How to Safely Practice Intermittent Fasting for Detox + Weight Loss when You're Vegan
By Guest Blogger: Christina Sarich
You’re already getting incredible health benefits from eating a plant-based, vegan diet, but you can give your body a little extra boost by incorporating intermittent fasting. This practice can help you to detox at a cellular level. You’ll also lose weight in the process.
Why is Intermittent Fasting So Popular Right Now?
Intermittent fasting or abstaining from eating food for a specific period offers a lot of flexibility other than just a simple dry fast or “not eating.” Intermittent fasting isn’t starving yourself, but it does require that you drastically reduce calories for a certain time – be it part of a day, or several days – so that you can reset your entire body. For people who already eat a plant-based diet, you are naturally cleansing all the time.
This is because many foods like green, leafy vegetables, or beans and legumes are helping to clear out excess toxins from your bowels, your liver, and even your cells and muscle tissues.
Anytime you eat chlorophyll specifically, it is cleansing your cells, but even as a vegan most of us don’t eat 100% healthy all the time. This is why an intermittent fast is a perfect way to do some deep Spring cleaning.
Though intermittent fasting shows up on just about every health-related website you see these days, it isn’t a new practice. People have taken a voluntary break from eating since antiquity by individuals all around the world. Books on both ethnology and religion outline many different practices which amount to intermittent fasting, and no matter the spiritual reasons, there is sound scientific research that suggests this practice is good for both the mind and the body.
Intermittent fasting does a few things that are incredibly beneficial:
Resets your metabolism
Lowers your insulin levels (preventing insulin resistance)
Helps to break down carbohydrates faster in the body
Boosts your immune system
Clears brain fog, and improves other neurological disorders
Improves most physiological markers for major diseases
Reduces unhealthy cholesterol and lipid levels in the blood
With these essential benefits, you can see why people are interested in trying a fast, even if it is a short one.
Types of Intermittent Fasting
There are many ways to do a fast. The most important thing to know is that this is a temporary act. You should not starve yourself for too many days at a time because the health benefits start to diminish and you can trigger hormonal imbalances from fasting too often.
Try fasting for a brief time the first time you do it, and be sure to get your doctor’s o.k. before you do a more lengthy fast.
Here are a few types you can practice:
1. Leangains Protocal – This type of fast is also known as the 16/8 Method. It was popularized by a few different fitness celebrities, but it’s been practiced for hundreds of years. You simply restrict eating to an 8 hour window, and fast for the rest of the day (including while you sleep) so this is one of the easier intermittent fasts to try.
Women seem to do better with a slightly larger window of 10-12 hours, and then fasting the rest of the day.
This also doesn’t give you carte blanche to eat a bunch of junk during your non-fasting hours. You should stick to clean, healthy vegan foods when you do eat. While you are fasting you can still have water and herbal teas. It is best not to drink caffeine while you fast because too much can interfere with your detoxification pathways.
2. The 5:2 Diet – This intermittent fast is much more challenging. You eat normally five days of the week, and on two days of the week, you restrict your diet to between 500 – 600 calories. An apple has about 95 calories. A handful of raw, mixed nuts has about 200 calories, and one avocado has about 322 calories, and that’s about all you’d eat in a whole day.
3. Eat-Stop-Eat – This is a popular intermittent fast due to its flexibility. You eat regularly most days of the week, but throw in a 24-hour fast one or two days a week to reset. If you are extremely active, this can be a good fast to practice because it isn’t advisable to do heavy physical activity on a fasting day. You can save your “resting” day from the gym to do a fast or even a partial fast and still reap the benefits.
4. 16:8 – This is one of the most sustainable approaches to fasting. You fast within a 16-hour window, and keep your calorie consumption within the other 8 hours of the day. Since most of us should be sleeping for 7 to 9 hours a night, this means that part of your fast is completed as you rest.
5. 20:4 or the Warrior Diet – This fast is named for the warriors who used to have to eat all their calories within a very short window so that they could head out to the battlefield again. All of your calorie consumption happens within a 4-5 hour time block, usually at dinner time, but you can eat within any 4-5 hour window that you like.
Will Intermittent Fasting Help Me Lose Weight?
Intermittent fasting can help you to lose weight faster in a few ways:
1. Your metabolism speeds up while. When you do a fast you speed up your metabolism so that you literally burn calories faster.
2. Your inflammation response goes down. Many people don’t realize that an inflamed gut will cause strange food cravings, more frequent illness, and the alteration of hormones that cause you to feel full when you eat. Fasting helps to reduce chronic inflammation of the gut, but also of the entire body.
3. Intermittent fasting reduces stubborn belly fat. When you practice intermittent fasting it also seems to target belly fat.
4. You keep more lean muscle while you burn fat. Intermittent fasting causes you to burn more adipose tissue (fat) rather than eat away your hard-earned muscles.
Why Vegans Might Benefit Even More from Intermittent Fasting
If you already eat a primarily or fully plant-based diet, then you are eating clean. This puts you at an advantage over people who are metabolizing toxins from animal products.
Even if you eat all-organic, plant-based foods every day, the toxins you are exposed to in your air water, and soil, as well as those in building materials, carpets, paint, furniture, and even personal care and cleaning products still need to be detoxed from your body.
One of the easiest ways to detox is by taking a break from eating. This allows the body to take a break from digesting food and assimilating nutrients so it can focus on cleaning out the garbage.
If you don’t eat meat, your body at least has the benefit of not having to expel toxins that come with that dietary choice, but it doesn’t mean that you don’t need to detox at all.
Anyone living in the world today, even in the most remote, pristine environment, is likely exposed to more toxins than their grandparents and great grandparents where due to the industrial revolution and the tens of thousands of chemicals that have been dumped into the environment since the early 1900s. It is for this reason that intermittent fasting can benefit vegans just as much, if not more, than people who still eat meat.
Keeping Your Fast Safe and Easy
To make your fast (which is also a natural detox) as safe as possible:
- Drink plenty of water. Be sure to drink plenty of liquids to help the cellular debris and chemical toxins (including heavy metals) exit your body as quickly as possible.
- Give yourself plenty of time to rest. Detoxing can take a toll on your energy levels. Even though it doesn’t feel like you are doing anything special, your body is very busy when you are fasting, so give yourself time to relax and rest. During a fast you shouldn’t be doing anything especially tiring.
- Avoid a “healing crisis.” A Herxheimer reaction or healing crisis can happen when you detox too quickly. When your body’s toxic elements are dying off, including everything from cellular waste to bad bacteria in your gut, it can cause you to feel sick if you can’t expel the toxins quickly enough. When you practice intermittent fasting, this is a good time to take some detox baths with Epson or Himalayan sea salt to help get rid of these toxins more quickly. This can prevent headaches, skin rashes, dizziness, body aches and flu-like symptoms that can happen when you detox too fast. As with any change in your diet or lifestyle, listen to your body. It will tell you how often you should fast, and let you know if you are going the right pace for you.
1.Hodges, R. E., & Minich, D. M. (2015). Modulation of Metabolic Detoxification Pathways Using Foods and Food-Derived Components: A Scientific Review with Clinical Application. Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, 2015, 1-23. doi:10.1155/2015/760689
2. Hutchison, A. T., Liu, B., Wood, R. E., Vincent, A. D., Thompson, C. H., O’Callaghan, N. J., … Heilbronn, L. K. (2018). Effects of Intermittent Versus Continuous Energy Intakes on Insulin Sensitivity and Metabolic Risk in Women with Overweight. Obesity, 27(1), 50-58. doi:10.1002/oby.22345
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