Here are four tips to keep your plan on track:
1. How can I suppress hunger during intermittent fasting?
Eat high-fiber foods, such as nuts, beans, fruits and vegetables, and high protein foods, including meat, fish, tofu, or nuts, during your eating window, Varady advised. Chewing high-fiber gummies can also help.
Drink lots of water. People tend to think they’re hungry, when they are really just thirsty, she said.
Go for black coffee or tea, or cinnamon or licorice herbal teas. These beverages may have appetite-suppressing effects, Varady noted.
Watch less TV: “I know this sounds strange, but while you are watching TV, you are bombarded with dozens of ads for food. This can make you feel hungry, when in actuality, you are not hungry at all,” she said.
Remember, being “a little hungry” is the best thing that can happen to you, wrote Madelyn Fernstrom, health and nutrition editor at NBC News, calling it a “true mind-body connection” that helps you recognize fullness.
2. When should I exercise?
When Varady and her colleagues conducted a study that combined alternate day fasting and exercise, they allowed the participants to pick whether they wanted to exercise on a feasting or fasting day, and found there was no strong preference one way or the other. But the researchers were surprised the dieters actually reported feeling more energetic on fasting days.
That being said, exercise before you eat because people get hungry about half an hour after they finish working out and may find it too hard to stick to their plan if they can’t eat anything at all afterwards, Varady noted.
If you’re on the 16:8 plan, exercise before or during your eating window. If you’re doing alternate day fasting and are exercising on your 500-calorie day, save food for after your exercise session.
3. Is it OK to skip breakfast?
Yes, Varady said. The notion that omitting a morning meal is bad for your waistline likely began with studies sponsored by cereal companies, and most of that research looked at the effects of breakfast skipping on cognition in children, she noted: “I’m not sure how that all got translated to body weight.”
Indeed, a 2015 study found breakfast may not be the most important meal for weight loss.
Another analysis, by obesity and nutrition researcher David Allison, found there wasn’t scientific data to definitively support a link between eating breakfast and weight loss, or skipping breakfast and weight gain.
4. How do I combat feelings of low energy or low focus during fasting?
Try drinking black coffee: It helps improve concentration and energy, and has no calories in it, Varady said.
Take a deep breath and give yourself a break: Mindfulness and a bit of meditation can go a long way in helping to make you feel better during the fasting period.