Intermittent fasting is a dieting strategy that involves cycling between periods of unrestricted eating, known as feeding windows, and periods of fasting, where you limit the amount of food that you eat. A “clean” intermittent fast means that you only allow yourself to have calorie-free, unsweetened beverages like black coffee and tea outside of your feeding windows. If you’re planning to try intermittent fasting, check with your doctor first to make sure it’s safe for you, and choose a method that works best for you and your schedule. Even in a “clean” fast, there are a few things you can use to help you get through your fasting periods.

Method 1 of 2:
Choosing the Type of Fast

  1. 1
    Go with the 16/8 method to give yourself a daily feeding window. The 16/8 protocol, sometimes referred to as the LeanGains protocol, means you have an 8-hour window to eat all of your food each day, and you fast for the remaining 16 hours. It’s one of the most common intermittent fasting methods and allows you to eat what you want for a set period each day.[1]
    • For example, you could set your feeding window for noon to 8 p.m. each day if you don’t mind skipping breakfast. You could also choose 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day if you’re not a late snacker.
    • The key to the 16/8 protocol is sticking to the time frame that you set.
  2. 2
    Opt for the 5:2 diet to limit your fast to 2 days of the week. On the 5:2 diet, you can eat normally for 5 days of the week, but restrict yourself to 400-600 calories for 2 non-consecutive days. It’s a good option if you want to restrict your fasting periods to only 2 days out of each week.[2]
    • For instance, you could choose Monday and Thursdays as your fasting days, leaving your weekends open for eating normally.
  3. 3
    Try alternate-day fasting if you can limit yourself to 1 meal on fasting days. Alternate-day fasting means you alternate between days without any food restrictions and days where you have 1 meal that gives you about 25% of your daily caloric needs. If you’re able to deal with having 1 meal every other day of the week, this may be a good option for you.[3]
    • So if you’re following a 2,000 calorie diet, you’d eat a meal that contains 500 calories on your fasting days.
    • An example alternate day setup could consist of having 1 meal on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and having no restrictions on the other days of the week.
  4. 4
    Use the 4 and 3 plan for the most extreme option. Also known as “three-day fasting,” the 4 and 3 plan involves a week that consists of 4 days of unrestricted eating and 3 non-consecutive days where you fast for a full 24 hours. It’s the most challenging option, but it also may have the most health benefits, so it may be a good option for you.[4]
    • A sample breakdown could involve fasting on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, leaving the rest of your week open for unrestricted eating.
    • On this model, you can’t have any food or drinks that have calories on your fasting days. Talk to your doctor before you try fasting for 24-hour periods to make sure it’s safe for you.
  5. 5
    Use your feeding window to eat until you’re satisfied. No matter what method or protocol you choose, it’s important that you use your feeding window to fill up on enough food to help you make it through your next fast. Focus on eating a healthy balance of lean protein, whole grains, and healthy fats to give your body the nutrition it needs. Try to avoid processed foods as well.[5]
    • Use your feeding window to stock up on healthy foods, rather than snacking on foods with lots of sugar, fat, and salt that don’t provide much nutrition, such as chips, cookies, and candy.
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Method 2 of 2:
Managing Hunger During Your Fast

  1. 1
    Drink enough water to stay hydrated and help reduce cravings. Water doesn’t have any calories and is essential for your body, so you can have as much of it as you want during your fasting period. Fasting can also make you feel less thirsty, so it’s really important that you drink enough water to prevent dehydration.[6]
    • It’s recommended that the average adult drink at least 1.5 litres (0.40 US gal) of water a day.[7]
    • Remember, in a truly “clean” fast, you can’t add anything to your water, so hold off on the lemon wedges and mint leaves.
  2. 2
    Grab a carbonated water to stave off hunger pangs. Carbonated water, such as sparkling water, doesn’t have any calories and won’t break your fast. Additionally, the bubbly carbonation can actually help make you feel less hungry. If you’re feeling those nagging hunger pangs during your fast, try cracking open a fresh carbonated water.[8]
    • Carbonated water that’s “naturally essenced” such as La Croix, Perrier, or San Pellegrino won’t break your fast. But if they have any additional ingredients or sugar, they will.
  3. 3
    Use black coffee for an energy boost and to reduce your hunger. Calorie-free drinks like plain black coffee won’t break your fast and can help provide a boost that will help you stay focused and energized.[9] The caffeine in the black coffee can also help you feel less hungry while you’re fasting.[10]
    • It has to be black coffee, though. Cream and sugar, even sweetener without any calories, will break your clean fast.
    • Drinking too much caffeine can cause anxiety, tremors, and rapid heart rate. Try not to have more than 500-600 mg of caffeine, which comes to about 4-7 cups of coffee.[11]
  4. 4
    Try green, black, or herbal tea for an alternative to coffee. Green and black tea both contain caffeine, which can help perk you up if you’re feeling groggy as well as reduce your hunger.[12] Studies also suggest that other ingredients in green tea may help you burn fat and make you feel less hungry.[13] If you don’t want the caffeine, or you’re just looking for a tasty herbal drink, try an herbal tea without any added fruit. Steep a bag of tea in 1 cup (240 mL) of hot water for about 3-5 minutes and enjoy!
    • Green tea and black tea contain less caffeine than black coffee, so they’re less likely to give you the jitters and may feel gentler on your empty stomach. For instance, an 8  fl oz (240 mL) cup of black coffee has about 96 mg of caffeine while the same size cup of black tea has about 47 mg.[14]
    • Herbal tea with dried fruit, such as some raspberry, cranberry, orange, or other fruit-flavored teas contain small amounts of sugar that can break your fast.
  5. 5
    Take a shot of apple cider vinegar to reduce hungry cravings. Apple cider vinegar doesn’t have any calories and contains acetic acid, which may help reduce your appetite while you’re fasting. Try drinking a 1–2 teaspoons (4.9–9.9 mL) sip of apple cider vinegar to suppress your appetite if you’re feeling hungry during your fast.[15]
    • Use apple cider vinegar, not distilled white vinegar.
    • You can also add the apple cider vinegar to a glass of water to dilute the taste.
  6. 6
    Exercise to work your body and keep your mind off your hunger. Studies suggest that exercising while fasting can help increase weight loss, improve body composition, and reduce your hunger.[16] If you find yourself feeling hungry, try going for a walk, run, or bike ride. You’ll burn additional calories and keep your mind off being hungry at the same time.
    • Head to your local gym and hop on an elliptical bike or a rowing machine.
    • Sign up for a group fitness class such as CrossFit, Zumba, or yoga.
  7. 7
    Talk to your doctor if you feel exhausted or sick while fasting. If you have an underlying condition such as diabetes, or you use medications that require food intake, intermittent fasting may not be safe for you.[17] Additionally, if you find yourself feeling dizzy, exhausted, or light-headed, talk to your doctor.
    • Always talk to your doctor before you make sudden changes to your diet to make sure they’re safe for you.
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      Tips


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      Warnings

      • Talk to your doctor before you try intermittent fasting to make sure it’s safe for you, especially if you have underlying medical conditions.
      • Don’t try intermittent fasting if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.[19]
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