There are a lot of diet options out there, but don't despair if you haven't found the right one for your lifestyle. Instead, consider giving intermittent fasting a try. I get it — if you're anything like me, the mere mention of fasting may send you running in the opposite direction, but I quickly turned around when I learned that intermittent fasting isn't synonymous with going hungry. Instead, the practice involves shifting when you consume your calories.
"The goal of intermittent fasting is not to decrease calories," says Sunny Brigham, MS, CNS. "You should still consume the same amount of calories, just in a smaller period of time throughout the day. Many people do it wrong by reducing calories while fasting."
Ready to get started? We've got you covered. Here's how to incorporate intermittent fasting into your lifestyle.
Start With the 12:12 Rule
Dr. Luiza Petre, a weight-loss and -management specialist and board-certified cardiologist, told POPSUGAR that she recommends starting with the easiest form of intermittent fasting, which she refers to as "12:12 IF." You'll spend 12 hours of the day fasting and consume all your calories during the other 12-hour window.
Petre's plan also includes the zero-one-two-three strategy, which is something that many people do all the time without even thinking about it. "The number three in the zero-one-two-three strategy stands to stop eating three hours before bed. In order to utilize this in your daily life, all you have to do is stop eating at 7:30 p.m. and wait to eat breakfast until 7:30 a.m. So simple!" Petre said. "By fasting for those 12 hours, you allow insulin and blood sugar levels to come down, resulting in a fat-burning state."
When You're Ready, Increase the Fasting Periods
If you found that the 12:12 plan was a breeze, you can move on to what Petre described as "medium-difficulty IF." This involves 16 hours of fasting and consuming your calories during an eight-hour window.
You can take things further with this schedule by trying extreme intermittent fasting, which is adding a fat fast to the 16:8 plan. "In other words, you're still consuming all of your calories during an eight-hour window, but 95 percent of those calories are going to come from fat," Petre explained. During the day, you'll limit your intake of carbs and proteins to just five percent of your total calories.
During that eight-hour window, Petre said your calories shouldn't be coming from "traditional high-fat foods such as nuts, seeds, and cheese" because they contain carbohydrate grams. Instead, you'll want to eat healthier, saturated fats like butter, MCT oil, and coconut oil — all of which are almost purely fat.
Petre recommends consuming two Keto coffees during the day. "Keto coffee, also known as bulletproof coffee, made famous by Dave Asprey, is a cup of coffee with MCT oil, coconut oil, and butter. It sounds a bit extreme, but when it's consumed, you're still getting energy into the body without getting an insulin spike," she told POPSUGAR. "To add a little flavor, add MCT oil and heavy whipping cream."
There are a few important caveats regarding the fat fast. From a practical standpoint, Petre noted that you'll be in the bathroom for most of the day — so this may not be the best option if your job or lifestyle doesn't allow for plenty of bathroom breaks. From a health standpoint, it's important to note that you should work up to this rather than jumping in head first.
"Some research talks about doing a fat fast for an extended period over a couple of days or weeks at a time," Petre said. "You can also add it in for one day to throw a curveball into your IF schedule to keep your metabolism up and running."
Be Prepared to Handle a Few Symptoms
When you make any change to your diet, your body may feel out of whack at first. "Initially you might feel hungry, have low energy, and experience cravings while your body adjusts to a new schedule," Petre said. "Staying hydrated will help to increase energy, calm hunger pangs, and any headaches you might experience." She recommended drinking hot tea, sugar-free lemonade, very low-caloric bone broth or almond milk, or a carbonated drink to fill yourself up.
"It's important to keep in mind the more you train your body to fast, the easier you can manage any symptoms, and after a few days, your body will naturally fall into habit," Petre told POPSUGAR. "And if you reach ketosis at any time, it acts as a mood elevator and natural appetite suppressant."
So there you have it — whether you decide that the 12:12 is intense enough for you or you find that the 16:8 fat fast is the nutrition plan you've been searching for, remember to follow these guidelines to ensure that you're going about this diet in a safe, healthy manner.