When I’m out and about in the community, people ask me nearly constantly how to do intermittent fasting and, more pointedly, how to get started with intermittent fasting and my weight loss diet in general.
Intermittent fasting is basically just a structure of eating in which you eat in a specific “window” of time during the day and you “fast” for the remainder of the day. During my eating window, I eat a meal that is very low in carbohydrates and high in vegetables. I stay in “ketosis” all the time, a “fat burning” mode, because of the low carbohydrate diet but the eating window itself IS the “intermittent fasting” aspect of my plan. I see the diet as containing two key parts:
I expect both what I eat and when I eat it have been key factors in my rapid weight loss. I am also fully aware that my approach is pretty hard core, born out of sheer desperation, and that most people are not going to do exactly what I am doing. That’s OK: I expect any sustainable eating model needs to be customized anyway to fit our own lifestyles. You need to find what works for you.
So how to do intermittent fasting plus a keto diet in a way that works for you?
I recommend to people that they think about both aspects of the approach and reign both in a bit.
You can eat two meals in 5 hours. If that seems highly restrictive, you can eat three meals in 8 hours.
You may be on medication requiring you to keep a 5-, 8-, or 12-hour window. Do what you need to do and then be strict in those fasting hours. Do not break your fast if it is only 12 hours. You can do it!
When you break your fast, you need to eat healthy, whole foods. For rapid weight loss, those foods need to keep you in ketosis so that you are burning fat and not just living off food sugars.
If you are eating the standard American diet now, you need to reign in your carbohydrates and get them down into the keto range. This will likely feel more restrictive than the eating window and don’t feel bad if it takes a month or longer to make the transition, but get started. Reign it in.
In my case, my carbs stay under 20 grams a day (and are usually more like 10 grams or less) and I stay in ketosis constantly. You may be able to eat more carbs and stay in ketosis. We are all a little different.
A useful tool in this regard are the keto urine sticks which show color when you’re in ketosis. (You can find them here through our Amazon partner.) When I started the diet, I used the sticks a couple of times a day to watch my descent into ketosis. (It took 2 days for good color to show on the stick and 3 days for a very dark color.) At times when I am not sure if I’ve blown my keto plan, I’ll use the sticks just to check. These aren’t highly accurate measurements but, on the whole, I find them useful tools. I do notice a color change based on my own eating behavior and, I expect, in the main, the sticks are reasonable measures of whether you’ve blown the diet with some sort of mystery ingredient at a party or a restaurant.
When you are first transitioning your eating and still eating a relatively high number of carbs, you will show no color on the keto sticks. It takes some real dedication to get into ketosis. As you transition, I would just focus on issues of giving up the sugar and other goodies that are going to keep you from your goal. As you approach keto-level carbohydrates, you might bring in the test sticks as an additional tool.
Reign in the carbs and reduce your eating window. Watch the scale in the process if you are working on weight loss. If you’ve made real changes on both of these dimensions, you should see changes in a couple of weeks if this program is going to be effective for you.
A family member implemented an 8-hour window and reduced carbs but was not in ketosis. She lost five pounds in two weeks. She could probably lose more faster if she could get in and stay in ketosis. That said, five pounds in two weeks is stinking fantastic!
A friend lost eight pounds in one week (!) reducing carbs and implementing a short eating window one day and a longer window the next. He ate one meal every-other-day (an “Amanda salad meal” he calls it) and on alternating days, adding a meal that was typically a steak and vegetables. He could lose more pounds more quickly by being more restrictive but he obviously doesn’t need to and it is probably just as well he didn’t go through the pain of going all hard core. He landed on a model that works for him.
In both of these cases, they were monitoring their progress and now have a sense that the structures of this way of eating DO work for them. They can get more or less strict depending on their goals but they now have useful information to help them manage their weight. That’s exciting!
You can do the same thing. Reign things in, watch the scale, and see how it goes. Get more strict if you need to. Scrap the whole thing if it doesn’t work for you.
Amanda Rose, Ph.D. lives in the Giant Sequoia National Monument with her husband and two sons. She founded the Eat Like A Bear website to support the awesomely inspiring community on Facebook, Eat Like A Bear!