While intermittent fasting remains one of the most popular eating patterns, you are wondering if it is possible to combine it with a vegan diet to lose weight. Or perhaps you are a vegan and now looking to start intermittent fasting to boost health.
Choose a diet plan rich in proteins, fibers, and micronutrients like iron and iodine. Including supplements and fortified foods in the diet, keeping fasting periods short in the beginning, choosing a fasting approach carefully, planning meals ahead of time, and having a review date in mind can make your experience successful.
Intermittent fasting on a vegan diet requires careful planning and is not for everyone. This article dives into intermittent vegan fasting to equip you to practice this diet plan correctly.
Vegan Intermittent Fasting Helps Lose Weight
One of the primary reasons someone would like to practice intermittent fasting is to lose weight. Obesity is a pandemic worldwide, especially in the developed world. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) data, nearly 74 percent of the US population is obese or overweight .
While most claims are anecdotal, they are not entirely baseless either. Overweight and obesity are also significant problems for vegans, as up to 30 percent of vegans and semi-vegetarians suffer from these conditions . That is why intermittent fasting and vegan diets are gaining widespread popularity [3, 4,]. While most claims are anecdotal, they are not entirely baseless either.
Many experts believe vegan and vegetarian diets are viable options for preventing and treating overweight and obesity . First, vegans tend to have lower BMI (body mass index) and are thinner than nonvegans (6). In addition, literature on vegan diets and weight loss supports these claims [7, 8, 9, 10].
Similarly, plenty of research suggests intermittent fasting helps lose weight [11, 12, 13, 14]. As a result, intermittent fasting has become extremely popular for weight loss since it is practical, simple, and inexpensive to practice . However, research is needed to understand the combined effect of a vegan diet and intermittent fasting on weight loss.
How To Practice Intermittent Fasting On A Vegan Diet
Although several different approaches to intermittent fasting exist, they all boil down to either dividing the day or the week into periods of eating and periods of fasting.
Some of the common protocols include:
- The 6/8 Approach: Involves 16 hours of fasting and 8 hours of eating daily. While fasting, you can only consume non-caloric beverages, including coffee, herbal tea, water, etc. People usually skip breakfast and eat between 12—8 or 1—9 p.m., 8 hour window period.
- The 5:2 Approach: In this approach, you usually eat five days a week but restrict your caloric intake to 500 (females) or 600 (males) during the remaining two, which are typically non-consecutive.
- Eat-Stop-Eat Approach: It involves fasting for 24 hours straight once or twice a week; for example, fasting between one lunch and the next.
- The Alternate Day Fasting Approach: Involves eating normally one day and fasting the following, usually reducing your calorie intake to 500 or less.
Most people consider the 6/8 approach the easiest and the simplest. Skipping breakfast is not very difficult, and there is the added benefit of overnight fasting.
Some Tips To Practice This Diet Pattern The Right Way
While intermittent fasting on a vegan diet is similar to regular intermittent fasting, the only difference is the food you eat during your eating window. Since vegans risk various nutritional deficiencies like vitamin B12, vitamin D, iron, zinc, and calcium, in the first place, making smart food choices is crucial [17, 18, 19].
You must make a diet plan that takes care of your macronutrients like proteins and fats and micronutrients like calcium and iodine. If you are ready to practice intermittent fasting on a vegan diet, here are a few pieces of advice you should keep in mind:
- Taking a vitamin B12 supplement is the minimum, but you should not forget vitamin D, iodine, and calcium [20, 21].
- Keep your work, lifestyle, hobbies, and leisure time in mind while choosing your intermittent fasting approach.
- Start slowly and increase your fasting time incrementally to give your body enough time to adjust to the new routine. For example, fasting for 12 hours instead of 16 a day or restricting calorie intake once a week instead of twice or the alternate day.
- Opt for supplements and fortified foods to meet your nutrient needs. Since you will have access to food for a limited period, make sure you eat nutrient-rich foods, so you do not feel starving during fasting.
- Plan your meal ahead of time to ensure your meal is as nutrient-dense as possible.
- Drink plenty of water during fasting. Drinking cold water thirty minutes before meals also helps lose weight [22, 23]. You can also try calorie-free drinks like tea and black coffee during fasting hours.
- Set a target and keep a review date in mind so you know whether intermittent fasting is working for you or not.
These are not absolute rules but suggestions on how to move forward. You can change or omit some of them for convenience or better results.
Eat These Foods To Meet Your Nutrient Needs
Since plant-based foods are the only source of nutrients for your body, ensuring you eat the right food is crucial. In addition, the benefits of this diet plan depend upon what you eat during the eating window. Thus, it becomes essential to choose healthy and nutritional foods even more.
When practicing intermittent vegan fasting, opt for the following foods:
- Vegetables: Eat iron and calcium-rich vegetables such as leafy greens, spinach, kale, mustard greens, and broccoli to prevent deficiency of these nutrients. You can even break your fast by taking non-starchy soups like broccoli and cucumber that improve digestion and make you feel full without providing calories. When practicing intermittent vegan fasting, opt for the following foods:
- Nuts And Legumes: Nuts like walnuts and almonds are rich in omega-three fats (the good kind), while legumes like lentils and black peas are low in carbohydrates but loaded with proteins, vitamins, and minerals like iron and calcium and help satisfy your daily needs of these nutrients.
- Whole Grains: Whole grains like oatmeal, millet, and brown rice take time to digest. Hence these are the best option to keep you full for a long while.
- Fruits: Fruits like citrus fruits, berries, and avocados provide nutrients like vitamin C but also fibers and maintain your satiety during fasting.
- Micronutrient-Rich Foods: Foods such as dark green vegetables like spinach, flax and pumpkin seeds, watermelon, sunflower, cauliflower, nuts, and legumes are good sources of micronutrients like calcium, iron, zinc, and selenium.
However, take supplements or fortified foods if you suspect any nutrient deficiency.
Why Vegan Intermittent Fasting Is An Excellent Idea
Being a vegan is more than just following a diet plan. It is a lifestyle, a moral framework against all forms of animal exploitation and cruelty. It is not that vegans do not like meat; instead, they believe the enjoyment they get is not worth the pain caused to animals. And this is the highest form of virtue.
Besides the moral component, a vegan diet also offers several health benefits. Research also finds intermittent fasting an excellent diet plan to improve health. Therefore, their combined effect on boosting health may be even more significant.
Some of the benefits of intermittent vegan fasting include:
- Improves sugar control: Both the vegan diet and intermittent fasting reduce blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity [24, 25, 26].
- Promotes heart health: Although independently, intermittent fasting and a vegan diet encourage heart health in several ways, such as reducing cholesterol levels [27, 28, 29, 30].
- Reduces inflammation: Inflammation is the root cause of several chronic diseases, and intermittent fasting and a vegan diet reduce inflammation [31, 32, 33].
- Lowers cancer risk: Various animal and human studies suggest intermittent fasting, and a vegan diet significantly reduce your risk of developing cancer [34, 35, 36].
Proceed With Caution And Beware Of The Risks
While intermittent vegan fasting is an excellent idea overall, and most people can benefit from some form of this diet plan, it is not everyone. It is not recommended for:
In addition, although it is uncommon for intermittent fasting to cause any nutritional deficiency, it may exacerbate an existing one, especially in vegans. O beware of these risks,
Intermittent fasting on a vegan diet combines the benefits of two diet plans and offers several health benefits. When starting this diet pattern, make a plan, start implementing it slowly and keep a review date in mind.
While intermittent fasting and vegan diets offer great benefits individually, they are unnatural for the human body, and your risk of nutritional deficiencies increases. So make sure you take fortified foods or supplements to compensate for the lack of these nutrients.