A Beginners Guide to Intermittent Fasting

A Beginners Guide to Intermittent Fasting (IF)

Intermittent fasting, or IF is something that our ancestors relied on between their hunting periods throughout human history. Long before the industrial revolution where society started to produce things in factories, we were roaming around the land in search of food as hunting and gathering. This beginners guide to intermittent fasting will help you learn how to incorporate this practice into your every day activities.

The paleo diet is based around this way of eating. Food is sourced for our every day needs from real food, rather than processed foods.

beginners guide to intermittent fasting

As humans, we did intermittent fasting out of need and it’s how we survived. It has powerful benefits which over time we had forgotten as a technique for our health, but it has been rediscovered more recently.

It is a controlled way of managing our food intake in a mindful conscientious manner.

Think about the word breakfast, break – fast – where we break our fast from the night before. We are usually in the state of ketosis following several hours of not eating while we sleep. This is common for many of us. Intermittent fasting simply extends this fast duration depending on how long you choose to fast for.

Essentially, we are either eating or fasting throughout each and every day. How we do it mindfully and consciously is how we help our bodies to have a break from eating.

This beginners guide to intermittent fasting will show you how simple it really is.

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting allows our bodies to have a break from processing the food we put in it. It gives our body a chance to detoxify, cleanse and restore itself in addition to losing excess body fat.

  • It gives one increased energy
  • Contributes to weight loss
  • Helps reverse Type 2 diabetes
  • Lowers blood cholesterol
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Improves mental clarity and concentration
  • Free and it can be taken anywhere compared with dieting that costs more.
  • Is simple, compared to following a diet – more complicated.
  • The most effective way of lowering insulin levels.

How it works

We are either in a fed state where our bodies store fuel from the release of insulin, or when we are fasting where insulin is low and we burn the stored fuel. Fasting allows our body to burn the stored fuel, which is how we lose weight.

When we eat continuously throughout the day, we aren’t giving our body time to burn the stored fat, instead it burns the constant supply of food instead. If it’s not used, it will be stored as fat. Therefore there is no reason for the body to burn the fat stores already available in the body.beginners guide to intermittent fasting

When intermittent fasting is used in combination with the ketogenic diet, it has an even stronger effect on weight loss and fat burning. Weight loss is actually made possible when insulin levels are lowered, which is enhanced by fasting and lowering carbohydrates.

The only thing that you consume during the fasting period is:

Water, Tea, Coffee, and Bone Brothbeginners guide to intermittent fasting

No sweeteners, no sugar, and nothing else until you break your fast.

Timeframes for Fasting

It is totally your choice about how often to fast. As long as you consume some liquids, then one is able to fast for as long as they wish, or as often as they wish.

To get started, choose a shorter time frame to fast with to get used to it. You’ll get a feel for how you respond to it, and get an idea of what to do when you notice a hunger pang. A shorter fast will also help you gain a sense of achievement.

If you don’t know if you can do it or not, why not give it a try and see what happens and how you manage it. We can all fast until breakfast, how long can you stretch it out for? Lunch time? Dinner time? 24 hours? The choice is yours.

For further information on the various fasting options with scientific backup of how it works go here.

Lets look at the various types of fasts.

16:8 Fast

This is where one fasts for 16 hours and eats during an 8 hour period. So for example you have your meals between 11am to 7 pm, then you fast for 16 hours through until 11 am. This can be done on a daily basis.

20:4 Fast

Fasting over a period of 20 hours and eating during a 4 hour period. For instance have a lunch meal at 2 pm and a dinner meal at 6 pm then not eat anything until the following day at 2 pm. You can still have tea, coffee, water or bone broth during the fasting period of either fast. This can also be done on a daily or every few days if one chooses.

24 hour Fast

This involves eating one meal per day with no snacks in between. Say go from dinner through to dinner the next day. Or lunch through to lunch the next day. This is generally done up to 3 times a week.

36 hour Fast

This is where one doesn’t consume foods for 36 hour duration. This might look like, a meal eaten at dinner time, say 7pm, followed by the whole of the next day with no food consumption, then resume eating the next morning at 7am. It’s important during a fast such as this, to not over eat or it can make you get an upset stomach.

5:2 Fasts

The 5:2 fast was founded by Michael Mosley. This is described as eating the usual meals during 5 days then on the other 2 days calories are limited to 500 calories at whatever intervals you wish. For a guide to this type of fast check this book on Amazon.

Intermittent Fasting and the Ketogenic Diet

Studies have shown the enhanced benefits of combining intermittent fasting with the ketogenic diet as being more effective than the ketogenic diet alone. There’s some really helpful guides such as this one that can provide you with meal plans for keto and how to incorporate intermittent fasting. 

Tips for Fasting

1. Drink lots of water. An alternative to water is black tea, oolong tea and herbal tea. Another tea that can be helpful is green tea due to its catechins that help suppress the appetite. Small amounts of milk can be added even though this is technically cheating.

2. Coffee is good, both caffeinated and decaffeinated. Coffee has also been shown to be an appetitie suppressant, as well as being high in antioxidants which is also helpful during a fast, while your body detoxifies and eliminates toxins.

3 .No sweeteners of any kind, real or artifical are allowed during a fast.

4. Both Broth is a nutrient dense drink made from the bones of an animal. Cooked over a long period, 12 – 24 hours plus allows gelatin to be released along with minerals that are hugely beneficial. Gelatin also helps with arthritis and joint pain, as well as reducing inflammation in the body and gut health. So while you do a fast, by incorporating this nutrient dense drink, you are also boosting valuable nutrients to benefit your health.

5. Keep yourself busy during a fast. This can help with managing any hunger. Hunger comes in waves, so it will pass.  It is also a good time to have something to drink.

6. Add cinnamon to your tea as it is an appetite suppressant.

7. Have some chia seeds, either plain, or with water added. These have been shown to suppress the appetite. They absorb water within 30 minutes and form a gel which can also help when hunger pangs occur.


Once you complete your fast, be gentle with the food you eat next, and keep it moderate, otherwise this will likely lead to a stomach ache.

Through practice and managing with the above tips, it’s possible and even beneficial to incorporate intermittent fasting on a regular basis to your lifestyle. Helping support your body’s natural ability to manage weight while healing and becoming healthy.

For more information check this book out, it explains intermittent fasting and incorporating the ketogenic diet to help develop low carb options to keep insulin levels low.   

Do you fast? What have you found helpful to get through a fast? Leave your comments below.


NB. Who it’s not recommended for

People under 18 years of age.

Pregnant and breast feeding mothers.

If one is underweight.

Fasting is not to be done if there is presence of disordered eating patterns and mental health and body image. Please consult your doctor, health practitioner or psychologist if you are struggling with eating habits and mental health issues.  If you need any help with disordered eating patterns in Australia go here. Or in the US go here.

18 thoughts on “A Beginners Guide to Intermittent Fasting

  1. Hi, great article! I have tried the 16:8 fast with some success in the past and am thinking about getting into this again. Which do you think would be most effective for weight loss, the 16:8 fast or the 20:4 fast... I can't decide which one would be more effective. Thanks so much, Cheers, Karen http://kdforsman.com
    1. Hi Karen, thanks for stopping by. Well done for being able to have had success with the 16:8 fast. If you felt that you were able to do that fast successfully, you might want to try the 20:4 fast. Keep in mind the tips you could use to be successful with it. Keep up your fluids, maybe have some bone broth already prepared so you can have some of that during your fast, or some chia seeds to help suppress your appetite. Just be sure to ease back into eating when you break your fast by having something small and not over eat with your breaking fast meal. Let me know how you go with it.
  2. Hi, this is a really interesting concept. I have seen people have success with the 5:2 fast, and not complain about feeling hungry. I never tried because I thought it sounded hard, and I am not disciplined enough. I hadn't thought about shortening the fasts to say the 16:8 that you describe. This sounds a lot more achievable for me. Perhaps starting with something like this and stretching it out further might be the way to go. I know that when I have tried things in the past I simply give up if it feels too hard. The 16:8 sounds very manageable to me. Thanks for your post.
    1. Hi Melissa, thanks for your comment. It sounds like the 16:8 fast seems more doable for you. Take note of the dinner meal you had the night before, to then work out when to break the fast the next morning. This will help you monitor how long you've been fasting for and help you achieve it more easily. Have some ready made low carb snacks, or have an early lunch when you break your fast. Be sure to keep up your fluids during this time. See how it goes when you give it a try. I'd love to hear back from you and how you found your first fast when you do it. All the best :).
  3. Due to having back problems, I had put some weight on, and doc advised me on this. I have done intermittent fasting under the direction of my doctor for weight loss. It worked great! Eating smaller portions for two day, then fasting one day. In order to stave away the hunger pangs, he suggested drinking low sodium chicken broth for my fasting day. I also added some seaweed flakes to give it some flavor. I was very pleased with the results, and plan on doing it again in the near future. Thanks for the great read.
    1. Hi Brad, thanks for stopping by. I'm sorry about your back and how it's impacted on you with your weight, but it also sounds like your doctor has been able to give you some valuable information with managing the weight loss. That's a great tip you've shared about adding some seaweed flakes for flavor. I'll keep that in mind for my next bone broth :). All the best with it all.
  4. Great information on a Beginners Guide to Intermittent Fasting. This is very informative and I love how you kick it all off with the relationship to where we came from, hunting for our food and the relationship with the word Break Fast. Loved reading this. It is very helpful to newbies entering the IF world.
    1. Hi Lyndsay, thanks for your comment. It sounds like you have knowledge about intermittent fasting :). Yes, it's funny how we use words in our every day language without thought of where they have come from. Breakfast is one of those words! It's good to be reminded sometimes or to grow in awareness :).
  5. Hi Moni Thank you for sharing this interesting and informative article, I have learnt a lot about Keto diet. I must say it is the first time I am hearing this term. I have however heard of 24 or 36 hours fasting which I have tried to do in the past. It has been many years since I have done something like this and would to go back to it but I feel like I lack the will to try again. Can you recommend any tips for me? I would love to give it another go. My diet generally is healthy, for example for breakfast I may have berries and yoghurt or green smoothies. For lunch, I may have seeded bread sandwich with cheese, salmon or tuna and for dinner, I always have some carbs, veggies, salads and protein. My biggest weakness is sweet stuff, I like biscuits and muffins. How do I overcome these sugar cravings? It is funny, I drink tea without sugar and I am ok with that. In particular, I enjoy drinking green and peppermint tea. Do you think intermittent fasting will help me overcome the sugar craving? Looking forward to reading more of your interesting articles. Rabia Best wishes Rabia
    1. Hi Rabia, thanks for stopping by. It does sound like you are aware of your food choices and making efforts to be healthy. Is your seeded bread made using almond flour or coconut flour? The keto diet doesn't include wheat based seeded breads, as they generally contain carbs in the wheat, and carbs in the keto world throw us out of ketosis which is the goal if following a ketogenic diet. There are however many recipes for seeded bread that is based on almond meal or coconut flour if you are interested. It's very common to find sweet foods as a challenge. Sugar is very addictive. I have a post on managing sugar addiction here if you are interested in having a look through, https://ketomindfully.com/from-sugar-addict-to-keto-warrior Green tea is especially beneficial due to it's catechins and ability to help relax the brain without making you too tired. It also contains antioxidants. See how a shorter fast goes with your sugar cravings to trial if it helps you or not. IF does help with learning how to ride the waves of hunger, so this might also help with sugar cravings too. All the best, Kathleen
  6. What a really informative post. I didn't know how the word 'breakfast' came to be so thank you for explaining it. I like learning things like this. As for keeping yourself busy during a fast I am wondering how busy that you should be? Does it really matter? I get quite physical in my job so just wondering if this is a factor. Thank you.
    1. Hi Owain, thanks for stopping by. It really doesn't matter what you do during your fast, in fact, it's even okay to perform physical exercise. It all depends on your own capacity for exercise and what you're already used to. As long as you keep up your fluids during this time so you don't dehydrate and can flush out the toxins as they are released from your fat stores (if any). Listen to your body and trust yourself. If you feel dizzy or unwell, then it might be a sign that you're ready to break your fast. All the best.
  7. I have thought about doing IF for some time now but just haven't had the know-how to do it. I like the idea of 16:8 I think I could do that. I struggle to get out of the house in the morning, so maybe eating breakfast at work, later in the morning would work. I really like the benefits section you listed, that is reallly what drew me in. Can you explain to me a little more about ketosis, I have heard the term, but am not 100% certain what it means. Thanks for posting this, I appreciate it.
    1. Hi Steve, thanks for dropping by. IF is a great way to help manage getting out of the house in the morning when you are fasting. It does help to be prepared when you leave the house though, so if you can take your breakfast with you this will help for when you break your fast. Ketosis is the metabolic state of when our body has limited carbohydrates to burn and switches to fast burning instead. The byproduct of using fat for energy results in ketosis where ketones are produced and then feeds the body for energy. The brain especially has a high demand for ketones. When our bodies are in ketosis, it burns fat, so if you've burned all the fat you've consumed, it then burns the fat in your body, not muscle. I hope this helps in understanding ketosis better Steve. All the best :).
  8. This is a timely post for me as I was recently diagnosed as being pre-diabetic (I do like my chocolate and crisps [potato chips])! My doctor insisted i go to a nutritionist to learn about foods and what they do to one's system. Frankly, it was a waste of money as she didn't tell me anything I didn't already know or could look up online for free. one thing I was advised to do was eat 3 times a day to balance out the blood sugars. I haven't eaten lunch in years. I start with breakfast (porridge, granola and nuts) at about 10am and don't eat till dinner (6pm-8pm) depending on my day. Junk food is, I suppose, my 3rd meal at about 10pm. I switched to wholegrain carbs - brown rice and brown pasta - and have those with dinner 3 times a week. other dinners are lean meat (usually chicken or turkey) and veg (sometimes cooked, sometimes salad). And I drink lots of green tea. none of these changes were onerous and weren't the result of meeting with the nutritionist. I just kinda naturally moved into that new pattern of eating. My last blood tests showed I'd moved back from pre-diabetic territory to normal blood sugar levels, despite still being overweight. So diet definitely plays a role in your health.I'll have to give some of the "IF" plans a try as I've read that temporarily putting the body into starvation mode is good for healing as well as detoxifying.
    1. Hi Gary, great to hear from you and thanks for commenting. It sounds like you've become more aware of how food impacts on your body and health, so well done for becoming more aware around this. This will help you manage your health better. It takes time for you body to heal, in particular from inflammation which is usually present when heading into diabetic territory. I wish you all the best with your health. I would love to hear from you and let me know how the IF goes for you. All the best.
  9. hey Kathleen, I've tried intermittent fasting in the past, but I always forget to skip breakfast. The times I have been consistent with it, I've seen the pros in action. I definitely have more energy, and I've lost weight. didn't know there were different options for IF. I'm gonna try the 20:4 fasting and see how it goes.
    1. Hi Diana, thanks for stopping by. All the best with giving the 20:4 fast a go. Are you following a ketogenic way of eating? I found before I went keto, I would often get hungry more often, then once I started following a ketogenic way of eating, I felt I was less hungry naturally which helped to incorporate IF. Feel free to come back here and let me know how you found the 20:4 fast. All the best.

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