If diet guide for beginners

“The beginning is the most important part of the work.”
― Plato, The Republic

I had struggled with weight all my childhood and college years. I done various exercise programs, followed multiple diets. But after initial success, my weight came back. I studied nutrition, I studied science behind exercise but I remained fat most of the time. One day I came across “If diet” and decided to follow it. After some days it started showing results and weight keep going down.

Healthy habits like “Intermittent fasting” or “IF diet” gave me immense health benefits both physical and mental. I am doing “Intermittent fasting” for last few years. One thing that still amazes me is its simplicity and how easy it is to follow.

I am fasting form last six years, with different intensities. It’s one of the few things that worked very well for me in my weight loss journey and to improve overall health.

What is If diet ?

“If diet” is also known as intermittent fasting. But let me be clear “If diet” is not a diet.

It is a cyclic pattern in which fasting period followed by a normal eating period. “If diet” can be combined with any other diet like “Paleo” or “Keto” on a normal day of eating.

Popular “If diet” patterns are 12 hours, 16 hours, 24 hours, 36 hours.

For example in “24 hours intermittent fasting “person fasts for 24 hours consecutively and have a normal meal after that period. This can be done 1 or more times in a week or month.

If you are new or have some experience with “If diet” or intermittent fasting, this post will help you to begin with intermittent fasting as well as to optimize your strategy for intermittent fasting.

Note: The terms “fasting” “If diet” and “intermittent fasting” are similar. Fasting done with schedule called as intermittent fasting.

One thing I learned over years is that “health is the most important aspect of life”. You can still enjoy normal life with less money but without good health, you can’t enjoy your money.

Healthy habits like “if diet “combined with “low carbohydrate” diets can save you tones of money in longer term. It reduces risk of having chronic diseases like diabetes, heart attack, strokes, Alzheimer. Which results in increased productivity and improved quality of life. More productivity means less stress and more money.

History of fasting

Humans doing fasting from ancient times, various religions endorse fasting practice. Fasting is nothing new to humans. It’s a tried and tested way to healthy body.[ref. 1]

Christians have Lenten season, black fast, Good Friday. Buddhist monks and nuns following the ”Vinaya rules” commonly do not eat each day after the noon meal. Fasting is practiced by Buddhists during times of intensive meditation. During periods of fasting, followers completely stops eating animal. Furthermore, they also avoid eating the five pungent foods which are; garlic, welsh onion, garlic chives, asana, leeks.

Muslims believe that fasting is more than abstaining from food and drink. Fasting also includes abstaining from any falsehood in speech and action, abstaining from any ignorant and indecent speech, and from arguing, fighting, and having lustful thoughts. Muslims observe fasting during the sacred month of Ramadan.

Fasting is a very integral part of the Hindu religion. Individuals observe different kinds of fasts based on personal beliefs and local customs.

Some Hindus fast on certain days of the month such as Ekadasi, Pradosha, or Purnima.

Certain days of the week are also set aside for fasting depending on personal belief and favorite deity. For example, devotees of Shiva tend to fast on Mondays, while devotees of Vishnu tend to fast on Thursdays and devotees of Ayyappa tend to fast on Saturdays.

Our Modern Life

Modern life is too easy for our body 24 X 7 food availability, no famines, no physical stress to get food to your plate. Our bodies not adapted to this abundance of food. For past thousands of years, humans need to do physical labor to obtain food by means of hunting and farming. Lack of these physical and mental stressors means a deteriorating body which will fall prey to various chronic diseases like diabetes, strokes, heart attack, Alzheimer, cancer List will go long.

There is the simple principle behind intermittent fasting, add stressors like physical exercise and fasting to your daily life so body keeps itself fit and tidy on itself.

What is fasting?

In simple words fasting means avoid eating anything for fixed time interval, may be few hours or days. Fasting is not starvation. Starvation happens when you don’t have food to eat, whereas in fasting you do not eat food even if it readily available to you. Our body responds differently in both starvation and fasting.

Fasting is something you do for getting health benefits of not eating.

People do fasting for various reasons including religious reasons, fasting has various health benefits ranging from fat loss to low blood sugar.

Fasting is not a new kind of diet, it’s more like getting more health benefits from your current diet and make it more effective by not eating.

What are the If diet benefits?

Intermittent fasting has benefits in both physical and mental health. It’s a tried and tested way by our ancestors for eternal health.

Intermittent fasting is a lot more helpful in weight loss as well as reducing the risk of various chronic disease like diabetes.

Below I am listing few of the major benefits, you can read in detail here.

Weight loss

“If diet” makes you lose a lot of weight in the shortest amount of time. In absence of food, the body starts burning glycogen stores (a form of carbohydrates) and stored fat for energy. Burning fat for energy also called as “ketosis”. Ketosis is a process in which fats are used to create “ketones” which fuels our brain and body in absence of glycogen. [Study 1]

Combining exercise with fasting is the most effective way to lose weight. A person can lose 6-8 lbs. (3-4 kilograms) in “5-day water fast”. Normally person lose around 2 lbs. per day.[Study 2,3]

Detoxifying effect

Your kidneys stores a lot water for removing impurities from the blood and contains toxins removed from blood. During If diet, as no food intake happens water stored in kidneys no longer required and passed out of body in form of urine. [Study 4]

Liver is part of our digestive system where food gets digested, which act as blood filter before passing blood to other body organs, multiple chemical reaction also happens in liver. So liver accumulates a toxins which need to be flushed out of the body. In fasting, liver flushes these toxins with increased speed.[Study 5]

Anti-aging

Aging is the result of damaged cell accumulation in body, these damaged cells need to replace by new cells for good health. Cell recycling or “Autophagy”  Is a process in which damaged or dead cells are used as an energy source for the body In fasting state body increase speed of cell recycling 5 folds compared to the non-fasting state. Higher “Autophagy” means a younger body. [Study 6,7,8,9,10]

Insulin resistance

As we eat blood sugar level in blood goes up, to control blood sugar level insulin secreted in body which convert excess blood sugar in fat and store fat in cells.

When you eat multiple times in day insulin level remains high in blood, after some point body develops resistance to insulin. Which means body needs produce more and more insulin to control same amount blood sugar and can no longer produce enough insulin. Because of this insulin abuse for multiple years, body becomes diabetic.

In fasting, we go on and off on insulin which increases insulin sensitivity of the body, and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. [Study 11,12]

Heart health

Heart health associated with various factors such as bad cholesterol, inflammation, blood pressure and insulin resistance.

Studies shown that “If diet” lowers bad cholesterol, blood pressure, Controls inflammation and increase insulin sensitivity. [Study 12, 13,14]

Reduced risk cancer

Although benefits of fasting debated for Cancer in humans, as cell recycling (Autophagy) occurs in fasting state which removes damaged cells from the body hence cancer risk is also reduced. [Study 15,16,17,18,19]

High Growth hormone levels (GH)

Growth Hormone associated with muscle mass, fat burning, sexual drive and recovery time. Growth hormone peaks during youth and goes downhill after that.

Studies have shown that body secretes more GH in the fasted state, it’s due to the evolutionary fact that we need to search food to end fasting state, hence increased energy availability for the body functions with high growth hormone levels which aid in various body functions. [Study 20,21,22,23]

How to do If diet?

If diet can be done in multiple ways as your convenience. If diet has different fasting duration’s, and require the person to skip consecutive meals.

Note:
No snacks/sweetened drinks are allowed during the fasting period.

12-hour fast

  • This a beginner-friendly fasting routine.
  • In “12-hour fast” person need to fast for 12 hours continuously.
  • You can have 2 meals in a day and with 12 hours between them.
  • You are free to skip lunch or any one meal.
  • For example, have the first meal in 9 Am in the morning and second meal after 12 hours that is 9 pm at night. The time between Breakfasts to Dinner is 12 Hours and Dinner to next day’s Breakfast is 12 Hours.
  • 12 hour fast can be done every day or alternate days of the week.

Below is Sample “12 Hour fasting” Meal plan done every day of the week

12 hour fast

16-hour fast

  • This is also a beginner-friendly fasting routine.
  •  Also known as ” 16/8 fasting”, means 16 hour fasting period followed by 8 hours of eating period.
  •  You eat in a shorter time interval of 8 hours.For example, if you had dinner last night skip breakfast and have lunch between 12 followed by dinner between 5 pm.    Time interval between last night’s dinner and today’s lunch is around 16 hours which also include 8 hours sleep.
  • “16 hours fast ” can be done every day or alternate days of the week.

Below is sample “16-hour fasting” Meal plan done every day of the week

16/8 Intermittent Fasting

24-hour fast

  •     In 24 hour fast, you need to have only one meal in 24 hours which can be dinner/lunch or breakfast whatever you prefer.
  • Once you had your meal you going to have the next meal tomorrow at the same time.
  • For example, if you had dinner last night, have dinner today. Nothing in between.
  • The distance between 2 meals must be 24 hours.
  • “24-hour fast” done 1/2/3 consecutive or alternate days in the week.

Sample “24 Hour fasting” Meal plan done 3 days of the week

24 hour fast

36-hour fast

  • In “36-hour fast” you don’t have any meal on a given day and have breakfast on the next day morning.
  • Total time between 2 meals is 36 hours for which you don’t eat anything.
  •     For example, you had dinner last night you don’t eat anything today, sleep without dinner, and have breakfast tomorrow morning.
  • “36-hour fast” done 1/2/3 consecutive or alternate days in the week.

Sample “36 Hour fasting” Meal chart done 3 days of the week

36 hour fast

48-hour fast

  • In “48-hour fast” you don’t have any meal on given day and next day with only having dinner next day.
  • Total time between 2 meals is 48-hours for which you don’t eat anything.
  • For example, you had dinner last night you don’t have any meals today, and have dinner tomorrow at evening.
  • “48-hour fast” done 1/2 consecutive or alternate days in the week.

Sample “42-Hour fasting” Meal chart done 3 days of the week

48 hour fast

Intermittent fasting what to eat ?

Fasting means not eating. Have as much as non-sugary drinks like water, tea, coffee. One can have bone broth with olive oil. Total calorie intake should not exceed 40-50 calories.

for complete details read this post

Intermittent fasting results

Intermittent fasting deliver impressive results in short amount of time. Most visible results are weight loss, muscle definition, improved metabolic rate, shining skin. Read more about results here

Why Fasting works?

Our digestion process is very complex, here is a simplification of it.
When we eat food, It’s broken down into nutrients like Glucose, Fat, Proteins, Vitamin, Minerals and absorbed in the blood.
Body uses Glucose as a primary source of fuel. As we keep eating /snaking throughout day glucose is always available to the body to burn as fuel.
When we fast there is no glucose available in body, so body forced to get energy from stored fat hence we burn stored fat by fasting.

Some in-depth explanation

Our digestion process is very complex, here is a simplification of it.

When we eat food, it’s broken down into nutrients like Glucose, Fat, Proteins, Vitamin, and Minerals and absorbed in the blood.

Body uses Glucose as a primary source of fuel. As we keep eating /snaking throughout day glucose is always available to the body to burn as fuel.

When we fast there is no glucose available in body, so body forced to get energy from stored fat hence we burn stored fat by fasting.

Who can fast?

Anyone who wants to get fit or lose few pounds.People who can’t do exercise by any means.

Who needs to be careful while fasting?

People who are taking any kind of medication must consult with their doctor before fasting. Some medicines require you to eat before taking them.

People having diabetes and taking medicines for lowering blood sugar, because in fasting blood sugar levels goes down taking medicines going to lower blood sugar further which is dangerous.

Who should not fast?

Children’s or teen under 18 need not too fast.

Anyone who is on some kind of medication, pregnant or breastfeeding woman should not fast.

If you are skinny or underweight, if you are a sports person and having to compete in the next few days

Women may have less weight loss compared to men because they are more sensitive to the environment than men.

Couple who are trying for baby should also avoid fasting.

Myth about fasting

Fasting is hard

Fasting is hard to do initially, but as you get a habit of doing it, becomes easy. Its more physiological issue more than a physical issue.

Our body needs vitamins and minerals for functioning

Yes, our body needs vitamin and minerals but one can take vitamin and mineral supplement for avoiding nutrient deficiency. Intermittent fasting is a very short term, body can replenish minerals and vitamins in meals after fast is over.

Overeating

When fast ends, we moderately overeat. Overall calories consumed still less than calories consumed normally. Although extreme overeating should be avoided.

Dos and don’t s about fasting

  • Completely abstain from eating food during a fast period, a small amount of food can raise insulin levels.
  • One can have drinks like water/unsweetened sparkling water/tea/coffee/bone broth during fast.
  • Don’t eat processed or junk food for breaking fast.
  • Drink plenty of water and keep yourself hydrated.
  • On Non-fasting days eat a low carbohydrates diet like ketogenic or paleo diet.
  • Avoid having sugars on any day.
  • Keep yourself busy with work.

FAQs

Why I feel cold during fasting?

It’s due to low blood pressure, which happens when you are new to fasting. Move your body you and get rid of cold.

What if get hungry?

Hunger is like a wave. It comes and wanes out after some time .You need to ignore it , and you are done till next meal time. Hunger also a time-based habit. If you eating at particular time, just keep yourself busy at work and you don’t feel hunger pangs.

I feel like having a flu?

Also called as “keto flu”. When you fast for more than 16 hours glycogen is in shortage, so your body trying to switch from burning glucose to burning fat for fuel. As your body not used to it, this adaptation take some time. After some experience with fasting, it will go away.

I feel dizzy or shaky?

Normally you shouldn’t feel dizzy or shaky, have some table salt with water. Still, if you think you are a bit dizzy, have some sugary drink.

What about exercise?

Exercise demands energy. In fasting your body is in glycogen shortage so do low-intensity workout. Once you are habitual to fasting increase workout intensity over time.

What about my concentration?

Our ancestors didn’t know when they have next meal, hence our bodies evolved for the next successful hunt. In hunting concentration required is high with body burning stored fat for energy. Same thing happens during fasting, our concentration increase during fasts. Don’t think too much about fasting, keep yourself busy you will see an increased concentration in fasting state.

Why I get a headache?

Yes you will get headaches, due to low sugar levels. Try to consume table salt with water to replenish electrolyte levels and stops headaches.

Why I get muscle cramps?

You will lose a lot of water during fasting, your kidney no longer needs that extra water. With water, loss dehydration occurs hence drink more water.
Low magnesium and potassium levels also responsible for cramps. Take magnesium and potassium supplement or table salt with water to avoid cramps.

What about my bowel movement?

As you decrease food intake you will have less waste in your tummy, so bowel movement may change their pattern. But don’t worry after some time you will have a bowel movement. Try to add fiber-rich food into diet if you not feeling well.

I am taking some medications?

Don’t do fasting without consulting your doctor, it can be life-threatening.

I am not losing weight?

Sometimes you don’t lose weight but you may be losing fat, try to measure your body fat percentage. Always have “low carbohydrates meals”.

What if I have diabetes?

If you are diabetic and taking medicines for lowering blood sugar, you should very careful while fasting.  Fasting itself causes blood low sugar, taking medicines for further lowering blood sugar will push blood sugar into critical territory. So consult your doctor for how to fast with diabetes.

Isn’t skipping breakfast bad?

Concept of 3 meals per day emerged in last century, In Ancient time’s food was consumed when available. Research shows skipping breakfast is not bad for health.

What to eat at social events?

If you can avoid eating food that’s great, but life is more than fasting. Enjoy delicious and healthy food cautiously. After feasting switch to fasting mode.

Summary

If diet or intermittent fasting is most simple and easy way to have healthy body.

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