Intermittent fasting is one of the most popular and effective weight loss strategies, but your success is dependent on your commitment to following its strict guidelines. There are so many resources online, each one promising to help bring you closer to your weight loss goals. Truth be told, intermittent fasting is no easy feat because, generally, it means you can only eat something during your open window. But, once you understand what you cannot and can do while at it, the experience becomes easier to manage.

Regardless of the type of IF plan you are adopting, the rules are the same. Here are intermittent fasting guidelines that you should never forget when on this type of weight loss diet.

1. Choose an open window that best works with your lifestyle.

Don’t just randomly choose a 20:4 IF diet if you know you can’t cope. To be safe (and if it’s your first time), start with the 16:8 plan, which means fasting for 16 hours and giving yourself 8 hours to eat. If you work during the day, the best time to schedule your 8-hour window is 12 noon to 8 p.m., so that you are asleep and unaffected for most of the hours during the fast. You can definitely adjust the start times to match your usual schedule.

2. Load up on fluids during your fasting times.

The best drinks to consume during fasting hours is water, black coffee and unsweetened tea. You can have as much as you want of these without breaking your IF diet. Hold off on milk and other types of sweeteners.

3. Feasting on your open window means eating healthy.

Just because you’re given a window to eat, that doesn’t mean that it’s time to feast and binge on anything. The point of the window is to load up on essential nutrients to help keep you going for the rest of the day. While you shouldn’t be depriving yourself of good food, be sure that it has less refined carbs and sugars and more of the complex types of carbs and protein. You can definitely consume as much fruits and veggies as you want.

4. You don’t have to work out if you do not have the energy, but you will have to squeeze some moves in from time to time.

Fasted workouts are a recipe for disaster—and it’s also not a good feeling. Weight loss is largely a factor of what you eat, so exercise and getting your heart rate up is a means of support. Work out when your body has grown accustomed to the IF life and don’t push it until you are truly ready.

Salad Plate
IF is a serious commitment and will deliver amazing results if you really stick to the program. Pictured: Plates of roasted baby beet and radish salad are served. Getty Images/Ethan Miller

5. The key is to stay consistent.

IF is a serious commitment and will deliver amazing results if you really stick to the program. It’s not a miracle weight loss method, though you will see that the pounds will drop faster than the other types of diet plans. Intermittent fasting will succeed if the rules are followed and you continue to take care of your body (and your sanity) while at it.

6. Keep yourself busy and distracted.

When you are preoccupied about other things, the less likely you are to think about food—so the temptation to munch on something will be smaller. Often, the snacking habit is just that—a habit— and is not related to hunger. Stay focused and amply distracted during your fasting period so you don’t find yourself reaching out for a brownie.