Intermittent fasting was one of the biggest diet trends of 2017 - here's what you should know if you're planning to try it in the New Year
- Intermittent fasting was one of the most talked about diet trends of 2017.
- Business Insider spoke to Max Lowery, the man behind the 2 Meal Day, to find out how you should prepare - and what to expect - if you're planning to try it in the new year.
- You can expect initial headaches and hunger pangs, but the good news is you don't have to give up alcohol or count calories.
Intermittent fasting was one of the most talked about diet trends in 2017.
There's the 5:2, where you eat what you want for five days of the week but restrict your calorie intake to just 500 a day on two days. There's also the 16:8, which sees you eat within an eight-hour period, then fast for the remaining 16. Now, there's The 2 Meal Day - as the name suggests, it requires eating just two meals in a day, either breakfast and lunch or lunch and dinner.
As Business Insider's Lifestyle Reporter, I've decided to give The 2 Meal Day a go in the new year, following what's sure to be an indulgent holiday - but first, I wanted to find out everything I need to know before I give it a try.I met up with 27-year-old Max Lowery, the former stock broker and personal trainer who published a book on the 2 Meal Day in June 2017.
Before he went through what I should expect, he asked me a series of questions on my eating and exercising habits: How many meals do I usually eat in a day? Do I snack? Do I drink alcohol? Do I take my own lunch in? Do I eat until I'm full? Do I calorie count? I quickly realised my eating habits are both sporadic and unpredictable.
"The number one misconception people have about intermittent fasting is that it's a magic pill that will solve all your problems," Lowery said. "Fasting is an incredibly powerful tool, but you have to change the way you eat first for two reasons.
Firstly, he said: "It will be a lot harder if you're not eating nutrient-dense foods because it's only when you start eating proper food full of nutrition that you will start to feel less hungry because you're nourishing yourself properly, so fasting will be a lot easier.
"And 2. If you're eating processed foods and carbs full of sugar it can have a negative effect on losing weight, even if you're fasting."
Here's how to prepare for - and what to expect from - the 2 Meal Day, according to Lowery, though many of these tips could be applied to other intermittent fasting regimes.
As you prepare, stick to three home-cooked meals a dayIn the lead-up to starting the diet, Lowery said it's important to get into the habit of eating three home-cooked meals a day, with no snacking in between. It will stand you in good stead for what's to come.
Clear out your cupboards...
Perhaps an obvious one, but to avoid temptation clear out all junk in your cupboards so that you only have fresh ingredients to make meals from scratch.
...And stock up on good ingredients
Go shopping and make sure you have certain long-term things in your cupboards that will make things easier to cook homemade meals. "Things like tuna, tinned tomatoes, chilli, olive oil, and spices should all be in your cupboards," Lowery said.
Next, pick a meal to skip, and stick to it
"Decide which meal you're going to skip and stick to it, at least at first," Lowery said. "This can be changed later down the line to fit in with your lifestyle but to help you at the beginning it's better to get into a routine."
For those on the 16:8, this could be working out what time you'll stop eating and sticking to that.
Lowery said that for most people it's easier to skip breakfast, so if you decide on that then you should have lunch when you would normally have it. Then, as your body gets used to it all, you might start to feel less hungry and eat later at 1, 2 or 3 o'clock.
Plan, plan, plan
Organisation is key to this diet so that you don't end up eating rubbish when you break your fast, so meal prep is key.
"You're either someone who does it all on a Sunday and spends about two to three hours cooking, or you overcook in the evenings." Lowery said. He usually cooks the night before but does sometimes freeze a batch on Sundays.
Be strategic with caffeine use
"I believe caffeine should be a performance enhancer, not something you use to get to a normal functioning level," he said. "There's nothing wrong with drinking a black coffee or green tea during your fasting period, as long as its for the right reasons."
But don't have it first thing in the morning, he warns, you should save it until you really need it. "Caffeine can be used as an appetite suppressant, so it makes sense to go as long as you can without it when you really think you're about to break, have a tea or coffee and you'll manage to fast for longer."
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
You need to be drinking at least two litres a day, especially when you're fasting, because you're not getting water from food, Lowery said, adding that he drinks up to four of five litres a day.
He said that at the beginning lots of people get headaches from dehydration, but there's a method for dealing with this. "If you've drunk more water and it's not working, put a teaspoon of salt into a pint of water for electrolytes which will increase the absorption rate."
You can drink - but limit your alcohol
The good news about this diet is that you don't have to cut out alcohol. In fact, Lowery warns his clients against trying to cut out alcohol as well as introducing fasting to their diets. "If you want to get the most out of The 2 Meal Day you obviously need to limit your alcohol intake," he said - and he advised me to just have it once or twice a week. "But from a lifestyle perspective it's really important to change your habits around drinking rather than just cutting it out for a month."
Lowery says that he completely transformed his drinking habits that he says were the "worst imagineable from [age] 16 to 23."
Have three meatless days a weekLowery advised to try and have at least three meatless days a week and by buying less, try to spend slightly more on quality meat when you do have it.
The same goes for fish
"If you can, go for wild salmon rather than farmed and just have it once or twice a week," Lowery said. "In this country there are different levels of pollution in fish, and generally mackerel is one of the best kinds."
Time your carbs around exercise
Your rest days should be low-carb and you should time your carb intake around your training. White bread and pasta should mostly be swapped for sweet potatoes, quinoa, and brown rice - though Lowery said he eats loads of gnocchi, but just adds loads of vegetables, like this dish above.
Don't focus on time periods
Lowery encourages his clients only to focus on the meals they're eating and not the timings of their eating period/fasted state. "No matter how disciplined you are, if you get obsessed with time periods that's never going to be a way of life," he said.
"I will often eat late at like 8 or 9 o'clock, or if I get back from Olympic lifting in the evenings, I sometimes don't eat until 10 p.m. "Eating late wont affect your weight loss but it will affect your sleep cycles."
Expect a transition period
Lowery said that as your body gets used to the new eating habits, it will go through a transition period where it goes from being sugar dependent to burning stored body fat.
"For some people it can be quite difficult for up to a week, and other people are used to it within two days," he said. "It's often a mindset thing, whether you have the confidence to believe that this is a normal thing you're doing."Headaches, lethargy, feeling hungry, stomach grumbling, and pain are all normal side effects to experience during this time. The pain is just your body releasing digestive enzymes because it's expecting food. That usually goes away after about two or three days."
He added: "Just because your stomach is empty, it doesn't mean you're hungry - and it's having the confidence to know this."
Despite how you might feel, know you're not starving yourself.
Hear Lowery's tips on fasting over Christmas in the video below: