Vegan Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss and Healthspan
- Vegan intermittent fasting, when done correctly, will not only help regulate your weight, but it may also provide significant additional health benefits including detoxification and enhanced cognition.
- There are different ways to structure your fast. Aim for consistency, starting with regular twelve to sixteen hour intervals before attempting longer fasting periods.
- When fasting it's important to make sure you are consuming enough protein, healthy fats like Omega 3, and nutrients like Vitamin B-12, D-3, Iron, and Zinc.
Okay, you’ve been on a plant-based diet for a while, or you’re new to the vegan diet and lifestyle, and you’ve experienced a drop in your weight. Simply changing from a conventional diet to a plant-based diet is, by itself, effective for shedding off weight. But what about the other 10-20 pounds that stubbornly remain?
Vegan intermittent fasting may be an answer. Vegan intermittent fasting, when done correctly, will not only help regulate your weight, it may also provide a long list of significant health benefits. On the other hand, one-time cleanses or extreme caloric deprivation will not only harm your overall health, but will also likely result in weight gain in the end. This article explores a few approaches to regular intermittent fasting that have proven to be safe and effective.
It’s not just about weight loss though--health professionals and pundits extol the many benefits of fasting. Fasting is nature’s way to clean and detox the insides of our bodies. After conducting a fast, many people report improved skin, clearer eyes, increased energy, and improvements with a variety of health conditions and complaints.
What is Vegan Intermittent Fasting?
Vegan intermittent fasting is a dietary discipline with two essential components:
1. Periods of the fast are relatively short in duration and are conducted on a regular basis, as a standard, ongoing lifestyle routine.
2. The foods which are eaten during periods of non-fasting are purely plant-based.
There are actually many ways to conduct a fast. The more traditional approach is known as ‘prolonged fasting’, and requires a complete fast over several days, or in the most extreme examples, up to three weeks. Prolonged fasting, and all types of fasting, require the consumption of water. The human body can survive without food for about three weeks, but we can’t go without water for more than 3-4 days.
Maintaining a fast over several days can be difficult and even dangerous for many people. The body and mind will crave food for the first 48 hours, and maintaining the fasting discipline during this initial period can be challenging. If you are new to fasting it is best to start with intermittent fasting before attempting prolonged fasting, as the health benefits are similar while risk is minimized.
The most extreme form of fasting is a water fast. When conducting a water fast, you will need to drink between 64 oz and 128 oz of pure water every day. In a strict water fast, you will be providing the body with no nutrients.
Therefore, you may want to consume a nutritional supplement each day of the fast in order to ensure that the body receives its basic nutritional necessities.
The primary nutritional requirements include:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin B-12
- Omega 3’s
Many people fast with a pure vegetable broth, which provides some basic nutrients. Others fast with pure fruit juices. If you need to be physically active during your fast, fruit juices will provide some helpful sugars for energy.
In addition to these key nutrients, it's also important to consume enough protein and healthy fats during the eating window. Seeds, nuts, legumes, and lentils along with avocados, olive oil, and coconut are all examples of foods that are rich in protein and healthy fats. These are excellent sources of long-term energy that also help preserve lean muscle.
Methods of Vegan Intermittent Fasting
Vegan intermittent fasting protocols can be structured many different ways. Regardless of which protocol you adopt, the research which has been conducted thus far suggests that you will benefit significantly.
The best way to approach intermittent fasting is not to just try it once, or a couple of times, in an attempt to lose weight rapidly. Regular fasting will help with weight loss. The Sage approach to vegan intermittent fasting is to adopt it as an ongoing lifestyle commitment.
In this way, you will maintain a healthy weight level throughout the course of your commitment, while realizing a myriad of additional healthy benefits. You can, and probably should, experiment with which protocol suits your own personal dietary and activity routines, and frankly, which one you find easiest to stick with. Here are some options to consider:
1. THE TWELVE-HOUR FAST
This fast should become a standard component to your lifestyle, ongoing, month in and month out, year in and year out. If you eat your breakfast at 7:00 AM, don’t eat your evening meal any later than 7:00 PM. This may sound too simplistic, but it’s not. One very large study conducted primarily in Spain showed that people who were in the habit of eating late evening meals were significantly more likely to gain weight and develop certain risks for cardiovascular disease .
2. THE SIXTEEN-HOUR FAST
The sixteen-hour fast is a refinement on the twelve-hour fast. Your meal period is restricted each day to an eight-hour window. So, if you eat breakfast at 8:00 A.M., you begin your evening meal no later than 4:00 P.M. Maintaining a daily fast of sixteen hours will significantly enhance your health benefits, compared to the twelve-hour fast. Most people who ultimately adopt the sixteen-hour fast, begin with the twelve-hour fast, and increase the duration of the fast incrementally over a period of a few months.
3. THE ONE-DAY-A-WEEK FAST
This fast is actually a thirty-six-hour fast, conducted one day each week, preferably the same calendar day of the week. If your fast day is Sunday, for example, you begin your fast Saturday evening, and break your fast on Monday morning. This routine should also become a standard component to your lifestyle.
4. THE EVERY-OTHER-DAY FAST
This fast is a series of one-day, or 36-hour fasts. For example, if you eat on Monday evening, you fast all day Tuesday and break your fast on Wednesday morning. Then you begin a new fast on Wednesday evening and break it on Friday morning. This is a more difficult routine, and should only be conducted in segments of a week or ten days each month.
A Note About Caloric Restriction
Scientists today would refer to vegan intermittent fasting as ‘caloric restriction’ (CR). To date, there is a significant body of scientific evidence that supports the fact that CR decreases the biological rate of aging and increases average and maximum lifespan . CR is now recognized as a nonpharmacological intervention to help prevent age-associated diseases and early death. CR works on a cellular level, promoting enhanced metabolism and increasing cellular energy.
However caloric restriction does not equal caloric deprivation. Disciplined, intermittent fasting is an effective way to reap the benefits of CR while still ensuring your body gets the nutrients it needs. It's important to emphasize that calorie-restriction regimens are NOT starvation diets. If you are at risk of developing an eating disorder then fasting should not be considered.
Health Benefits of Vegan Intermittent Fasting
The simplest way for us to achieve caloric restriction is through fasting. Regardless of which approach suits you best, you’re going to experience some appetite pangs and feelings of hunger. Embrace these feelings. These are good feelings. When you feel that appetite calling you, at that moment you know that your body is healing and improving.
The health benefits of fasting, backed by scientific research, include:
It stands to reason that by significantly reducing the number of calories we consume, that the loss of body weight is an unavoidable outcome. Researchers have refined our understanding of weight loss as it relates to fasting even further. Short-term, intermittent fasting has been shown to boost metabolism by increasing the neurotransmitter, norepinephrine . Another study had research subjects engage in a series of one-day fasts over a 12-week period. The subjects all lost significant amounts of body fat . Another study showed similar results with a series of intermittent fasts, with no loss of muscle mass .
Anyone who initiates any type of fast, especially a prolonged fast of three days or more, should break the fast gradually, with juices, raw food, and soups for the first few days. Carbohydrates should be introduced slowly and carefully, in order to help body and mind firmly establish the new and better you. A return to old eating habits will likely negate much of the benefits of the fast.
Another health benefit of fasting is detoxification. Our bodies are continually inundated with toxic material, including herbicides, pesticides, packaging chemicals, pathogenic organisms, dormant viruses, artificial food ingredients, pharmaceutical drugs, street drugs, etc.
These toxins build up over time. The human body is equipped with a built-in detox system, which includes liver, bowels, and skin. The liver is especially important due to its role in filtering blood.
With all of the life energy conserved while the body’s digestion system is on hiatus, this energy can now be made available to apply to the process of detoxification.
Animal studies have shown improvements in brain function and structure after eleven months of intermittent fasting . Another study showed that fasting helped protect the brain and increased the generation of new nerve cells, resulting in improved cognitive function .
Increased HGH (human growth hormone):
HGH is a key hormone, involved in muscle growth and strength, metabolism, and weight loss. One study resulted in subjects who fasted for only 24 hours, having their HGH levels increase significantly . Another similar study resulted in the male participants having a 500% increase in HGH levels after a two-day fast .
Regulation of blood glucose:
One study of subjects with type II diabetes showed that short-term, intermittent fasting significantly decreased blood sugar levels .
Reduction of inflammation:
Researchers were able to demonstrate that fifty healthy adults who fasted intermittently for one month significantly reduced inflammation markers .
Improved cardiovascular health:
Another research study revealed that eight weeks of alternate-day fasting reduced blood pressure, ‘bad’ cholesterol, and triglycerides .
Eating a balanced, plant-based diet is an essential lifestyle choice. But it’s not just what we eat that is important for optimal health. It’s also what we don’t eat, and when we go about ‘not eating’. Similar to veganism, fasting is most effective when it’s adopted as a lifestyle instead of a fad diet. Avoid extreme caloric deprivation. Stick to regular, disciplined intermittent fasting, and you’ll be in good shape.