You may have heard of the term “intermittent fasting” before, and maybe you’re curious about how it can help you achieve your fitness goals. There are some very serious stipulations that you should know before you dive into the world of intermittent fasting. As a matter of fact, the benchmark of any healthy routine has to do with solid calorie counting before you can ever think about adding in an extra aspect to your plan. In this guide, we’re going to talk about exactly what intermittent fasting is, how you can make it work for you, why calorie counting is still extremely important, and some extra dos and don’ts of the whole process.

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting is the practice of not eating (fasting) for several hours versus eating consistently throughout the day. There are different ways to fast, so don’t feel as if you have to fit into one particular style. The basic premise is that you will usually take 12-24 hours off from eating in order to let your body digest the previous meals you have eaten and perhaps to start burning some fat stores from your body.

Most fasts will last up to a full day, but shouldn’t exceed one day. Fasting can help cut down on bloating, and may help you feel more energetic during your workouts. Some individuals like to start a fast at night by cutting off their eating by around 8PM and keeping the fast going until anywhere between 12PM and 2PM. Others choose to eat a meal in the morning, and keep their fast going until dinner time. Intermittent fasting is a completely customizable practice that can be changed to suit your needs. Below we’re going to break down what a 16 hour fast might look like in a day and how you can still eat enough calories based on a 2,000 calorie a day consumption baseline.

  • Start Fasting – 8PM
  • End Fast – 12PM
  • Begin Eating – 12PM – 600-800 calories
  • Snack 2PM – 200 – 400 calories
  • Exercise Break!
  • Dinner 6PM – 600 – 800 calories
  • Snack 8PM- 200 – 400 calories

Again, as we talked about this is just for one day of fasting, so you should plan on distributing the following day’s calories evenly as a normal day, not a fasting day. The inclusion of exercise is a suggestion, however, everyone’s body is different. You might feel better exercising in the morning since you have time off and you’re still working off calories from the day before. Just make sure that you feel energized enough to do so.

Calorie Restriction vs Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting only has to do with taking some time off from eating, not from your normal calorie count. Even if you are fasting, you should still be eating a healthy amount of calories per day (or the next day if you choose to do a full day fast). If you’re not sure how many calories to eat, it might be a good idea to start counting your calories and entering them into a calorie counter app.

Everyone has a recommended calorie consumption amount based on height, age, weight, workout habits, and more. As such, you should know yours and stick to it in order to make sure your body is getting the energy that it needs to stay healthy. If you’re cutting your calories drastically and are consistently eating less than your daily recommended intake of calories,that is not considered fasting.

Below are tables showing ages 20 through 60 for both men and women and their caloric needs based off of age, sex, and activity level. These are healthy estimates mandated by the US Health Department.

MEN

Age Sedentary Moderately Active Active
19-20 2,600 2,800 3,000
21-25 2,400 2,800 3,000
26-30 2,400 2,600 3,000
31-35 2,400 2,600 3,000
36-40 2,400 2,600 2,800
41-45 2,200 2,600 2,800
46-50 2,200 2,400 2,800
51-55 2,200 2,400 2,800
56-60 2,200 2,400 2,600

 

WOMEN

Age Sedentary Moderately Active Active
19-20 2,000 2,200 2,400
21-25 2,000 2,200 2,400
26-30 1,800 2,000 2,400
31-35 1,800 2,000 2,200
36-40 1,800 2,000 2,200
41-45 1,800 2,000 2,200
46-50 1,800 2,000 2,200
51-55 1,600 1,800 2,200
56-60 1,600 1,800 2,200

 

Calorie cutting can be used in certain situations in order to lose weight. However, you should still be above or at your daily recommended calorie count for an extended period of time. If you’re dipping below that regularly, you’re cutting calories in an unhealthy way, which is not recommended via intermittent fasting or any other calorie cutting practice. If a source is suggesting that you starve yourself, it’s not a reputable source and you should not follow that instruction.

How to Do Intermittent Fasting Right

There is a right and wrong way to do intermittent fasting. It shouldn’t be restrictive, it should be used as a way to give you that extra little push that you might be needing. Intermittent fasting is a technique that should be used somewhat sparingly. It can help you cut fat and give you an energy boost, but only if done right.

You shouldn’t be fasting every single day. It’s common to fast for up to 24 hours, but not beyond that point. What’s more, you should not be fasting for days on end. This falls under the category of unsafely cutting your calories. If you’re fasting for 12, 18, or 24 hours and you’re doing it multiple days per week, it will be difficult for you to get in a healthy amount of calories when you are supposed to be eating. As such, many people choose to simply fast one to two days per week or maybe even less. Some individuals choose to only fast when they simply want to cut their fat percentage down a bit, so they just use it occasionally. Others, use it when their body is feeling overwhelmed (and perhaps bloated) which also doesn’t require weekly use.

All of this is actually contingent upon constantly counting your calories. If you’re not doing a good job of eating a healthy amount, intermittent fasting probably won’t work for you. You can only see a difference in how you feel (and possibly your body fat percentage) if you have a solid calorie plan set out in advance.

How Does Fasting Affect My Calorie Count?

Plain and simple — it shouldn’t. Your calorie goals should remain the same, you’re just spreading out your mealtimes a bit more than you might normally. As we discussed earlier, you should never cut your calories to an unhealthy amount. You should always stay at or above your daily recommended calorie value.

Do note, however, that your meals might change due to your new schedule. You’ll likely be eating just a few quite calorie-dense meals, so it’s important to adjust accordingly and make sure that you’re getting a good amount of nutritional value in each meal. Calories aren’t the only thing that matter, you should be looking at your macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals as well.

Why is Calorie Counting Important?

Calorie counting helps you get a good idea of how much you’re eating and what kinds of foods you’re eating regularly. If you start counting your calories, you’ll likely start to see habits that have formed in regards to your eating style. From there, you can determine a plan of action that fits your health-related goals and workouts.

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