Intermittent fasting (intermittent fasting meal plan) is an eating plan where the individual switches between the fasting period and the eating window regularly. In simple words, the word “intermittent” can be understood as ‘not continuous.’
Some studies suggest that intermittent fasting is one such way that aids in weight loss, prevention of certain diseases, and even reversion of diseases.
About Intermittent Fasting
There are various kinds of diets to follow, but intermittent fasting is one such diet that focuses more on “when to eat” rather than “what to eat.”
When an individual is on intermittent fasting, they are required to eat in a specific eating window, fasting for a few hours and then eating one meal at a particular time. This helps one to lose weight by burning body fat if done regularly.
Some scientists claim that the human body can live without food for several hours or even days. The human body adjusts according to the situation it is put in.
Life was different a few decades back. People were active; there were no computers, laptops, TV, mobile phones, and electrical appliances to aid human needs. There were rare cases of obesity and weight gain.
But now, after the technological advancements, everyone is dependent on one appliance to get their job done. Physical activity has drastically reduced.
This reduction in physical activity has resulted in problems like overnutrition, weight gain, obesity, and other diseases. Scientists say that intermittent fasting has a reverse effect on these problems.
Mechanism of Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting can be done in various ways at the convenience of the individual.
There can be a variety of intermittent fasting schedules. One can choose to eat eight hours a day and then switch to a fasting regimen during the rest of the day, or one can even choose to eat one meal an entire day. This can be done twice a week.
Research suggests that the body exhausts its glycogen stores and begins metabolizing fat. This process is often known as “metabolic switching.”
If a person is consuming meals frequently, throughout the day, without exercising, they are burning that calorie intake and not their body fat.
Fat loss is a gradual process, and intermittent fasting is one of the best ways for weight loss.
The Approach of Intermittent Fasting Meal Plan
If one wants to try intermittent fasting, the first step should be to consult a doctor. This diet plan can only opt if the doctor allows it.
The two most popular approaches of intermittent fasting are the “daily approach,” “alternate day fasting approach,” and “5:2 approach”.
1. Daily Approach
In this approach, the daily eating is limited to a 6 to 8-hour eating window every day. One can opt for 16/8 fasting, fasting for 16 hours and then eating for the rest of 8 hours of the day.
This will enable the individual to maintain a healthy weight. Most people find this plan easy and can be done longer.
2. Alternate Day Fasting Approach
In the alternate-day fasting approach, the person eats every other day according to their wish and then fast on alternate days.
If someone finds alternate day fasting tough, that person can consume up to 500 calories even on fasting days but not more than that.
This intermittent fasting approach can help reduce the risk of heart disease and insulin levels.
3. 5:2 Approach
This approach is simpler and also easy. In this method, an individual regularly eats for five days and then limits to not more than 500 calories meal plan.
Those in a weight loss process can go for these intermittent fasting approaches. Intermittent fasting is one of the several ways to lead a healthy lifestyle by maintaining a healthy weight.
Why Can Intermittent Fasting Not be Done for Prolonged Hours?
Intermittent fasting cannot be done for longer periods like 24, 36, 48, or 72 hours. If an individual starves for longer, the body may start the reverse response by storing the fat.
Research studies show that the human body can take up to 4 weeks or less to become used to intermittent fasting.
Initially, the individual may feel agitated and hungry in adopting this new routine.
Those who adjust well to intermittent fasting stick to this diet because the results are pretty satisfying.
Why is Intermittent Fasting so Popular?
- An easy method to follow
- No bondage of limiting any food group
- This method can easily run along with other diets
What Beaks your Fast During Intermittent Fasting?
The main principle of this diet is calorie restriction during the fast. If you consume calories during the fasting period, the fast will be interrupted, and all your efforts will go in vain.
If you are trying intermittent fasting for the first time, it would be recommended to start slowly by fasting for 12 hours, then eat for the rest hours, and gradually keep increasing the eating window from 12 hours to 10 hours and then 8 hours.
Slow adaptation will better adjust to whatever approach you opt for your intermittent fasting.
On fasting days of 5:2, intermittent fasting approach or alternate day intermittent fasting approach, 500 calories to 600 calories intake are allowed for men, and 400 calories to 500 calories intake are allowed in case of women.
During non-fasting days, you should eat a balanced diet, which you eat normally, and avoid binge eating because eating extra will ruin your job of fasting.
It is very important to avoid dehydration during fasting days so that one can drink lots of water, unsweetened tea and coffee, and other non-alcoholic drinks.
Intermittent Fasting Plans
This is an effective and helpful aspect of intermittent fasting. More healthy fats and proteins are consumed during the feeding window, and carbohydrates are restricted to the minimum.
It can be done by skipping breakfast, taking the first meal at 11 am, the last meal at 6 pm, and then fasting for the rest of the hours from 6 pm to 11 am.
This fasting journey can be tough but has remarkable results on the heart, digestive system, and overall health.
Intermittent and ketogenic fasting diets are the most effective way to lose weight and gain other health benefits.
The Warrior Diet
This type of Intermittent fasting meal plan involves fasting during the entire day and then having the eating period at night when fasters typically eat a heavy meal at night.
A fitness expert popularizes this meal plan; according to this, one can eat small quantities of raw vegetables and raw fruits during the daytime and eat a calorie-rich diet during the eating time at night.
But this intermittent fasting meal plan has several drawbacks:
- Increased inflammatory response
- Impairment in the regulation of blood sugar
- Alteration in blood sugar levels
- Weight gain
- Adverse impact on the sleeping pattern
- Increased cholesterol and triglycerides
Example of Intermittent Fasting Meal Plan
Following proper intermittent fasting the schedule is essential for achieving the weight loss goals.
There are several intermittent fasting diets.
1. Intermittent Fasting Meal Plan for 5:2 Approach
Suppose we concentrate on the 5:2 approach of intermittent fasting meal plan, the person fasts for two days per week. The food intake is allowed only up to 600 calories as the fasting meal.
It is really important to count calories while on this eating pattern. It is recommended to schedule meals during specific hours when on a fast.
Under-600-Calorie Intermittent Fasting Meal Plan
Breakfast-: 250 calories
- Oatmeal – 1/4th cup
- Green smoothie – 1/2lb (containing spinach, apple, and kale)
- Hard-boiled egg – 1 whole
- 1 scrambled egg with a little onion, tomatoes, garlic, and salsa.
Lunch or Dinner -: 300 calories (any one meal to be chosen)
- A small baked potato accompanied by one tablespoon full of sour cream.
- Two cups of vegetables of your choice that have been roasted with two tablespoons of hemp seeds.
- 1/2 mashed avocado and one tablespoon of sesame seeds or crushed peanuts.
- 1 bowl of mixed soup containing 0.19 lb of chicken, one-fourth cup of red beans, and half a cup of nicely chopped vegetables. OR 0.19 lb of beef and a small portion of tofu or two tablespoons full of hemp seeds.
Provision of things which are allowed to be consumed between the meals, under 60 calories (any one item amongst the following to be chosen)
- 14 Almonds
- 1 baked apple
- one-fourth or one-half banana
- Two cups of microwaved popcorn
- 3 pretzel sticks (whole grains)
- one-fourth cup of any low-sugar ice cream
- one-fourth cup of cottage cheese
One can drink a lot of water mixed with half a teaspoon of lemon juice anytime during the fast.
2. Intermittent Fasting Meal Plan for 16/8 Approach
Selecting a proper 8-hour window for eating during intermittent fasting is essential. Some popular 16/8 window times are 7 am to 3 pm, 9 am to 5 pm, 12 pm to 8 pm, and 2 pm to 10 pm. The most preferred window is 12 am to 8 am and 9 am to 5 pm.
- At the 12 am to 8 pm window period, the person can fast overnight, skip breakfast, and have a healthy lunch at noon, a proper dinner at 7:30 pm, and even much on some snacks in between.
- While at the 9 am to 5 pm window, the person can start the day with a heavy breakfast followed by a healthy but light lunch and then a large snack during the evening, around 4: 30 pm, before the fasting.
This exciting meal plan is easy to follow and not too tough to stick to. This diet plan is best if a person is determined enough to lose weight.
Including foods rich in nutrients is very important to maintain a healthy weight. Incorporating foods from different food groups is essential. The different food groups are:
- Fruits: Apples, avocados, bananas, papaya, berries, guava, oranges, peaches, sweet lime, pears, tomatoes.
- Vegetables: Broccoli, carrot, french beans, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, capsicum, cucumbers, green leafy vegetables.
- Whole grains: rice, barley, buckwheat, oats, quinoa.
- Healthy fats: coconut oil, olive oil, and Medium Chain Triglyceride oil
- Protein sources: eggs, pulses, legumes, fish, meat, nuts, poultry (lean meat), and seeds.
Healthcare professionals say that one should avoid processed foods, deep-fried foods, sweet drinks, and frozen meals to achieve the best results from a 16/8 meal plan.
Advantages of Intermittent Fasting Meal Plan
There are enormous advantages of the intermittent fasting meal plan. Some intermittent fasting studies suggest that adopting this fasting method helps in weight loss, improves mental health, improves cardiovascular health by maintaining proper blood pressure, reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes, improves memory, and is effective in treating and preventing cancer.
The long-term effects of intermittent fasting can not be mentioned now, but we can surely elaborate on some of the short-term effects.
Some of the short-term results of intermittent fasting are listed below:
1. Weight loss
With increasing obesity and obesity-related health issues, it becomes very important to consider weight loss. Intermittent fasting helps well in the process of weight loss.
Weight loss from intermittent fasting is more than just limiting energy intake. Physiological alterations of insulin and leptin hormones lead to better weight loss results.
2. Improved Insulin resistance
Intermittent fasting helps in the reduction of blood sugar levels and improves the sensitivity of insulin by lowering the concentration of leptin hormone.
3. Lowering Cholesterol
Good cholesterol increases and bad cholesterol decreases when a person consumes a healthy diet during the non-fasting period in intermittent fasting.
4. Improved Health of the Heart
Intermittent fasting improves the heart’s health by reducing blood pressure, lowering cholesterol levels and blood lipids, regulating blood sugar levels, and decreasing inflammatory factors.
Some other advantages of the intermittent fasting meal plan are as follows:
- Reduction in inflammatory responses
- Improved brain health and function
- Maintaining the health of the cells
- Increased chances of longer life
- Prevention and treatment of cancer
- Maintenance of balanced life
Disadvantages of Intermittent Fasting
1. Risk of weight gain
After spending hours without eating, during intermittent fasting, a person may feel very hungry and develop a habit of binge eating, which will result in consuming more calories than required, leading to weight gain.
2. Risk of Headache, Nausea, and Dizziness
Longer duration without food consumption may lead to headaches, dizziness, fatigue, and nausea because of low blood glucose levels or low blood pressure at times.
3. Risk of Developing an Eating Disorder
Suppose a person sees the positive weight loss progress during intermittent fasting; in that case, the person may think of eating little or no food, eventually leading to various eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia.
Intermittent fasting or any other diet plan often leads to constipation as the digestive system requirements are not met appropriately.
5. Nutritional Deficiencies
During intermittent fasting, a person is often not consuming enough calories. The food the person eats during the eating window is sometimes a deficit of certain essential nutrients.
Continuing this diet for a longer period may lead to nutritional deficiencies.
Points to Remember!
Intermittent fasting has pros and cons, but what matters the most of what our body needs.
- We should try to consume foods from all the food groups; in this way, we can make sure that our body is getting all the desired nutrients.
- No diet plan should be implemented without consulting the doctor or a dietician. Intermittent fasting is meant for adults.
- No adolescents or children are advised to do intermittent fasting because they need ample nutrition in their growing years.
- One should not be very strict with oneself while dieting. Different bodies react differently to other diets. It is essential to focus on the needs of the body. If the body is not taking that nicely or not adjusting well to the diet plan, then it should be stopped immediately.
- Staying positive and happy is also important when on an intermittent fasting diet. Controlling the cravings is tough but very important if you want the best results of your intermittent fasting.
You can consult a dietician or a nutritionist to plan a meal according to your body, choice, and schedule.
Intermitting fasting can be a good choice if you want to lose weight in 4 to 8 weeks.
I hope this article gives you a clear picture of intermittent fasting and how it works. It is always best to consult a professional if you want to know more in detail.