Intermittent fasting can be challenging when not done correctly. How to start your fast, what you eat and drink, and your sleep quality makes a big difference. Keeping yourself busy and being consistent also make fasting easier.
Fasting has its own rules, it has been around since the dawn of time, but nowadays it is a challenge for many of us. The following tips will help you to incorporate intermittent fasting into your life more easily.
Pay close attention to the last meal you have before starting your fast.
Let’s say if you had a meal loaded with carbohydrates such as pasta, pizza, sushi, jacket potato, a pie or even a toast with avocado. These kinds of foods spike your blood sugar, and soon after, it crashes, causing hunger pangs (1).
The best way to prepare yourself for a fast is to have a low-carb meal, with healthy fats and high quality protein. This will allow your body to activate a powerful biochemical cascade of satiety hormones that have long-term effects, so you won't experience hunger for a long time, and your fast will go smoothly (2).
Your body requires extra hydration on fasting because low levels of insulin lead to slight dehydration. Make sure you consume an adequate amount of liquids to maintain your water balance to prevent dehydration. Be cautious with alcohol though, it is not recommended while fasting.
Drinking water might trick your mind when you are hungry and help with food cravings (3).
When you fast, your body actively uses stored reserves of minerals. Their deficiency can cause some fasting side effects such as muscle cramps, fatigue and headache.
You can easily fix these issues by adding a pinch of salt in a glass of water when you feel tired or lightheaded or consume some sparkling water. The minerals will help your muscles contract and relax and assist in transmitting nerve impulses from your nervous system to different body parts (4)
Being hungry when fasting is absolutely normal. Tea and black coffee are allowed for almost any fasting protocol. Tea (especially green tea) and coffee don’t just have important antioxidants to fight inflammation in the body, but they also have natural hunger suppressant components.
Having a cup of tea or coffee significantly lowers hunger and stomach growling. Here you need to keep in mind that these drinks are diuretics. It means they increase the excretion of water and minerals through excessive urination. After every cup of tea or coffee you should drink a glass of water (with a dash of salt) to keep your water-electrolytes equilibrium.
Good quality sleep is essential when you fast. Lack of sleep puts your body in a stressed state, where your adrenal glands produce cortisol. This hormone affects not only your mood in a negative way but also your insulin levels, which rise even without eating.
Poor sleep decreases the beneficial effects of fasting and makes you hungry, promoting sugar cravings (5).
There are some supplements, which you shouldn’t take while fasting such as fat-soluble vitamins (vitamin A, D, E, K) or Iron. You should take them with a meal because they need fat for better absorption.
Some of the supplements can actually help you through fasting.
Magnesium is a mineral or electrolyte, which helps with muscle cramps and falling asleep (on long fasts your body releases a lot of energy, which can make it difficult to go to bed).
Vitamin C is water-soluble and has antioxidant properties. This vitamin will maximise fasting anti-inflammatory benefits.
You also can take Zinc, which can promote cell-regeneration and healing, if you are not personally sensitive to the supplement. Some people can have nausea if Zinc is taken on an empty stomach.
Throughout the day we always experience hunger waves. They come and they go.
You should remember that hunger doesn’t last long or get stronger with time. Just wait a bit, be patient and use the tips above to prevent or stop your stomach from growling (6).
The best way to go through the fasting period is to keep yourself busy. If your mind is occupied with something interesting, you won’t have time to think about food or count hours.
Set yourself an ambitious goal at work and try to achieve it, finish a business that you couldn’t finish for a while, take your family for a hike, clean-out your house, start learning a new language or how to play piano. There are many choices that your brain does not associate with eating. Watching TV with all those food ads and cooking programs means just sabotaging yourself.
One of the most important pieces of advice is to keep your goal in mind. Once you decide to fast, keep reminding yourself of the benefits and how much you will enjoy the results.
Remember that you only fast for a short time, before you can eat again. You don’t lose anything when this point is delayed, but you diminish the benefits when you stop fasting earlier. Be in charge of yourself.
You should be consistent with your fasting routine to make sure you create a powerful habit and with time, fasting will fit naturally in your lifestyle (7).
Fasting can be challenging in the beginning, but with these intermittent fasting tips, it should become an easy game very soon.
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