Have you ever heard of intermittent fasting? In the past year I have seen this technique come up many times so for the past month I’ve been researching and experimenting with it on my own.
What is intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting (IF) is a pattern of eating that alternates between periods of fasting (usually meaning consumption of water and sometimes low-calorie drinks such as black coffee) and non-fasting. — (Wikipedia Source)
Basically IF consists of “eating periods” as well as “fasting periods” where you don’t eat. You will eat all of your daily allotted calories in your eating window.
This goes against the whole EAT 5-6 SMALL MEALS A DAY theory that has been proven to be successful over and over again. It is a new way to look at dieting by giving your body a break with daily fasts.
You will dedicate a specific window of time each day to be your fasting hours (which always should include your sleeping time) and another window for your eating hours.
What is a good intermittent fasting schedule?
When I started experimenting with IF, my schedule was this:
Fast – 9pm – 1pm
*Take 10-15g BCAAs 15 min before workout.
Gym – 12-1 pm (Try to hit the gym right at the end of your fast)
*End Fast with a whey protein shake
Eating Period – 1pm – 9pm
My fasting period was 16 hours and my eating window was 8 hours. Basically what this means is that I’d skip breakfast every day and always workout at lunch, which would be the end of my fasting period. You will see the best results if you workout at the end of your fast so that you’re burning more fat this way.
Why take BCAAs when intermittent fasting?
The reason you take branch chain amino acids (BCAAs ) right before your workout is to prohibit the chance of any muscle breakdown during your workout. It’s better to feed your muscles some protein prior to your workout so they can continue to grow through fasted strength training. If you didn’t have any BCAAs prior to your fasted training, you may not have the energy needed to build and your body wouldn’t be as efficient when trying to gain lean muscle and target fat.
A study conducted by the University of Rochester showed that metabolic rate didn’t decline until 60 hours of fasting…and the reduction was only 8%. In fact, research has demonstrated that the metabolism actually SPEEDS UP after 36-48 hours of fasting. In other words, a 16 hour fast is not going to start breaking down your hard earned muscle. On another note, true starvation won’t actually start to occur until 72 hours without food (but NEVER NEVER NEVER try to go that long!! That was just for informational purposes!)
Does Intermittent Fasting work?
I have seen several people have great results with IF. Dr. Sara Solomon is one as well as Martin at LeanGains.com. As with any other dieting or workout technique, you have to experiment and see if it works for YOU since everyone is different.
This technique may work for some and may not work for others. In my situation, I had no problem skipping breakfast as my work days are always so busy in the morning that it actually made my life EASIER by not having to prep my breakfast meals.
It was also awesome to be able to have BIG meals in the afternoon as opposed to my normal small 5-6 meals a day. I finally felt FULL!
Throughout my experimentation though, I found myself leaning towards more unhealthy choices because I kept thinking I had to get all my calories in a short window. This led me to have more cheat meals than I normally would have. Now that was totally my own experience and may not happen to you, but I admit that I was also not as focused as I could have been.
I’m going to continue experimenting with IF as I do see the benefits that fasting has on my body. Whenever I do one of my 24 to 48 hour cleanses, my body LOVES me after it so I know this would be beneficial if I stayed more strict with it.
If you give this technique a try, be aware that it will take some time getting used to.
Just remember, just because you’re fasting for 16 hours a day…doesn’t mean that you aren’t eating. You need to eat ALL of your daily calorie requirements in your shorter window for eating. Do NOT restrict yourself as your body needs the calories and the balanced nutrients in order to build muscle and in return, shed fat.
Here are some more tips on Intermittent Fasting, brought to you by Lean Gains!
Key points by Lean Gains.
* No calories are to be ingested during the fasted phase, though coffee, calorie free sweeteners, diet soda and sugar free gum are ok (even though they might contain trace amount of calories). A tiny splash of milk in your coffee won’t affect anything either (½-1 teaspoon of milk per cup at the most – use sparingly and sensibly if you drink a lot of coffee). Neither will sugar free gum in moderation (~20 g).
* The fast is the perfect time to be productive and get things done. Don’t sit around, get bored and brood about food.
* Meal frequency during the feeding phase is irrelevant. However, most people, including me, prefer three meals.
* The majority of your daily calorie intake is consumed in the post-workout period.
* The feeding window should be kept somewhat constant due to the hormonal entrainment of meal patterns. We tend to get hungry when we’re used to eating and maintaining a regular pattern makes diet adherence easier. If you’re used to breaking the fast at 12-2 PM and ending it at 8-10 PM, then try to maintain that pattern every day.
* On rest days, meal one should ideally be the largest meal, as opposed to training days where the post-workout meal is the largest meal. A good rule of thumb is to make meal one on rest days at least 35-40% of your daily calorie intake. This meal should be very high in protein; some of my clients consume more than 100 g of protein in this meal.
* When working with clients I am always open to compromising on the above rule. If your preference is to eat a larger meal in the evening instead of noon, or whenever you break the fast, it’s no great harm. Some people prefer to save the largest meal on rest days for dinner with their family instead of having a large lunch and that’s fine by me if it makes them enjoy and adhere to their diet better.
* Macronutrients and calorie intakes are always cycled through the week. The specifics depends on the client’s ultimate goal: fat loss, muscle gain or body recomposition. The details will be revealed in the book. Generally speaking, carbs and total calorie intake is highest on training days. On rest days, carbs are lower and fat is higher. Protein is kept high on all days.
* For fasted training, BCAA or an essential amino acid mixture is highly recommended. However, if this feels like too much micromanaging or simply questionable from an economic standpoint, you could also make due with some whey protein. The importance of protein intake prior to fasted training is outlined in this and this post.
* People sometimes ask me which protocol is best. I tend to look at things from a behavioral perspective first and foremost, so my reply to that is to choose the protocol best suited to your daily routine and training preferences. When dealing with clients I make the choice for them. If you work a 9-5 job and your only option is to train after work, training fasted is generally a bad idea and I always choose the one or two meals pre-workout protocol.
* Even from a physiological perspective, each protocol has it’s own strengths and theoretical benefits. With “physiological perspective” I mean in terms of nutrient partitioning, fat loss and muscle growth. This deserves an article on it’s own. I have some interesting and compelling arguments that I think are very unique.
What do you think of Intermittent Fasting? Does it work for you? Have you tried it?