Intermittent fasting: what you should know before starting

Intermittent Fasting

A lot of people talk about 8/16, 12/12, 20/4, but how do you actually practice intermittent fasting? Besides, can we drink water or eat certain things while fasting? How long does it take to do it? These are many questions that we often ask ourselves when we want to start fasting.

We will therefore see here different ways of practicing intermittent fasting, the mistakes not to be made, the benefits that one could derive from it, but also the risks and disadvantages of practicing it.

The different time slots for intermittent fasting

First of all, you should know that there are several ways to call this type of fasting: “intermittent fasting”, “interval fasting” or even “part-time fasting”. But behind all these expressions there is actually only one thing: alternate between periods of fasting of varying lengths and periods of food intake.

Here, we will now discuss the most common intermittent fasting variants (there are quite a few of them!):

  • 8/16 fasting: in this variant, you allow yourself to eat on an 8-hour interval, then abstain from eating for the remaining 16 hours. One way to do this, for example, would be to eat meals every day between 12 p.m. and 8 p.m., and not eat anything from 8 p.m. until 12 p.m. the next day. It’s one of the most popular forms of intermittent fasting right now.
  • 20/4 fasting: in this case, you allow yourself to eat over a period of 4 hours, and you abstain the rest of the time (for example: meal between 8 am and noon, then abstention until 8 am the next morning).
  • 12/12 fasting: In this variant, you have a 12-hour window to eat your meals normally, and then you fast for the next 12 hours.
  • 36/12 fast: first of all, this one is recommended for experienced fasters with no incurrent risks. In summary, you eat the first day in a 12 hour interval, then you fast for 36 hours. For example: you could eat on Monday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and fast until 8 a.m. on Wednesday morning.

But, as mentioned previously, these forms of fasting are not the only variations that exist. In addition, only you will be able to determine which one will suit you best, adapt it and adjust it to yourself, as you go. Furthermore, before jumping into intermittent fasting, it is important to speak about it to your doctor, in order to make sure that there would be no risk to your health.

The risks associated with the practice of intermittent fasting

While fasting can have many benefits, it is nonetheless not recommended for some people:

  • Diabetics: people with diabetes who are taking metformin or sulfonylurea therapy should not fast, as this could lead to severe hypoglycemia (for those who continue their therapy while fasting).
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding women because there may be a lack of certain nutrients essential for the formation and development of the fetus. When it comes to breastfeeding, fasting can decrease milk production, mainly due to the fatigue it can cause. And this, combined with fasting during pregnancy, could affect the production and quality of breast milk.
  • Children because they need energy, essential inputs for their growth and have lower reserves than adults.
  • The elderly as this can cause heart trouble and even stroke, not to mention the risk of increased falls or fractures, linked to the drop in metabolism while fasting.
  • People taking any treatment who require medication with food.
  • People who have suffered or are suffering from eating disorders as this could cause you to binge eat after the fasting due to deprivation.
  • For athletes who need and spend a lot of energy. However, there is no consensus on this as some athletes claim to benefit from it.

How to start intermittent fasting

To begin with, you should know that fasting does not necessarily mean completely depriving yourself of food or drink. Because there are several ways to fast: dry fasting (without water or food), water fasting (with water only), or more permissively with fruit or vegetable juices. But in any case, you should make sure to eat between the fasting phases.

Indeed, the goal of fasting being among other things to purify and detoxify your body and to lose a few pounds, it is recommended to eat healthily, on an occasional basis (to avoid blood sugar spikes), and to take your time, during food intake. Because eating in a completely unbalanced way outside of the fasting phases can lead to the loss of all the benefits one might hope to derive from it. Likewise, if you consume processed foods (industrial foods or foods from fast food restaurants for example) too often, the benefits will be negated.

Moreover, unless you practice a dry fasting, you can drink normally during your fasting phases, to hydrate yourself properly—both within the fasting range and outside of it. However, be careful not to overcompensate on certain drinks. Of course, water remains the main drink that you can drink “as you wish”. However, herbal infusions and decoctions can also be consumed on condition that you limit their intake and do not sweeten them.

On the other hand, drinks such as sodas, squeezed fruit juices and alcohol should be avoided, as this would break the fast. Regarding tea and coffee, opinions are mixed here, as to their possible consumption or not, during an intermittent fast. In all cases, their consumption should be done as much as possible without milk and sugar.

The benefits and potential benefits of intermittent fasting

There are a whole host of recognized benefits of practicing intermittent fasting. Especially since it is really easy to implement into one’s daily routine, not very restrictive, and above all, because it brings a lot of benefits to the body as well as the mind.

First, intermittent fasting can potentially help with weight loss just by letting the body rest for longer, forcing it to draw on its reserves. But be careful because weight loss is not systematic and certainly not the purpose of the fasting in itself.

Another benefit is the regulation of blood sugar and cholesterol in people with diabetes.

Another benefit of intermittent fasting is the strengthening the immune system in the long run, regulation of weight and satiety, as well as detoxifying the body. Also, fasting usually improves blood pressure, thereby limiting the risk of stroke to some extent.

So, as you can see, intermittent fasting has quite a few benefits, but of course, as long as it’s done properly.

Mistakes not to make when doing intermittent fasting

While intermittent fasting is still fairly easy to practice, there are still a number of mistakes that should not be made at the risk of losing all the benefits. Among these errors, here are the most frequent:

  • Not hydrating enough: It is important to drink well during your fast (as long as you are not purposefully practicing dry fasting)
  • Drink Anything: While it is important to stay hydrated during your fast, not all drinks are good to take. While water is of course the main essential drink, infusions and decoctions can be consumed to some extent, as long as they are not sweetened or taken too frequently. So, as you will understand, “ready-made” fruit juices and other sodas are to be avoided, as are teas and coffees. Note that so-called “light” drinks should also be avoided as much as possible, because of the sweeteners that they contain. And of course, alcohol is to be avoided (highly acidifying and dehydrating for the body).
  • Eating poorly or not enough: outside of your fasting window, you can eat normally at your usual capacity. But be careful, this is not about eating anything, or whatever, at every meal, because you will lose all the benefits of fasting.
  • Being too strict on the timeframes: be indulgent with yourself! Because you can perfectly advance the time of your first meal if necessary, and that will not jeopardize your fast for all that much.
  • Boredom while fasting: for many people boredom = hunger = snacking. So, in order to avoid that, try to occupy yourself as much as possible and perhaps adopt new hobbies or activities!