Intermittent fasting is the practice of not eating for periods of time, then resuming a normal eating pattern. This method hails back to our ancestors who could eat only when food was available and now is a good way to lose weight, according to Brad Pilon, author of "Eat Stop Eat."
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The theory behind intermittent fasting is that your body stores fat for later use, allowing you to skip meals for up to 24 hours, sometimes longer. Even while you're not eating, there are some no- or low-calorie drinks are recommended for a fast. Always talk with your doctor before beginning a fast to be sure it is safe for you.
Coffee & Tea
Pilon recommends drinking tea while fasting because it contains few calories and won't derail your weight loss. This means you cannot add sugar, cream or milk to your tea; drink it plain. Pilon's plan does allow artificial sweeteners if you prefer your tea sweetened. Both hot and cold tea are acceptable.
You also can drink coffee during intermittent fasting, but it must be black — no sugar, milk or cream, which contain calories. Use artificial sweeteners for flavor if you like. Avoid the coffee drinks in coffee shops, because most contain some type of syrup, milk product or sugary add-in.
According to Maggie Moon, MS, RDN, author of The MIND Diet, intermittent fasting takes many forms, but most allow water. In fact, avoiding water for extended periods of time can be dangerous. "It is important to stay hydrated even when fasting," Moon says. "Dehydration can lead to unclear thinking, mood changes, constipation and kidney stones."
If there is some food intake involved during intermittent fasting (e.g. some plans call for around 500 calories per day on calorie restricted days), then Moon recommends about 9 cups of water for women and 12 for men.
But when food intake is restricted during intermittent fasting, more of your hydration will come from plain old water. General recommendations for daily water intake from all food and beverage sources are about 11 cups of water for women, and about 16 cups for men. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most people can stay hydrated by simply letting thirst be their guide.
Juice is not calorie-free and would not fit in with Pilon's intermittent fasting program. However, according to Moon, nutrients during fasting are important. "I know "fasting" sounds like you aren't eating or drinking anything, but actually, the studies on intermittent fasting often includes some calories on "fasting days," she says.
Her recommendatin? One hundred percent juice is one way to provide energy and nutrients during fasting, but it needs to be integrated into a low-calorie plan. From that perspective, high-water, low-calorie foods may be more satisfying as it gives the fasting person a greater volume of food per calorie.
Other Low-Calorie Liquids
Fruit-infused water is hydrating and may keep the palate more interested on fasting days. One of Moon's favorites is water infused with strawberries, oranges, and mint.
She also recommends unsweetened almond milk, which tends to be low in calories and is fortified with calcium and vitamin D.
Finally, warm, savory clear broths can help make a low-calorie meal feel more satisfying. For example, vegetable, chicken or beef broth.
A recent review of 14 clinical trials reveals that intermittent fasting may help with weight loss, but that simply reducing calories can be just as effective and may be more sustainable as well. So far, studies have not been large enough or done for long enough to show reliable long-term results. It’s also important to note that after more than a day in a fasting state, the body will start to break down muscle for fuel.
Before practicing an intermittent fasting regimen, speak with your doctor. She can help you create a diet plan that will allow you to fast while ensuring that you receive the nutrition you need to maintain good health.