all of your efforts over time. 

For a more comprehensive list of intermittent fasting tricks for beginners, check out the 7 best tips for starting out your fast.

Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss: FAQ

Isn’t skipping breakfast bad for you? Won’t my body go into “starvation mode? Eliminating meals sounds an awful lot like disordered eating…

If you find your mind swirling with doubts and questions about intermittent fasting, then you’ve come to the right place.

Below are some of the most frequently asked questions about intermittent fasting for weight loss and maximum benefits.

Will intermittent fasting make me go into starvation mode?

No, in fact, studies show that short term fasts may actually increase your metabolic rate. This boost occurs thanks to an increase of norepinephrine in the bloodstream. This hormone is responsible for stimulating your metabolism while also sending signals to your body to begin breaking down stored body fat as fuel.

Other studies have found that fasts up to 48 hours may also improve metabolic functions. The body’s increased norepinephrine levels caused by fasting also appear to lower the blood’s concentration of serum glucose. Research suggests that it’s due to these lowered serum levels that metabolic functions are able to operate at an optimal rate, preventing the body from going into “starvation mode” while providing the individual with all the health benefits of a stable blood sugar level.

Can I work out while intermittent fasting?

Yes, in fact, for individuals trying to lose weight, exercise is a great tool to get the most out of your fast by speeding up the depletion of the body’s glucose. By burning through this readily available energy supply through exercise, your body will have no choice but to start burning fat as fuel next. This process is called ketosis.

While light cardio and aerobic exercise are encouraged, heavy strength training should be avoided while in a fasted state.

💡 Tip: To flip the fat burn switch on quicker, add a bit of light cardio to the earlier part of your day, ideally a few hours before your “break-fast.” This spurt of activity will help your body burn through the remaining glucose stores quicker  – helping you transition to your fat stores for energy until you eat again.

What can I drink while intermittent fasting?

For a full list of what you can drink while intermittent fasting, this guide is a good place to start:

Water, unsweetened tea, and black coffee can be consumed while fasting, as they do not contain any calories or artificial sweeteners. Flavored sparkling waters are also a popular choice among fasters, as carbonation seems to help delay hunger a bit while providing a tasty distraction.

When it comes to zero-calorie “diet” beverages, the fasting community remains divided on the issue. While diet drinks technically won’t break a fast because they are calorie-free, some fasters prefer to avoid these beverages altogether. For some, artificial sweeteners may cause a reaction in blood sugar which in turn leads to more cravings. 

Author’s Note: Some individuals may also want to avoid tea while fasting because the tannins in black and green tea can make some people extremely nauseous on an empty stomach. If you find yourself feeling a bit queasy after drinking tea while fasting, this may be why! 

I’ve never had any issues with artificial sweeteners disrupting my fasts; however, I do find the intense sweetness to be a bit “distracting.” I typically opt for flavored sparkling water instead. 

Is intermittent fasting safe?

Not only is intermittent fasting is safe for most healthy adults, but studies suggest that individuals who follow an intermittent fasting schedule tend to be healthier than those who don’t. This makes intermittent fasting not only a popular lifestyle choice for weight loss, but for anyone looking to improve their overall wellbeing safely and effectively.

As with any new health regimen,  it is best to speak with a trusted medical professional if you have any preexisting issues or take any medications that may interfere with your fast. Multi-day fasts should also be cleared by your physician, as longer fasts may require medical supervision.

Is fasting safe for teenagers?

Teenagers should avoid extended fasts and stricter intermittent fasting schedules unless advised otherwise by a doctor. 

Children and pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid fasting unless cleared by a doctor. 

Who should NOT fast 

  • Children
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women
  • Women trying to get pregnant
  • Certain individuals suffering from eating disorders  

Can I do keto and intermittent fasting at the same time?

Many people find intermittent fasting to fit naturally with their keto lifestyle, and for those looking to lose weight, this is a great “two for the price of one” plan to follow. Because lower carbohydrate diets often help keep hunger at bay and cravings under control, you may actually find it easier to stick to your fasting schedule while following keto than if you were to just fast alone. 

When it comes to keto and intermittent fasting, the whole is better than the sum of both parts. 

For starters, keto helps squelch hunger. This aspect alone makes intermittent fasting much more comfortable to follow in terms of cravings.

The keto diet is an effective weight loss program because it throws your body in a state of ketosis – which is your prime fat-burning zone. By adding cycles of intermittent fasting to these existing periods of ketosis, you will maximize the time you spend in this fat-burning “sweet spot” – in turn boosting your body’s ability to lose fat faster. 

Author’s Note: There are a couple of other “magic bullet” combos that maximize weight loss, so don’t worry if keto isn’t your thing! (I lost 70lbs intermittent fasting and never counted or restricted carbs.)

Can I count sleep in my fasting period?

Yes! As long as you are not eating, you are in a fasted state. Use this to your advantage and structure your fasting schedule around your sleep. Do you find yourself waking up with a ravaging hunger? Or are you a person who gets a significant hunger spike at night? 

Remember, this is about working smarter, not harder. For now, let your appetite patterns drive the fasting schedule and plan your feeding window accordingly. Not only is this much easier to stick to, but it’s the fastest way to put your intermittent fasting plan on autopilot.

How often do I need to fast to see results?

Fasting isn’t like low carb in the sense that the “wrong” foods will ruin your efforts. You can be “fasting curious” just like some people chose to be “vegetarian curious” or “sober curious.” Of course, the more effort you put into it – in the form of longer the fasting periods and frequency – the quicker the results. 

However, studies show that even individuals following a reasonable 16:8 fasting window saw significant improvements in metabolic functions when compared to those following a typical 12:12 diet. So even if you are hesitant to go all-in with intermittent fasting, every effort counts and over time these gradual changes wil amount to major results. 

Can I take supplements while fasting?

Yes, but certain fat-soluble vitamins work better when taken with food. Keep in mind that some supplements may also cause nausea when taken on an empty stomach. 

What intermittent fasting schedule is best for me?

There are countless intermittent fasting diet plans to fit your lifestyle. Still, most people find the 16:8 fast to be the easiest method when just getting started as it allows for a fairly flexible eating schedule while still providing you with the many health benefits of longer fasts.

Below is a complete overview of the 7 most popular fasting schedules:

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