After numerous studies can prove intermittent fasting’s health benefits, the interest in fasting is rising steadily. Perhaps it does not also come by chance that almost every culture or religion embodies fasting traditionally.
Whether for weight loss or anti-aging benefits, what you eat when intermittent fasting makes the difference!
This science-backed guide contains everything you need to know about intermittent fasting and eating.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
During intermittent fasting (IF), you eat during a specific period and fast the rest of the day (or week).
There are various intermittent fasting schedules, but the most popular is fasting within a 16 hours time frame.
For example, you only eat between noon and 8 PM. Therefore, your body’s digestive tract can rest outside the 8-hour eating period.
In addition to the 8 hours of sleep, the body gets another 8 hours of fasting.
In short, to start the 16/8 intermittent fasting, you only need to skip breakfast and not snack during the 16 hours.
Besides the 16/8 intermittent fasting program, other popular schedules have evolved:
- One-Day Fasting (6:1 Diet) – you do not eat anything on a full day a week
- Two-Day Fasting (5:2 Diet) – you do not eat anything on two full days a week
- Alternate Day Fasting (ADF) – Eat one day, fast one day (often with a small meal)
- One Meal A Day (OMAD) – 23/1 intermittent fasting, where you eat once a day
Eating and Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting aims at two primary goals:
- Weight Loss
- Health Benefits
Although weight loss leads to health benefits, most of them come from autophagy.
Fasting induces this cleansing mechanism, which replaces broken cell components with new ones and drains toxins from the body. Therefore, it helps prevent modern diseases ranging from Alzheimer’s to cancer (Levine et al. 20171).
Like fat burning (ketosis), autophagy requires low insulin levels. The storage hormone is in charge of signaling cells to take up glucose from the bloodstream and store excess energy.
Also, insulin blocks the enzyme that can break down body fat (Meijssen et al. 20012).
Therefore, scientists can predict up to 75% of possible gains and losses in overweight people with insulin levels (Kong et al. 20133).
Since fasting stops nutrient intake, insulin levels drop, and storage mode ends.
Then the body can break down stored carbohydrates (glycogen). When glycogen stores are empty, your body taps into fat for energy.
This fat-burning process is called ketosis and, contrary to popular myths, is a natural mechanism that has ensured our species‘ survival.
Nature has designed the body to build up fat reserves in abundance, and to feed on these fat reserves in times of food shortage (e.g., in winter).
Nowadays, we experience an endless summer lacking this natural balance between feasting and fasting.
Besides insulin, other nutrient sensors exist in the body, responding when you eat:
- Insulin: Reacts to carbohydrates and proteins
- mTOR: Reacts to proteins
- AMPK: Reacts to lack of energy in cells
The AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) always responds when energy is supplied to cells – whether through fat, proteins, or carbohydrates.
As soon as you eat, the body detects nutrient availability and ends autophagy and fasting.
Eat Often or Intermittent Fasting?
The main difference between eating less but more often and strict periods without meals is a hormonal change.
In contrast to intermittent fasting, conventional calorie restriction leads to a loss of muscle mass. Also, the basal metabolic rate decreases if you eat less but frequently.
Consequently, a study with the participants of the weight-loss TV show “The Biggest Loser” revealed that those participants who lost the most weight through calorie restriction suffered the longest from a weak metabolism.
Since it was precisely these participants who were again rapidly gaining weight, scientists observed a severe yo-yo effect in them (Fothergill et al. 20168).
How Many Calories to Eat During Intermittent Fasting 16/8
Now that we understand weight gain to be more of a hormonal than a caloric imbalance, we have to keep up with the times and question the outdated calorie counting regime.
For example, an empirical study from Great Britain shows that no less than 99.5 percent of overweight women and men could not lose weight successfully using conventional calorie restriction (Flides et al. 20159).
And we are not talking about three people here, but 99,791 women and 76,704 men!
So why is calorie counting still the standard of the fitness industry?
There are probably two main reasons:
- It helps to sell highly processed garbage
- The calorimeter was invented in 1892
Therefore, people know about calories, but not so much about hormones.
Nevertheless, this does not mean that calorie balance does not influence weight loss.
However, the correct meal timing during intermittent fasting makes a substantial hormonal advantage possible.
After insulin levels are low during intermittent fasting for an extended period, you will burn more fat with the same calorie intake.
As long as you don’t cheat or have reached your goal weight, the standard daily calorie requirement will be sufficient to lose weight during intermittent fasting. For a woman, this is about 1,900 kcal.
According to studies, people who eat fewer meals also consume fewer calories during the day, so you are more likely to fall short of your daily requirement (Stubbs et al. 200110).
How Many Meals to Eat When Intermittent Fasting
As we have just discovered, eating less often keeps insulin levels in check and burns fat. For this reason, science has proven that snacks cannot help you lose weight (Cameron et al. 201011).
Intermittent fasting, unlike conventional dieting, has the advantage that you can always increase it.
If you like, you can eat only once a day instead of twice or even fast for several days. Thus, it is incredibly flexible.
Nevertheless, you should not immediately overstrain your body when you start intermittent fasting. For example, it is advantageous to establish simple rules when you start:
- Lunch and dinner only
- Between the two meals, natural snacks, like a handful of walnuts, are allowed
With time and experience, you will get to know your body better, and you can stop snacks completely or eat one big meal a day.
In any case, an 8-hour eating period is enough to lose weight with the appropriate diet.
Can You Eat Anything When Intermittent Fasting?
Theoretically, you can eat anything during the 8 hours of eating on intermittent fasting. However, this way, you won’t see results.
With this in mind, people often try fasting to reward themselves with junk food afterward. Thereby alternate-day fasting is incredibly popular.
Maybe you have heard like me from friends who follow this method sporadically and unsuccessfully. Therefore, the following must be clear with intermittent fasting:
- Discipline is mandatory
- It cannot replace quality food
If you gulp down fries and beer during the eating periods, you definitely won’t approach the body of your dreams. Even on intermittent fasting, food quality remains crucial for your health and weight loss.
If you eat less often, it is essential to provide your body with natural nutrient-dense food.
People who delude themselves when eating on an intermittent fasting program won’t get results. Beyond that, grasping refined carbohydrates and sweeteners is a vicious cycle, inducing cravings that can turn fasting into agony.
We’ll further deal with the topic when discussing what not to eat when intermittent fasting.
Intermittent Fasting and Diarrhea After Eating
If you have just started intermittent fasting, it is often quite natural to excrete excess water and electrolytes through the gastrointestinal tract as soon as you break the fast.
Therefore, diarrhea during intermittent fasting is only an issue if it persists.
Against this background, a poor diet can cause diarrhea when fasting. The following food often contributes to diarrhea during intermittent fasting:
- Dairy (lactose and beta-casein A1)
- Refined carbohydrates
If you do still suffer from diarrhea when excluding these foods, make sure you drink enough water. Moreover, broth, pickle juice, or sea salt can help to reabsorb the electrolytes you excreted.
When to Eat on Intermittent Fasting
With the rising popularity of intermittent fasting, new fasting plans and programs come up again and again. Meanwhile, there are numerous types of fasting.
Nevertheless, we already dealt with the essential intermittent fasting schedules. In my experience, it is also the most classical of all methods, with which most people achieve the best results.
The substantial reason for the fact that humans can successfully convert 16/8 intermittent fasting is the simple integration into daily life.
Should I Eat Morning or Night?
It doesn’t matter whether you eat in the morning or at night when intermittent fasting. However, in my experience, it is much easier to skip breakfast for the following reasons:
- Morning hunger is learned and can be unlearned
- The hormone release in the morning gives you power for the day
- Without breakfast, your focus at work will increase noticeably
- Dinner is usually the most crucial social pivot of a family
- You save time and can sleep longer
Contrary to common belief, breakfast is only the most important meal of the day for the food industry. Advertisements and media have taught us that it is almost a punishable offense to skip breakfast.
Over the decades, we have learned to be hungry in the morning. But this is not natural.
The body increases adrenaline, glucagon, growth hormone, and cortisol in the morning. For this reason, we wake up. Furthermore, this potent hormonal cocktail nourishes us with enough energy for the upcoming day.
Hence, the morning hunger disappears in just one or two weeks with the forced breakfast in my experience.
Nevertheless, you can also successfully do intermittent fasting if you skip dinner.
For example, if you sleep earlier, work longer, or cannot have dinner with your loved ones because of your daily working routine.
Intermittent Fasting Eat Before or After Workout
Among bodybuilders, intermittent fasting is not a new idea. The most standard intermittent fasting schedule in which nothing is eaten for 14 to 18 hours daily is a proven method for muscle gain.
Therefore, bodybuilders have been using the 16/8 schedule, also known as peak fasting or time-restricted feeding (TRF), for decades.
Due to the release of growth hormone, intermittent fasting boosts muscle gain (Ho et al. 198812).
However, it is vital to exercise in a fasted state. Therefore, it is better to eat after than before a workout while intermittent fasting.
Given the essential goals of burning fat and activating autophagy for health benefits, this even makes more sense (Schwalm et al. 201513):
- The low insulin level before eating enables maximum fat burning
- The fasting state allows the body to maximize autophagy through exercise
In contrast, eating allows the body to relax. And this is in contradiction to athletic performance, as you can also witness through self-experimentation.
Against this background, it is wiser to use the increased adrenaline levels for exercising. Afterward, you can send your body into recovery and growth mode with a meal.
Best Time to Eat Intermittent Fasting
As stressed out in the previous points, your daily routine will determine the best time to eat when intermittent fasting.
For the following reasons, in my opinion, the evening is the best time to eat when intermittent fasting:
- Work is over
- There is time to prepare quality food
- You can dine with your family
- You could exercise in a fasted state
- Now your body wants to rest and grow
- And you can finish off the day relaxed
Improved mental focus is one of the main practical benefits of intermittent fasting. With the largest meal of the day, focus fades away, and the body relaxes. Therefore it only makes sense not to have planned any mental or physical exertion afterward.
When I want to exploit the mental clarity of fasting to get things done, I often extend the fasting period.
As a result, I am on one meal a day (OMAD) schedule. So I get more things done while only cooking once and finishing earlier.
Since a single meal per day is larger, the evening or late afternoon is the best time to eat during intermittent fasting when leveraging its flexibility.
What to Eat When Intermittent Fasting
With intermittent fasting, there is only one basic approach that works for better health and weight loss:
Do not eat during fasting periods!
Otherwise, there are situations where at least small amounts of certain foods may be acceptable.
If you are not yet used to a new, more extended fasting period and find it challenging to maintain the duration, you might benefit from fasting aids.
For example, if you are hungry and irritable after 12 hours but can last for 16 hours with a Bulletproof Coffee, this is probably acceptable.
Since the added fat limits autophagy’s health benefits, it hardly stimulates insulin secretion at all, and you can continue to burn fat.
After your body has gotten used to intermittent fasting, however, you should be able to go without training wheels.
In addition to Bulletproof Coffee, Golden Milk also provides warmth and healthy fats to soothe the stomach and ease the first days of fasting.
Since the body loses much water and electrolytes when depleting carbohydrate stores, lack of salt can cause headaches.
Cucumber water, bone broth, and apple cider vinegar can help with such physical symptoms.
With orange or cucumber slices and a splash of freshly squeezed lemon juice against the monotony in the water, the list of the training wheels for fasting beginners is complete:
- Diluted apple cider vinegar
- Cucumber water
- Sea salt
- Bulletproof Coffee
- Golden milk
- Water with fruit slices
- Lemon water
24 Intermittent Fasting Foods to Eat
When intermittent fasting, the following properties characterize the best foods to eat:
- They are rich in nutrients, especially electrolytes
- Their carbohydrates are primarily limited to dietary fiber
- They are easily digestible and flatter the intestinal flora
On top of that, the following list of the 24 best foods to eat when intermittent fasting brings additional benefits to your daily life.
Drinking pure water is allowed at any time during intermittent fasting.
Since a considerable amount of water can leave the body during intermittent fasting, hydration is mandatory. Because the body depletes carbohydrate stores, it flushes out water.
In glycogen, 1 gram of carbohydrates binds about 3 grams of water, which leaves the body during fasting.
When not drinking accordingly, you will notice keto flu symptoms, such as headache or dizziness, during fasting.
The absorption of electrolytes, especially sodium, which left the body with water, helps against these symptoms. Besides mineral water, bone broth is a first-class supplier of electrolytes.
2. Bone Broth
For a good reason, doctors prescribed good old bone broth, again and again, to revitalize gut health after diarrhea:
- It is easily digestible,
- Full of electrolytes (sodium, magnesium, potassium, calcium),
- And healthy fats that improve nutrient absorption.
Since the body can lose electrolytes during fasting, bone broth is a first-class food after extended and intermittent fasts.
Also, bone broth:
- Provides collagen for skin, hair, muscles, and bones
- Stabilizes blood sugar and improves insulin sensitivity
- Calms the gastrointestinal tract
3. Apple Cider Vinegar
For several reasons, apple vinegar is fantastic when intermittent fasting:
- It increases satiety and reduces the risk of overeating (Petsiou et al. 201414),
- Regulates blood sugar and promotes insulin sensitivity (White et al. 200715),
- Improves fat burning (Li et al. 201316),
- Releases stomach and intestinal neutralizing hormones and ions (Petsiou et al. 201417).
Furthermore, apple cider vinegar helps fasting beginners, who are mainly used to digesting carbohydrates and proteins, to integrate healthy fats into their diet efficiently.
In addition to its easy digestibility, the avocado impresses with its significantly increased saturation.
Therefore, people who ate avocados are one-third less hungry even 5 hours after the meal (Wien et al. 201318).
For this reason, this fatty fruit is an ideal tool for preventing overeating after fasting.
Furthermore, the avocado, rich in water-soluble fiber and fats, increases nutrient absorption from other foods after fasting.
For example, avocados or avocado oil in salad lead to the absorption of approximately 3-5 times more antioxidants and carotenoids (Unlu et al. 200519).
5. Olives and Olive Oil
Due to the linoleic acid and bioactive substances, olives provide additional health benefits during intermittent fasting:
- Antioxidants: The antioxidant effect of phenols and oleuropein, which you cannot find in any other food, exceeds that of vitamin E.
- Anti-aging: In addition to the positive effect of oleuropein on the skin, the natural phenol tyrosol in olives can increase life expectancy, according to studies (Cañuelo et al 201220; Rahmani et al. 201421).
- Bone density: Olives and olive oil counteract age-related bone loss and contribute to older people’s bone formation (Fernández-Real et al. 201222).
When buying olive oil, it is vital to ensure that it is cold-pressed and obtained exclusively from mechanical processes.
6. Fatty Fish
Fatty fish is the best natural source of potent omega-3 fatty acids if it is caught wild. For example, it provides you with EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).
Since these unique fatty acids stimulate fat burning and prevent further fat deposits, they are ideal for intermittent fasting (Mater et al. 199923).
In contrast to vegetable omega-3 fatty acids, these two fatty acids are already present in fish. From vegetable sources, EPA and DHA can only be synthesized by the body in tiny amounts.
Unfortunately, there is no vegetarian alternative to fatty fish like wild salmon, mackerel, or sardines.
7. Coconut Oil
Since it consists of over 90% saturated fatty acids, coconut oil is the only vegetable oil that is extremely heat resistant. Therefore it is the first choice for frying.
Furthermore, it helps with weight loss due to linoleic acid’s great fat-burning rate (DeLany et al. 200024).
Accordingly, a study has shown that coconut oil can significantly reduce abdominal fat compared to soybean oil (Assunção et al. 200925).
8. Green Tea
Since it curbs appetite and blood sugar, green tea has a considerable history with fasting.
Just like olive oil, green tea contains bioactive polyphenols.
For example, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) in green tea can counteract insulin’s aging effects (Thielecke et al. 200926).
Furthermore, a recent study found that the polyphenols in green tea can even induce autophagy (Prasanth et al. 201927).
Also, by reducing inflammation, green tea reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and hypertension (Hodgson et al. 201028).
Coffee is not only an excellent drink to suppress appetite but can be drunk black during the 16 hours of fasting.
Moreover, studies suggest that both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee could activate autophagy in muscle tissue, liver, heart, and other major organs (Pietrocola et al. 201429).
You can also enrich coffee with coconut oil, butter, or ghee to make it easier to manage long periods of fasting when starting.
My ultimate coffee guide helps you to drink it correctly during intermittent fasting in all its possible variations.
Besides coconut oil, ultra-clarified butter or ghee is the traditional fat for frying in India.
Since ghee is clarified butter, it is pure fat. Therefore, ghee is not only free of lactose but also milk proteins.
Accordingly, ghee is a premium butter for cooking. Due to the absence of milk protein, ghee can be a better option against inflammation as well.
Furthermore, heat it higher. Therefore, it is better suited for frying than regular butter.
11. Grass-Fed Butter
Not only are you what you eat – the same applies to cattle and dairy products.
Due to its high content of vitamin A and beta-carotene, hay-milk butter has a creamy yellow color. On top of that, it contains plenty of vitamin K2.
Also, the conjugated linoleic acid in grass-fed butter maintains muscle mass (McCrorie et al. 201131).
12. Grass-Fed Beef
Grass-fed cattle are allowed to graze on green meadows, which are the best food source for them. After all, this is the cattle’s natural diet.
And this species-appropriate feeding also makes the difference when it comes to beef. Accordingly, a study that compares grass-fed to grain-fed cows points out this fact.
In addition to four times more omega-3 fatty acids, grass-fed beef also contains five times more conjugated linoleic acid.
This unique fat from grass-fed meat and dairy products significantly counteracts fat deposits (Daley et al. 201032).
13. Organic Chicken With Skin
It is no secret that chicken is suitable for most people.
If you eat it with the skin, it also provides collagen, which the body needs for skin, hair, muscles, and joints.
In addition to being a proven protein source, it can also be used as chicken soup, ideal for breaking more extended periods of therapeutic fasting.
Furthermore, chicken provides vitamins and minerals such as (*):
- Vitamin B6
14. Free-Range Eggs
The vitamin D in eggs not only keeps brittle bones in check but also helps ward off depression and colds.
Although the body produces vitamin D when you expose your skin to sunlight, it is advisable to eat enough vitamin D when intermittent fasting.
However, you should not limit eggs to protein because yolks are full of A, B, and D vitamins and healthy fats.
15. Green Vegetables (Cooked)
Green vegetables such as broccoli, kale, or sprouts are usually cruciferous, and rich in fiber, nutrients, and vitamins.
You nourish on them best cooked and with added healthy fat like grass-fed butter or olive oil. This way, your body absorbs nutrients more efficiently.
Furthermore, it would be best if you did not skimp on natural sea salt either, as intermittent fasting can otherwise lead to headaches.
Besides, green vegetables are full of minerals and vitamins (*):
- Vitamin A, B2, B6, C, E, K
This way, you get a proper dose of nutrients into your body after fasting.
The blue-green microalgae, living in both fresh and salt waters, is incredibly nutrient-dense.
Therefore, its composition of electrolytes, vitamins, minerals, proteins, and omega-3 fatty acids is ideal for eating after fasting intermittently.
Spirulina also provides the amino acids that form collagen. Since one tablespoon of spirulina powder offers about 6 grams of pure protein, it is a popular alternative to animal products.
After fasting periods, fermented foods help to colonize the digestive tract with healthy bacteria and enzymes.
Accordingly, sauerkraut contains probiotics, useful bacteria that act against toxins and harmful bacteria (Quigley et al. 201834).
Besides, these probiotics can help with flatulence and constipation (Hungin et al. 201335).
On top of that, sauerkraut is the world’s most vitamin C-rich food.
Nuts bring an exciting combination of healthy fats and proteins to your diet.
Walnuts have the highest omega-3 content among nuts and are also incredibly rich in antioxidants (Hudthagosol et al. 201236).
Also, studies have shown that they help prevent cell damage and cancer and help lose weight (Neale et al. 201737).
19. Red Wine
Contrary to popular belief, red wine can be healthy in moderation.
The essential polyphenol in red wine, resveratrol, can induce autophagy (Park et al. 201638).
Although it is questionable whether red wine should be drunk like water because of its alcohol content, a glass during dinner after fasting is appropriate.
According to research, this moderate amount brings the most health benefits (Yuan et al. 199739).
When it comes to nutrient density, beef liver is the food par excellence.
Considering that some people do not like the taste of beef liver, pork, and chicken liver are also excellent options that provide vitamins and minerals.
About 100g of beef liver contains (in % of the recommended daily dose*):
- Vitamin A: 522%
- Vitamin B6/B12: 51%/1386%
- Niacin: 87
- Riboflavin: 201%
- Selenium: 47%
- Iron: 34%
- Copper: 730%
- Zinc: 35%
If you do not like beef liver, try the less intensive but also nutrient-dense calf liver. Or introduce a variety of organ meats to your diet to reap even more health benefits.
Red beets are not only low in calories and fiber but also rich in iron. Therefore, beetroots are an excellent vegetarian alternative to the liver.
Besides, beet can help especially women against iron deficiency. They lose about 500 ml of iron per year through menstruation and therefore suffer from iron deficiency much more often than men, unfortunately (Weinberg 201040).
Furthermore, iron, like potassium, is a mineral that promotes blood circulation in the muscles and can thus increase athletic performance.
The most important source of fat for vegetarians is linseed. Therefore they are also indispensable for a vegan diet.
Although the most potent omega-3 fatty acids are marine ones, flaxseed offers a vegan alternative to fatty fish.
Because in addition to DHA and EPA in fish, the mother of omega-3 fatty acids, alpha-linolenic acid, also has a lot of positive things to offer in flaxseed.
For example, it improves blood clotting, blood pressure, blood lipids, diabetes, and inflammation risk (Faintuch et al. 200741; Mandaşescu et al. 200542; Kawakami et al. 201543; Bloedon et al. 200444).
And these health benefits are further enhanced by intermittent fasting.
Turmeric is the all-rounder in the spice rack, which should not be missing when fasting intermittently. Its essential active ingredient curcumin gives not only the root but also curry a golden yellow color.
According to studies, curcumin can activate autophagy in mitochondria – our cellular power plants (de Oliveira et al. 201645).
Also, curcuminoids can intercept free radicals more than five times more potent than vitamins C and E (Menon et al. 200746).
Curcuminoids also nourish the skin, balancing its natural microflora, which protects you from infections.
Due to its diversity, ginger is the second ginger plant besides turmeric that should not be missing in your kitchen. For example, you can combine both spices in the form of golden milk, which can be useful during intermittent fasting.
Whether you use it fresh, dried, ground, cooked, or as an oil, this root has various anti-inflammatory effects.
According to studies, ginger is as effective against inflammation as some medications. However, ginger causes fewer side effects (Grzanna et al. 201547).
Fats to Eat When Intermittent Fasting
Although its unjustly bad image persists, fat is the most critical macronutrient when doing intermittent fasting.
Pure natural fat, such as extra virgin olive oil, causes almost no insulin reaction. For this reason, fat not only supports weight loss but also other health benefits of fasting.
Also, animal and saturated fats’ reputation is far worse than the scientifically proven reality. According to recent studies, saturated fatty acids protect against heart attacks and strokes (Siri-Tariano et al. 201050).
Due to the overwhelming burden of proof, even the most stubborn health authorities have now had to admit that saturated fatty acids are not causing cardiovascular disease (Hite et al. 201051).
Moreover, saturated fatty acids are more heat resistant than unsaturated ones. Therefore, they are best for frying. However, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats belong in any diet as well.
These natural fats supply your body with an ingenious balance of energy during intermittent fasting:
- Saturated fats
- Grass-fed butter
- Heavy cream
- Cocoa butter
- Coconut milk
- Coconut oil
- MCT oil
- Monounsaturated fats
- Avocados and avocado oil
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Macadamia nuts
- Goose grease
- Organic Lard
- Polyunsaturated fats
- Wild Salmon
Proteins to Eat When Intermittent Fasting
When it comes to proteins, you need to know your goals:
- Weight loss and anti-aging: Increased fat burning and health benefits of autophagy through restricted protein consumption
- Atheltic performance and muscle gain: Better performance and (muscle) growth through individual adaptation of protein intake to training intensity
Also, age plays a role in protein intake.
While individuals over 65 years need increased protein intake to maintain muscle mass, restricted protein intake can help younger individuals increase life expectancy (Levine et al. 201452).
Nevertheless, protein should never be missing from your diet when doing intermittent fasting. For this reason, here are great natural sources of protein:
- Organic chicken
- Organic pork
- Grass-fed Beef
- Blue cheese
- Buffalo Mozzarella
- Swiss cheese
- Goat cheese
- Sour cream
Although they do not fit into this category due to their predominant carbohydrate content, vegetarians will have to resort to legumes such as lentils and beans.
When eating legumes, ensure to neutralize plant toxins (e.g., lectins) by steaming in a pressure cooker.
Carbohydrates to Eat When Intermittent Fasting
With intermittent fasting, it’s smart to focus on whole foods rich in fiber but low in starches.
While starchy foods (e.g., potatoes) increase blood sugar and insulin levels, dietary fibers (e.g., in broccoli) counteract these effects (Trout et al. 199353).
For this reason, this list puts net carbs (carbohydrates minus dietary fiber) in parentheses:
- Mushrooms (0,6g)
- Swiss chard (0,7g)
- Pak Choi (1g)
- Lettuce (1,1g)
- Chinese cabbage (1,2g)
- Endive (1,2g)
- Spinach (1,4g)
- Radicchio (1,5g)
- Asparagus (2g)
- Watercress (2g)
- Rocket salad (2,1g)
- Algae (2,1g)
- Radish (2,1g)
- Cauliflower (2,3g)
- Okra (2,3g)
- Celery (2,3g)
- Savoy cabbage (2,3g)
- Kale (2,5g)
- Artichokes (2,6g)
- Broccoli (2,7g)
- Fennel (2,8g)
- Spring onion (3g)
- Shallots (3,3g)
- Red cabbage (3,5g)
- White cabbage (4,2g)
- Sprouts (4,5g)
- Onion (4,9g)
- Carrots (6,1g)
- Beetroots (6,8g)
- Almonds (8,3g)
- Pistachios (13g)
- Sweet potatoes (17,1g)
Due to its high content of resistant starches, sweet potato is the most digestible variety if you want to replenish your carbohydrate stores.
Unlike conventional starches, resistant starches pass through the small intestine without being converted into glucose.
Instead of being absorbed as sugar, resistant starches are broken down into short-chain fatty acids, on which your gut bacteria can nourish.
We will take a closer look at when to eat carbohydrates during intermittent fasting shortly.
What to Eat on Intermittent Fasting and Keto
More and more people report excellent results when combining intermittent fasting with a ketogenic diet. Why?
Since the keto diet, just like fasting, reduces insulin, empties the carbohydrate stores, and burns fat through ketosis, it is an ideal match.
Because fasting taps into body fat for energy, it is the most ketogenic diet of them all.
To unleash the full potential of intermittent fasting through a ketogenic diet, you need a daily calorie intake consisting of 75% fat, 20-25% protein, and 5-10% carbohydrates.
Thereby, 1 gram of fat provides 9 calories, and 1 gram of protein or carbohydrates provides 4 calories, which reduces the amount of fat in relation.
To go keto with the previous lists, all you need to do is to follow these crucial points:
- Avoid foods at the bottom of the carbohydrate list (> 5g net carbs)
- Prefer fatty cuts over low-nutrient fillet meats
The fact that lean proteins strongly increase insulin levels was long unknown and doomed classic low-carb diets to failure (Nuttall et al. 199154).
Since the ketogenic diet is based on this fact, it can even improve the following health benefits of intermittent fasting:
- Insulin sensitivity
- Fat burning
- Gut health
To get the details, read my article on combining intermittent fasting with keto:
What Not to Eat When Intermittent Fasting
When it comes to health, the bottom line is that what you do not eat is more important than what you eat.
For this reason, you should be familiar with the categories of don’ts, especially on intermittent fasting.
Industrial Vegetable Oil and Trans Fats
When processing vegetable oils, the fragile omega-6 fatty acids oxidize through heat, light, air, and pressure.
As a result, these processes change fats that serve as building blocks for your body chemically. Therefore, they promote inflammation, cardiovascular disease, mortality, and weight gain (Ramsden et al. 201355).
Besides the following oils, it is essential to avoid fried dishes and hydrogenated trans fats (e.g., margarine):
- Safflower oil
- Grapeseed oil
- Sunflower oil
- Soybean oil
- Corn oil
- Cottonseed oil
- Sesame oil
- Rapeseed oil
- Partially-hydrogenated vegetable oil
Sweeteners and Food Additives
Unlabeled sugar-free or calorie-free foods often hide carbohydrates and calories that you would not expect.
- Alcohol and sugar alcohols (erythritol, sorbitol, xylitol, maltitol, and isomalt)
- Fruit juice or juice concentrates
- Fructose, sugar, sucrose, maltodextrin, dextrose, and corn syrup
Also, calorie-free additives and sweeteners can stimulate insulin and other nutrient sensors during fasting and damage gut health.
If you identify the following ingredients on labels, better avoid the product during intermittent fasting:
- Aspartame (Anton et al. 201056)
- Acesulfame K (Liang et al. 198757)
- Saccharin (Ruiz-Ojeda et al. 201958)
- Stevia (Anton et al. 201059)
- Sucralose (Pepino et al. 201360)
- Monk fruit extract (Tey et al. 201661)
- Artificial colors and flavors (Partridge et al. 201962)
- Preservatives and other chemical additives (Hrncirova et al. 201963)
Another reason why I advise against any kind of sweeteners during intermittent fasting is the craving.
When sweet taste stimulates the brain’s reward center, but glucose does not arrive due to calorie-free sweeteners, cravings increase (Yang 201064).
As with sweeteners, plant-based does not always mean healthy, as we will learn in the next section.
Lectin Containing Foods
Lectins are plant toxins hiding in seeds, grains, leaves, barks, and shells of food.
Since lectins can also bind to insulin and leptin receptors, they promote weight gain (Shechter 198367).
Moreover, these toxins can promote insulin resistance, leading to even more weight gain (Kamikubo et al. 200868).
Accordingly, many people have already found that supposedly healthy foods prevented them from losing weight due to lectins.
Therefore, whether you want to lose weight or improve your health, the following foods high in lectins might inhibit your goals:
- Grains (incl. whole grains)
- All beans incl. sprouts
- Pea Protein
- Green beans
- Soy Protein
- Structured vegetable protein
- Sugar Peas
- Goji Berries
- Cucurbits (all sorts)
- Melons (all sorts)
For more in-depth insights into the possible effects of lectins in food and a detailed PDF list, check out this article.
Eating Junk While Intermittent Fasting
Since highly processed foods not only raise blood sugar and insulin levels but also have a severe pro-inflammatory effect, you should avoid them during intermittent fasting (Lopes et al. 201969).
Therefore, this one also applies to intermittent fasting:
Eat real food, such as on the previous list!
Correspondingly inadequate nutrition during the eating periods can destroy the health benefits of intermittent fasting.
Thus, do not trust any food in colorful packaging and read the labels thoroughly before you seriously consider eating these garbage foods:
- Ready Meals
- Candy bars
- Protein bars
- Fast food
If you have one of these foods on your meal plan, you won’t get any results, even with intermittent fasting.
Refined carbohydrates are the basis of highly processed foods. As the name suggests, they have also been industrially processed.
For example, rice is industrially treated, dried, and polished. Likewise, sugar from sugar beets is industrially refined, so better not to confuse plant-based with healthy.
As a result, you get highly concentrated carbohydrates without the protective effect of dietary fiber.
This way, fasting insulin, and blood sugar levels can reach breathtaking heights. Furthermore, you will notice the subsequent drop in blood sugar levels through sugar cravings.
Therefore, refined carbohydrates are a disaster for intermittent fasting and weight loss in general.
Moreover, according to studies, they promote inflammation in the body, which can be the root cause of numerous diseases, from diabetes to cancer (Buyken et al. 201470).
As we can see here, you will find refined carbohydrates primarily in grain-based products and sweetened drinks:
- Energy Drinks
- Sports drinks
- Sweetened tea and coffee drinks
Does that mean that you are not allowed to eat carbohydrates when intermittent fasting?
When to Eat Carbs on Intermittent Fasting
Since no essential carbohydrates exist, the body does not need them to survive. However, our body cannot produce essential fatty acids and amino acids.
But because it can produce glucose through gluconeogenesis, blood sugar levels remain stable if you eat zero carbs (Merimee et al. 197471).
Nevertheless, there are situations with intermittent fasting where carbohydrates can fit well into the diet.
For example, many athletes do not want to do without carbohydrates, as they continuously empty their glycogen stores. Adding carbohydrates to their diet can contribute to muscle recovery (Murray et al. 201872).
Thus, you can time carbohydrates very well during intermittent fasting:
- Training day: More carbohydrates replenishing glycogen stores in the muscles
- Rest day: low-carb or ketogenic diet
Accordingly, you can adapt your intermittent fasting plan to athletic needs through carb-cycling or cyclical ketogenic nutrition.
Nevertheless, so-called loading days are not necessary for muscle building as long as the protein supply is given (Koopman et al. 200773).
For this reason, bodybuilders often claim that they can’t gain muscle without also building up body fat.
In short, a low carbohydrate ketogenic diet is still the best option if losing weight is your primary goal.
What You Eat When Intermittent Fasting Makes the Difference
Whether intermittent fasting works is up to you. Therefore, knowledge about nutrition and fasting is the cornerstone of your health.
Nevertheless, humans confuse intermittent fasting repeatedly with a miracle cure that can justify junk food.
If you want to lose weight and achieve better health with intermittent fasting, you will have to prefer healthy fats to refined carbohydrates.
Equipped with this knowledge and the necessary discipline, you can prevent modern disease, slow down the aging process and appear much more energetic.
What to Eat Intermittent Fasting FAQ ❓
Which foods are allowed during intermittent fasting?
During the fasting period, eating is prohibited. However, coffee ☕ and tea 🍵 without milk and sugar are allowed.
What to eat when fasting for 16 hours?
Most people get the best results by combining intermittent fasting with a low-carb diet, such as the ketogenic diet, as it burns fat the same way as fasting does 🔥.
What can you eat when fasting?
There is no eating during the fasting period. For beginners, exceptions such as Bulletproof Coffee or bone broth have proven to be useful to manage long fasting periods.
Is milk allowed during intermittent fasting?
Since milk 🥛 contains lactose and milk proteins, it is not allowed during intermittent fasting. These nutrients increase blood sugar and insulin levels and break the fast.
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