Should vegans intermittent fast? Isn’t just giving up meat and dairy enough for our health? Intermittent fasting combined with a vegan diet can have amazing health and well-being benefits. Find out how this long-time vegan has benefited by adding intermittent fasting to her lifestyle!
Vegan Intermittent Fasting? Reasons to Intermittent Fast as a Vegan
Back in 2012 I went vegan for the animals, but found the health benefits of this lifestyle to be pretty amazing as well. My vegan diet helped me to…
- Lose 20 of the 40 pounds I had gained since my mid 20’s
- Lower my cholesterol
- Eliminate joint pain and inflammation
- Say goodbye to daily sinus headaches
BUT I still couldn’t lose the last 20 pounds (probably because vegan food is so DELICIOUS). AND I still couldn’t get my “genetically high” cholesterol to below “borderline high” levels of 200.
So when I first heard about intermittent fasting, I was intrigued….and being the nutrition nerd I am, I quickly….
- Bought ALL the books I could find on intermitting fasting
- Watched all the YouTube videos
- Listened to all the podcasts
BUT I was so discouraged to learn that most people who were intermittent fasting were advocating a high fat, low carb diet. Or they were on the keto diet. Others were on the carnivore diet (the last thing a vegan wants to hear about – meat meat meat).
I joined a couple of vegan intermittent fasting Facebook groups, but they both had strict diet rules – either macro counting or eating a vegan raw food diet. And I couldn’t see living the rest of my life this way. These just weren’t sustainable lifestyles for me.
BUT I decided to try intermittent fasting as a vegan anyway – withOUT giving up my carbs or counting macros.
I was so happy to discover that intermittent fasting combined WITH my vegan diet WORKED. AMAZINGLY SO. By combining intermittent fasting combined WITH my vegan diet I was able to:
- Watch the last 20 pounds of weight melt off of me effortlessly (while still enjoying my vegan cupcakes and Vegenaise – well….not together!)
- Lower my cholesterol levels to the healthiest levels yet
- Increase my energy
- Sleep better than ever
- Enjoy clearer and more focused thinking AND
- Consistently save time AND money (this was an unexpected BONUS!)
And ALL these benefits came simply by changing WHEN I eat… not WHAT I eat
So I can confidently say, I will ALWAYS be vegan and I will ALWAYS intermittent fast.
First off….what exactly IS intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is simply a pattern of eating for a specific period of time, and then not eating for a specific period of time. You fast every day when you sleep….with intermittent fasting you are just choosing to extend that fast, either before your sleep or (more commonly) after you wake up.
Intermittent fasting is not a diet, and it is not about deprivation or starvation. It is simply about changing when you eat, not what you eat. It does not put your body into starvation mode, and (when done correctly) actually raises your metabolism.
So in addition to all the reasons I listed above, here are the 4 main reasons I intermittent fast as a vegan….and maybe you too will want to give this lifestyle a try!
1) There are a lot of delicious vegan foods out there….and it’s easy to gain weight. Intermittent fasting helps. A lot.
This post isn’t about fat-shaming vegans (or anyone for that matter). But I know that I feel better when I weigh less. Even losing just a few pounds can make a difference. And my ideal weight is determined by ME and how I FEEL in my body. (It’s not based on what someone else says I should weigh.). And I know when I am at my ideal weight, I just overall feel better.
And there are a LOT of amazingly delicious vegan foods available these days – pretty much a substitute for everything you ate before you went vegan! And a lot of these foods are high in fat and sugar, but low in nutrition. And that’s because vegan junk food is just as unhealthy as non-vegan junk food.
And although I studied plant-based nutrition – and I know HOW to eat an incredibly healthy plant-based vegan diet – I don’t always make the healthiest choices. I am vegan for the animals first and foremost. And I still like to enjoy a vegan cupcake or a Beyond Burger with French fries at my favorite vegan restaurant. (And on that note, you will also always find a jar of Vegenaise and Myoko’s Butter in my fridge!)
What I have found with intermittent fasting is that it gives me a little “breathing room” when it comes to eating not-so-plant-perfect. When done correctly, intermittent fasting speeds up fat burning and your metabolism and helps you lose weight – and keep it off – in a safe and sustainable way.
Intermittent fasting has helped me reach my perfect weight and MAINTAIN my perfect weight – effortlessly. When I started intermittent fasting as a vegan I was surprised how fast I adjusted to my new eating schedule. And I was surprised how easily I lost weight – simply by changing when I eat, not what I eat.
2) Intermittent fasting helped lower my cholesterol – more so than just my vegan diet alone
I first found out I had borderline high cholesterol as a freshman in college, at a campus health fair (yep!!….it’s not just a problem for the middle-aged and older – it starts young). High cholesterol is the precursor of cardiovascular disease (including heart attacks and strokes)…so we do not want our cholesterol levels to be high.
Going vegetarian in my 20’s didn’t help because I was still eating dairy and eggs – and they were adding more cholesterol into my body. So when I finally transitioned to a vegan lifestyle – and gave up ALL animal products – I figured my cholesterol problems would be gone.
While my cholesterol DID drop a little – from 250-ish to 220-ish – I still could not get my cholesterol to 200 or below – the “magic” number according to most doctors (although plant-based doctors will usually recommend your total cholesterol levels be at 150 or below!!). My doctors would tell me my high cholesterol was likely caused by my genetics – and that I would eventually have to start taking a statin (a cholesterol-lowering drug).
So if I wasn’t eating animal products, why wouldn’t my cholesterol levels go down? It turns out for SOME people, excluding animal products helps, but just isn’t enough. Processed foods (vegan or not!) that contain tropical fats (such as palm and coconut oil) can also raise cholesterol. And these are often found in vegan cheese, vegan butter, and other vegan foods. So if you’re a vegan who doesn’t eat a 100% whole food plant-based diet (with NO processed foods or added fats and oils), your cholesterol can remain high too.
When I started intermittent fasting in 2019, I was not expecting it to lower my cholesterol. But it did. My cholesterol dropped to 165! What?! My doctor asked if I had eliminated all oils and processed food from my diet. Nope. I told her that the only thing I had changed was that I started intermittent fasting. “Keep fasting”, my doctor told me.
According to some studies including this one, intermittent fasting improves cholesterol levels by helping to raise your HDL (or “good”) cholesterol and lowering your LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol. (More studies are needed, however, as it hasn’t been determined if the reduced cholesterol is from the weight loss that can come with intermittent fasting, or if the improved cholesterol is caused by other metabolic changes that occur when fasting.)
3) Intermittent fasting has changed my relationship with food
I used to be obsessed with “my next meal”. And “my next meal” was always only a couple of hours away.
I found myself constantly planning food for the day. What will I have for breakfast? Where will I pick up lunch? What’s for dinner?? And snacks!! Coffee drinks!!
I was eating all. day. long. It was time-consuming. It was expensive. And honestly, half the time I was eating, I wasn’t even HUNGRY. I was only eating out of habit and routine.
When I worked in the corporate world, I always made a giant smoothie to drink in the car on the way to work. In morning meetings my stomach would rumble and make embarrassingly loud noises (“that wasn’t MY stomach!?”).
When I started working from home, I had more freedom to eat when I wanted to. I kept to my “feeding schedule” for a while, but soon I realized I wasn’t even hungry in the morning. Why was I forcing myself to have a giant smoothie at 7 am? And then a granola bar at 10 am to “tide me over” until lunch??
I then realized that my stomach wasn’t growling in those meetings because I was hungry. I think my stomach was ANNOYED with me! It didn’t want or need food. It was an upset stomach….not a hungry stomach.
With intermittent fasting, I don’t eat anything until around noon or 1 pm. I still have my giant green smoothie (because it’s delicious and healthy!), I’m just having it when my body is ready for it. I still might have a mid-afternoon snack, and then a delicious dinner, and maybe even dessert. But after that, I am DONE eating for the day. So if I’m home, typically that means by 6 pm I am done eating, and my overnight fast starts – until I break my fast (break-fast!) around noon the next day. But, this is a LIFESTYLE and it is flexible, so if something comes up I – dinner with friends, or Sunday brunch! – I will break my fast earlier in the day, or eat later into the night. But most of the time, I do try to aim for a consistent and daily intermittent fasting schedule, as that is what feels best to my body.
I normally don’t get “hungry” while fasting, because my insulin (blood sugar) AND hunger hormones (including ghrelin and leptin) have all stabilized – thanks to intermittent fasting. And when I DO get hungry, I am GENUINELY hungry, and I eat! With intermittent fasting, I now know what real hunger feels like (versus stuffing my face according to a schedule).
And my body is HAPPIER and HEALTHIER because I am giving it a break from digesting food all day long. It can take on more important matters (like going into autophagy – see benefit #4 below!!), instead of “constantly cleaning up after” me (as my mom used to say!). 🙂
4) Intermittent fasting and autophagy
What is autophagy? And how the heck do you pronounce it? (It is pronounced aw-toff-uh-jee)
When we intermittent fast consistently, our bodies go into a state called autophagy – which is Greek for “self-eating”. And that’s exactly what it is….this may sound gross but when you stop eating for a lengthened period of time, your body goes into self-preservation mode and actually starts eating itself. But what this actually means is that our bodies start to consume damaged and diseased cells and recycle them into new and healthy cells. We want our bodies to go into autophagy.
What are some of the benefits of autophagy? By clearing away and repairing damaged cells, autophagy can help:
- Prevent diseases such as cancer, diabetes, muscular dystrophy, Alzheimer’s Disease, and Parkinson’s Disease
- Build and restore muscle
- Slow the aging process
- Reduce inflammation and boost immunity
- Helps with brain function and health
Plant-based (vegan!) foods such as turmeric, ginger, Ceylon cinnamon, ginseng, garlic, coffee, green tea, pomegranate, elderberries, and some mushrooms (such as Chaga and reishi) are thought to increase autophagy. But the easiest way and most reliable to get your body into the state of autophagy is to consistently intermittent fast.
How to start intermittent fasting
The easiest way to start intermittent fasting is to decide today that right after you finish your last bite of food, you are now starting your FAST. This means you will not eat or drink anything – other than plain water – until tomorrow.
Try to fast for at least 12 hours. (So if your last bite of food was at 7 pm, you will not eat again until 7 am in the morning.) Just 12 hours of fasting will help to ensure the food you have eaten is properly digested. Your body will also have time to start burning any excess fat you might have as fuel, which will trigger weight loss. And you will likely sleep better, as your blood sugar levels will be stable and your body won’t have to work hard while you’re sleeping to digest food.
Eventually – to gain the most benefits from intermittent fasting – you should work up to fasting for at least 16 hours a day (leaving you 8 hours to eat all your meals). Remember….intermittent fasting is not about deprivation or restriction. It’s not about WHAT you eat, it’s about WHEN you eat.
Disclaimer: Results may vary. The information contained on this page and this website are for informational purposes only. No material on this page on this website is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen such as intermittent fasting, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this page or this website. Please read the full Medical Disclaimer for more information.
If you like this post, you might also find these interesting: