How (and when) to intermittent fast

Intermittent Fasting

Over the past few years, intermittent fasting has become increasingly popular. Many of our readers have become interested in exploring the idea of intermittent fasting – and are curious to know “how” and “when” to do it. In this post, we’ll talk about intermittent fasting, share a few “breaking-your-fast” recipes to get you started, and post a short video clip from Dr. David Ludwig explaining the science behind Intermittent Fasting.

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TIP: Read our previous post about Intermittent Fasting HERE>>

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How (and When) To Intermittent Fast

Intermittent Fasting (IF) – a pattern of alternating times of eating and not eating on a regular schedule.

Time-Restricted Eating (TRE) – a type Intermittent Fast where you eat and fast during a scheduled window each day.

While IF and TRE are popular practices these days, they take a bit of planning to make them successful in the long run. These are “advanced practices” that require you to be metabolically healthy (“fat adapted”) in order to be successful. Essentially, your body uses either carbohydrates or fat (turned into ketones) as fuel. So, how do you know if you’re adapted to using fat as fuel? Well, hunger is a key indicator.

Metabolic adaptation occurs when “fat cells do what they’re supposed to do”…store and release fuel efficiently. In a healthy metabolic state:

  1. When you’re eating, your fat cells store calories (to prevent a spike in triglycerides)
  2. When you’re not eating, fat cells efficiently (and slowly) release calories back into the bloodstream

What Helps our Bodies Adapt to Fat as Fuel?

When we consistently eat foods that increase insulin – think refined carbohydrates – over time our fat cells can be triggered into storage overdrive and hoard calories instead of releasing them. As explained in the 3-Phase Program in Always Hungry? (AH), changing what we eat changes how our fat cells store and use the calories we take in. Rather than restricting our way to weight loss and metabolic health, AH recommends nourishing our bodies with foods that retrain our fat cells to use fuel efficiently – think fats, proteins and slow-acting carbohydrates. Phase 1 of the program in Always Hungry? gets us started on a path to being “fat adapted”. This may take weeks or months, depending on where your body is metabolically.

Taking the time to reset your body to metabolic health is key to a successful fasting practice.

When you’re “fat adapted”, you can then begin intermittent fasting. You will likely find it easier to fast – and it may even feel natural or synergistic. On the other hand, if you are NOT fat adapted (and your body is relying on carbohydrates for energy), intermittent fasting is not recommended. It will be difficult to fast for long periods of time, as your body will require more regular intake of food to meet its energy needs. Restriction in that state will only lead to fat cells hoarding more calories.

How to Start Intermittent Fasting

Step 1: Adapt your Body to Use Fat as Fuel

As outlined in Phase 1 of Always Hungry?, Signs that your body is becoming fat adapted include:

  • Longer lasting satiety (sense of satisfaction and fullness after eating),
  • Decreased hunger
  • Fewer food cravings

Step 2: Enjoy Strong Black Coffee (no Sugar)

Enjoy first thing in the morning, as you tolerate it. Caffeine stimulates fat cells to release fuel, noticeably reducing hunger for many people.

Step 3: Begin your First Meal a Bit Later Each Day

Drink your coffee, then begin your first meal a bit later each day for about a week or two. See if you can reach noon or 1pm without excessive hunger.
Black Coffee too much of a stretch? See suggested transition hacks to begin your day in the infographic below.

Step 4: Break your Fast with Foods that are Higher in Protein and Fat

Avoid fast-digesting, high glycemic load carbs (choose Phase 1 or Phase 2 foods as described in Always Hungry?)

Step 5: Have your Second Meal Between 6 and 8pm

Try to achieve an eating window of 6-8 hours (with 16-18 hours of fasting)

Step 6: Pay Attention to Hunger Between Meals

Pay attention to hunger and any tendency to overeat (feeling uncomfortably full) at your evening meal. Adjust types of foods and eating times as needed.

**REMINDER: As always, speak with your health provider BEFORE beginning any new eating habit.

View infographic for intermittent fasting below.

Break Your Intermittent Fast with These Recipes…

To break your daily intermittent fast, we recommended choosing higher fat, higher protein meals (rather than higher-carbohydrate foods). Try breaking your fast with Phase 1 Meals OR experiment with Chef Kenzie’s ideas below… (Note: Some of these recipes are higher in fat than Phase 1 ratios – this may be an option for those who have done the Phase 1 Reset and find they do well eating higher fat, lower carb meals)

Baked Egg in an Avocado

Preheat oven to 425°F. Peel an avocado, remove the pit, and slice in half. Crack an egg into each half of the avocado. Season with salt and pepper. Cook in the oven for 12-15 minutes, or until the egg whites are fully set and the egg yolk is still runny. Top with a drizzle of Chipotle Mayo (or your favorite sauce from Always Hungry? or Always Delicious) and fresh herbs. Serve each person one of the avocado halves with a side of 3/4 cup blueberries OR sliced berries and 3/4 cup Greek yogurt (plain 2% fat yogurt OR plain whole-milk yogurt, depending on your preferences).

Ratios (with 1 tbsp Chipotle Mayo and 2% yogurt): 23% Protein, 27% Carbs, 50% Fat, 440 calories

Smoked Salmon Egg “Muffins”

See Chef Dawn’s recipe for an example here >>  Add vegetables, swap the spinach for another dark green vegetable (asparagus, broccoli, etc. – chopped into small pieces), or swap the cheddar cheese for mozzarella for feta. Serve each portion with 1/2 avocado, and a side of 1 cup whole-milk plain Greek yogurt OR 1 cup full fat cottage cheese and 1/4 cup blueberries OR sliced berries.

Ratios (with cheddar cheese and Greek yogurt): 26% Protein, 19% Carbs, 55% Fat, 470 calories

Yogurt Parfait with Berries and Nut Butter

Enjoy 1 cup plain, whole-milk Greek yogurt with 1 cup berries and 2 tablespoons nut butter OR 1/4 cup nuts/seeds of choice. Add cinnamon, vanilla extract, citrus zest, or other flavourings of your choice.

Ratios (with cottage cheese and 2 tablespoons peanut butter): 23% Protein, 28% Carbs, 49% Fat, 540 calories

Granola with Cottage Cheese or Greek Yogurt

Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix together 1/4 cup coconut oil, 3 cups nuts/seeds of choice (salted OR unsalted – by preference), 1 teaspoon cinnamon (or more, to taste), 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Lay the mix in a single layer on a sheet pan. Roast until fragrant and nuts/seeds are lightly browned – about 20 minutes, tossing half way through cooking. This recipe yields 3 cups, or about 12 quarter-cup servings. Serve about 1/4 cup of Granola over 1 cup plain, whole-milk Greek yogurt OR 1 cup full fat cottage cheese.

Ratios (I used 1 cup each of cashews, almonds, and pecans and served with Greek yogurt): 23% Protein, 14% Carbs, 63% Fat, 470 Calories

Stuffed Peppers

Follow this recipe, using bell peppers OR portobello mushrooms as the base. If desired, replace the dried fruit with shredded carrots. This will yield a higher-fat, lower-carbohydrate meal.

Ratios (with shredded carrots in place of dried cranberries): 26% Protein, 14% Carbs, 60% Fat, 460 Calories

Not Ready for Black Coffee in the Morning?

Try one of these Fat-Adaption Transition “Hacks” to help move your body toward fat adapting. These work especially well if you find you are hungry in the mornings or have a hard time with just black coffee. You can use one of these in place of a Phase 1 breakfast first thing in the morning. 

  • Try one of our Phase 1 Power Shakes as is, or reduce the carbs, and add 1-2 tsp MCT oil 
  • Have coffee with cream or blend in 1-2 tsp MCT oil
  • Make a “Bulletproof Coffee
  • Adjust the Creamy Vanilla Coffee Shake (recipe from Always Delicious pg. 84) by replacing the cashews with up to 1 Tbsp MCT oil and use half-and-half in place of milk. If needed, use up to 1 date or none if you can.

Want to explore more on implementing an Intermittent Fast into your routine?

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