Whether you're vegan or not, intermittent fasting works much the same.
You're already going to have to pay a lot more attention to your diet and caloric intake, so any other requirements or preferences should be easy to follow.
Deliberately starving yourself for substantial portions of time requires a great deal of will power and forward planning. With this in mind, there are some things you should know, some things to avoid, and some information behind the reasons why you would choose to do this at all.
Our ancestors didn’t crawl out of their cave and say 'What’s for breakfast?' There wasn’t any refrigerator or even any storage system.
- Dr. Steven Gundry, Cardiologist and Author
Read on to find out about intermittent fasting on a vegan diet.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Put simply, intermittent is a weight loss method that revolves around fasting at certain parts of the day/week (1).
In other words, for certain periods of time, you will fast (i.e. eat nothing or very little) until your eating window comes around again.
Of course, it's very tempting to scoff down a bunch of fat and calories once the eating window opens, but you're generally supposed to stick to healthy eating once you can eat again.
Here are the main intermittent fasting methods out there:
- 5:2 : Eat normally 5 days a week and then eat 500-600 kcals 2 days a week
- 16:8 : Eat solely during an 8-hour eating window and fast for the remaining 16 hours
- Eat-Stop-Eat : Avoid eating altogether for a 24-hour period 1-2 times a week
- Alternate Day Fasting : Eat around 500 kcals every alternate day, while eating normally on the other days
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
1. Helps you lose weight
Fast vegan weight loss is indeed possible with intermittent fasting and a carefully controlled healthy meal guide (2).
Experts are still debating exactly how intermittent fasting allows you to lose weight – some think it's just because you consume less fat and kcals overall, while some think it has more to do with the restricted eating times. (more on this below).
For those who are looking for additional ways to lose weight, check our list of the best fat burners for vegans.
2. Improves mood and focus
While some research notes that the first few weeks of fasting can make you crabby and irritable, these effects wear off over time and you tend to experience improved focus and mood over time.
This is because it boosts the production of BDNF, a protein in your brain linked to improved mood and cognition, by 50-400%.
3. Reduces the risk of diseases
Among other health benefits, there is evidence to suggest that intermittent fasting diets could help to reduce the future risk of various diseases, assuming that dieters eat good food and follow a relatively healthy lifestyle.
Extensive evidence suggests that imposing fasting periods upon experimental laboratory animals increases longevity, improves health and reduces disease, including such diverse morbidities with cancer neurological disorders and disorders of circadian rhythm.
- Salah Mesalhy Aly, Ph.D., University Professor
4. Increases energy and endurance
Evidence has shown that intermittent fasting boosts mitochondrial biogenesis, meaning that your cells create more mitochondria.
Now we don't have time to launch into a biology lesson here, but suffice it to say that mitochondria give your body's cells more energy, hence giving you more energy as a person made up of said cells.
5. May help increase lifespan
The smart people over at Harvard University recently discovered that intermittent fasting could help to increase your lifespan due to some very complex science stuff that we mere mortals cannot understand.
If you've not taken care of your body as well as you should have, perhaps it's time to try a vegan intermittent fasting meal plan.
How Does Intermittent Fasting Work?
The belief that intermittent fasting affects weight loss effectively is due to the fact that when you fast, you generally eat less calories. Technically, it’s true.
We all know that weight loss happens when your body experiences caloric deficit, that is, you burn more than you take.
That’s the simplest explanation of how this diet works, as it is with any other diets out there.
However, there’s more to intermittent fasting than just caloric deficit. It also affects your hormones that ultimately facilitates significant body changes. Science jargons coming, but read on, let me get my point across.
For one, fasting decreases insulin levels. When our body is low in insulin, it promotes the use of fat stores as an energy source. This then can lead to weight loss and lower body fat levels. Further fat break down happens during a fast secondary to sympathetic nerve activation and the release of the hormone norepinephrine to the fat cells.
In simple terms, it means that when you fast, your brain tells your fat cells to do the work for your body (through that sympathetic nerve and hormone activation).
Several studies also show that, contrary to popular belief, short-term fasting actually increases the body’s metabolic process.
Dietitians recommend the 4 methods of intermittent fasting (described above) because these are considered short-term fasts. The optimum weight loss effects of fasting can be observed with these methods. It is not recommended to fast for more than 48 hours, as this may reverse the benefits by slowing down the body’s metabolism.
Some studies say that alternate day fasting results in more significant weight loss, compared to the 16:8 or 5:2 methods. However, when you’re just starting, the 16:8 fasting is the safest way to go.
How to Start Intermittent Fasting on a Vegan Diet
The vegan fasting version of this weight loss method can come with brilliant intermittent fasting results, although it could still be a difficult process for even the most dedicated of vegans.
Below we go over the basic steps to starting vegan intermittent fasting:
- Create a sustainable guide: Take a look at your life, your work hours, and your habits. Do you tend to snack around lunch? Do you skip breakfast a lot? Can you go without food for a long time or do you get crabby quickly? For most people, the 16:8 diet is the easiest diet to stick to, eating around the hours of 11 am – 7 pm.
- Adopt it slowly: There's no need to "jump in at the deep end" and make your body think it's suddenly going to starve to death. If it works better for you, try starting with a 10-hour or 12-hour eating window before dropping down to the 8-hour window. Similarly, if you're doing the 5:2 plan, try it as a 6:1 diet at first.
- Set a review date: Set an end date for your fasting, whether it's 2 weeks or 2 months from now. If you haven't gotten the results you were hoping for by then, perhaps intermittent
fasting isn't the right eating plan for you.
- Plan your food: Okay, the whole point of fasting is that you shouldn't meal plan too much. However, if you're eating a raw vegan or plant-based diet, you need to seek out nutrients and fiber-filled meals which will minimize your hunger and malnutrition during any fast periods.
Who Should Try Vegan Intermittent Fasting
- Vegans who want to lose weight and get toned: Fast vegan weight loss is indeed possible with fasting, making it easier for you to lose weight and get the body you desire.
- Vegans who want to improve their performance at the gym: Studies suggest that intermittent fasting boosts growth hormones by as much as 500%, making vegan gains easier than ever in the gym.
- Vegans who want to develop better eating habits: Some vegans eat unhealthy food absentmindedly. Plant-based intermittent fasting forces you to develop healthier eating habits.
Who Should Not Try Intermittent Fasting
- Vegans who are pregnant or breastfeeding: If you're a vegan who is pregnant or breastfeeding, you should not be experimenting with diets and fasting methods. Your baby is growing and is relying on you for a steady flow of nutrients.
- Vegans who are diabetic: Although some sources claim that fasting could help with diabetes, it is generally recommended that diabetics should not fast, as the process could disturb their blood sugar levels.
My Personal Results from Intermittent Fasting on a Vegan Diet
I have fought a constant battle with weight throughout my life, bouncing around from fad diet to fad diet.
After turning vegan, I naively assumed that I would naturally turn into Kate Moss overnight, but it was not to be.
After doing some research on intermittent fasting, I decided to try the 16:8 diet because it was the one that felt the most doable for me.
I often skip breakfast in favor of early lunch, so I chose 11am-7pm as my eating window.
My day-to-day calories came to around 2,500, which is normal for your average male. I ate a selection of vegan foods in my eating window, ensuring that my body had enough energy for the period of time it would be without food.
During my fasting periods, I generally just drank water and the occasional black coffee, trying to really stick to the plan. I won't lie – I felt like I was going to die for the first few days of this diet.
However, the feeling of impending death soon passes as your body gets used to the daily fasting process.
Some of my favorite meals to eat during the eating windows were quite fiber and carb-heavy, helping me to feel full. Avocado bagels, fries, and vegan burgers were commonplace. I also drink vegan turmeric latte too.
After 3 months of intermittent fasting, I've dropped approximately 10 pounds and noticed a general increase in energy.
I'm also much less bloated and puffy than I used to be, and I've been looking more "fresh" and "well-slept" too.
You can also watch this video from Youtuber Rachel Ama where she explains her journey in intermittent fasting, the vegan way.
What Do You Eat While Intermittent Fasting?
You can technically eat anything while intermittent fasting, although it is best to stick to a healthy diet nonetheless. If you're looking to keep hunger pangs at bay, I would recommend eating high-fiber foods such as nuts, beans, and vegetables to help you feel fuller in your eating window.
Are Fasting Diets Effective?
Fasting diets are effective for weight loss according to various researchers. People on fasting diets generally consume fewer kcals on a daily basis, allowing them to lose weight over time. Fasts can also have many more positive effects on the body, such as increased energy and improved mood.
Try to take some detox tea too for faster results.
Can You Drink Coffee While Intermittent Fasting?
You can drink coffee while intermittent fasting, but we would recommend sticking to black coffee with little (or no) milk and sugar. As long as the beverage contains fewer than 50 kcals, your body should remain in its fasting state. 2 teaspoons of sugar is around 32 kcals, so you may want to consider reducing the amount of sugar/milk in your coffee when fasting.
How Much Weight Can You Lose in a Month With Intermittent Fasting?
You can potentially lose a lot of weight in a month with intermittent fasting, but the specific amount depends on you, your body composition, your current weight, and how strict you are with the dieting. Some people claim to have lost 10-20 lbs in a month by intermittent fasting, but if your body is only a few pounds overweight, then weight loss will usually be more gradual.
What’s the Safest Way to Fast?
The safest way to fast is to observe the 16:8 diet, which involves daily fasting periods of 16 hours. With this method, your body is not without food for extended periods of time, making it a more sustainable method. Nonetheless, if you ever feel ill or lethargic due to fasting, you should stop immediately and return to a normal healthy diet (3).
Is Intermittent Fasting Safe Long Term?
Intermittent fasting is safe long term, assuming that it is performed in a healthy and safe manner. Recent studies suggest that intermittent fasting has similar long-term effects to regular calorie-controlled dieting, making it a viable long-term diet for people who are looking to control their weight in the near and distant future.
What Are the Side Effects of Intermittent Fasting?
Side effects of intermittent fasting include hunger pangs, cravings, headaches, lethargy, irritability, heartburn, feeling cold, bloating, and overeating during eating windows. However, many of these side effects will become less noticeable over time as your body adapts to its new diet.
Related: Side-effects of a vegan diet
What Can I Drink on Intermittent Fasting?
When intermittent fasting, you can drink water, coffee, tea, apple cider vinegar, and sparkling water during a fasting period. However, if drinking coffee or tea, you should make them black or keep the milk/sugar to a minimum. Adding too much milk or sugar to a hot tea/coffee could take your body out of its fasting mode.
Related: Best Apple Cider Supplements
Can You Drink Diet Soda During Intermittent Fasting?
Technically speaking, diet sodas do not contain sugars and are marketed as 0 calories, so you may be tempted to gulp a can when you’re fasting. However, while they do not have any carb or sugar content, they contain artificial sweeteners, which may trigger your cravings. They do not break a fast since you’re not taking in calories, but it is best to avoid them altogether. Studies show that while they are sugar-free, they can still elevate your blood sugar levels, which goes against the science of how intermittent fasting works, as discussed above.
Will Stevia Break a Fast?
Stevia is a calorie-free sweetener, so technically, it won’t break a fast. But just like diet sodas, it may trigger your sugar cravings and may still cause an insulin response, albeit not significant. Unlike diet sodas, stevia is a natural sweetener, and thus, it is a healthier option when you’re craving sweets during a fast. You have to be mindful though, as many stevia products in the market today are being manufactured with added sugars, which may affect your insulin levels like table sugar does and ultimately ruin your fast.
How Long Should I Do Intermittent Fasting?
How long you should do intermittent fasting depends on your goals and the method you’re using. If using the 16:8 diet method, which is generally considered to be the most sustainable form of intermittent fasting, then you could continue fasting for as long as you like. Some people fast until they reach a certain weight, returning to fasting when they feel like it will benefit them.
Can You Drink Alcohol While Intermittent Fasting?
You cannot drink alcohol while intermittent fasting if it’s during a fasting period. Alcohol is high in calories, with a single shot of vodka containing 97 kcals and a can of beer containing 154 kcals. If you're going to be drinking alcohol and you want to continue with your fast, adjust your eating window and fit your alcohol consumption within it.
Is Vegan Intermittent Fasting Worth It?
Intermittent fasting results are very much the same for vegans as they are for omnivores and vegetarians.
Yes, vegans can easily lose weight, increase their energy, and improve their mood by taking up plant-based intermittent fasting with vegan recipes.
I personally lost 10 pounds over the course of 3 months, so my own testing showed good results. Yes, I was a little hungry and irritable at first, but I got past that after a few weeks.
A great way to stay hydrated while fasting, in my experience, is to make use of electrolyte drinks like Ultima Replenisher. This is especially important because it helps maintain electrolyte balance to prevent dizziness and fatigue.
Another fantastic advantage of the Ultima Replenisher is that it is free of sugar and additives, making it an excellent addition to your intermittent fasting schedule.
So, if you’re looking for a way to lose weight and improve your health on a plant-based diet, intermittent fasting could be just the solution you need.
- Kris Gunnars, BSc, What Is Intermittent Fasting? Explained in Human Terms, retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/what-is-intermittent-fasting
- Intermittent Fasting: The Choice for a Healthier Lifestyle, retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6128599/
- Ana Sandoiu, 16:8 fasting diet actually works, study finds, retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322194.php