How to start intermittent fasting – a guide for beginners

a guide how to start intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting. Most likely you have heard about it.

It is an effective way to burn fat and support well-being. At the moment it seems to be more popular than ever before.

In this article you learn what is it and how you start doing it.

What is intermittent fasting?

Often when we talk about fasting people think that it means starving themselves.

But fasting has nothing to do with starving!

Fasting is “volunteer controlled abstinence of food for different reasons” (Fung, 2017). 

This is the case with intermittent fasting as well. 

Intermittent fasting is not a diet. It is an eating pattern.

You eat all your meals in a certain time window and rest of the day you fast = don’t eat. 

You can drink black coffee (without sugar or sweetener), tea and water (with or without bubbles) and apple cider vinegar with your water.

intermittent fasting coffee

Is intermittent fasting healthy for you?

Most likely you have been told to eat frequent meals your whole life. 

You have heard that this is the way to keep your blood sugar stable.

Well part of this advice is true but only because you have taught your body to work this way! 

If you eat plenty of carbs and many times in a day your blood sugar is like a roller coaster. It goes up and down all the time. 

But your body doesn’t  need a high amount of carbs or frequent meals! 

Let’s think about your ancestors

They didn’t have either one of them. 

They ate when food was available.

This wasn’t necessarily every day. And most definitely not six or even three times a day.  

It’s also  worth mentioning  that back in the day food didn´t contain a big amount of carbs. (Dr. Ekberg, 2018). 

Now you might wonder why this has anything to do with you

Well, your body works exactly the same as people´s who lived tens thousands years ago.

Our bodies’ biology haven’t changed at all. 

You don’t need food all the time even if you have been taught so! 

intermittent fasting schedule

Your body has the ability to store energy (fat) when food is available. Which is all the time these days…

When you don’t have food your body starts to use it ́s “back up food” aka your body fat as it´s energy source. (Fung, 2017). 

So you can think of your body fat as an alternative energy source that your body starts to burn when you are fasting. 

And trust me we all have plenty of this “back up energy” waiting to get in use. 

A normal weight person carries around 100 000 stored calories in their body. This amount is even bigger in overweight people.  (Dr.Berg, 2019). 

history of intermittent fasting

People have fasted throughout mankind’s history for different reasons such as religion and health. Fasting has been used as a cure for many illnesses. 

“Our food should be our medicine and our medicine should be our food” taught Hippocrates who is considered as the father of modern medicine.

But if you eat when you are sick you will only feed your illness. (Fung, 2017). 

He referred to people’s natural loss of their appetite when they are sick. 

Your body is wise. Losing appetite is an instinctive way to cure illness (Ibid.).

And we all know this feeling..

When you have a flu the last thing in your mind is to go and  have a feast in a buffet.

fast when you are sick

Intermittent fasting is healthy and natural for you!

But please note that when you start it your body needs time to adapt. 

If you have eaten multiple meals every single day of your life you should start easy. Your body will go through huge changes  when you start intermittent fasting. 

Be patient and give yourself time.

Fasting will get easier with time when your blood sugar will get stable and your hormones will get in balance.

Why intermittent fasting burns fat effectively?

Intermittent fasting is a popular way to burn fat and lose weight. It will balance your hormones and that’s what makes it so effective. 

Every time you eat your blood sugar will rise. When your blood sugar rises your pancreas releases a hormone called insulin to lower it down. 

Insulin is a fat storing hormone. As long as you have it in your blood you cannot burn fat. 

If you have insulin in your blood all the time your body will start gaining fat. This stage is called insulin resistance. It is the most common reason for obesity and weight loss problems (Fung, 2016 ).

When you do intermittent fasting  you will lower your insulin levels rapidly. This allows your body to start burning fat effectively.

intermittent fasting burns fat

How to start intermittent fasting? 

The eating window

The time you will eat your daily meals is called the eating window. 

There are plenty of different variations of intermittent fasts and eating windows.

So called 16/8 is the most popular variation at the moment.

It means that you fast (yes, completely without food, not even a small snack..)  for 16 hours and then eat your meals in an 8 hours window. 

This is a one example but can fast longer if you want. For example 18 or 20 hours. 

If you have done intermittent fasting for a long time you can easily do even longer fasts such as 24 hours fast.

Or prolonged fast that lasts more than 24 hours but let’s talk more about that next week 🙂

If you are used to eating frequent meals I recommend you to start slowly. It is easier to make new habits when new things are introduced one step at the time. 

Maybe you have never been without food for 12 hours.

If that´s the case you can start with 12 hour fast. This type of fast you will eat your meals in between 8 AM and 8 PM.

Your body will start to adapt to fasting day by day. When you are comfortable to go 12 hours without food  you can start pushing your first meal a little forward.

For example, an hour or two every week. If your goal is to do 16/8 you will get there in a few weeks.

intermittent fasting eating window

What is the best fasting schedule for you?

So how to know what is the best fasting schedule for you? Your body will tell it for you. If you are not hungry don’t eat! 

And vice versa..

If you are really hungry and start to feel sick it’s your body’s way to tell you it’s time to eat. 

You might feel some little hunger from time to times throughout your fast but it will pass.

This is due to a spike of hormones like cortisol and ghrelin which will cause you a feeling of hunger. Even if you are not “really” hungry and your body can easily go on without food. (Dr.Berg, 2019). 

But remember if you start feeling nauseous, dizzy or headache it’s time to break your fast. 

break a fast

“Eat only when you are hungry and don’t eat when you are not hungry”

Dr. Berg

Meals

I recommend you to start intermittent fasting with three meals a day.

You will eat breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

When you narrow your eating window throughout the weeks you will notice that you just can’t eat three times a day. Then it’s time to move to eating only twice a day. 

This is easiest to do by  stopping eating breakfast (break a fast!). You have already fasted overnight so why break it in the morning. 

Even if we have been told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.. That’s just miss leading information (created by cereal companies) .

You don’t really need that when you have stabilized your blood sugars with fasting (they don’t crash during night time). 

It is important to make a fasting schedule that fits the best for your life. 

the best fasting schedule for you

I encourage you to follow Dr. Berg´s advice “Eat only when you are hungry and don’t eat when you are not hungry”.

It might be a little challenging in the beginning because “you must eat frequently” is embedded very deep in our minds. 

You might feel hungry (mentally) even if you are not hungry.

This is just because eating in a certain time is a habit that you have had your whole life and it’s hard to “unlearn” it. (DeLauer, 2018).  

So take your time and be nice to your body 🙂

Forcing new habits in action too quickly is never a good idea!

Intermittent fasting and keto diet

The most successful way to do intermittent fasting is to combine it with keto diet. 

On keto you will eat around 20 grams of carbs  daily. 

Carbs will spike your blood sugar. Limiting them will help your  blood sugar stay stable. Which is a huge benefit if you want to feel good while fasting. 

On a healthy keto diet you eat clean, unprocessed foods. Just like your ancestors did. 

Keto diet reduces the feeling of hunger and it helps you go longer without food. 

If you haven’t tried keto yet, I recommend you to read my guide How to start a keto diet.

intermittent fasting and keto

Before you start intermittent fasting

It’s important to remember that we all are individuals and there is no “one size fits” all instruction on how to do intermittent fasting. 

Our bodies react differently. Fasting can be really natural to some people (they don’t like to eat breakfast). 

Or it can be really challenging in the beginning. This is most likely due a hormonal imbalance in your body. 

Personally I faced hard times when I started intermittent fasting.

I was hungry all the time because I had such bad insulin resistance. But my body started to heal and hunger gave up with time. 

So I encourage you to give yourself time. Listen to your body and take one step at the time. 

If you are unsure if intermittent fasting is good for you please consult your doctor before starting it.

If you like this post please help me to spread the word by sharing it forward 🙂

before you start intermittent fasting

References: 

DeLauer, T. (2018). Intermittent Fasting and the Keto Diet. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7zsLPiBXEUA

Dr.Berg (2019). Intermittent Fasting Basics for Beginners. Intermittent Fasting Basics for Beginners – YouTube 

Dr.Berg (2019). The Simplicity of How to Burn Fat 24/7. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O-qILRhAnEM

Fung, J. (2016). The Obesity Code: Unlocking the Secrets of Weight Loss. Scribe Publications.

Fung, J. (2017). What is intermittent fasting?. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VIhhrYjVhOk. 

 Ekberg, S. (2018). How To Do Intermittent Fasting For Health – Dr Sten Ekberg Wellness For Life. How To Do Intermittent Fasting For Health – Dr Sten Ekberg Wellness For Life – YouTube

10 thoughts on “How to start intermittent fasting – a guide for beginners”

  1. Great write up! I’ve been practicing IF for several years and believe it helps me maintain my weight at 58 years old! I also follow Dr. Berg. 😉

    1. Thanks for your comment and sharing Jan 🙂 Intermittent fasting is great because it works for all of us no matter what age we are!

      I´m glad to hear that you follow Dr. Berg. He has so much knowledge that can change our life 🙂

  2. I loved reading this just now! I have never really grasped the why of intermittent fasting until this post I read just now. I know my body doesn’t need food first thing when I wake up, yet, I have breakfast, because I am ‘supposed to’. If I listen to my body better I suspect it will change a lot, maybe even those stomach aches that have been bothering me for so long. The simplest advice is already given in this post: only eat when you are hungry. Brilliant in its sheer simplicity, even more in a society that thrives on over analyzing and overthinking. We just need to stand still and listen, shove peer pressure and temptation to the side. I will definitely try to implement these changes into my eating habits. Thank you for all the insights!

    1. Thank you so much for your feedback Susanne 🙂 It really warms my heart to hear that you guys like this content! I´m here to help you and this indicates me that I´m doing the right things.

      Your body is wise. I´m sure it tries to message you something with stomach aches. I hope all the best for your intermittent fasting journey. Let us know how it goes <3

  3. Thank you for this guide! I’ve thought a lot about it and even tried intermittent fasting, but you’ve convinced me to try it again! I’m glad you gave a breakdown and lots of advice. I feel like most articles concentrate on just when you eat and not what or anything else.

    1. Thank you for your feedback Shire 🙂

      I´m glad if you will give intermittent fasting another change. Take one step at the time and be patience. It will get easier day by day.

      Let me know how it goes or if you have some questions.

      I´m happy to help you!

  4. I have been doing the keto diet for about three years. I started it as a way to manage my bipolar disorder and anxiety. I worked with my doctor and was able to wean off all my meds. I love keto! I have never been able to do intermittent fasting because it works so well!!! When I first went on keto I lost six pounds in three weeks. I had to up my calories quite a bit and when I do intermittent fasting I always lose weight.

    1. I love your story Patty. Thanks for sharing it with us. It´s wonderful to hear how keto have changed your life so fundamentally <3

      Indeed keto is effective for weight loss and some people seem to even lose too much. It´s really important to eat more fat if this happens. Do you think you could try that? Maybe with bigger meals / more calories you could try intermittent fasting and get all its health benefits as well 🙂

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