Fasting is defined as the willingness to abstain or reduce eating, drinking, or both for a period of time. The types of fasting vary depending on the reason an individual abstains from food, and/or liquids.
Different Types of Fasting
- Dry fasts- which refer to eliminating all food and drink.
- Water fasts- which eliminate all food intake, individuals are only allowed to drink water.
- Intermittent fasting- in which individuals abstain from food or liquid for an allotted time.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is an eating plan that switches between fasting and eating on a regular schedule. This can often be defined as patterns or cycles of fasting. The most popular type of intermittent fasting is the 16/8 method.
This trend is storming the fitness and health market. Although many may think it’s a new and improved way to be healthy or to lose weight, intermittent fasting has been around since the dawn of time and it was an integral part of human life.
Our ancestors did not have access to the technology that we have today. As a result, they did not always have access to food which led them to fast as resources were scarce. Hence, humans learned to survive long periods of time without food.
Different methods of Intermittent Fasting
There are different types of intermittent fasting and they are:
- The Twice a Week Method
This method of IF requires that you limit your calorie intake to 500 calories or less for two days out of the week. For the other five days, you can maintain a healthy diet.
Fasting days would normally include two meals, one that is about 200 calories and the other approximately 300 calories.
It is imperative that protein and fiber-rich foods are ingested to ensure that you remain full but also still meet the low calories intake. It is important when using this method that there is a day of nonfasting in between.
- Alternate day fasting
This method suggests that you fast every other day and on these fasting days you normally limit your calorie intake to 500 calories or 25% of your normal intake and the other day you eat like you normally would. This method is very similar to the twice-a-week method.
- Time restricted eating methods
This option is slightly different than the other two mentioned. Instead of choosing one day to limit your calorie intake, this method requires that you fast every day but choose hours when you can eat and other hours when you fast.
For example, if you choose to fast for 14 hours you will have a 10-hour window to eat. This method is quite popular because many choose to fast while they are asleep because it is convenient.
Examples of variations of this method are:
- 16/8 method: Generally, individuals eat between 11 am and 7 pm or between noon and 8pm.
- 14/10 method: Generally, individuals eat between 10 am and 8pm.
- 18/6 method: Generally, individuals eat between noon and 6 pm.
This method does not have to be repeated daily or in a specific sequence, instead, you choose what works best for you and your body.
18/6 Intermittent Fasting
This method of fasting requires you to fast for 18 hours which leaves you a six-hour eating window. This form of fasting is more rigid than other forms and is often reserved for more experienced fasters. This method is often adopted by individuals whose weight loss has stalled doing the 16/8 method, or if you overeat when you have a longer eating window.
Pros of 18/6 Intermittent Fasting
- This method of fasting is easy to maintain because it does not disrupt your daily schedule.
- It is flexible, and you can easily rearrange your eating schedule to fit what you need that day. For instance, if you prefer eating lunch later you can have a late lunch and early dinner.
- Intermittent fasting can improve digestion, eating less time during the day can help reduce or prevent bloating.
- After your body adjusts you will gain mental clarity and focus.
- You can eat larger meals. Since you’re consuming all your daily calories in a short window you can eat larger meals and feel more satisfied than if you were eating three to six throughout the day.
Cons of 18/6 Intermittent Fasting
- 18/6 fasting can feel restrictive, if you are accustomed to eating all day long will make limiting your meals and snacks to this small time window seem virtually impossible.
- It can cause digestive issues. Although, it was mentioned previously that fasting can help with improvement. It can also cause digestive issues with others. It can be difficult fitting all of the calories you need in such a small time frame without feeling stuffed. As a result, some individuals do not intake the minimum calories needed which may lead to gas or other digestive issues.
- Ultimately, if you are not eating enough calories or enough protein and healthy fats while doing 18/6 fasting it can lead to fatigue and leave you unfullfilled.
- 18/6 can trigger binge eating. Well, any form of intermittent fasting can cause this but those especially on the 18:6 intermittent fasting program are at a higher risk because it is stricter. It can potentially be a trigger for these unhealthy behaviors especially in individuals who have struggled with eating disorders in the past. Individuals should consult a dietitian about any diet that encourages restrictive eating schedules. Individuals who want to start intermittent fasting should start with a less restrictive method than 16/8. Intermittent fasting shouldn’t negatively affect your life.
4. The 24 hour fast
During this method, you fast for 24 hours. This method is not very common and normally is only done once or twice a week. However, this version can have severe side effects on the body
Benefits of intermittent fasting
- Weight Loss– Calorie deficits normally lead to individuals losing weight. Many believe this is why when people begin intermittent fasting leads to weight loss. Fasting allows you to use up all of your stored sugars and fats for fuel. When you burn stored fat, you lose body fat. It also helps to improve body composition because it decreases body fat which causes positive changes to your body’s metabolism.
- Intermittent fasting can help with disease prevention- According to The Cleveland Clinic fasting can help control diabetes, lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure. A survey conducted by the University of Surrey discovered that persons who adhered to fasting experienced a 9% decrease in blood pressure, compared to a 2% increase found in those who adhered to a regular diet.
- Fasting promotes healthy brain function– It does this by increasing neurogenesis in the brain which is the growth and development of new brain cells and nerve tissues. (Mark Matson, Neurology Professor at John Hopkins University). As a result, brain performance increases along with improvement in your mood, focus and memory.
Disadvantages of Intermittent Fasting
- Some individuals have an increased risk for negative health issues– Individuals who lead an active lifestyle or who are leaner may suffer from hormonal imbalances which could lead to insomnia, an uptick in stress or thyroid issues. It can also lead to irregular menstrual cycles and potential fertility problems for women.
- It is hard to maintain this diet long term– Intermittent fasting can be very demanding as it requires you to fast for several hours and eat during designated times that you set for yourself. This is done to create the calorie deficit. However, long periods of zero or low calorie consumption can be difficult to maintain for a long period of time because of cravings, low energy and the lack of discipline.
Symptoms of Intermittent Fasting
Although Weight loss and good health seem easy to achieve while doing intermittent fasting, it does not come without a price. There are several symptoms that you may endure if you choose to intermittently fast. Studies have shown that it is not uncommon to experience slight mood swings, low energy, fatigue, heartburn, constipation, dehydration, insomnia, or anemia.
How to Start Intermittent Fasting on a Vegan Diet
To start intermittent fasting as a vegan, here are a few basic steps you can take.
- Create a sustainable guide: Evaluate your life, take into account your work hours, habits and ask yourself these questions. How many meals do you eat? Do you skip breakfast a lot? Can you go without food for a long time or do you get crabby quickly? For a lot of people, the 16/8 diet is the easiest diet to stick to, eating around the hours of 11 am – 7 pm.
- Adopt it slowly: As with any diet you should start gradually and then work your way up. There is no need to jump directly to the most extreme fasting plan. You have to find what works for you and your body. A lot of individuals start with a 10-hour or 12-hour eating window before dropping down to the 8-hour window.
- Plan your food: Although, intermittent planning does not require you to plan out your meals. However, if you’re eating a raw vegan or plant-based diet, you will need to plan your meals. You would have to seek out nutrients and fiber-filled meals which will help minimize hunger and malnutrition during any fast periods.
Intermittent fasting requires discipline and preparedness. It is imperative to fill your meals with nutritional, balanced, and filling foods especially those on a plant-based diet. One of the best ways to ensure that you are full would be to know what food would fill you.
Filling foods tend to have a higher quantity of protein, water, and fibers. A good way to remain full while you are on an intermittent fast is to incorporate foods that have these qualities into your diet. There are several foods that have these qualities such as whole grains, starchy vegetables, and legumes.
Whole grain digests slower therefore, it gives you the feeling of being full for a longer period of time. For instance, you can start your day with oatmeal. Oats make for a filling breakfast. They are high in insoluble fiber and have few calories. They can also be decorated with other filling ingredients such as nuts or with tasty ingredients such as fruits.
Starchy vegetables are also filling because they are heavier, heartier, and more robust than other vegetables. Some examples of starchy vegetables are sweet and white potatoes, beets, pumpkins, corn, and carrots. Although these vegetables may keep you filled longer you must not overuse them. Starchy vegetables are high in carbohydrates which means they have high levels of sugar which can be difficult for your body to break down.
Legumes are another food that is important to consume when you are a vegan that wishes to begin intermittent fasting. Legumes are a staple of plant-based diets because they are very versatile. Some claim that legumes are more satiating than meat; they are high in fiber and protein and low in calories. Lentils, one of the most popular of the legume family, is a must-have ingredient for the vegan kitchen.
The Risks of Combining a Vegan Diet with Intermittent Fasting
A vegan diet offers many health benefits such as a longer life span, lessened risk of diseases, and more energy. However, when you combine a vegan diet with intermittent fasting you may be at risk for nutrient deficiency especially vitamin B-12.
How long can you do intermittent fasting? Intermittent fasting has some benefits, the most sought after is weight loss. There are quite a number of short-term benefits however, there are no long-term effects associated with this type of diet at this time.