Intermittent Fasting FAQ

Intermittent Fasting FAQ

Changing the way you eat can come with a lot of questions! This post breaks down the intermittent fasting FAQ that many have when getting started with Intermittent Fasting. 

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Intermittent Fasting FAQs

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent Fasting (IF) is an eating pattern where you cycle between periods of eating and fasting, according to Healthline. You can read more about IF basics in my post HERE.

Isn’t breakfast the most important meal of the day? 

“The notion that omitting a morning meal is bad for your waistline likely began with studies sponsored by cereal companies and most of that research looked at the effects of breakfast skipping on cognition in children. I’m not sure how that all got translated to body weight,” according to Krista Vardy, an associate professor of nutrition at the University of Illinois, Chicago, who has been studying fasting for 12 years. 

According to Dr. Jason Fung, consider the term “break fast”. This refers to the meal that breaks your fast – which is done daily. Rather than being some sort of cruel and unusual punishment, the English language implicitly acknowledges that fasting should be performed daily, even if only for a short duration.

What can I eat when fasting?

This question varies depending on who you ask. I follow a clean fast. This means that I eat nothing during my fast. I drink water, black coffee, green tea or non-flavored sparkling water.

Can I chew gum when fasting? 

Chewing gum while fasting is generally not recommended. Dr. Jason Fung told POPSUGAR, “Sweeteners can certainly produce an insulin response, but generally for gum, the effect is so small that there is likely no problem from it. So yes, technically it does break the fast, but no, it usually doesn’t matter.”

However, the one issue with chewing gum while fasting, Dr. Fung added, is that “gum is usually not recommended because the act of chewing and the sweetness usually triggers salivation and hunger.” So for some, even if you chew sugarless gum, it might actually make fasting more challenging.

What can I drink when fasting? 

The best options to reach for when fasting are black coffee, black or green tea, water and non-flavored sparkling water. 

For many people, coffee acts as an appetite suppressant and is therefore a great choice for those fasted mornings when you are feeling hungry! 

That’s it! When following a clean fast, even zero-calorie drinks should be avoided. If you enjoy flavored sparkling water or zero-calorie sodas, enjoy these drinks during your eating window.

If you have any questions about what is okay when fasting, here is a helpful guide!

What can I add to my coffee during my fast? 

If you are focusing on a clean fast- you should learn to drink your coffee black. According to Abbey Sharp, RD, dietitian and blogger at Abbey’s Kitchen, “You cannot add sugar or dairy (to your coffee) because that would add calories, fat, sugar and therefore stop your fast.” Liquid calories count during your fast, too! 

If black coffee isn’t your thing, you can try adding a pinch of pink Himalayan salt to your coffee grounds. I have found that this really helps cut the bitterness! 

If you really enjoy having cream and sugar in your coffee, wait to drink your coffee until you are done fasting! The beauty of fasting is that you can do what works for your schedule.

How do I get started fasting? 

I am not a medical professional, so I’m only speaking from my experience! I would recommend starting with a 12 hour fast. For example, if you finish eating dinner at 7pm, wait until 7am to eat breakfast. Personally, I found this was a super simple way to ease into fasting! From there, I gradually extended to 16 hours and beyond. 

But I really LIKE eating. Is fasting a good fit for me? 

I LOVE food! Intermittent Fasting does not tell you what to eat, it just tells you when to eat. I still eat the foods that I love, just within a certain window! 

Do I have to eat a certain type of diet when fasting? 

“There are no specifications or restrictions about what type or how much food to eat while following intermittent fasting,” says Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, author of The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club.

“Anyone attempting to lose weight should focus on nutrient-dense foods, like fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts, beans, seeds, as well as dairy and lean proteins,” Pincus says.

Mary Purdy, chair of Dietitians in Integrative and Functional Medicine, adds, “My recommendations wouldn’t be very different from foods that I might normally suggest for improved health—high-fiber, unprocessed, whole foods that offer variety and flavor.”

Because I am fasting, can I eat whatever I want during my eating window? 

Yes! Obviously it’s still important to properly fuel your body with nutrient-dense foods. But, I follow Gin Stephen’s philosophy of “delaying, not denying.”

This means that I simply delay the foods that I want to eat and do not deny myself! Granted, this doesn’t mean I eat an entire pan of brownies, but if I want dinner and then dessert, I do not deprive myself!

What are the benefits of fasting?

  • Weight Loss
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Reduced Inflammation
  • Heart Health
  • Brain Health
  • Anti-Aging/Increases Longevity
  • Increased Human Growth Hormone
  • Cellular Repair
  • Lowers risk for disease (including Alzheimers and Parkinson’s)  
  • Improves Memory

What’s the difference between a clean fast and dirty fast? 

Clean fasting is when you fast and have no insulin spikes during your fasted window. During a clean fast you would only drink water, black coffee or tea. 

Dirty fasting is when you have a short break in your fasted window to enhance athletic performance or extend a fasting window. Dirty fasting would be allowing things other than water, black coffee or tea. For example, if you add heavy cream to your coffee, technically that would be a dirty fast. 

Is fasting bad for women? 

No. Both women and men should fast according to fasting expert Dr. Jason Fung. After treating thousands of patients in his clinic and studying research done by others in his field, Dr. Fung says “There are hundreds of studies spanning over 100 years and clinical experience spanning 5,000 years that point to the fact that women and men respond more or less equally except in the underweight situation.”

“This is an easy problem. Should anybody who is seriously underweight, fast? Uh, no. You don’t have to be a genius to figure that out yourself. If you are severely underweight and fast, you could become infertile, yes.”

Dr. Fung continued by saying, “In our own clinic, I have noticed no significant difference between men and women. If anything, the women tend to do better. Men, it seems, are sometimes just big babies. I will mention here, too, that the highest success rates come when husband and wife do it together.”

Can you fast while pregnant or breastfeeding? 

It is not recommended that you fast while pregnant or breastfeeding. I would recommend that you speak with your doctor and come up with a plan that is best for YOU!

What is an extended fast? What are the benefits of an extended fast? 

An extended fast is a step beyond intermittent fasting. This more extreme version of IF starts a process in the body called Autophagy. According to Edith Zimmerman, “autophagy is sort of like an “advanced” version of fasting, or Fasting 2.0. The key difference between intermittent fasting and autophagy, however, is that people typically fast for weight control but attempt to trigger autophagy for disease protection.”

Zimmerman continues by saying, “The basic idea behind autophagy is that in the absence of external sources of food, the body begins to eat itself (auto: self, phage: eat), destroying and recycling its own damaged cell bits and proteins, so that new and healthy versions can be built. Autophagy is believed to be essential for helping protect against diseases like cancer and dementia, among others.”

Other studies have shown that autophagy helps fight infections diseases, regulate inflammation, boost the immune system and has been associated with aiding depression and schizophrenia symptoms. 

What podcasts/books/resources can I read to learn more about fasting? 

I hope this list of intermittent fasting FAQ helped you out! Do you still have questions about IF? Drop your questions below!