how to do intermittent fasting guide

The topic of intermittent fasting is rather intriguing and it has even been mentioned in the Bible a fair amount of times. People of biblical times fasted in times of prayer and when serious decisions were called for.

Today’s people also fast because they simply want to lose weight; some do it for medical reasons too. Intermittent fasting is quite a broad term that basically means that from time to time you don’t eat, usually lasting longer than the normal overnight fast. Unfortunately though, not many people know how to do intermittent fasting properly.

Even though fasting goes back thousands of years, and practised by humans through the ages, it is not so widely practised today because of the constant emerging health fads. But its methods and ways have stood the test of time and achieved amazing benefits – not only weight loss but more energy, better health, diabetes reversal and much more. And it doesn’t require any time and certainly no money. It’s just a natural part of life.

People ask, “But, isn’t that starving yourself?” No, not at all. Fasting is different. Starvation is when you are involuntarily deprived of food for an ongoing time period whereas, with fasting, you voluntary decide not to take in food, be it for health or for spiritual reasons.

You are choosing not to eat when you fast and it can last for hours or for days – it is at your will. In fact, any time you don’t eat, you are actually fasting. That is where the word “breakfast” comes from – to break your fast, which you do on a daily basis. It’s really just a part of our everyday lives, but today, we have forgotten what a powerful and therapeutic tool fasting is all about.

Fasting for Longevity – Does It Work?

There are always ongoing studies going on, especially when it comes to the ever popular and important topic of longevity. Everybody wants to grow older with a body that still looks fit and healthy, with an unlined face, a mind that is still sharp, and a heart bursting with happiness and contentment.

Every few months there are going to be updates and new health studies; like one such new study proclaiming that it isn’t only about what you eat, but when you eat it that is of paramount importance and this can influence our longevity in a big way. Many people kind of eat almost around the clock you could say, always waiting for their next meal in the 17 hours that they available to them when they are not sleeping and this can have profound negative health effects.

Today, we can’t escape food; there are television shows galore about food, we step into the kitchen and our refrigerators and microwaves are ready to deal with our meals. Out on the street, there are drive-thru takeaway places. And if that is not enough, just pick up the phone and dial in for your regular hamburger, chips, and pizzas. Processed foods are pretty addictive too, designed so that you overeat.

Before all of that, however, our ancestors used to go for long stretches of time without food, maybe even days. And in these breaks of being without food, important things were happening in their bodies. Insulin levels would drop, making their stored body fat much more accessible for usage. The human growth hormones would go up too, enabling them to burn fat and to build strong lean muscle. Any damaged cell material would be shed faster (today this is called autophagy).

Therapeutic Fasting in Modern Times

Today, therapeutic fasting is becoming popular. It is used to rid us of excess weight, to treat disease, and to prevent bad health. It was very popular also in the 19th century as part of the “Natural Hygiene Movement” in the USA. Dr. Herbert Shelton was a pioneer of fasting. He opened his Dr. Shelton’s Health school back in 1928 in Texas. He is noted to have helped 40,000 patients to recover their health with water fasts.

Dr. Ilona Sovenyhazi has a fasting retreat in Hungary where she offers people to come and heal and to rejuvenate. Her own conclusion from the results of her work at her fasting clinic proves that we all can acquire fuller health through simple and guided fasting regimes. She proved that fasting is an effective means of restoring longevity and youthfulness. She proved at her clinic that fasting is OK to do, that it is beneficial even to miss on out several meals and that nothing terrible happens when you don’t eat when you are hungry.

Toxic overload is causing us humans not to get better and we have to resolve this – and the biggest aid to help us is with fasting; regular fasting. Fasting gives the body the chance to cleanse itself and to get back on track. It is an opportunity to get back in touch with your physical and mental self.

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

The first one is weight loss, but apart from that, there are plenty of other reasons why you should try intermittent fasting – fasting helps prevent disease and regenerates the body.

  • Intermittent fasting cleanses and detoxifies the body
  • The body is rejuvenated as it gets rid of toxins
  • Improved concentration and mental clarity
  • A reduction in blood sugar and insulin levels
  • You can reverse Diabetes 2
  • More energy
  • Increases growth hormones
  • Lowers cholesterol
  • Has the ability to lower the risk of Alzheimer’s
  • You have the potential to live longer
  • Fasting stimulates autophagy
  • Inflammation is reduced.

Fasting is these days used to treat many medical ailments such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, digestion problems, headaches, allergies – just about everything.

Fasting is coming into its own again today, and in Germany, therapeutic fasting is still very popular today, as is Hungary, as mentioned above. In Europe, it just continues to grow in popularity, especially when it comes to managing obesity. Intermittent fasting is very popular today particularly in countries like the UK – millions try out the 5:2 diet.

A famous fasting clinic is the renowned Buchinger Wilhelmi Clinic in Germany, where Francoise Wilhelmi de Toledo is an authority on therapeutic fasting. As medical director, she is an authority on therapeutic fasting and the role it plays in diseases like cancer, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes. She says that fasting is likened to a “’reset’’ button which returns the body to the original factory settings. Awesome!

Wilhelmi de Toledo also claims that ‘’human beings are not programmed for abundance,’’ they are programmed for loss.  Fasting is a given ability humans have when we eat more than is needed. Our early ancestors built up fat reserves as well as surplus vitamins and minerals in the autumn and summer months. In the winter and spring months, when food was reduced, they would endure fasting times. During these times of fasting, their metabolism would switch from being fed from external resources to taking from the internal fat reserves.

Type 2 diabetes is a disease that is known that can be cured thought fasting says Dr. de Toledo. There are plenty of industries that sell all the devices and drugs for diabetes, a multi-billion rand business. But they overlook the cheap, but highly effective success story of fasting because there is no return on the investment.

Dr de Toledo says that when she was 17, she started her first fast because she wanted to lose weight. She says it opened her eyes to how ‘’buoyant and sometimes euphoric’’ she felt while she was fasting. She went on to do another fast although this time under medical supervision at the Buchinger-Wilhelmi Clinic where she met and married her husband, the grandson of the famous Dr. Buchinger.

Getting back to Dr. Buchinger; he was a doctor in the German Imperial Navy, and during this time, contracted rheumatic fever at the age of 39. In 1917, he was discharged because he was permanently disabled. He went on a 19-day water fast and restored the full use of his joints.

From that time on right up to his death at age 89, he dedicated himself to researching the wonders of fasting and how to do intermittent fasting; later laying the foundations for his clinic which was opened in 1953. Some go there for help with very serious health problems while others stream there for weight loss.

Some go there for their stress and to receive from the ‘’spiritual dimension of fasting’’ which Dr. de Toledo says is one amazing side effect. Each visitor to the clinic goes home, educated on how to return to their normal routines when back home – it is to an improved diet and an improved lifestyle, which is crucial for the program.

Let’s Look at How Intermittent Fasting Actually Works

At the very foundation, fasting is about your body burning off excess body fat. If you have body fat, you have food energy that is in storage and when you don’t eat, your body starts to ‘eat’ at the fat to get the energy it needs. Because our lives are all about balance, the same applies to our bodies – eating and fasting keep the balance.

We humans, when eating, sometimes ingest more food than can immediately be used for energy. Sometimes that energy gets stored as fat, to be used later. The key hormone in our body for the storage of food energy is insulin. As you eat food and increase the insulin levels in your body, so you store sugar which is converted to fat.

This fat is often stored in your liver but can also be sent to other fat-depositing places of your body. We have two storage systems in the body for energy – glycogen and body fat. When you don’t eat, the above process goes into reverse, so instead of insulin levels rising, they now fall, telling the body to start burning up the stored energy as no food is coming its way.

Our bodies are constantly in two states, the fed state, and the fasted state – either storing food for energy or burning it. If each of us were to start eating food the minute we got out of bed in the morning, continuing to eat until we went to bed again at night, our bodies would spend all the time in that fed state.

When you don’t eat, the above process goes into reverse, so instead of insulin levels rising, they now fall, telling the body to start burning up the stored energy as no food is coming its way.

We would gain weight, not having allowed our bodies to burn any of that food into energy. To restore some balance and to lose weight, we need to spend that time exercising or fasting because these allow the body to use up that stored energy. Our bodies were designed to work like that.

Look at dogs, cats, wild animals; that is what they do. If we constantly eat as sometimes it is recommended, our bodies aren’t going to get around to burning the body fat, instead; it will just store it

How to Do Intermittent Fasting

Diets can complicate your life, but fasting can simplify it. When you start a diet, you need to go out and buy all the ‘right’ ingredients, but fasting is free. Dieting can take time, but fasting saves you time. Diets offer you a limited type of eating whereas fasting can be done anywhere, any time.

Diets can complicate your life, but fasting can simplify it.

There are short fasts that last up to about 24 hours and then there are the longer fasts that last well over 24 hours. Those who go on the shorter fasts do them more frequently than if they went on a long fast.

So how to do intermittent fasting? The following are some examples of effective intermittent fasting types.

The 8-hour Eating Window Fast

This is where you eat all your meals within 8 hours. The remaining 16 hours of the day you fast. This is usually done on a daily basis. It is basically eating all of the meals in 8 hours and leaving the other hours free, to fast.

The 20:4 Hour Fast

This is where you eat your meals within a 4 hour period, leaving the other 20 hours to fast. As there is only a small window of time when you can eat, this is a very effective way of losing weight fast.

The 24 Hour Fast

This involves fasting from lunch on one day to lunch to the next day, or from supper to supper. If for instance, you eat your lunch today, you skip your dinner and also your breakfast the next day, eating only again at lunchtime. When you eat only once in a day, it equates to eating around 3 times a week.

The 5:2 Day Fast

On this diet, you eat regularly for 5 days in a row, and then you fast for 2 days. On the 2 fasting days, you are ‘allowed’ to eat up to 500 calories on each of the days, any time and spread out or eaten in one meal. This fasting method was made popular by Dr. Mosley in his book called ‘The Fast Diet’.

The 36 Hour Fast

Look at it this way – you eat your dinner on the first day, on your second day you fast and on the third day, you eat breakfast. That makes 36 hours of fasting.

Longer Fasting Periods Like the 48 Hour Fast

This type of fasting lasts longer than 48 hours. When you go on the more extended fasts, it is recommended that you take a high-quality multivitamin and purified fish oil so that you don’t go without certain nutrients and develop deficiencies.

Want to know the longest fast ever? 382 days. So if you believe that doing a fast lasting around 7-14 days is impossible for you, think again! However, in saying that, there are certain people who should not really fast for longer than 14 days because it is possible that after the fast, they get complications. Look here.

Some people shouldn’t fast for the following reasons:

  • If you are underweight and you’re BMI (body mass index) is under 18.5.
  • If you are pregnant – because your baby needs all the nutrients it can get and also if you are breastfeeding.
  • If you are under 18 because you need the nutrients for growing.

For those who long to fast but you have the following conditions, you would need to be under supervision from your doctor in these instances:

  • If you have types 1 & 2 diabetes mellitus
  • If you are using prescription medicines
  • If you have high uric acid in your body or suffer from gout. If you don’t get the necessary nutrients you could experience fatigue, constipation, dizziness and a hike in your uric acid levels

Is Intermittent Fasting Safe for Women?

Women ask if it is OK for them to fast because studies show that intermittent fasting in female rats made them more masculine, emaciated and infertile, causing them to miss their normal cycles.

There are plenty of report-backs from women who claim their menstrual periods stopped when doing intermittent fasting but which returned back to normal when they stopped fasting.

It is for this reason women should be careful with intermittent fasting. They should ease into it, and if they do have problems such as amenorrhea, they should discontinue the fasting straight away. Amenorrhea is the name for when women experience abnormal absences of menstruation.

If you are a woman suffering from fertility problems and you are trying to conceive, you need to think about holding off intermittent fasting for the time being.

Can I Exercise During Fasting?

It is a good idea to continue exercising like you usually do while you fast. Food is not necessary to provide sufficient energy for doing exercises. You will be burning fat more than ever for the energy needed.

When you fast, your human growth hormones will go up and the insulin levels will go down. Fat burning hormones increase, actually increasing metabolic rates by around 3.6-14%.

There is a study that shows that intermittent fasting actually causes less muscle loss than some standard methods of dieting or calorie restriction. Keep in mind though that the main reason intermittent fasting works is that you do take in overall fewer calories. This means that if you eat more or binge in your eating periods, you are not likely to lose weight at all.

What Are Side Effects of fasting?

It is possible that you will suffer from some side effects while you are fasting. Let’s look at what they are:

  • headaches
  • constipation
  • dizziness
  • muscle cramps
  • heartburn

Some dietitians have noted that you can’t just go from being a couch potato to an athlete overnight because the body needs time to get used to any extreme changes.

It would make perfect sense to experience side effects when you stop eating all of a sudden over extended periods of time. The side effects might seem impossible or unbearable to deal with at the start, but if you know how to cope with it, you will find yourself able to stay with intermittent fasting and reap in the benefits.

How to Cope with the All-consuming Hunger

If you ever tried fasting you will know that, when you are fasting, the hunger pangs pass over. A lot of people fret that they will find fasting intolerable because the hunger will be too hard to manage.

You will experience waves of hunger, but if you choose to ignore it and drink a cup of tea or coffee, it usually passes on. When fasting, water, tea and coffee are fine, and other non-calorie beverages as well. Preferably try not adding sugar to your tea and coffee; adding some milk or cream is OK. In fact, coffee can be quite beneficial to you when you are fasting because it has the ability to blunt the hunger pangs.

If you undergo an extended fast, hunger can usually increase in the beginning but gradually recedes so that by days 3 and 4 you are not really hungry at all. It is because your body is being driven by the fat, kind of like ‘eating’ the fat on your body.

Muscle also does not waste away. When you fast, your body is breaking down glycogen, turning it into glucose for the energy it needs. The body doesn’t burn its muscles to get the necessary fuels to operate. Fasting is not a new fact, it has been around and practiced for thousands of years and never are there any records of any muscle loss during fasting.

If you are keen to fast, here are a couple of tips to help you along the way:

  • Keep on drinking water to stay hydrated
  • Keep busy so that you are not concentrating on your fasting as much
  • Drink coffee or tea to help you ride out the pangs of hunger
  • Don’t let people know you are fasting if you know they will be disapproving
  • Time yourself – give yourself a goal, like a month
  • In-between fasting periods, follow the low carb diet because this kind of eating reduces your hunger and makes the whole fasting process easier.
  • Remember – don’t binge after fasting! The way to break a fast is to start off gently. The longer you were on the fast, the more gently you need to introduce foods to your body. If you have been on short fasts and then eat a huge meal afterward, you will end up with a sore stomach which is not serious but unpleasant – just eat gently and normally after a fast.

Can’t I Just Reduce Calories – isn’t that the Same as Fasting?

Actually not. Fasting is reducing the time you eat and calorie reduction is deciding what to eat and when. They are really two different decisions and issues, not to be confused. Yes, sure, fasting does reduce calorie intake but it has benefits to your body that reducing calories does not offer.

People also ask, “How do I get started with a fast?” but it really is so easy – look at these steps that you can follow:

  • You need to decide which type of fast you want to embark – decide on how long you are going too fast for.
  • Then you just start – if you aren’t feeling well on the day you start, or you have any medical concerns, you should seek help and advice from your medical doctor.
  • You may also continue with your usual way of life whilst fasting; it is best to keep busy
  • Remember when you to break your fast, do it gently

Fasting is not “dieting” in the conventional methods. You could more describe it as an eating pattern. When you really get down to thinking about fasting, you have to realize that it came about because the ancient people did not have grocery stores to buy food or refrigerators to store food.

Often they had to function without food for extended periods of time. In fact, the Bushmen people of Southern Africa still follow that ancient way of living to this day. They often endure long walking stretches or even running to find food, carrying it on their backs to their abodes. You never really see “obese”

Bushmen because their bodies are “ripped”, lean, and in the right proportions. Their constrained lifestyle does not stimulate the massive muscle growth sought after by people today, beyond what the body requires. Their energy goes towards maintaining their strength, their endurance, and their tenacity.

It’s that simple

A real major benefit of intermittent fasting is that if you are a healthy eater and watch your diet and weight, it makes your healthy eating lifestyle even simpler – fewer meals to prepare and cooking and cleaning up afterward.

Most intermittent fasting plans don’t tell you what to eat; they rather tell you when to eat, making them very customizable. So if you want to eat a high-protein diet, then you can and if you want to eat a moderate-carbohydrate plan, you can do that too.

Maybe you want to rather go for eating less processed food, which you can do too. It doesn’t mean to say that it doesn’t matter what you eat. Naturally, common sense will tell you that it is a good practice to get good nutrients into your body and this should really be your practice when you are involved in an intermittent fasting pattern.

Some of the different types of intermittent fasting have had research studies aimed particularly at them, whereas others lack scientific support – this also doesn’t mean to say that the less-studied concepts are useless – it’s simply too early to say.

In Summary

When all is said and done regarding how to do intermittent fasting, the fact is that in this instance there isn’t a one size fits all solution here. The best diet for you is the one you can stick to and which benefits you and your health in the long run.

Intermittent fasting certainly is ideal for some people, whilst not for others. Find out for yourself whether it suits you or not – but it sure seems to have had its benefits on those who lived in ancient times.

Don’t gain weight by ‘snackcident’ – by not worrying about overeating and eating the wrong foods. Give your body a break – it deserves to be looked after to the best of your ability so that you can reap the benefits that intermittent fasting brings – try intermittent fasting yourself – it is certainly is a powerful tool for healing and vibrant healthy living.

About the Author

Barbara is the founder and owner of She is a former research scientist with a serious passion for health. She enjoys writing about nutrition, wellness and lifestyle and empowering people to take control of their health.

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