When considering intermittent fasting as a diet option, you’ll need to evaluate several things before starting your weight loss journey. From when you’ll fast to what type of plan you’ll choose, it’s best to know your plan ahead of time so that you can be prepared for when you can eat. Once you know your eating window you’ll need to know exactly what to eat during intermittent fasting.
There are different rules depending on the timing. During your fasting window, the goal is to consume no calories; however, there are certain things you can safely drink that will allow you to remain on your fast with no consequences. If you’re participating in a modified fast, you’ll need to focus on consuming nutrient-dense foods. When you want to break your fast, you’ll need to ease your way into it.
Today we will explore what you can eat during intermittent fasting, including regular fasting, modified fasting, and breaking your fast. We’ll also consider the meals and snacks in between fasting periods. Then, we’ll look at the foods and drinks you should avoid during intermittent fasting and how many calories you should consume on the 16/8 intermittent fasting plan. Read on for everything you need to know about what to eat while intermittent fasting.
What Are You Allowed To Eat During Intermittent Fasting?
If you’re interested in intermittent fasting, you’ll need to consider several things before embarking on this weight loss path. For instance, the first thing you’ll have to decide on is your plan according to when you’ll eat. There are several different popular options, including the following:
- 16:8 – fasting for 16 hours with a window of 8 hours for eating
- 18:6 – fasting for 18 hours with a window of 6 hours for eating
- 20:4 – fasting for 20 hours with a window of 4 hours for eating
- 23:1 – fasting for 23 hours with a window of 1 hour for eating
- 5:2 – eating regularly for 5 days of the week and drastically reducing calories on the other 2
While there are other options that exceed 24 hours of fasting, they are not considered beneficial and may be dangerous to your health and well-being. With extended fasts, your body can begin to store fats instead of burning them, so anything beyond 24 hours can backfire for weight loss goals (5).
When you fast, your body uses up the calories from your last meal and burns up your glycogen stores. Once those are gone, it begins burning your fat stores for energy. In addition, you’ll also produce ketones, although not on the same level as those participating in the ketogenic diet. This process of switching from glycogen to fat burning is called metabolic switching and is the primary cause of weight loss behind intermittent fasting (1).
Because fasting causes this fat-burning benefit to help with weight loss, what you consume during or when you break your fast must be the right foods to maintain the progress you’ve made. Therefore, another thing to consider when planning this diet is the best foods to eat during intermittent fasting.
Read More: Keto Vs Intermittent Fasting: Is One Better Than The Other?
Foods To Choose While Fasting
While on a fast there are specific things you can eat and drink that will not affect the fast. Your focus should be on consuming no-calorie food and drinks. One critical thing you must focus on is hydration. Getting enough water is essential to maintaining your health and will not affect your fast.
If you’re a coffee drinker, black coffee is also acceptable. However, if you can’t tolerate it without cream, adding a dash of heavy cream will likely not affect your fast. Note, you’ll need to be very moderate with the amount you add, keeping the calorie count very low.
While you won’t want to have a full meal during your fast, you can add a few calories with a serving of bone broth. It’s low-calorie and will not significantly impact your fast. In addition, you may receive other health benefits from the broth.
Some vitamins and supplements contain sugars and other alternatives that could impact your fast, like gummies. However, many do not and are safe to consume with no effects.
You can carefully select no-calorie drinks. These are not all fast-friendly, as some artificial sweeteners can induce an insulin response. With weight loss as your main goal during fasting, many of these drinks will be a safe consumption choice (5).
Foods To Choose During Modified Fasting
Modified fasting refers to the 5:2 and similar plans where you will decrease your caloric intake on certain days of the week. During this period, you will still need to modify your diet to ensure you don’t break your fast. Choosing appropriate foods is essential to not exceed your calorie budget.
You’ll generally be allowed up to 25% of your regular caloric intake on the days you can eat. So, if you generally consume 2,000 calories, expect to have the option to eat a max 500 on your modified fasting days.
Low-calorie foods and drinks that you can consider for this option include the following:
- Lean meat
- Tea with no sweetener or milk
- Coffee with no sweetener or cream (9)
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Foods To Choose When Ready To Break Your Fast
When it’s time to break your fast, you’ll want to ease your way out of it. While there are no set guidelines for what foods to eat following a fast, many choose foods with low glycemic loads or high protein content.
For options with a low glycemic load, consider the following:
- Non-starchy vegetables
- Sweet potatoes
High-protein options include the following:
- Nut butter
- Lean meat
- Protein powder (9)
Planning What To Eat During Intermittent Fasting
When you plan out your food for intermittent fasting, you’ll need to ensure every calorie counts, especially if the plan you chose allows for calories during the fasting periods. In that case, you’ll need to select nutrient-dense foods. These foods should be full of healthy fats, protein, and fiber. Consider foods like beans, eggs, nuts, and unprocessed meats.
In addition, all foods should be high-volume. While being low-calorie, they should be filling. Include foods with high water content, as these will help fill you up faster. Use plenty of spices, garlic, and herbs to make things taste better without adding calories. With the added flavor you may experience reduced feelings of hunger.
Following a fasting period, you’ll need to plan on nutrient-dense foods. Focus on foods that are high in minerals, fiber, and vitamins, as these will help maintain blood sugar levels while preventing nutrient deficiencies. In addition, consuming a balanced diet will support your efforts of intermittent fasting, contributing to weight loss and overall health (2).
Read More: 6 Types Of Fasting: Their Benefits And Possible Drawbacks
What Not To Eat Or Drink During Intermittent Fasting?
While learning the right things you can eat during intermittent fasting is important, knowing what you should avoid for eating and drinking is essential. Whether you’re in the middle of a fast or in an eating window, there are certain requirements you’ll need to maintain to ensure your progress doesn’t get wasted.
Essentially, during a straight fast where you’re not planning on consuming food, you should avoid anything with calories. However, some experts indicate that keeping the carbohydrate intake below 50 grams per day is enough to maintain the level of ketosis fasting places you in.
As mentioned above, you can try zero-calorie drinks, but some of them may cause an insulin response that will break your fast. You’ll have to be selective and use trial and error to determine which are safe for your fast and which aren’t.
Many supplements are not beneficial to fasting, causing it to end. The ones most likely to end your fast include the following:
- Protein powder: protein powder contains calories and induces an insulin response. Your body immediately believes it is no longer fasting.
- Gummy vitamins: these can break your fast due to sugar, fat, and protein content.
- Branched-chain amino acids: these trigger an insulin response that opposes the process of autophagy.
- Those containing specific ingredients: pectin, maltodextrin, fruit juice concentrate, and cane sugar are all potential ingredients in supplements that contain sugar and calories, which could break your fast.
In between fasting periods, you also need to be mindful of what you eat. While your meals aren’t specifically governed, you should avoid overeating/consuming too many calories, as this will result in weight gain instead of weight loss. In addition, eating junk food in these periods can undo all the benefits fasting has provided. The goal is to choose as much unprocessed, whole foods as possible to reap all the benefits fasting has to offer (4).
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How Many Calories To Eat During Intermittent Fasting 16/8?
When you choose an option like the 16/8 or 16:8, you’ll have a best time to eat during intermittent fasting. It’s the eight-hour window allotted for eating. You can only consume calories during this period to ensure you get the most from your fast and enjoy the benefits of ketosis during the 16-hour fasting window.
In the 16/8 plan, you can choose to follow it once or twice a week or every day, depending on what you specifically want to do. This is one of the most popular intermittent fasting plans and is chosen because of its fat-burning capabilities and other health benefits.
The first thing you’ll need to do is determine your window for eating. Popular options include the following:
- 7 am to 3 pm
- 9 am to 5 pm
- 12 noon to 8 pm
- 2 pm to 10 pm
To help you out, you can set timers at the beginning and end of your fast, so you’re aware of when you can and cannot eat. Try out a few times to see which works best for you before you settle on one for the long haul.
There is no set caloric limit with the 16/8 plan, making it difficult for some dieters. While there is no limit, you still have to be mindful of what you’re eating. If you consume more calories in a day than you will burn, you will gain weight instead of lose it even though you are practicing intermittent fasting.
Because of this, you need to make wise choices, including which snacks to eat during intermittent fasting. You should make nutrient-dense foods a priority at all times when eating. These not only round out your diet but also support a healthy weight. Choose a variety of healthy foods that include some of the following:
- Proteins: poultry, lean meats, fish, eggs, legumes, nuts, and seeds
- Vegetables: cauliflower, broccoli, leafy greens, cucumbers, and more
- Healthy fats: avocados and olive oil
- Whole grains: quinoa, barley, oats, and rice
For drinks, you’ll need to stay limited to water and low-calorie options, including tea and coffee with nothing added. It’s best to avoid anything that’s deep-fried, sugary drinks, and frozen meals. Any of these can negate the beneficial effects of intermittent fasting (6).
Understanding what to eat during intermittent fasting is just as important as knowing when you will eat. It’s essential to not undo the benefits that fasting has provided you with. To stay on your fast, you’ll need to focus on consuming no calories. If you’re on a modified fast you’ll need to focus on consuming whole foods that offer excellent health benefits. When you want to break your fast, you’ll need to ease into it with foods that have a low glycemic impact or are high in protein.
While you’re doing intermittent fasting you’ll need to avoid certain supplements during your fasts. In addition, some zero-calorie drinks can induce an insulin response which would break your fast, so you’ll need to pay attention when choosing your drinks. One of the most important things is the meals and snacks you choose between your fasting days–avoid overindulging and harmful foods is essential to maintaining the benefits of intermittent fasting.
The 16/8 intermittent fasting plan doesn’t have specific calorie guidance; however, you’ll want to keep your count within reason to prevent consuming more calories than you’ll burn in one day. This will ensure you lose weight instead of gaining it. Now that you have all the information you need about what to eat during intermittent fasting, which foods will you choose?
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!
- Intermittent fasting 101 – The ultimate beginner’s guide (2022, healthline.com)
- Six ways to do intermittent fasting (2023, medicalnewstoday.com)
- What are the best foods to break a fast with? (2021, medicalnewstoday.com)
- What breaks a fast? Foods, drinks, and supplements (2019, healthline.com)
- What can and can’t I eat when fasting? (2022, medicinenet.com)
- What is 16/8 intermittent fasting? A beginner’s guide (2023, healthline.com)
- What is intermittent fasting? Does it have health benefits? (2022, mayoclinic.org)
- What to eat during intermittent fasting (2023, health.usnews.com)
- What you can and cannot eat and drink while fasting (2021, medicalnewstoday.com)