Intermittent fasting is a great way to gain various healthy benefits, and intermittent fasting for vegans is equally as awesome as it is for anybody else.
It has a far reaching range of benefits.
Intermittent fasting’s become so popular, with celebrities, health experts and fitness enthusiasts as well as us normal people (lol) swearing by it; but the question is: is it as good as it’s claimed to be?
This post reflects my own opinion and experience and is based on what I’ve learnt through practising intermittent fasting.
Table of Contents
What is Intermittent Fasting for Vegans?
Intermittent fasting means going a pre-determined amount of time without eating anything, whether that be part of the day or part of the week.
Don’t confuse it with juice fasting or D-toxing, both of which usually involve drinking juices or other drinks which stimulate the digestive system.
With intermittent fasting, we avoid anything which would trigger digestion, giving the body a complete break from processing the food we eat.
For a vegan, practising intermittent fasting gives the same health benefits and can be applied in much the same way as for a non-vegan.
In fact it might even be easier to practise fasting as a vegan, depending what kind of food you eat because whole vegan foods don’t produce food cravings.
If you already eat a balanced, plant based diet, which isn’t based on refined carbohydrates or processed foods, you’re off to an excellent start as you’ll already be free from the sugar cravings which come from eating processed foods, sugary drinks etc.
If your diet is based on sugary foods and drinks, the cravings can make you feel hungry in the fasting period. You may choose to look into adopting a more whole foods plant based diet before you begin.
Different Types of Intermittent Fasting
There are various different types of intermittent fasting but this post is going to focus mainly on the most popular and convenient, every-day kind of intermittent fasting, which is the 16:8.
One of the things I love about fasting is its flexibility.
It doesn’t feel like you’re following a set of rules. You just make sure you go a minimum of 16 hours without eating and the rest takes care of itself.
Here are some of the popular patterns to choose from.
Every Day Intermittent Fasting for Vegans
Most Popular: 16:8
The most popular is the 16:8, which means you fast for 16 hours and eat during an 8 hour window for each 24 hour period.
The exact hours you choose to fast are entirely up to you, but most people find it easiest to either skip breakfast or have a late breakfast.
Bring the evening meal forward to fit into your eating window and you have the 16 hours fasting, almost without noticing it.
No drastic change in your routine, (except that I used to eat really late at night before taking up intermittent fasting).
The favourite times you can choose for eating are from 11-7 p.m., 12-8 p.m. or 1-9 p.m.
My Intermittent Fasting Routine
I have a hibiscus tea and a black decaf coffee for breakfast.
Lunch is my first meal of the day and I make sure it’s after 13:00.
I then eat in the evening at around 20:00 making sure that I finish before 21:00.
So I fast from 21:00 to 13.00 p.m. giving me a total of 16 hours fasting.
Actually, I try to eat my supper earlier and my lunch later, so that the fasting window gets stretched out longer.
On weekends I often extend the fast and have my first meal at around 5 p.m. followed by a snack a few hours later, turning my fasting pattern into a 20:4 (or sometimes more).
18:6 or 20:4
You might choose to extend your fast for a longer period of eighteen hours and adopt the 18:6 routine.
It works exactly the same way as 16:8 but gives the benefits of longer fasting and a shorter eating window.
According to studies, you get all the same benefits when you fast for 16 hours, so it isn’t necessary to extend the period.
But I like it that way.
Vegan Fasting on Specific Days
Alternate Day Fasting & 5 to 2
Specific days eating a normal, balanced diet and the other days eating a very restricted amount of 500-600 calories. Normally this type of fasting is practised on alternate days or for 2 days a week.
For me, this option is a different concept to the every day fasting because you have to count calories on the eating days and in my opinion, one of the main attractions and advantages of intermittent fasting is the absence of calorie counting.
I also believe you will feel more hungry on your fasting days than you do with a daily practice because your body gets used to the routine of daily fasting.
For this reason, I will be focusing on every day fasting for the purpose of this post.
Although fasting for 24 hours is another practise considered intermittent fasting, it’s different to the every day type of fasting as your body will be hungry on the day you fast.
I don’t get hungry in my non-eating window. With the only exception of if I drink alcohol the night before.
For your health, this is still an amazing option, but for ease of adoption it doesn’t compete with the daily alternative.
In my opinion, 24 hour fasting is better done as a stand-alone, when you feel like it and daily fasting as part of your standard routine.
Intermittent Fasting for Vegans 20:4, 18:6 or 16:8
Although much of the information is the same for any type of fasting, the information below refers to the every day types of intermittent fasting listed above; the styles which are within a daily practise and do not include calorie counting.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting for Vegans
There are tons of reasons for doing vegan intermittent fasting.
You may start out because you want to lose weight or body fat. But there are so many more benefits of intermittent fasting for vegans on a whole foods plant based diet.
- Increased energy
- Decreased appetite
- Better relationship with food
- More time and less meal prep
- Stabilised energy levels
- No more ‘hangry’ – or feeling angry or panicked when you’re hungry
- Goodbye to food cravings
- Possible benefits for increased longevity
- Successful weight loss
- Fat loss
- No more calorie counting
- Cellular autophagy: recycling of damaged cells (see below)
- Clearer thinking and better moods
- Can help to combat menopausal weight gain
Tips for Successful Intermittent Fasting for Vegans
- When you first start out, choose a period of time to start when you’re not under pressure, preferably a weekend or a holiday from work. That way you can relax and not worry about fitting the fasting into your work schedule for the first few days.
- It makes it more difficult to complete your fasting hours if you’re socialising or when you’re travelling.
- You can get a headache from intermittent fasting in the beginning. This is usually from the D-tox effect. It will go away as soon as your body adjusts. In the meantime drink plenty of water to keep hydrated and let the fasting take second place until you feel better.
- If you feel you need to eat because of the headache, do – it’s better to ease into the fasting habit and not force it. As soon as your body is used to the new way of eating, you’ll start to feel better than ever.
- You should still eat a healthy balanced diet during the eating window.
- Some people report struggling with the hunger when they first start intermittent fasting but this goes away after the adaptation period. Persevere through that period and drink water or hibiscus tea to make you feel more satiated.
- If it’s difficult in the beginning, be flexible. Take a month to start experimenting with it and gradually extending your fasting period. Never make it about forcing yourself.
What Can I Eat During the Fasting Period?
While you’re fasting you shouldn’t eat or drink anything that triggers digestion, so don’t go thinking that a tiny morsel of food is too small to break your fast.
Because it will. Break your fast that is.
Anything will break your fast except for water, black teas or black coffee.
Lots of water is essential to help your body function properly and it also keeps you feeling satiated.
Does Hibiscus Tea Break a Fast?
Hibiscus tea won’t break a fast as long as you don’t put a sweetener in it.
Make the tea with hibiscus flowers and very hot water.
You can drink any herbal teas when fasting: hibiscus, ginger, fruit teas, liquorice tea, green tea, curcuma tea: whatever flavours you like, tea could just become your new best friend.
As long as you don’t add anything to it.
Hibiscus tea is also incredibly beneficial to your health, so it’s well worth including in your daily diet. In fact, you may be surprised by these 6 impressive health benefits of drinking hibiscus tea.
You can also make herbal tea or hibiscus tea in advance and chill it in the fridge to serve as a delicious glass of iced tea.
Does Coffee Break a Fast?
And finally black coffee.
You don’t want to start drinking too much coffee so I recommend you opt for decaffeinated and only have coffee as a breakfast replacement or so.
I only drink decaffeinated coffee and I have a few cups in the morning and one after my first meal of the day. That works well for me.
Will I Feel Hungry During Intermittent Fasting?
One of the surprising things about intermittent fasting is that your appetite decreases.
You disentangle from food and you’ll stop getting cravings. It’s quite incredible when you experience it, and it frees up so much time in the day!
Not to mention reducing your shopping costs.
In your eating window eat as much as you need and remember to focus on what you eat , not on how many calories.
Eat a healthy balanced diet with plenty of vegan protein. For more information on that, take a look at this easy guide to a whole foods plant based diet.
How Does Vegan Intermittent Fasting Work?
Normally your body burns carbohydrates to convert into energy and when there’s an excess, it gets stored as glycogen in the liver and in the muscles, or as fat in the body.
When eating a normal, high carb diet throughout the day (with no fasting periods) the body is waiting for that regular intake of carbohydrates to convert to energy.
So when you don’t eat on time you get those hunger pangs, causing all those symptoms like rumbling stomach, irritation, hunger etc.
Some people feel faint when they get hungry. But that’s when you’re burning carbs from your meal for your energy.
When your body goes without food however, insulin levels drop and the body switches over to start burning the reserves which it has stored as fat or glycogen.
This effectively means that while in fasting mode your body will begin to burn fat as a way of making energy as fuel for your daily activities.
And that means you won’t get those hunger pangs because you’re receiving the energy you need from utilising glycogen and burning fat.
Once you’ve gone through a few days at the beginning, you’ll start to notice that you just don’t get hungry anymore.
The fasting period is a natural no-eat zone, with no suffering or struggling because your body is now efficiently burning fat instead of waiting for you to feed it carbohydrates for energy.
The change in your relationship with food in astounding. You can go from literally spending most of the day thinking about and/or planning food, to being completely liberated from it.
Added to this, because you have a limited eating window you will most probably eat less calories than you ate before.
The Sugar Trap
If there’s one thing that can sabotage the easy application of intermittent fasting for vegans it’s when you depend on high sugar processed foods for your nutrition.
Apart from being less healthy than whole foods, these types of foods cause cravings. Sugar creates addiction.
Interestingly, you might think you crave a glass of wine in the evening, when in realty it’s your body craving the sugar in the wine.
So to get the best out of intermittent fasting, try adopting a whole foods plant based diet and just see how those hunger cravings vanish.
Alcohol and Intermittent Fasting
Alcohol will break your fast. If you’re going out celebrating with a few drinks one evening, it’s better to eat food with the alcohol you drink and forget about your fast for that evening.
Drinking alcohol on an empty stomach is not only bad for you, but it has nothing to do with fasting.
Also, if you have a heavy drinking session one evening, you are more likely to wake up hungry in the morning. Let yourself eat on these occasions.
Choose to give up alcohol or keep it for special occasions. The sugar in alcohol acts to sabotage your fasting period in just the same way as eating high sugar foods does.
As well as causing all the other health issues associated with alcohol.
How to Do Intermittent Fasting for Vegans
#1 First golden rule for any fasting: drink lots and lots of water. All day long, drink water.
#2 Eat properly during the eating window. It won’t speed up your weight loss if you diet in the eating window. It could even lead to obsessing over food and struggling during the fast. Eat as much as you need of a great variety of healthy foods in the food window and enjoy it.
#3 Make sure you eat plenty of high quality protein, natural fats & low carb food. The reason for this is that your body is now accustomed to switching over to burning fat, so you’re providing extra energy in your meals. The protein is essential for maintaining or building muscle and especially important for a vegan.
#4 Get used to eating balanced meals. Yummy meals like buddha bowls, nasi rice dishes, bami noodles and yummy curries are all great for your main meal of the day. If you’re not sure how to plan a vegan meal, take a look at learning how to cook without recipes, where you’ll find suggestions of how to plan a fully balanced meal.
#5 Cover your vitamin requirements. Vitamin B12 is important for everybody but especially for a vegan (read more about the astonishing effects of vitamin B12).
Among others, some great supplements are vegan omega 3 and a good quality multi-vitamin.
To determine specifically which vitamins you could benefit from, you can look at your specific profile with a nutritional health specialist or take a blood sample to check your levels.
Vegan Intermittent Fasting and Exercise
It’s important to keep your body active.
It’s so easy to become sedentary and then complain that you’re piling on the kilos.
The truth is, we were designed to be continually active, and if you remember to do that as part of your lifestyle, you’ll be far less likely to struggle with many age-associated problems.
When you intermittent fast however, it’s important to choose your exercise window carefully.
For me, doing the type of intermittent fasting I do means that I don’t really have to worry about it. In fact, I prefer to go hiking or do yoga before eating anything in the day.
But if you go a whole day fasting, then that wouldn’t be the best time to go for a run.
Yoga’s a great form of exercise to include in your life, especially if you aren’t used to going out running or to the gym. You can learn yoga from home, in the comfort & privacy of your own living room.
And when you’ve run out of inspiration on Youtube, you can join an online platform for more yoga videos.
I’ve joined Grokker, which is one of the online platforms. It’s a fun place which also includes other forms of exercise apart from yoga.
Whatever exercise you go for, try to practise it on the days when you’re eating.
Final Tips for Intermittent Fasting for Vegans
- Be easy on yourself and flexible with your rules. The wonderful thing about this lifestyle choice is that your life comes first. This just naturally slots into your (new) rhythm. For example, if you choose 11am to 7pm and then you find yourself in a situation where you’re going to meet friends at 8 p.m. for a bite to eat. You can either move your morning food to a later time, or you can just eat in a longer window on this occasion. Accept it and move on. No problem.
- I really recommend you embrace this as a way of life, not as a quick hit weight loss plan. In fact you can lose weight or you can maintain your weight. This is a sustainable way of living which you help you feel healthier and more energetic.
- If you don’t feel wonderful after doing intermittent fasting for a couple of weeks, you might want to question whether you’re making mistakes with your practice because when you get it right and if it suits you, you will feel wonderful.
- Don’t try intermittent fasting if you’re pregnant, diabetic, or have other health issues which might be negatively affected by fasting.
Vegan Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss
People report great results for weight loss with intermittent fasting but it isn’t a fast fix method and you shouldn’t think of it like that.
In the first week you may drop weight dramatically, but this is most likely to be a reduction in water retention, which will level out after the initial drop.
I lost a few kilos in a few days and then put them back on in the following week!
But I didn’t hesitate or worry about it because I knew that I felt so good on this lifestyle it was here to stay, with or without weight loss.
The good news is that after two months the scales have started to reflect the feeling I’ve had of losing fat. But that’s another story!
If you’re piling on the weight because of menopause, you may like to read 5 steps to beat menopause naturally.
Conclusion on this Guide to Intermittent Fasting for Vegans
My experience of intermittent fasting has been completely positive. My appetite is dormant. I enjoy eating when I eat and I’m completely satisfied when I’m not eating. I have no cravings and no mood swings.
Those waves of exhaustion I used to feel after eating are no longer a part of my life.
My fatigue is a thing of the past.
I’ve only been doing intermittent fasting for two months now but I will write more about my experience with time.
For now, I hope you give it a try and I hope you have as much success with it as I have.
Are you going to try intermittent fasting? Or do you already do intermittent fasting, and if so what has been your experience? I’d love to hear about your thoughts in the comments.
And don’t forget to follow me on Instagram @loveveganliving.