You know you want to try IF, but maybe you aren’t sure where to start.
First things first: Do your research. As nutritionist Stephanie Rofkahr from Fit Four Five explains, IF can be dangerous for people with low blood sugar. Talk with your doctor before you make any changes to your diet.
Next, decide which type of IF schedule you want to try. There are six popular fasting patterns to choose from, but this list is by no means exhaustive.
According to Rofkahr, the most popular option is the 16/8 method. In this pattern, you fast for 16 hours, then eat within an 8-hour period. Rofkahr tends to advise that people eat between noon and 8 p.m.
Once you’ve done your research and decided on the schedule that works best for you, you’re ready to go.
IF can be tough, especially in the beginning.
In addition to the telltale grumbling of your stomach, you may also experience fatigue, irritability, and stress while you try to manage your new eating schedule.
Here are some tips to make your life a little easier:
- Start with a modified schedule. “Start with a schedule that’s realistic for you and then add onto the intensity and duration,” says Dr. Amy Lee, head nutritionist for Nucific. No need to dive straight in! Build your tolerance to eating in a smaller time window each day, and do the full schedule when you’re ready.
- Stay well hydrated. Lee explains that you should keep hydrating with “noncaloric fluids” during your fasting period. This can include water, herbal teas, and calorie-free flavored drinks.
- During the eating period, eat slowly and frequently. Rofkahr recommends that you aim to eat every 3 hours within the 8-hour window so that you can “get your calories in.” Remember that IF can become dangerous if you don’t get your recommended daily calorie intake.
- Plan healthy, nutritious meals ahead of time. While you may be tempted to treat yourself to your favorite snacks and comfort foods as soon as your fasting period is finished, try to stick to a healthy diet with proteins, fruits, and vegetables.
- Prep your meals in advance. If your schedule is incredibly busy, set aside time on the weekend or a few nights a week to prepare some meals in advance. This will save you time and help you keep your diet balanced.
- Add 2 to 3 tbsp. of healthy fat to your evening meal. Alicia Galvin, RD, a resident dietitian for Sovereign Laboratories, recommends including a healthy fat like olive oil, coconut butter, or avocado in the last meal of the day to keep blood sugar levels steady overnight.
- If you have trouble sleeping, IF might not be for you. According to IF expert Cynthia Thurlow, “If you can’t sleep through the night, do not attempt to use this strategy. Work on sleep first.”