Intermittent fasting is continuing to rise in popularity among those looking to lose weight or move towards specific body composition goals without a ton of food rules.  Fasting periods are notably intermittent, varying in length and ranging from as few 12 hours of overnight fasting to 24 hours and beyond.  Research points towards an association between the practice of purposeful fasting and reduced BMI, decreased fat mass, and perhaps even the potential for reduction of weight-related risk factors.  From an expert POV, there’s little magic to be found behind the curtain of IF; limitations on eating times typically prohibit usual caloric intake and the resultant energy deficit contributes to weight loss.  Of note, while energy deficits can enable loss of fat mass, losses of precious lean body mass should be taken into consideration and prevented.  Experts voice concerns that IF can cause athletes and fitness enthusiasts to lose hard earned and metabolically active muscle but potential losses can be thwarted if fuel during eating hours is planned right.

Mapping Out the Right Plan

Depending on familiarity with fasting, overall nutritional status, and even the length of fast, there’s a good chance that once the window of eating opens, the urge to consume large quantities of food may present itself.  Citing the need to combat extreme hunger or compensate for energy deficit, frequent overcompensation of calories during feeding hours can be detrimental to finding weight loss success with IF.  Instead of falling victim to the temptation of simple sugars for quick energy or readily available drive thru fare for convenience, plan with the long game in mind.  After all, intake of purposeful, nutrient-dense foods at meal and snack times drives lasting health, wellness, and weight results.  By optimizing each eating period via consumption of foods rich in high-quality protein, adequate energy, and essential vitamins and minerals, gains in health and lean muscle will not waste away.  In other words, with the right plan in place, it is possible to follow the trend of IF yet remain nourished.

It’s All in the Details

As the eating window nears, keep overarching goals top of mind.  Following a high protein, low carb diet during eating hours will serve to slim down the waistline, while equipping the body for muscle protein synthesis and maintenance.  Fill your plate with protein rich foods such as lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, and plant proteins such as tempeh, tofu, nuts, seeds, and legumes.  Consuming mindful carbohydrate choices, such as whole grains or potatoes with skin, will limit added sugar intake and can provide sustained energy, while also adding some dietary fiber to promote feelings of fullness.  Fruits and veggies will also provide lots of vitamins, minerals, and fiber to further enhance feelings of satiety, as well as benefit gut health.  Rounding out your plate with sources of mono- and polyunsaturated fats (such as those provided by olive oil, avocado, and fatty fish) helps promote absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, & K) and contribute to satiety.

Snack With Purpose

When approaching snacks or small meals options, nutrient-dense guidance still holds true.  Consider pairing protein-rich options with foods high in complex carbs.  Examples include Greek yogurt with berries, cheese sticks with whole grain crackers, or hummus with carrot sticks.  When on-the-go, pack convenient, nutrient-dense options including shakes and bars from ZonePerfect.  Grab a vitamin and mineral-rich Carb Wise shake when needing to curb hunger with 30grams of high-quality protein and also support a low carb, low sugar lifestyle.  Another great snack option is a ZonePerfect Macros bars; high in protein, vitamins, and minerals with 1-2grams of sugar and a  balance of carbohydrates (~40% of calories), protein (~30% of calories), and fat (~30% of calories).  With carbohydrates to fuel your day, protein to support lean body mass, and fat for nourishment, this bar is designed around the indulgent taste you love and the nutrients you need.  Whichever foods you choose to across your day on IF, it is important to keep in mind how you will maximize your nutrition without minimizing your health or compromising your fitness goals.