Intermittent Fasting is easy for some people to pick up. Others find it very difficult to fast for even 12 hours. If you would like to try Intermittent Fasting but can’t seem to stop eating for as long as 12 hours, keep reading, these 11 Essential Intermittent Fasting Tips will help you complete a fast successfully.
Intermittent fasting has become a trend recently and for good reason. The benefits of fasting extend beyond weight loss. They include mental clarity, autophagy (the body’s self-repair mechanism), regulated blood sugar, decreased risk factors for heart disease, amongst other benefits.
But, the truth is that people have been fasting for centuries. Be it for spiritual, environmental, or health reasons, Intermittent Fasting has been a part of our culture.
Unfortunately, for the past few decades, we’ve been told that we should eat every 2 – 4 hours to speed up our metabolisms. At the same time, sugar and refined carb intake have drastically increased.
This combination has created an obesity epidemic that only seems to be benefiting the food industry and pharma companies. It certainly is not benefiting us!
I explain how intermittent fasting works and what to eat during intermittent fasting in other posts. I have family, friends, and readers who express interest in trying it. Some, like I did, can jump into 16-hour fasts with no problem. Others have a really hard time fasting for more than 8 – 10 hours.
The worse part is that some people feel like a failure because they can’t accomplish it. And if you’re one of those people, let me make something clear right now… there’s nothing wrong with you!
WHY CAN FASTING FOR MORE THAN 8-10 HOURS BE TOO DIFFICULT?
I’m going to say this a different way… It’s perfectly normal to have a hard time fasting when you begin.
Why is it easier to fast for some than for others? There are a number of variables that explain it. I won’t go into all of them, but here are a few:
- When your body is used to eating every 2-4 hours, it anticipates when food is coming. Your body is such an amazing machine that it starts releasing hunger hormones, and even insulin, right before it expects to be fed. This then makes you hangry (yes, hAngry 😉) when you don’t do what your body expects, which is eating.
- When you eat a lot of carbs, especially refined carbs, and sugar, it can cause insulin resistance. This is an overproduction of insulin to deal with the excess of energy in your bloodstream in the form of glucose. The better regulated your insulin is, and the lower it is, the more likely your hunger is to go down.
- Habit, but not at the cellular level. I’m talking about a habit, at the psychological level, can make fasting difficult. Have you ever had a day in which you were so busy that you skipped a meal and didn’t even notice? This is because sometimes hunger is happening in our minds. Knowing this has been crucial to your success with Intermittent Fasting.
INTERMITTENT FASTING TIPS FOR FASTING SUCCESS
The good thing is that there are ways to get around these issues that make fasting so difficult. The tips in this post are going to set you up for success. All you have to do is apply them.
TIP #1: SAFETY COMES FIRST
Your safety is crucial to any weight loss or health regimen. Before starting Intermittent Fasting, you should consult with your doctor.
First of all, get bloodwork done to have a baseline of your labs before you start. This will give you an excellent comparison point for future progress. Second, make sure you don’t have any medical conditions that could preclude you from practicing this protocol.
I recommend you read the Intermittent Fasting and Women: Is it Safe? post. In it, I go into more detail about safety. But, before we move on to the next tip, here are some examples of situations in which Intermittent fasting is NOT recommended:
- If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you should not follow an IF protocol. Restricting nutrients at a time when they are crucial to a developing fetus or child is not a good thing.
- If you have suffered from an eating disorder, intermittent fasting may trigger unhealthy eating patterns and behaviors, so it’s not recommended.
- If you are malnourished or have excessively low body fat, IF could make the situation worse and lead to severe hormonal imbalance, lack of ovulation, and amenorrhea (missed periods). And this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to harm. Do not try it if your Body Mass Index (BMI) score falls within the underweight category.
- If you are taking medications or have a medical condition that could be adversely affected by extended periods of food restriction.
- If you are highly stressed and not sleeping well, you may experience a heightened level of emotional and physical stress when starting IF. Starting this protocol when your cortisol levels are very high can have a negative effect by exacerbating those problems. Start after these symptoms have decreased.
TIP #2: STOP IF YOU DON’T FEEL WELL
This tip goes hand in hand with the safety tip. If at any time you feel sick, or feel like you’re going to pass out, STOP the fast. It’s okay, I promise. It takes time to develop your “fasting muscles.” You can try again until you feel used to it and are able to extend the fast.
It’s normal to feel hungry while your body adjusts to fasting for longer periods than you’re used to. But, feeling light-headed, passing out, shaking, or flat out feeling ill in any way, is not normal.
The purpose of Intermittent fasting is to feel healthier, not to feel ill. So, if you feel sick in any way, end the fast, eat something. Intermittent fasting is about you deciding when to eat and not eat. If you were going for 16 hours, but could only do 12, you still did a good job! Congratulate yourself and try extending the 12-hour fast the next day, or when you’re ready.
Always remember that you’re in full control over your fasting periods and that nothing is worth making yourself sick over.
My in-laws, who I just love, are in town this week. Yesterday I got to spend a nice amount of time with them while Jeremy was at work. I was telling them that I’ve been fasting and eating low carb high fat (LCHF). Mom asked me if I ever felt queasy or faint. I told her that I haven’t, but that I had cut out refined carbs and sugar before I started fasting. Dad later told me that he fasted for a while, but he did feel queasy sometimes.
This is the reason it is so important to follow the next step, even if you don’t intend to do go LCHF permanently.
TIP #3: PREPARE AHEAD OF TIME BY EATING LOW CARB
If you’ve been eating a lot of refined carbohydrates and sugar, then prepare before you fast by changing your diet to a low carb high-fat diet. While the ketogenic diet is considered to be ideal to pair with Intermittent fasting for weight loss, it’s not for everybody. But, feel free to go there if you’re open to it.
If you don’t want to eat a high fat low carb diet, simply cut out refined carbohydrates. This is what I was doing when I started. Once I got used to it, then the low carb high fat diet just came naturally.
Definitely stay away from sugar. Use natural sweeteners, such as stevia if absolutely necessary. I use the stevia leaf brand because it doesn’t have added chemicals.
TIP #4: EASE INTO IT
After removing sugar and refined carbs from your diet, give IF a try. If you would like to know when to schedule your fasts, I go into detail on how to determine your intermittent fasting schedule in this post.
To start with, aim for a minimum of 12 hours. If you are confident that you can go longer then, by all means, do so!
Give yourself a week of four to seven 12-hour fasts the first week. The following week, increase that to 14-hour fasts. Then up to 16-hour fasts.
My point is that you should take it a step at a time. Believe me, you will start seeing the difference on the scale if you’re not used to going 12 hours without eating. Especially if you’ve significantly reduced your carb intake.
TIP #5: HYDRATE
If you’ve read my other posts, you must be tired of me saying this. But I’ll say it again anyway… HYDRATE. I cannot stress how important it is to hydrate throughout your fast.
First of all, generally, you hydrate more than you think because food contains water. Since you’re not eating for a longer period of time, you need to replenish that water. It also helps you cleanse and maintain balance in your system.
Carry a bottle of water with you to ensure you’re hydrating throughout the day. Feel free to drink sparkling water if it helps you hydrate more.
TIP #6: DISTRACT YOURSELF
If you’re looking for intermittent fasting tips that will help you stay in the fasted state, this is a huge one. Try as best you can to distract yourself. For example, some people make it a point to schedule their fasts so that the end of the fast comes along right after their busiest time of the day.
Why? Because they’re distracted and less likely to think about being hungry.
Eating out of boredom is very common. Plan ahead of time to get out of the house, or do something very distracting during the time when fasting feels the most difficult for you. It’ll go a long way to help you have a successful fast.
Distraction options include reading a book, exercising, going for a walk, cleaning the house, going to the park… pretty much anything that gets you moving and not thinking about food.
TIP #7: REDUCE EXPOSURE TO FOOD OR REMINDERS OF FOOD – CHANGE HABITS
Along the same lines of distraction, changing certain habits can help you with completing a fast.
Does the food in your pantry call to you when you’re home? If your answer is yes, then get out. If you can, instead of staying at home, go for a walk, explore the area where you live. Go to a museum, you probably won’t be able to eat there… perfect!
Changing habits can be just as effective. If you drink coffee every morning at your kitchen table, along with a sticky bun. Choose a different spot in your home and eliminate the sticky bun. Changing the location and eliminating the food will help you readjust the habit quicker. Basically, you’re replacing one habit with another healthier habit.
TIP #8: EAT SALT
Our bodies require a certain amount of sodium every day to keep our electrolytes balanced, about a minimum of 3000 mg. When you’re fasting, electrolyte levels can go down. This could make you feel sluggish, queasy, or it can give you a headache. It’s especially true if you fast for longer periods of time, like 24 hours or more.
This is a simple tip, eat salt. This does not break your fast and keeps your electrolytes balanced. Carry about 1 1/2 teaspoon of salt with you to sprinkle in your mouth throughout the day.
If you’re fasting for less than 24 hours, this is not necessary as long as you include a healthy level of salt or sodium in the food you eat during your feeding period.
TIP #9: EAT A LOW CARB DIET DURING YOUR FEASTING PERIODS
The suggestion to eat low carb to prepare for a fast extends to your feasting periods. If you want to get the benefits of intermittent fasting more quickly, eating a low-carb high-fat diet will help you get there faster.
The reason is that your insulin levels are regulated, your blood glucose levels are lower, and then you end up dipping into your fat stores for energy a lot faster.
I consider myself to be a sugar addict. But I can definitely say that eating low carb combined with intermittent fasting has greatly reduced my cravings. Even when I crave sweets, it no longer happens to the point where I blindly eat everything sweet in sight. Now I either don’t crave or can easily resist.
TIP #10: SCHEDULE FASTS DURING YOUR SLEEP
This one is simple, if you’re not conscious, you’re not thinking about being hungry.
This is generally true… I have been known to then dream about food, lol. But as I write this, I realize that it has never happened to me when I’m fasting. I’ve only had the issue of dreaming about food when I feel deprived. And that used to happen with many low-fat diets in the past.
I’ve never felt deprived with Intermittent Fasting. Do you want to know why?
I know I’m going to eat food that I love when my feasting period begins.
Since the ketogenic diet is so popular, finding low carb substitutes for carby favorites is easy. For example, sometimes I just feel like having an egg sandwich. All I have to do is make myself a 90-second bread in the microwave and done! If you want that and other easy low carb recipes, check out this post.
But I digress… Another thing that happens when you’re asleep is that your hunger hormones are suppressed. That’s why you’re usually not hungry in the morning when you wake up.
Scheduling your fast to coincide with your sleep when you know you will be the hungriest, will guarantee a good number of successful fasting hours.
TIP #11: MODIFY IF NECESSARY
There are many ways of practicing Intermittent Fasting and they are all effective. While some people consider that you are breaking a fast if you ingest anything other than water, others disagree.
Drinking tea, coffee, or bone broth while fasting is widely acceptable. I highly recommend Dr. Jason Fung’s book, The Complete Guide to Fasting: Heal Your Body Through Intermittent, Alternate-Day, and Extended Fasting. I find that I’m more consistent with a less restrictive IF protocol, and Dr. Fung’s guide works for me.
Some people do fat fasts, where they consume fats during their fasting periods.
My point with all of this is to let you know that you have options. If you need to make modifications to your fast until you get used to longer periods of not eat, then it’s okay. Ultimately, the point is to move in a positive direction for your health.
CONCLUSION ON INTERMITTENT FASTING TIPS FOR FASTING SUCCESS
It’s hard to pass up on the benefits of Intermittent Fasting. However, feeling tortured or sick while you’re fasting is not worth it. The great thing is that you can ease your way into an effective regimen by following the 11 essential Intermittent Fasting tips explained above.
Always keep your health and safety as the priority in mind. And remember that sometimes great things take time to develop.
Sign up for the Intermittent Fasting Schedule Workbook. Aside from getting a great tool to help you decide how you should structure your fasting and feasting periods, you’ll receive support from me in the form of weekly emails. They’re full of helpful information to help increase your fasting success!