Why Vegan Intermittent Fasting Is an Effective Weight Loss Combo
As far as weight loss goes, it doesn’t get much easier or more straightforward than plant-based intermittent fasting. While at first glace it may seen unreasonably restrictive, you may be pleasantly surprised by just how naturally this eating plan fits into your lifestyle. Here are some compelling reasons to adopt a vegan intermittent fasting diet, along with some of the best vegan IF schedules for maximum health and fat loss benefits.
Intermittent fasting alone is an effective weight loss strategy for two main reasons:
- It’s restrictive enough to make an impact.
- And it’s straightforward enough to follow.
But add a plant-based diet to the mix, and your fat loss will run on autopilot.
- The more restrictive your diet, the less rigorous a fasting schedule you need to follow to see results.
- You will no longer fall prey to the paradox of choice. More options don’t necessarily lead to increased satisfaction. In fact, studies have shown the complete opposite to be the case. You may find that the fewer the food decisions you are faced with each day, the happier your entire outlook on life becomes.
Best Vegan Intermittent Fasting Schedules
As with most intermittent fasting schedules for beginners, it can take a bit of time for your brain and body to adjust to this new way of life.
The Cleaner the Diet, the Dirtier the Fast
The beauty of following a vegan intermittent fasting schedule is that your diet is already going to be pretty cleaned up, which allows some extra leniency as far as fasting and feeding times go.
While this may be touted as a beginner fasting schedule, make no mistake that when combined with a plant-based diet, it has the ability to produce some pretty impressive results.
I found that once I cut out alcohol, I actually needed to extend my eating window to 16/8 because I suddenly began losing weight at a very rapid rate. The same holds true for vegans eliminating sugar and processed carbs – it becomes difficult to get an adequate number of calories in with such a restrictive diet.
Of course, it is also beneficial to mix in some 24-hour fasts – as there are incredible health benefits to be gained from fasting-induced autophagy and numerous other cellular changes that only accompany longer and deeper fasts.
OMAD (or 24-hour fast)
One meal a day can be very tricky for vegans, for the simple fact that plant-based diets are naturally going to be much lower in calories. Many first-time vegans are surprised to find that their “fullness” doesn’t seem to stick in the same way it used to. For many of us, this is a welcomed change. Gone are the days of food comas and feeling sluggish from a big meal.
But just like a plant-based diet won’t feel heavy in your stomach, it won’t stay in your digestive system very long either.
Vegans tend to get hungrier much sooner after eating than their keto counterparts – and may find themselves eating more frequently than they are used to in an effort to squeeze in all their nutritional requirements.
Based on years of personal experience, I find that vegans following a longer daily fasting regimen tend to fare far better on a 20:4 plan than a one-meal-a-day schedule. This feasting window is large enough to allow for two meals and a short break in between – while still providing many of the same health benefits of a more prolonged daily fast.
Remember that the 20/4 schedule is exceptionally restrictive for those not used to eating a plant-based diet – or fasting for that matter – and may require a bit of an adjustment period before your mind and body become accustomed to these tighter constraints.
As you begin to feel more comfortable with fasting, you may want to experiment with a couple of extended fasts (36 hours) per week. Unlike the OMAD plan, which calls for seven days of 24-hour fasts, the 5:2 method condenses all the fasting days into two, allowing for a flexible schedule the rest of the week while still providing you with tremendous fasting benefits.
NOTE: Although this schedule only calls for two days of fasting, it isn’t for the faint of heart. Mentally, it can be extremely challenging to make it through an entire day without food AND have to go to sleep on an empty stomach. You may find it easier to build up to this point gradually with a few 24 hours fasts.
Keep in mind that many people go their entire lives never having done a single 24 hour fast, so take it easy on yourself if you find it challenging at first. Your body will quickly start to adapt to fasting, and it will eventually come second-nature to you.
For an overview of the 7 most popular IF schedules for beginners, this article is a good place to start:
How to Maximize Weight Loss with High Carb Intermittent Fasting
Can you lose weight doing high carb intermittent fasting? Yes! Many successful vegetarian and vegan fasters (myself included) eat a diet high in carbs and experience similar weight loss results to those of keto fasters.
Below are three fasting strategies that will help you maximize your weight loss on a plant-based IF schedule, without falling into the trap of using carbs as a crutch.
Break your fast properly
As a self-proclaimed carb lover, it took a while to admit that a carb-loaded meal isn’t exactly the best way to break a fast. After fasting for many hours, a carb-centric meal will most likely leave you feeling sluggish and exhausted, so it is important to begin your feasting period on the right food.
Some of the best foods for breaking a plant-based fast are:
You can also break a fast with a well-rounded meal, but I prefer to save that for about an hour after my fast is over. I include a pre-break fast for a couple of reasons:
- A heavy meal kills the “high” from fasting and catapults me into a lazy relaxing mode. Sometimes this is fine, but if I still have work to get done or errands to run, I like to keep this light energetic feeling for at least another hour.
- Many people need to “warm-up” their stomach to accommodate a large meal. By breaking your fast with something lighter (soup, salad, smoothie), you whet your appetite a bit and get the appetite juices flowing.
- A small “break-fast” meal buys you a bit of time to properly feast without the pressure or hunger clouding your judgment. After a 10-hour day of fasting and working, not many of us are going to want to come home and cook a complicated meal. I find the tiny break-fast gives me enough energy and satiety to actually look forward to cooking, rather than dread it or avoid it altogether – which often leads to less-than-ideal food choices later on.
Treat your carbs as a treat.
Just like candy or ice cream is a treat, eating four slices of toast is also a splurge and to be treated as such.
Identify the carby foods in your life that may not necessarily be trigger foods – but that taste good enough to mindlessly snack on if you aren’t careful. Start to view these foods as garnishes rather than letting them fly solo all the time.
Tortilla chips, for example, are my garnish. They are not to be eating alone or mindlessly out of the bag – they are to accompany meals. If I enjoy them on their own, that’s also fine, but I must first mentally acknowledge that I am indulging in a treat.
Implement the “buddy system.”
This is why I strongly urge you to implement the “buddy system” with carbs and “crunchy salties” like chips/crackers etc. Not only does this help monitor your intake, but you may find yourself savoring your meals even more once you make the conscious effort to stop snacking on bread products left and right.
I always notice that chips taste a million times better when paired with “real” food, for example, so as long as I avoid the habit of reaching into the bag mindlessly, my level of food satisfaction actually goes up when I am mindful of the “buddy system” and enjoy my snacks in a more well-rounded way,
Of course, this advice applies to anyone looking to lose weight, but vegans especially should be careful not to fall into the habit of curbing hunger with carbs.
Is Vegan Intermittent Fasting Healthy?
Yes! This is a winning combo for not only weight loss, but overall health and wellbeing, too. Intermittent fasting alone has been shown to increase fat loss and boost energy levels, but when combined with a plant-based diet, you can expect these benefits to skyrocket.
Here are 5 unexpected benefits of vegan intermittent fasting that will change your life for the better.