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7 Unobvious Intermittent Fasting Rules Essential to Your Success

7 min read
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Melissa Mitri post Reviewer Melissa Mitri post Reviewer
Verified by Melissa Mitri
MS, Registered Dietitian, Former President of CT Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics

Here are 4 basic and a few more uncommon intermittent fasting rules that can help you achieve success while you’re fasting.

Table of Contents

Many swear by Intermittent fasting to lose weight and improve overall health. It has garnered a certain reputation over the years, and the scientific evidence to back it up is growing.

One systematic review that analyzed 27 IF trials concluded that intermittent fasting can result in up to a weight loss of 12% of baseline weight [1]. Studies have also confirmed the effects of fasting on other aspects of health, such as improving heart health, reducing diabetes risk, and decreasing inflammation [2]

Despite all these plus points, some people might find it difficult to stick to an intermittent fasting routine. If you’re one of those who likes to try out intermittent fasting but is not sure if you’ll be able to continue doing it long-term, here’re some intermittent fasting rules that will help you succeed throughout your journey. 

Basic Rules of Fasting

Intermittent fasting is a schedule of eating in which you restrict your calorie intake to a pre-determined period. After this eating window is over, you’re supposed to fast for the remaining number of hours. Any food or drink containing calories is off-limits during this period. 

Here are the basic rules of intermittent fasting that you need to follow in order to attain your desired results:

#1 Choose a Comfortable Fasting Schedule

Firstly, there are several intermittent fasting methods, such as the 16:8 schedule, the 5:2 method, and alternate-day fasting. The names are denoted according to the duration of eating and fasting windows.

For the 16:8 method, for instance, you fast for 16 hours a day and eat within the remaining 8-hour window. You can choose a fasting schedule that is comfortable for you and fits your lifestyle. You can also alter this schedule depending on how experienced you are at fasting. 

If you’re just starting out, you can begin with a fast of 12 hours (12/12), and if you’re a more seasoned follower of IF, you can extend your fast up to 18 hours (18/6) or even 24 hours. 

#2 Eat Anything You Want Within Your Eating Window

Apart from restricting eating hours, intermittent fasting does not limit what you can eat or drink or even how much you can eat within the eating window. Unlike with other popular diets, you can eat or drink anything you want during this period as long as you stop eating when the fasting window starts.

However, while there are no hard and fast rules on what to eat during IF, following a balanced diet and minding portion sizes will yield better results. 

#3 Abstain from Calories During Your Fasting Window

This one is obvious but also crucial to your IF success, so we thought we’d make it a separate point. The main point of intermittent fasting is limiting your eating to your eating window and fasting during the rest of the hours. 

You will inevitably be tempted to eat within the fasting window—especially at the beginning of the journey— but keep a tight rein on your cravings. One aim of this fasting is to let your body go into ketosis, a process that breaks down fat, which requires fasting for at least 12 hours [3]

You can, however, drink water and other beverages that don’t contain calories. Options include black tea or black coffee without sugar as well as other herbal teas.

#4 Stay Hydrated—Especially While Fasting

Hydration is vital for everyone, but it’s even more important if you’re fasting. You can drink as much water as you want during fasting windows, and this is encouraged. You can also drink other calorie-free fluids such as tea, coffee, or sparkling water. 

Food intake helps transfer water into your body, and studies have found that around 75% of water absorption occurs during eating [4]

Thus, you should make a conscious effort to drink water and other calorie-free beverages during fasting to keep your body hydrated. Water can also make you feel full, thus curbing unwanted cravings [5].

7 Unobvious Intermittent Fasting Rules You Should Follow

Now that you know the fundamental rules for intermittent fasting, you can go ahead and start your IF routine. However, these rules don’t necessarily ensure that you will succeed in the long run. But don’t fret: there are some not-so-obvious tips that can help you thrive in your intermittent fasting journey. Here we list some of these unobvious intermittent fasting rules to help you start your IF regime with confidence.

#1 Start Gradually

As we have already explained in the previous section, you can choose your fasting duration according to your experience level.

The best strategy is to start with a shorter fasting period, such as a 16:8 or even less strict 14:10 fast. Then, you can gradually ease into a longer duration as you gain experience. 

Note that you can stay on this version of intermittent fasting if that’s what feels right for you.

#2 Be Mindful Of What You Eat

It’s true that technically you can eat whatever you want in any amount you like during your eating window. You can technically eat French fries and burgers every day if you wanted to, but that doesn’t mean you should. 

You need to be mindful of the nutrient content of the foods you eat within the eating window.

Since you only have a limited number of hours to eat and you can only eat so much within those hours, it’s best to make sure that your meals are balanced and nutrient-rich.

Not all of your meals have to be healthy, though. If you feel like eating fast food once in a while, you can give in to your craving and go for it. You can also have an occasional cheat meal or even a cheat day on intermittent fasting. As cliché as it might sound, moderation is key.

Also, make sure you eat ample amounts of protein to keep yourself satiated and avoid losing muscle density.

#3 Ensure A Calorie Deficit If You’re Aiming To Lose Weight

Needless to say, if your intention is to lose weight, you have to cut down the number of calories you eat within the eating window. If you consume a calorie surplus, you will obviously not lose weight even on intermittent fasting, so be aware of how much you eat if you need to lose weight.

#4 Make Sure To Take Your Medicine Regularly

Medications generally don’t interfere with your fasting; however, you need to consider if your meds are to be taken with food or on an empty stomach. You can find more information on how to take medications while fasting in our guide.

#5 Get Enough Sleep

Sufficient sleep during the night is important to keep your energy levels high during the day. You will also be able to stick to your fasting schedule and make better food choices if you’re well-rested.

#6 Choose The Best Supplement To Complement Your Intermittent Fasting

While some supplements can benefit your fasting regime, some can even break your fast. You need to make sure that your supplements don’t interfere with your fast and choose the best fasting supplements that give maximum benefits.

#7 Plan Your IF Schedule Around Your Other Commitments

Just because you’re practicing intermittent fasting doesn’t mean that you have to stop having fun. The flexible nature of intermittent fasting allows you to adjust your fasting and eating windows to suit your plans. 

For example, if you’re a breakfast eater and fast during the evening but you have a party to attend at night, you can switch your fasting period. Simply swap your fasting window to the morning and your eating window to later in the day so you can eat while you party—it’s that simple. 

Wrapping Up

There are only a few basic rules of intermittent fasting but you need to know a few other tips that are not immediately apparent if you want to practice IF successfully. In essence, you need to 

  • Ease into IF gradually.
  • Watch what you eat and how much you eat during the eating window.
  • Take your medicine regularly.
  • Get sufficient sleep.
  • Choose the best fasting supplements.
  • Alter your IF schedule around your other life commitments.
Disclaimer This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

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