Many have tried intermittent fasting as a way to manage their weight or support healthy insulin and cholesterol levels. But most don’t stick with it long enough to see real benefits.
The good news is that there’s more than one way to succeed at intermittent fasting—and the efforts are worth it. Keep these do’s and don’ts in mind as you incorporate intermittent fasting into your lifestyle.
What is intermittent fasting?
First off, let’s make sure we understand what intermittent fasting is. Put simply, intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that cycles between eating and fasting each day. The idea is to go longer periods of time (say, 16 hours, a lot of which take place while you’re sleeping) without eating. This allows your body to tap into stored fat for energy and supports healthy blood sugar levels.
With that in mind, let’s start with tips that will help you get the best results from intermittent fasting.
Start slow. You wouldn’t jump straight from couch potato to marathon runner. The same principle applies to intermittent fasting. Although for some going full cold turkey works, we recommend starting with small, more achievable goals, like not snacking after you’ve eaten dinner or eating breakfast an hour later. Then gradually work toward a longer fasting period as your body adjusts.
Pick the intermittent fasting schedule that works for you. Many find the best results with the 16:8 method, which means fasting for 16 hours between dinner and your first meal the next day. (For example, you would eat all your meals between noon and 8 p.m., and then fast until noon the next day.)
Feel free to adjust your fast start and end times to work best with your lifestyle. If you need to eat earlier in the day, try starting your fast at 5 or 6 p.m.
If a 16-hour fast isn’t feasible, cut back to 12 or 14 hours. The trick is to find a fasting length that is doable long term. Try as many schedules as necessary to find the one that you’ll be able to maintain.
Drink lots of water. It’s good to give our bodies breaks from food, but not water. Our bodies work better all-around when we stay hydrated. Plus, drinking plenty of water helps us feel fuller and stave off cravings.
Eat wholesome meals. However long your eating window lasts, make sure to fill it with fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, lean protein, and fiber. Fueling your body with wholesome foods not only helps you get the nutrients you need each day, but also makes it easier to go longer periods of time without food. Foods that are high in sugar and simple carbohydrates (white bread, pasta, etc.) often leave you feeling hungry an hour later and can lead to cravings at inconvenient times.
Keep an IF journal. When you’re first getting started, keep track of the foods you eat, the different schedules you’ve tried, and how you feel each day. This will help you determine what is and isn’t working so you can build a long-term plan customized to your needs.
Now that you understand what you should do, let’s look at some common intermittent fasting mistakes to pin down what you shouldn't do.
Binge during your eating window. Just because you fasted for 16 hours doesn’t mean you get a free pass to eat all the things for eight hours straight. The food you eat still matters, even though you’re consuming it in smaller amounts of time.
Focus on the wholesome foods mentioned above, and try to avoid high-calorie foods that aren’t filling.
Be careful to avoid swinging to the other extreme, too: not eating enough. Intermittent fasting isn’t a diet, but rather a time-based eating pattern that allows our bodies to tap into stored fat for energy, rather than relying on a near-constant supply of carbohydrates.
Give up too soon. To start to see the benefits of intermittent fasting—and there are many!—you’ll need to stick with it for at least 30 days. Once your body is used to its new time-based eating schedule, that’s when you’ll really start to see results.
If you’re finding intermittent fasting too hard, try fasting for a shorter amount of time rather than giving up altogether. And who knows, after you’re used to fasting for 12 or 14 hours a day, you may be able to bump that window up to 16 hours without too much trouble—and maximize the benefits of intermittent fasting!
Expect perfection. You don’t have to be perfect at intermittent fasting to succeed at it. A bad day will not diminish any progress you’ve made. A late-night dinner with friends isn’t going to set you back indefinitely. Interruptions are a regular part of life, and your eating habits will be affected from time to time. The key is to aim for consistency rather than perfection. As long as you’re intermittent fasting correctly a majority of the time, you’ll be succeeding.
When willpower isn’t enough
When it comes down to it, willpower alone may not be enough to succeed at intermittent fasting long term. But with a little help, intermittent fasting becomes much more doable.
Two Unicity products—Unimate and Balance—work together to help you extend the time between dinner and your first meal the following day.
Unimate is a yerba mate drink that contains up to 10 times the amount of chlorogenic acid (the feel-good, “get-up-and-go” component) found in a premium cup of coffee. It helps boost the mood and supports mental stamina, focus, and motivation. It also helps you fend off cravings and reenergize between meals.
Balance is a pre-meal drink with a patented fiber matrix that includes bioactive plant compounds, polysaccharides, and micronutrients. The fiber matrix is designed to help ease some of the impact that excess carbohydrates and cholesterol can have, and the soluble fibers help curb your appetite.
We call these two products + intermittent fasting the Feel Great program because, well, people feel great when they stick to this method. Learn more about Feel Great and see how it can help you get the most out of intermittent fasting, without making you work harder for it.