With so many health benefits, intermittent fasting is a popular way to lose weight. And with its increasing popularity comes a whole lot of conflicting information.
Take clean fasting vs dirty fasting as an example. While some fasting experts tell you a clean fast is the only way to go, others swear by their dirty fasting results. So which approach is better?
Keep reading to learn which approach is better, how to fast clean, and some of my best clean intermittent fasting tips so you get the best results with your fasting plan.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
When I refer to intermittent fasting, I’m talking about a form of time-restricted eating where you maintain a fasting window, followed by an eating window.
There are a variety of different fasting routines to choose from. Plans vary based on your weight loss goals and intermittent fasting experience. Some popular fasting plans include:
- 16:8 – a 16-hour fasting window, followed by an 8-hour eating window.
- 18:6 – an 18-hour fasting window, followed by a 6-hour eating window.
- 20:4 – a 20-hour fasting window, followed by a 4-hour eating window.
Those are just a few different ways you can choose to fast. Always choose whichever fasting combo is right for your body and desired results. Keep in mind, more is not always better when it comes to hours fasted.
If you’re brand new to intermittent fasting, a great place to start is with a basic 12 hour fast. While you may not witness immediate fat loss from this eating pattern, this can be the best approach to ease your body into fasting without too much stress. That’s important since stress can negate any fat loss that longer periods of fasting bring.
We teach our Keto Decoded members to start with 12 hours, and then increase the hours fasted as you feel ready.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Beyond weight loss, there are a ton of health benefits of intermittent fasting. Some of the benefits include:
- Regulates hormones, including lowering insulin levels naturally.
- Increases longevity.
- Repairs cells through autophagy.
- May increase belly fat loss, or other hard to reach areas.
- Can speed up fat burning.
- Increases in human growth hormone.
- Reduces the bad cholesterol, including LDL and triglycerides.
- Lowers your risks of certain diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, some forms of cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Some fasting experts say you’ll only achieve the benefits of an intermittent fasting lifestyle with a clean fast. Others say it’s OK to live a little with zero calorie drinks and foods with less than 100 calories during the fasting period.
So who’s telling the truth?
Clean Fasting vs Dirty Fasting
Before you learn the best intermittent fasting approach, you need to understand the differences between clean and dirty fasting. While the definitions of both approaches vary depending on who you ask, let’s talk about the basic rules of each fasting style.
What’s A Clean Fast?
The most basic definition of a clean fast is when you abstain from food entirely during the fasting window. You should also limit fasting liquids consumed to plain water, black coffee, and some teas. Electrolytes are also permitted as long as they don’t contain any sweeteners or additives.
Let’s expand a little on the definitions of what’s allowed since this topic can get confusing.
How to clean fast – only include the following in your fasting window to keep your fast clean:
- Water: which includes plain water, sparkling water, seltzer water, mineral water, and club soda. Make sure all forms of water remains unflavored.
- Coffee: this only includes plain black coffee with no sweeteners or creams.
- Unsweetened Tea: plain tea brewed from dried tea leaves, such as black tea, green tea, and oolong tea.
- Minerals, Electrolytes and Salts: as long as they don’t contain additives or sweeteners, such as an electrolyte drink mix.
If you drink black coffee or any of the teas mentioned during your fasting period and feel hungry soon after, then these fasting liquids also should not be included in your fasting window.
Even though most people can get away with plain coffee and bitter teas while fasting, keep in mind we all respond in different ways. If you have high cortisol, for example, the additional cortisol spike that comes with caffeine could cause an insulin spike for you.
Medications and Vitamins
The only thing we haven’t touched when it come to a clean fast is prescribed medications, supplements, and vitamins.
First off, I want to remind you that I am not a doctor. You should ALWAYS talk to your doctor when a medical condition exists. This is especially important when you add longer intermittent fasts, as this is not the right approach for all medical conditions.
With that said, if your doctor tells you that you need to take specific medications during specific times, listen to your doctor. Also, read the medication instructions since some medication should be taken with food.
The same thing goes with vitamins and supplements. Some supplements are better absorbed with food, such as magnesium and the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Others are better taken away from food – such as Vitamin C.
While I can’t speak to every supplement you may take, if a supplement contains calories or a sweet taste, it’s best to take it during the feeding window unless specifically instructed otherwise.
If you take the digestion supplements I often talk about, those should all be taken with food to help you digest your meal. The only exception is Ox Bile. This needs to be taken before bed, and at least 2 hours after your last meal if you take additional doses during the day.
What’s A Dirty Fast?
While you can read more about dirty fasting here, a dirty fast is when you consume anything with a sweet taste, or that has calories, during your fasting window.
Consuming foods with calories (yes, even foods under 100 calories), or zero calorie drinks that contain sweeteners will lead to an insulin spike. That’s when things get dirty.
The only exception to the if it has calories it breaks a fast rule is coffee. While this drink has 2-5 calories per cup, it doesn’t break most people’s fast due to a bitter taste.
Anything that spikes insulin breaks a clean fast, such as:
- Eating – obviously caloric foods are a no-no, but even zero calorie foods are off limits since chewing starts the digestion process, which causes insulin to rise.
- Chewing Gum – both the sweeteners and the act of chewing leads to an insulin response.
- Naturally Flavored Foods and Drinks – even natural flavors can lead to an insulin release. This includes flavored water.
- Artificial Sweeteners – anything with sweet tastes tells your body to release insulin, even if it has zero calories. This includes diet soda.
- Breath Mints and Sprays – these use flavorings and sweeteners that trick your brain into thinking food is on the way.
- Flavored Teas – while some people can get away with bitter teas, herbal teas with a sweet flavor are off limits.
- Protein – even low calorie foods that include protein, like bone broth, turn off autophagy.
- BCAAs – steer clear of branch chain amino acids or other protein containing supplements.
- Healthy Fats – while some people swear by bulletproof coffee, adding healthy fats like MCT oil or coconut oil isn’t part of a clean fast. Remember, your body will always burn the fat you consume prior to stored body fat.
Why Keep It Clean When You Can Fast Dirty?
Now that you understand the differences between clean fasting vs dirty fasting, you’re probably planning all of the fabulous ways to cheat on your fast. After all, a little cream in coffee never hurt anyone, right?
Even though most people still believe weight loss is all about calories in vs. calories out, nothing could be further from the truth. True weight loss comes down to healing your hormones, especially when you show signs of insulin resistance.
That’s the magic of intermittent fasting – it can help you regulate hormones, which in turn leads to easier fat loss. And when you take the time to heal, it’s also sustainable fat loss.
According to Obesity Code author Dr. Jason Fung, even small spikes in insulin virtually turn off fat burning. All of the dirty cheats listed above are ways to raise insulin, even if the increases are small, as is the case with bulletproof coffee.
Beyond the weight loss aspect, you could also turn off the healing effects associated with intermittent fasting, such as autophagy and increased human growth hormone.
While some people get results with dirty fasting, it’s a battle that is often hard fought. Even though you think small cheats help you stay compliant, it’s actually makes the fasting process much harder. After all, all of those small insulin spikes can lead to ravenous hunger. Plus, a lot of people report slow-to-no results with a dirty fast.
Being ravenously hungry and no results to boot? Why fast dirty when it’s so much easier to clean up your act?
Dirty Vs Clean
In the event you’re still not convinced, here are some intermittent fasting accounts from experienced fasters who’ve done it both ways. Many talk about how much fasting sucks when keeping small treats in their day, and how much easier (and faster) the process became once they changed their dirty ways.
How The Dirty Fasters Felt:
- I was quite restless, plus food always on my mind. Forcing the fasting period until the end was always a difficult task.
- Constantly drinking diet soda during my fast left me hungry all day long. I was an addict and didn’t want to give it up, but it made it difficult to stick with fasting since my hunger never settled down.
- I thought it was OK to fast with flavored La Croix since I saw some initial success. Still, I was always hungry – which meant I always gave up my fasting routine after a month or two.
- Whenever I attempt to dirty fast, my body lets me know since my energy levels plummet.
- I resisted a clean fast by adding cream in my coffee and chewing sugar-free gum all day long. While I did lose weight, my cravings and appetite were almost unbearable. Other health problems like eczema, exhaustion and inflammation did not improve until I went clean.
Once They Switched to A Clean Fast:
- I had zero success with intermittent fasting with keeping diet soda in my plan. Once I quit the diet soda, I lost 5 pounds in one week.
- Clean fasting made all the difference in my hunger levels during the fasting period. It was so much easier to stick out my window until the end once I switched. Plus, I’ve experienced accelerated weight loss and feel more at peace.
- No more uncontrollable cravings or struggle with hunger once I made the switch.
- I finally began losing weight consistently since switching to a clean fast. I have so much energy and never felt better!
Intermittent Fasting Tips
If you’re ready to finally come clean, let’s talk about some basic water fasting tips to help you succeed with a clean fast.
Pick Your Plan
Start Small: Even though you want results, and you want them yesterday – one of the best things you can do is start slowly and work your way up as you feel ready. Reaching for a 24 hour fast right away only serves to stress you out.
Start somewhere between a 12-14 hour fasting window, and then add small increments of time as you feel ready. Soon enough that 24 hour fast may be in reach.
Try Circadian Rhythm Fasting: This approach is when you eat your main meals during daylight hours. Avoid meals very late or very early in the day. Push your fast until lunch (once you work up to that), and stop eating at least 2-3 hours before bed.
Don’t Limit Calorie Intake: Attempting to eat fewer calories during your eating window in the name of weight loss can cause more problems than it solves.
First thing – weight loss isn’t a math equation. Secondly, if you don’t eat enough nutrients during your eating window, it will be harder to make it through your fasting window. Plus, if your body feels like it’s starving during the fasting and feeding window – that’s a great way to gain weight, even while eating less food.
Eat Healthy Foods: Only during your feeding window, of course. The more nutrient dense foods you consume during your eating window, such as a high quality protein and nutrient rich vegetables, the easier your fasting time will be since your body has the nutrients it requires to function. Eating junk food during your eating window doesn’t have the same effect, as it can lead to cravings and excess hunger during your fast.
Helpful Fasting Liquids
Drink Hot Water: While this sounds strange, warm water can have a very calming effect on your mental state during fasting. It can also help fill your stomach so you don’t feel hungry.
Sparkling Water Helps Too: As long as you find an unflavored sparkling water, the carbonation can help you feel fuller during your fast.
Drink Black Coffee or Tea: Caffeine can help most people stave off hunger longer. Keep in mind this isn’t right for everyone, especially if your have high cortisol or adrenal fatigue. But if those hormones are regulated, caffeine that doesn’t contain added sweeteners will help most people fast longer.
Buyer beware when it comes to your favorite coffee shop. Many baristas automatically add sweeteners to some coffee drinks, including iced coffee at Starbucks.
Keep Electrolytes in Check: Intermittent fasting can lead to a loss of important electrolytes you need to function. Stock up on the minerals you need with clean electrolytes that don’t contain added sweeteners. Even adding a high quality sea salt to water or under your tongue can make it easier to extend your fast.
The Ultimate Fat Burning Combo
Follow A Keto Diet: Even though some people can lose weight just by limiting their eating window, fasting is So. Much. Easier. when you eat foods that make it easier to get into ketosis in the first place! You know, foods you find on a keto diet.
If keto is the hairy, scary monster you’ve been avoiding – learn how I finally lost 100 pound with a combo of a low carb diet I love, plus fasting! Hundreds of other women finally lost weight with the Keto Quick Start Course, even when nothing else worked – so it’s definitely something to consider.
The Keep It Clean Wrap Up
Even though the idea of a dirty fast may sound appealing, it’s important to remember important things happen during the fasting period that aid in healing and weight loss. Interrupting certain processes, such as ketosis and autophagy, with dirty fasting can lead to less weight loss and a more difficult fasting period.
Since even small insulin spikes can halt fat burning, it’s just not worth the quick dopamine hit you get from cheating on your fast. This is why a clean fast is always recommended, even if you have to start with a smaller fasting window and work your way up to a longer daily fast overtime.
Even if you truly believe dirty fasting works better for you – give a clean fast a try for at least a few weeks. I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
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