Intermittent fasting is becoming increasingly popular as a weight loss tool.
Though I’m not officially an expert, I did have great success losing 10 pounds in one-month intermittent fasting with minimal exercise. Since posting my results, I’ve received much commentary, feedback, and also questions.
Instead of continuing to answer these questions individually, I’ve chosen to make an all-encompassing intermittent fasting FAQ. I’ll post the most common questions I receive and update this over time.
So read on to get the answers!
1- Does skipping a day ruin your results?
One of the best things about intermittent fasting is that it’s flexible. If you absolutely must, you can skip here and there, though it’s best to stay consistent.
A day or two won’t throw you off your schedule, but you will get better results if you stay on track.
For this reason, it’s best to avoid starting intermittent fasting right before a holiday, celebration, or vacation.
Some people work breaks into their intermittent fasting plans directly. For example, they’ll do 16 or 20-hour fasts Monday through Friday because it’s easier on work days and switch up during the weekend, so they can enjoy breakfast with their families.
The chief way intermittent fasting helps you lose weight is by calorie reduction, so as long as you’re eating fewer calories you should come out okay.
The definitive answer is no.
Taking a break from intermittent fasting over the weekend won’t ruin your results. But if you can avoid doing so, you’ll be better off.
2- What are the different intermittent fasting schedules?
If you know you have a specific preferred pattern of eating, it may be advantageous for you to make your intermittent fasting plan fit your lifestyle. Here are 6 of the main types of intermittent fasting schedules. See if one of these appeals to you over the others:
- 16/8 to 20/4- The first number in the ratio is hours fasted, and the second number is the feeding window. A standard, basic fast means you’ll fast 16 hours a day and eat all your day’s food in 8 hours. This can vary and be stretched out to fasting 20 hours (or more) and eating in a shorter period of time (like 4 hours).
- 5/2- In this case, you’re eating very low calories (around 500 calories a day) for 2 days a week while eating normally for 5 days.
- Eat-Stop-Eat: This approach involves eating normally most days and incorporating a full 24-hour fast once or twice per week. Essentially amounting to fasting from breakfast one day to breakfast the next – or lunch, or dinner.
- Alternate Day Fasting: With this intermittent fasting plan you fast every other day, every week. Depending on your lifestyle and needs, you may fully fast (only calorie-free beverages – no solid food or calories) on fasting days, or you may eat very little (500 calories or less) on fasting days.
- Warrior Diet, OMAD: The Warrior Diet is essentially the same as one meal a day (OMAD) or is a 23:1 intermittent fasting plan. Probably the easiest of all, you don’t eat during the day, then eat one large meal at dinner.
- Spontaneous Fasting: There are no rules here, just skip meals when you feel like it or don’t feel that hungry. Probably the least strict of the bunch, but probably the least effective.
There are obvious benefits and drawbacks to each approach. You’ll have to decide for yourself which makes the most sense. You can always switch up if things don’t go as you think they will.
3- Is the 8-hour diet the same as intermittent fasting?
Yes, the 8-hour diet is the same as 16:8 intermittent fasting. Fasting for 16 hours, eating for 8. Most people skip breakfast, begin eating around noon, and stop eating after 8 pm or so.
4- Is there a minimum fasting time?
Some say to reap the full benefits of intermittent fasting, you need to go for at least 15 to 16 hours. But there are benefits to fasting for shorter periods, like 12 hours.
Research has shown that most Americans eat for 15 hours a day, leaving just 9 hours for a metabolic break.
Reducing the extra calories in those 3 hours can really help.
It might be a good starting point if longer fasts are intimidating.
You can always increase your fasting time by an hour each week until you reach a comfortable goal.
5- Can I do keto while intermittent fasting?
Yes! It’s possible to begin losing weight even faster when combining keto with intermittent fasting. The ketogenic diet, which reduces carbohydrates and increases proteins and fats may help keep you fuller, longer.
So, it’s natural that if your diet makes you less hungry, it’s easier to eat less frequently. For an addictive amount of intermittent fasting keto weight loss success stories, check out r/intermittentfasting on reddit.
6- Do I HAVE to skip breakfast?
You may wonder if you can still succeed at intermittent fasting without skipping breakfast and the answer is yes!
While it’s common to skip breakfast and eat lunch and dinner, you can skip a later meal in the day if you wish.
The only thing you need to do is maintain a stretch of consecutive hours fasted (usually at least 12 hours) – but it doesn’t matter when that stretch of time is.
The flexibility of fasting is so beautiful, isn’t it?
7- What are the best intermittent fasting resources?
The Reddit forum r/intermittentfasting is hands-down the best free resource/community to check out if you’re interested in intermittent fasting. I browsed that forum for a year before jumping in and giving it a try myself.
If you’re looking for scientific information, in addition, this book by Dr. Jason Fung is an excellent choice.
8- Do I have to exercise while fasting?
Have you ever heard the saying “you can’t outrun a bad diet”? Or “weight loss is 80% diet and 20% exercise”?
This holds true for intermittent fasting and weight loss.
You can absolutely lose weight without doing a lick of exercise if your calorie restriction is low enough.
But that’s not recommended.
Exercise is key to overall health, and it’ll certainly boost your weight loss efforts while intermittent fasting.
That said, you don’t have to exercise, and you’ll still lose weight.
9- What can I drink while fasting?
During your fasting window, you should stay as close to 0 calories as possible.
This means black coffee, sugar-free tea, and water.
There are conflicting opinions about very small amounts of calories, such as adding a tablespoon of milk or creamer to your coffee. The same holds true for artificial sweeteners.
Some report drinking sugar-free beverages during their fasting window makes them hungrier.
Others say adding that little bit of milk or creamer stalls their weight loss. Some say anything other than water (even zero calorie coffee or tea) stalls them.
In my personal experience, none of this was true. I did wind up going for black coffee, but sugar-free energy drinks never hindered my weight loss or really made me hungrier.
You’ll have to see what works for you and adjust over time.
Drinking water will always be a good idea, no matter what.
A Tip To Drink More Water
Some people really get bored with drinking plain water. Believe me, I understand.
One thing I do is add a few Mio Drops to my water, and it makes a huge difference!
If you don’t know about these, Mio Drops are zero-calorie, zero-carb, sugar-free water enhancers that come in a tiny squirt bottle.
You just squeeze a couple drops into your water and you’re good to go!
You can find them at grocery stores, but I just buy mine on Amazon because it’s like a dollar cheaper per bottle.
I grab many at a time because I like to have different flavors. The Fruit Punch is the best one, imo, but I also like Raspberry Pomegranate a lot too!
10- What happens if I quit intermittent fasting?
I’m going to be completely honest here.
If you quit intermittent fasting cold turkey and do not have better eating habits in place, you’re going to gain the weight back.
The way intermittent fasting works is that it restricts your calories.
If you go back to eating exactly as you were before, you’ll go right back to that same size.
That’s why intermittent fasting is NOT a cure-all.
You need to develop good eating habits while intermittent fasting so eating correctly becomes a lifestyle.
11- What if I’m hungry while fasting?
If you’re miserably hungry – check out this post on 6 ways to cope with hunger pangs on intermittent fasting. If you need to, though, EAT!
It’s not supposed to feel like punishment and you can always try again later.
12- What should I eat while fasting?
Recommendations no matter what diet you’re on will always be to eat “clean”.
Just because you’re eating fewer times in a day does not give you license to eat crap. You’ll probably still lose weight eating crap if you only eat it once a day, but just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.
Opt for lots of veggies and fruit (unless you’re doing keto, where most fruit is off-limits).
Whole foods, lean meats (if you eat meat), limited dairy (if you eat dairy)… I mean we all know what foods we “should” eat more of. It’s just a hard path to follow.
Because burgers, pizza, and ice cream.
Here is a post I wrote about what to eat while intermittent fasting. It even comes with a free clean-eating food list!
13- Can I snack during a fast?
During your fasting window, you should consume as close to 0 calories as possible. So no snacking.
But if you’re absolutely starving and feeling unwell – then you should definitely eat and try fasting again the next day.
14- What if I’m not losing weight?
If you’re not seeing any results from intermittent fasting, something is wrong. You’re probably not being consistent enough or are still consuming too many calories within your feeding window.
It’s totally possible to overeat in just one or two meals a day. This takes honest self-assessment, but you can determine pretty quickly if this is the culprit.
For more reasons why you can’t seem to lose weight on intermittent fasting, check out this very thorough article I wrote on the topic: 10 Reasons Why You’re Not Losing Weight On Intermittent Fasting
15- Can I Eat Zero Calorie Foods While Fasting?
Many people wonder if it’s safe to eat zero calorie foods while fasting.
While there are a few true zero calorie foods, like celery for example, most foods called “zero calorie” are actually just low-calorie, which means they are not okay to eat during a fast.
Generally most people say it’s okay to consume zero-calorie drinks, such as diet soda or coffee with artificial sweetener. So it stands to reason that if you can have zero-calorie drinks, why can’t you have zero-calorie food while fasting?
Well the thing is even if you ate ALL zero-calorie foods, your digestive system would still activate and your body would begin processing the food just as if it had calories. This would increase your hunger and get your mind focused on food. And you don’t want that!
If you feel hungry while fasting and are tempted to eat even a little bit, it’s best to hold off and fill up on water, tea or coffee… and stick it out!
Fasting does get easier and easier the longer you do it. But you have to make it through the tough part.
Before you know it, it’ll be weird NOT to fast.
Allow yourself the chance to make it to that point. Don’t do it!
I hope this list of frequently asked questions about intermittent fasting helped you decide if it’s a good fit for you.
Keep in mind that fasting is not for everyone and even if it’s right for you, it won’t be the same as everyone else.
But if you want to give it a try, make sure you get the okay from your doctor… and try to keep a positive, curious mind and attitude about the whole thing!
Fasting is one way to jumpstart your weight loss and you want to make sure you’re gentle with yourself, not stressing out, or overdoing it.
You definitely want to enjoy your life – not make it worse!
I wish you nothing but the best on your journey…