I don’t usually write about diet-related topics, after all, people should be allowed to eat what they want. In a world saturated with nutrition-oriented advice do we really need more?

But here I make an exception. I make an exception because practicing intermittent fasting 101 is a genuine game changer. I make an exception because some of the benefits that make it such a game changer aren’t spoken about enough.

My aim is to provide clarity with the world of intermittent fasting so that you can make an informed decision whether it’s beneficial for your life. Chances are it will be. With that being said, let’s dive into intermittent fasting 101.

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent Fasting refers to the practice of alternating between eating at scheduled intervals of your day or week and not eating (fasting) outside of those intervals. The idea is that you incorporate the benefits of fasting into chunks so that the process becomes manageable and sustainable for however long you need it instead of the extremes of prolonged fasts.

There’s no one set way to do an intermittent fast. Intermittent fasting practices include:

-> Daily time-restricted eating (eating only during a certain interval of the day and fasting for the rest) 

-> Alternate-day fasting (e.g. fasting every other day)

-> Periodic fasting (e.g. the 5:2 diet – fasting for two days per week)

What distinguishes intermittent fasting from other diets is its temporality. It’s not about what you eat but when you eat. Unlike other diet adherents, most intermittent fasters have no restrictions on what foods they consume, it’s a matter of when they consume them.

Intermittent Fasting 101 What

How to do Intermittent Fasting

The beauty of this type of practice is that it’s adaptable to your lifestyle due to the range of ways you can do an intermittent fast.

I’ll start by covering the most well-known method of intermittent fasting and the one that I personally use: Daily time-restricted eating.

Daily time-restricted eating is the only method that requires fasting every day. Simply put, the 24 hours of your day get split into two sections: the hours when you fast and the hours when you can eat.

Take for example a 16:8 fast. This means a person doesn’t eat anything for 16 hours in a row and after this period has an interval of 8 hours in which they can eat.

Or take the most extreme version of daily time-restricted eating: One-meal-a-day (OMAD) also sometimes referred to as 23:1. This version gives you only a small window of time in which to do your eating but is a more rigorous fasting process.

To a non-practitioner, not eating for even 16 hours sounds horrible but in practice it’s not as hard as it sounds. As most people already eat dinner in the evening and sleep anywhere between 7-9 hours on average before breakfast, they’re already fasting for around 12 hours between the end of dinner one day and breakfast next morning. A 16:8 fast then literally just becomes a matter of skipping breakfast and not eating until lunchtime.

If you want to see the benefits from intermittent fasting 101, I highly recommend you adopt no less than a 16:8 diet (i.e. it’s better to adopt anywhere between 16:8 – 23:1). As discussed, this is comparable to missing breakfast, anything less such as 14:10 is only moving breakfast back by a couple of hours and you’re less likely to see positive effects from the fasting.

Know that the most difficult period of your intermittent fasting will be the beginning phase. In my own experience, it took me around a week and a half to get used to the process. In that time I would have hunger pangs every day around lunchtime as I moved from a no breakfast lifestyle to a 20:4 intermittent fast. Trust that once you get past this teething period, you’ll rarely feel hungry before your eating interval and life will return to normal.

If daily fasting isn’t for you, consider the other two methods. 

Alternate-day fasting lets you fast on and off every other day. Similarly, periodic fasting such as the 5:2 diet lets you cycle between days of regular eating and days of fasting. In the case of a 5:2 diet, you would eat a regular diet five days a week and fast for two (non-consecutive) days.

Note that for both of these diets, fasting doesn’t have to mean full days without any food. Most advice around fasting for either states that practitioners can eat a quarter of the calories they normally would which for most adults means an amount of around 500-600 calories per day.

See which one gives you the ideal balance between sustainable eating habits and meaningful benefits from fasting.

Intermittent Fasting 101 Food

Why intermittent fast? – The benefits of Intermittent Fasting

I used to be the type of person that glazed over when I came across a new diet dismissing most of them as fads. 

But despite its growing popularity, intermittent fasting isn’t merely a fad, it’s a return to a lifestyle process engrained in our DNA. 

The reality is with three meals a day, most people are consuming more than they actually need in life. Eating three meals per day is a man-made concept and not in line with how our bodies evolved. Following intermittent fasting 101 means a return to eating patterns more in line with our programmed biological functions as a species.

The motivation behind the diet isn’t simply a misguided yearning for a nostalgic past. It’s alignment with how we function as human beings becomes apparent with the myriad of benefits the practice gives us.

1. Weight loss

We start with the number one most obvious benefit of intermittent fasting—its efficacy in helping with weight loss.

As a dietary practice that involves abstaining from eating at certain times, it should come as no surprise that intermittent fasting helps any practitioner shed pounds.

But more importantly, intermittent fasting doesn’t only help one lose weight, it’s one of the most effective ways to keep weight off.

One of the sad understatements of the modern dietary era is how many people who undergo a weight loss program rebound afterwards. It’s all well and good staying in shape from losing weight but if you revert to your normal lifestyle and put it back on, you’ll be back to square one.

Perhaps the most satisfying insight of intermittent fasting 101 is knowing that you’ll maintain your healthier weight as long as you keep up the fast. You can’t help but keep it off, that’s the beauty of it.

Be aware that if you’re doing a daily time-restricted intermittent fast, it isn’t an excuse to cram three meals worth of calories in one sitting. That’s a recipe (pun intended) for bloatedness and keeping weight on. You can consume more calories than you would in a normal meal but don’t go overboard. But you do have more flexibility in what you eat compared to other diets which leads to the next point.

Intermittent Fasting 101 Weight Loss

2. Eat what you want

One of the perks of intermittent fasting that other diets don’t have is the freedom of what you can eat.

Nutritional restrictions run the gamut in modern societies. There are so many types of dietary limitations telling us what we should and shouldn’t consume. Modern advice makes us deliberate whether or not we should eat meat, whether we should only eat meat (carnivore diet I’m looking at you), whether or not we can snack and so on.

With intermittent fasting, provided you’re not going overboard in cramming the calories in during your eating slots, most people can eat anything they like including snacks and desserts after meals. I personally find the trade off of restrictions on time of eating easier than the restrictions on which foodstuffs I can and can’t eat because some fad diet says so.

This isn’t an excuse to eat absolutely anything. The standard rules of maintaining a balanced diet apply and it’s a good idea to ensure you’re getting enough of each major food category (carbohydrates, proteins, fats etc.) in during your eating slots. If you suspect this is hard to do, then consider taking supplements.

3. Alertness

Contrary to belief, intermittent fasting 101 isn’t only for weight loss, it’s not the reason I started doing it and I know others who say the same.

Among other benefits, intermittent fasting can make you feel more alert and energetic. One intermittent faster I met says he has so much more energy after starting it and is buzzing throughout the day.

Research shows that fasting during the day increases levels of orexin-A, a neurotransmitter associated with wakefulness. Concordantly, levels of orexin-A decrease at night compared to non-fasters which will aid with better sleep.

Intermittent Fasting 101 Alertness

4. Longevity

For many years, fasting has been linked with increased longevity with contemporary scientific research corroborating these findings.

Without delving into too much scientific detail, fasting triggers a process in the body known as autophagy which is a process of cell death and renewal. Autophagy is necessary as it helps promote cellular maintenance and protection, removing damaged cells that no longer serve the body well and recycling worn out parts of existing cells into new cells.

All of this contributes to longevity-promoting outcomes plus reduced inflammation, protection against neurodegenerative diseases and better heart health.

5. Simplicity – productivity gains

Intermittent fasting 101 not only has positives for health and wellbeing, it also improves your personal productivity for a number of reasons.

The first one is the most obvious. If you’re no longer eating three meals a day on a time-restricted fast or are eating less per week on a periodic fast, you don’t have to spend extra time preparing meals and eating.

If you work in a company, think of all the coworkers you have that need lunch or snacks and leave the office multiple times to satiate themselves. Minutes of satiation turn into hours and when people finish, they often experience the post-lunch dip further disrupting their productivity in the afternoon. With an intermittent fast, you don’t have to worry about sacrificing time towards extra meals and you can even avoid the post-lunch dip.

This in turn creates a parsimony that feeds into other areas of your life. Due to eating less, you’ll spend less time shopping for groceries which in turn means less trips to the supermarket each year which means more free time for other pursuits.

On top of the time-saving reasons, other productivity gains will come from the aforementioned improvements in your attention span and alertness. Intermittent fasting will help you feel more alert and positive throughout the day which translates to making you more effective at getting stuff done.

Intermittent Fasting 101 Simplicity

6. Cost efficiencies – economies of scale

One of the pleasant surprises I discovered once I got into the routine of intermittent fasting was the impact of cost efficiencies it generates. Before taking it up, I started the practice for health and simplicity reasons and never anticipated the economies of scale it bestows.

Related to the benefits of simplicity, intermittent fasting 101 has all kinds of tangential cost reductions.

One of the most clear-cut is spending less on food. This isn’t just because less calories means less money spent per gram of food. It’s also because intermittent fasters tend to batch meals they prepare meaning they leverage economies of scale on food preparation. Using more of the same ingredients to prepare a dish that you can eat twice is cheaper than using different ingredients to cook two separate meals. Most of us do this already, we use leftovers as part of subsequent meals. But intermittent fasters are able to do this more often (if they desire) meaning they save more time and money.

The same principle applies when eating out. Like most people, when travelling I almost exclusively eat out at restaurants. Yet compared to my pre-intermittent fasting days, I spend less money on eating out since it’s cheaper to pay for a larger than average meal at a single restaurant than to buy lunch and dinner at multiple places (assuming similar restaurant price ranges).

Besides the personal cost efficiencies you’ll experience, there are societal-wide ones too. By consuming fewer calories on average, you’re contributing less towards excess food consumption and waste, one of the hallmark problems of modern society. If more people consumed and wasted less, a cycle of other positive higher order effects would accelerate such as a decreased reliance on meat, less land needed for livestock rearing which could be repurposed, less bovine greenhouse gas emissions, greater energy efficiency in the food production process and more.

FAQs – Intermittent Fasting 101

Can I drink while fasting?

Yes. Intermittent fasting 101 is focused on a large reduction of calories during specific time periods. Many people choose to only drink water during fasting intervals although the calories found in tea and coffee are minute and unlikely to affect the gains from the fasting process.

Is it unhealthy to skip breakfast?

Contrary to widespread belief, missing breakfast is not unhealthy. As covered above, for most of evolutionary history humans didn’t eat every morning and breakfast as a concept was invented in recent centuries.

Most unhealthy signs from skipping breakfast (if experienced) such as energy lulls or weakness tend to be short-term adjustments while your body recalibrates to a new dietary lifestyle. For most people the benefits of intermittent fasting including the energy gains mentioned will offset the short-term effects from going without breakfast sooner rather than later.

Of course not every intermittent fast requires skipping breakfast, some people prefer to fast later in the day or in other ways so assess your personal situation and conduct due diligence.

Can I really eat ‘anything’ during the fast?

It depends on your current starting position. While the answer for many will technically be “yes”, intermittent fasting 101 is not a license to go on junk food binges and top up on dessert. If you’re someone who’s doing it for weight loss, eating what you want during your interval might stymie the otherwise inevitable reduction in fat. It’s still healthier and more effective to adopt a balanced diet such as the Mediterranean diet or Keto diet when practicing intermittent fasting 101.

Can I work out while fasting?

Yes, it’s safe to do so and depends on your lifestyle preferences. Some people recommend taking Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) before working out during a fasting period.

Can I take supplements while fasting?

Yes. Of course any food-assisted supplements should be taken during eating hours. And never forget that nutritional supplements should be just that—supplements. Get as much of your nutritional content as you can from real food and drinks, even if you’re only having one meal a day.

Important note – Due Diligence

While the information in this post is backed by scientific research and contains personal anecdotes of successful adoption, it is not intended to act as replacement advice from a licensed and accredited healthcare professional.

Before taking up intermittent fasting, consider if you have any existing health conditions and consult a licensed healthcare professional such as your doctor if you have doubts about whether it’s right for you. In particular, people who have diabetes, low blood pressure, a history of eating disorders and/or are pregnant or breastfeeding should consult a professional.

However, intermittent fasting is safe and healthy for most people. To quote a medically reviewed article: “All that being said, intermittent fasting has an outstanding safety profile. There is nothing dangerous about not eating for a while if you’re healthy and well-nourished overall.


The practice of cycling between eating and not eating at certain times known as intermittent fasting is a lifestyle pattern our ancestors evolved and one that more and more people are returning to. There are several ways to intermittent fast, what’s important is finding which method balances giving you the most benefits you can get from fasting while remaining sustainable as a dietary practice.

There are many positive benefits of intermittent fasting 101 such as weight loss and maintenance, increased alertness and energy levels, longevity, productivity gains and even societal impacts. Each of these even has their own secondary benefits to accrue which makes experimenting with intermittent fasting all the more worthwhile.

Practice intermittent fasting 101 and see if this simple yet game changing diet works for you—it might just change your life as it has done for countless others.