Table of Contents
If you're new to intermittent fasting, the prospect of going without food for extended periods of time can seem daunting. But with a little planning and preparation, getting started can be easy (and even enjoyable)! Read on for an overview on how to get started, what you can expect, and the things you can do to manage uncomfortable symptoms.
How Do I Get Started?
1. Choose Your Fasting Window
To make intermittent fasting easier, find ways to make your fasting window work for you. For example, many try fasting from dinner until breakfast the next morning. By fasting overnight, you can give the gut a break and diminish any cortisol surging that can occur due to hunger.
Not sure of the best method for you? Check out our beginner’s guide to intermittent fasting. Then head back over this way.
2. During fasting time, don’t eat!
You can drink water, black coffee, or tea. No cream or sugar, though. Although not many IF experts talk about this, you can also take your normal dietary supplements that help with managing the side effects of fasting.
When you first start intermittent fasting, you may be surprised at how quickly your body adapts. Most people report feeling more energetic and focused after just a few days of fasting. And while you may initially feel hungrier than usual, this usually subsides after a few days as your body adjusts to burning fat for fuel instead of glucose. Dehydration can also be misinterpreted as hunger. When you feel a pang of hunger, be sure and drink some sea-salted water.
Water Intake Guidelines: Take your weight in pounds and divide it in half. Aim to drink that number of ounces of water a day. In each liter of drinking water put ¼ tsp of a good colorful sea salt.
What Breaks a Fast?
During your fasting hours, you can drink water, black coffee, or tea. You should avoid any calorie-containing drinks or foods during this time.
Pros and Cons of Intermittent Fasting
When you’re starting a new eating pattern, it’s a good idea to educate yourself on all sides, so that you stay well informed. Let’s go over some of the benefits and pitfalls to intermittent fasting.
- Weight loss
- Improved physical performance
- Better tissue health
- Lower blood pressure
- Improved working memory
- Reduced insulin resistance
- Increased fat burning
- Decreased cholesterol
- Improved heart health
Note: If you are on medication for blood pressure, or cholesterol or diabetes, be sure and check with your doctor before embarking on a fasting protocol because the need for those medications may diminish.
- Can lead to inadequate nutrition and dehydration if you are not thoughtful of your food choices
- Can make social eating awkward or uncomfortable if an event is during your fasting window
- May make you more moody and irritable
- Can lead to low energy and fatigue
But don’t worry, we’re here to help you every step of the way.
What To Expect and How You Can Manage the Changes
In the beginning, your body is adjusting to a new way of eating and it takes time for it to get used to it. The good news is that most side effects are only temporary.
Let’s cover some common symptoms (and solutions) of intermittent fasting and how you can prevent them!
Hunger & cravings
To no surprise, one of the most common intermittent fasting side effects is hunger. There are two main reasons that hunger occurs during intermittent fasting: a dependence on carbohydrates and not eating enough calories.
Most people eat a carb-heavy diet that consists of three full meals a day, with additional snacks in between. This has caused an unhealthy addiction to carbohydrates, which can be hard to break. When you cut out carbohydrates during fasting periods, hunger and food cravings will likely creep in as your body adjusts to not eating every couple of hours.
Reframe your relationship with hunger – imagine that when you are hungry your biochemistry is switching to break down glycogen in your liver and your fat stores. You can imagine yourself getting thinner without any more effort than feeling a bit of hunger. Studies show that hunger symptoms usually occur during the first few days when transitioning to intermittent fasting. Thankfully, these hunger pangs tend to subside after a few days of fasting as your body adjusts to your new eating frequency. Try drinking plenty of water and/or tea; take your dietary supplements and then feed yourself with other things: A good book. Going for a walk. Music. Meditation. Yoga.
If you’re struggling with how to manage hunger and cravings, combining intermittent fasting with a high-fat, low-carb diet (during non-fasting periods) may help. With these types of foods, you'll feel more satisfied and full for longer, which can make the transition easier. High-fat, low-carb foods also provide the essential fatty acids that your body needs to produce ketones, which are needed for energy.
Lightheadedness and headaches
Headaches are a common side effect of intermittent fasting, especially during the initial stages. There are a few possible reasons why this may occur:
Low blood sugar: When you go without food for extended periods of time, your blood sugar levels can drop, leading to feelings of dizziness, lightheadedness, and headaches.
Skipping meals: If you're used to eating several meals per day and suddenly switch to an intermittent fasting schedule, your body may react by causing headaches as a way of signaling that something is wrong.
Dehydration: When you fast, your body burns through its stores of glycogen (energy) more quickly, which can lead to dehydration. When this happens, critical electrolytes like magnesium, potassium, and sodium can get thrown all out of whack.
Hydrate! Hydrate! Hydrate! The benefits of drinking plenty of water are endless. Add ¼ teaspoon natural sea salt to each liter of drinking water throughout the day to get those vital minerals back in your body. Aim to consume around half your body weight (in pounds), in ounces of water.
Constipation, nausea, bloating
Constipation, diarrhea, nausea, and bloating are all common digestive symptoms that can occur when transitioning to intermittent fasting.
When you're fasting, your body enters a state of "rest and digest", which means that it's not prioritizing the movement of food through your digestive system. Another reason for constipation and bloating may be due to the fact that you're not hydrating and eating as much fiber. Fiber helps to add bulk to your stool and keeps things moving along smoothly in your digestive system.
To help avoid this issue, stay well hydrated and make sure to include high-fiber foods in your meals on days when you're not fasting. Drinking plenty of fluids and eating high-fiber foods should help relieve the symptoms.
If you follow this protocol and still experience problems, you can consider a tablespoon of psyllium husk in an extra cup of water, to create the bulking fiber that keeps the contents of your intestines moving right along.
Mood Swings & Irritability
If you're used to eating several times throughout the day, going without food for an extended period of time can understandably make you feel "hangry".
Cutting off the constant sugar supply can trigger withdrawal symptoms that include mood swings, irritability, anxiety, and difficulty concentrating. If you're experiencing these symptoms while fasting, it's likely due to blood sugar fluctuations. When you fast, your body is forced to rely on stored energy, which can result in low blood sugar levels.
Second, intermittent fasting can also be difficult to stick to in the beginning, and so if you feel like you're constantly depriving yourself, that can also result in frustration.
Reframe your experience as an "experiment" and notice the benefits instead of focusing on the frustration. Try to stick to shorter fasting periods at first, such as overnight fasting, and gradually work your way up to longer fasts. This will give your body time to adjust and make it easier to stick to your fasting plan. Finally, be patient with yourself and don't expect perfection. Intermittent fasting is a tool that takes time to master, so cut yourself some slack and know that any side effects are temporary.
Try playing around with your fasting schedule or adding in a little more food during your eating window to help take the edge off. Avoiding processed and sugary foods and beverages will also help to keep your blood sugar levels (and mood) more stable.
If you're fasting and noticing that your breath isn't smelling too great, don't worry - you're not alone! Bad breath is a common side effect of fasting, and there are a few reasons why it can happen.
When we fast, our bodies go into a state of ketosis, which means that it has begun the process of breaking down fat for energy. This can lead to an increase in ketones in the blood, which can contribute to bad breath.
Additionally, when we fast, without also staying hydrated, this can lead to dehydration and a decrease in saliva production. Saliva is important for keeping your mouth clean and preventing bad breath. So, if you're not producing enough, you may experience bad breath.
Make sure you're drinking plenty of water. This will help keep your mouth moist and prevent dryness, which can contribute to bad breath. Be sure to brush and floss regularly to keep your teeth and gums clean. You can also keep a whole clove in your mouth as an aromatic breath mint and anti-infectious agent. Don’t chew the clove but gently scour it with your teeth until you taste the clove oil, then let it sit in your mouth. You can swallow it with a sip of water when it’s soft.
As we mentioned earlier, when you fast, your body is losing water through increased urination and sweating. If you don't replace the lost nutrients, you may become dehydrated.
Often, dehydration is caused due to people simply forgetting to drink enough water–since many drink only with meals. This may be especially common when fasting for the first time.
Make sure to optimize each liter of your drinking water with ¼ teaspoon of natural sea salt. If you want to invest in your health, remember, a liquid electrolyte supplement can be beneficial to replenish key nutrients.
When you fast, your body is working hard to burn stored energy, which can lead to feelings of fatigue. This is especially true if you are new to fasting or if you’re fasting for a long period of time. Additionally, fasting can also cause dehydration, which can further contribute to feelings of fatigue and tiredness.
In order to combat fatigue, it's important to stick with your intermittent fasting program and add high-fat foods like fatty keto meats and healthy fats. Switching from a primarily carb-heavy diet to a high-fat one can help improve mental energy, without the fatigue.
In addition, keep in mind that magnesium plays a key role in energy production for the body. There are 1,000’s of mitochondria in each cell that convert the food you consume into usable energy. This energy is stored in ATP, an energy-carrying molecule that requires magnesium to transform into its active form. When magnesium levels fall, so does energy production, leading to feelings of fatigue. Along with a balanced, whole food diet - you can add a highly absorbed liquid magnesium supplement to help maintain your levels.
Dealing with the Social Aspects of Fasting
Hunger isn't the only potential problem you'll face when intermittent fasting. There's also the social aspect to consider. Intermittent fasting can be a very isolating experience, especially if you’re the only one in your social circle doing it. When you're used to eating three meals a day, it can be tough to explain to your friends and family why you're not eating with them. Additionally, there may be pressure from those around you to break your fast, which can be difficult to resist and lead to feelings of frustration.
It can be tough managing the day-to-day frustrations that come with intermittent fasting, but there are some things you can do to make it easier on yourself:
Remember the why.
Have a clear understanding of why you're intermittent fasting in the first place. Whether it's for health reasons or weight loss (or both), keep your goals in mind and focus on the positive benefits of intermittent fasting. This will help you stay motivated when hunger or social pressure strikes.
Inform your loved ones.
You may need to explain your fasting schedule to friends and family members who don't understand it. They may not be supportive at first, but it's important to stay positive and remind them of the benefits you're experiencing. However, don’t be put off. Explaining your reasons to friends and family may allow them to cut you some slack and even become interested in IF themselves.
Lean on your community.
If you find yourself feeling isolated, reach out to others for support. There are many online communities dedicated to intermittent fasting that can provide support and advice. Additionally, there are often in-person meetups or events that can help you stay motivated and on track. It can be helpful to share tips and advice, and simply knowing that you're not alone can make the process feel less daunting.
Busy social life?
You may find it hard to stick to your fasting schedule if you have a demanding social or work life. If this is the case, consider fasting on days when you know you'll have more time to yourself. For instance, if you know you have a big night out planned, you could fast during the day and then eat dinner after your event.
Plan your meals in advance.
If you're new to intermittent fasting, it can be helpful to plan your meals ahead of time. This will make it easier to stick to your diet and avoid temptation. Stick to simple meals that are easy to prepare. When you're not fasting, make sure to eat nutritious, whole foods that will fill you up and give you energy.
Be prepared for the occasional slip-up.
If you have a bad day or “cheat” on your fast, don't beat yourself up about it. Just call it an “experiment” and get back on track and try again tomorrow.
Here are a few suggestions to help you make the most of your fast and prevent negative side effects:
1. If you're doing intermittent fasting and not seeing the results you want, it could be because you're not optimizing your body with electrolytes. Electrolytes are essential for hydration, energy production and muscle function, so if you're not getting enough, your IF journey is going to be a lot harder than it needs to be.
Drink sea-salted water throughout the day with your daily dose of ReMag® and ReMyte® to stay hydrated and manage unwanted side effects. If you’re unsure of your water intake needs, take your weight in pounds and divide it in half. Aim to drink that number (in ounces) of water per day.
2. During fasting and non-fasting periods, remember to take your B vitamin complex supplement twice a day. B vitamins play an important role in metabolism, energy production, and detoxification in the body, so you don't want these levels dropping too low.
3. If you want something to “taste” while fasting, instead of coffee, drink non-caffeinated herb teas. Taheebo tea is one of the best, especially for people with yeast overgrowth, due to its natural antifungal properties.
4. When your fasting period is over, be sure to eat lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats to replenish vitamins and minerals needed for energy. The transition to intermittent fasting may be easier with a high-fat, low-carb diet. With these foods, you'll feel satisfied and full with fewer calories, which can help make the transition easier. More questions? Check out our quick & simple guide to ‘Breaking Your Fast’.
Once you've got the hang of it, intermittent fasting can be an easy and convenient way to improve your health without having to make major changes to your lifestyle. Like with any diet or lifestyle change, results won't happen overnight. There will be times when you're feeling frustrated, but don't give up! Stick with it and you'll see noticeable results.
Keep us updated on your progress in the comments below!