For the past decade, most nutrition experts have reminded us of the importance of eating regularly and consuming enough calories to fuel our days. After all, eating too little can leave you too hangry to stick with any diet plan long-term.
So when an expert recommends skipping meals, we take notice. Kelly LeVeque, holistic nutritionist and author of Body Love: Live in Balance, Weigh What You Want, and Free Yourself from Food Drama Forever, suggests just that: intermittent fasting.
Why Intermittent Fasting?
“There is a lot of great research coming out on fasted workouts and the benefits of fasting,” says LeVeque. Research suggests that intermittent fasting not only helps break down fat cells, but also spurs the breakdown of unwanted immune cells for rejuvenation, says LeVeque.
One recent study showed that daily calorie restriction and intermittent fasting were roughly equally effective for losing weight and fat, but intermittent fasting preserved more lean muscle. It also may be helpful in reversing type 2 diabetes and has been shown to improve brain function in mice. According to researchers, “fasting has the potential to delay aging and help prevent and treat diseases while minimizing the side effects caused by chronic dietary interventions.”
How to Find the Right Intermittent Fasting Diet for You
“[Intermittent fasting] is an approachable way to achieve these biological benefits, and there are multiple methods from only feeding in a six-hour window to completing a full 24-hour fast weekly,” LeVeque says.
That said, fasting for 24 hours can make you focus on nothing but food, so it’s important to find the right method that works for you. LeVeque suggests getting started by having a nutritious breakfast and lunch, and skipping dinner altogether.
Other methods suggest that giving up food for one or two 24-hour periods per week is the easiest option. Find what works best for your lifestyle. Obsessing over the missed meal or snapping at coworkers while hangry is not likely to help your fasting diet stick.
Set Yourself Up for Success
LeVeque explains, “It is much easier to enter a fast when you have balanced blood sugar levels or are currently in a fat adaptive or ketogenic state. This can help prevent the fasting flu symptoms you might experience from fasted cleansing.” Ketosis is a state in which the body uses fat as energy (as opposed to its first choice energy source, carbohydrates). You can induce ketosis by dramatically increasing your fat intake and limiting carbohydrates.
In other words, you could just fast without worrying about your nutrient intake at all. However, managing your macros (that’s your daily carbohydrate, protein and fat intake) during your non-fasting hours can help make the transition into fasting easier. It can also reduce the likelihood that you’ll be starving three hours in after eating an enormous bowl of pasta. Not sure where to start with ketogenic dieting? Check out these keto-approved burgers.
How to Know If Intermittent Fasting Is Not for You
While it sounds easy enough, fasting isn’t for everyone. After all, LeVeque routinely helps celebs like Molly Sims, Jessica Alba and Chelsea Handler manage their diet. Going it alone can be tough, so you should consult with a nutritionist to ensure you’re getting the proper nutrients and are keeping your blood sugar levels balanced. Talking to a nutritionist can also help you figure out whether fasting is the right approach for your diet goals.
“I think intermittent fasting is very beneficial,” says LeVeque. “However, I have concerns about the mental stability with [intermittent fasting] dieting and its propensity to create eating disorders, food anxiety and binge eating.” If you have a history of any of these, fasting may not be the right choice for you. Additionally, LeVeque recommends that you talk to your doctor before fasting if you’re hypoglycemic.
Ready to dive in? LeVeque’s book is a great starting point for learning about how to manage your blood sugar in order to achieve results.