Intermittent Fasting: Explained
So you want to know the secret to successful fat loss?
That’s good, you’ve just found it..
Intermittent fasting is and has proven to be one of the most effective methods of dropping body fat whilst being able to enjoy the foods you love, eat big, satisfying meals and have complete control of your nutrition. Do you want to get shredded? Sick of eating 6 shit meals a day out of a tupperware pot? Or just drop your body fat to a sensible level? Read on to find out more..
In this article, we’re going to cover the following:
- What is intermittent fasting?
- Types of intermittent fasting
- What are the benefits
- What the sceptics say
- Scientific backup
- My personal experience with IF
- Tracking macro’s & calories
- What are the cons
- Wrapping up
What is intermittent fasting?
IF, as it’s commonly abbreviated to is more than a diet, in fact it shouldn’t be described as a diet, it’s a lifestyle choice. Essentially, intermittent fasting is the practice of not consuming any calories from food, drink or anything else for a set time after waking.
Fat loss can only be achieved by burning more calories that you’re consuming and most people know this, it’s pretty basic knowledge. By pushing your 1st meal much further back into the day, it allows you to pack a large amount of calories into a much shorter period of time, meaning that you can eat big, satisfying meals and enjoy all of the delicious foods you love without going into a caloric surplus.
For example, you’re in a caloric deficit and you’ve set yourself a goal of 2000 calories a day. You can split it up in whichever way suits you, depending on your day such as:
- 2 x 800 calorie meals and 400 calories in between.
- 1 x 500 calorie meal and a big 1500 calorie meal
- 1 x 600 calorie meal, 1 x 600 calorie meal, 1 x 600 calorie meal and the balance in between.
As you can see, it’s a flexible system that lets you take control depending of what you’re doing that day without blowing out or shooting over your calorie goal. The variations are endless and don’t have to be fixed.
Types of intermittent fasting
As we have mentioned, this article will be geared towards the style of intermittent fasting that I currently practice and have seen results with, the waking fast method.
The waking fast method is simple, here’s how it’s done:
- Step 1 – You do not eat or drink anything upon waking (With a couple of exceptions detailed below) for a set amount of time.
- Step 2 – When you reach your desired time limit of fasting, you may break the fast and eat, but have a strategy depending on your day ahead.
- Step 3 – If you’re tracking your macro’s, you can eat and drink whatever you want until you go to sleep.
“What you eat, drink and the amount of time you fast for after waking should be dictated by several factors”
- Your lifestyle – Do you have time restrictions on when you can eat? If you do, plan accordingly. Going out with friends for dinner? Push your fast back as far as you comfortably can and eat like a king later that evening. Got a training session that day? Eat before and after to feel the anabolic effects of the food.
- Meal size – Do you enjoy eating big or small meals? Some people like to eat 1 massive meal, others enjoy 2, some prefer to eat 3 etc.. It’s up to you and your preference. You can push your fast until dinner time and have a gigantic meal, or spread the meals to be slightly smaller. I personally find 2 large meals per day with the odd snack in-between works well.
- Your body response – Some people, especially those new to intermittent fasting may struggle at first to cope without a source of calories imminently after waking up. I suggest a gradual approach for those who find it difficult. Start by pushing back your eating times by half an hour or an hour per day until you find a comfortable and manageable duration to fast.
- Food and drink – Eat nothing and only drink black coffee, green tea and water. These are essential components when intermittent fasting. Caffeine, especially coffee is a fantastic hunger suppressant and should be used strategically. For example, drink water upon waking, hold off the coffee until you start to feel hunger, when you do, make yourself a black coffee with no other ingredients such as sugar, milk or sweeteners etc. The coffee will suppress any hunger pangs and allow you to continue your fast.
- Recommended routine – Wait around 4-5 hours, sometimes 6 hours before breaking my fast, normally drinking 2-3 cups of freshly brewed black coffee and a couple of large glasses of sparkling water.
- A word of advice – Buy a good cafetiere and some decent ground coffee, it makes a world of difference. Also – stock up on large bottles of sparkling water. It doesn’t have to be the expensive stuff, just have plenty of it to hand.
“Have a strategy and stick to it”
- Going out for dinner that day? If so, you can either push your fast back and make dinner your 1st meal of break your fast with a small meal and save yourself for dinner. Who the fuck wants to be the one ordering a salad when your friends are tucking into steaks, burgers, fries and deserts?
- Going to the gym? It’s quite a good idea to focus your meals around your gym/training schedule for maximum energy and explosiveness. Personally its great to eat a couple of hours before you hit the gym and a post workout meal around an hour or so after training.
- Satisfaction – You need to experiment and find a strategy that keeps you satisfied and feeling good. There’s no use eating a huge 2000 calorie meal to break your fast if you cannot cope with hunger throughout the rest of the day. Identify how you like to eat and play to your strengths. Don’t be afraid to experiment.
- Fruit – Can be used strategically to break your fast as it can give you come instant gratification and suppress hunger whilst allowing you to push back a larger meal until later in the day.
- Productivity – Most people (and I’m one of them) find they are most productive and focused when in their fasting period. Try and get as much work done as possible when fasting and you’ll find you won’t even think about food. There are no distractions or diversions to throw you off course. No food prep, no washing or clearing up, just 100% laser guided focus on your productivity.
“You can eat whatever you want after breaking your fast, up until you go to bed.. As long as you’re tracking your macro’s”
- Eating window – You’ve probably heard of it, now forget it, it’s irrelevant to us. As long as you’re tracking your macro’s properly, you have the freedom to eat whenever you choose throughout the day, up until you go to bed.
- Tracking macro’s – Are you tracking your macro’s? If you are, well done, keep up the good work, if you’re not, you should. In fact, if you’re not tracking your macro’s and have no idea what it means, click here and read our guide on tracking macro’s as it’s an essential component to intermittent fasting. If you’re not tracking, you probably won’t see much success. Use an app like MyfitnessPal to do this.
- Satisfaction – Going to bed hungry is a nasty thing and can be completely avoided when intermittent fasting and tracing macro’s. If you find you’re hungry before bed, allow yourself some room for a late night meal or snack. You’re body will not respond any differently if you’re eating just before you go to sleep, especially if you’re eating carbohydrates as they will aid in a good nights sleep.
What are the benefits of intermittent fasting?
As well as fat loss benefits, intermittent fasting promotes various psychological benefits too:
- Keeps your body in fat burning mode for longer
- Promotes growth hormone release
- Increases productivity and gives you extreme focus when in the fasting period
- Gives you complete control of your nutrition
- Allows total flexibility and works with your lifestyle and plans
- Let’s you enjoy the delicious foods you love
- Allows you to eat big, tasty satisfying meals
- It’s so simple and easy
What the sceptics say
“Intermittent fasting slows down your metabolism”
Many people are fooled into the idea that you have to eat every 2-3 hours to keep your metabolism high in order to ‘turn your body into a fat burning machine’ however this is simply untrue. Do you really want to spend the rest of your life eating shit food, 8 times a day out of plastic tupperware? Hell no. Intermittent fasting is so simple, doesn’t have to involve tedious amounts of food prep and allows you to effortlessly lose body fat year round.
“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day”
We will call complete BS on this one. Water is the most important thing to consume upon waking as your body is in a dehydrated state, however eating food upon waking just isn’t necessary. Once you see how focused and productive you are whilst in your fasted state you’ll kick yourself for not starting IF sooner.
While it’s great to have scientific backup from studies that show the numerous benefits of intermittent fasting & caloric restriction, the real proof and research comes from people engaged in intermittent fasting every day. I’ve put a couple of links to scientific studies below, feel free to have a read.
Greg O’gallagher’s website – Kinobody
Brandon Carter – Youtube
Wikipedia page on IF – Wiki
Some interesting scientific studies on – Science based medicine
Wrapping things up
We would definitely recommend intermittent fasting combined with macro tracking for anyone who’s trying to lose body fat, get lean and take their body to the next level. It works so well for a range of people, especially when combined with a weight lifting programme. As with any kind of nutrition plan, you need to respect your body, don’t go beyond your limits, if you start to feel unwell, dizzy or compromised in any way you should eat something or back off slightly. Ease yourself in and I can almost guarantee that you’ll find it effortless in little to no time at all. For bodybuilders, make sure you MAINTAIN your required levels of protein to not effect your gains.
“As with everything, the only way to be successful is to do your research, make a plan and commit to it. Intermittent fasting has improved my life in so many ways and I’m sure it can do the same for you”
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