So you want to learn about intermittent fasting huh?
If you have thought about doing intermittent fasting, then you’ve probably faced these questions:
Should you skip breakfast?
What intermittent fasting protocol should you follow?
Is intermittent fasting even right for you?
Well, don’t fret, you’ve landed in the right place.
This article will teach you everything you need to know about intermittent fasting. The different protocols, the pros, the cons, who’s it for, who should avoid it, and how to get started.
By the end of the article, you’ll have all the information you need (including the how-to) to make a decision on whether starting on an intermittent fasting protocol is right for you.
Ready? Let’s dive in.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting refers to any type of diet that cyclically restricts feasting and fasting periods.
To put it in plain words, when you do intermittent fasting, you eat all your food in a small window of time, and then you spend the rest of the time, well, not eating anything.
So it’s not a diet per se, but more of an eating protocol.
In plain speak: you make a conscious decision to spend a certain amount of time each day without consuming any calories.
Let’s talk about the most common protocols.
Intermittent Fasting: The Protocols
There are different protocols and several ways in which you can benefit from intermittent fasting, so let’s look at the most common fasting protocols:
The 24 Hour Fasting Protocol
This type of protocol is great if you’re on a fat loss diet, and have very little daily calories.
It consists of spending a full day (24 hours) without consuming any food.
For example, let’s say that on any given day you eat your last meal of the day at 8:00 pm. On this protocol, you wouldn’t eat again until 8:00 pm the following day.
But it doesn’t necessarily have to be from dinner to dinner. You can fast from breakfast to breakfast, or from lunch to lunch.
Let’s say you eat breakfast on Monday, then you don’t eat anything until breakfast on Tuesday.
This gives you a whole lot of extra calories to add to the rest of your week.
You can do the 24-hour fast once per week, twice per week, or whatever suits your lifestyle better.
With this protocol, you can add a full day’s worth of calories to your week, or simply have a day where you have double the calories. For example:
Let’s say that you’re on 1300 calories per day. By skipping 24 hours worth of eating, you can choose either to have a 2600-calorie day, or spread around those calories and have six 1500-calorie days.
It’s up to you to distribute those calories in any way you wish.
The Lean Gains Method
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16-hour fast/ 8-hour feast
Now, out of all the methods, this is my favorite because it reduces the chances of muscle loss.
The lean gains method was developed by Martin Berkhan (in the picture above), so I will give a quick summary of how it works.
The lean gains method basically consists of skipping breakfast, eating large meals, and training hard.
Sounds awesome, right? Now let’s get more specific:
In this protocol, you skip breakfast and do a 16-hour fast (counting the hours that you sleep), and then eat all of your meals in an 8-hour window.
You could reverse this and eat in the morning and fast in the evening, but it’s socially easier to stick to it when you skip breakfast.
A couple more details about this protocol. Martin explains that your diet should be high in protein, it should cycle carbs (high carb/low fat on training days, and low carb/high fat on rest days), you should train fasted, and your biggest meal should come right after training at 1 PM.
Oh, and he recommends consuming 10 grams of BCAAs right before training.
To summarize: On the lean gains method, you eat your last meal on Monday at 9:00 PM, then you fast until Tuesday at 1:00 pm, and you exercise around 11:00 am right before your first meal. Then you can have 2-3 more meals and repeat the fasting protocol.
Your last meal should be high protein, high fat, low carb.
20-hour fast/ 4-hour feast
This method consists of fasting for 20 hours straight and then eating all of your meals in a 4-hour window.
Most people prefer to have the feasting period in the evening so that they can enjoy larger meals with family, in social events, or after training, but it’s up to you to decide whether you want to feast in the evening and fast in the morning, or vice versa.
The 5:2 Protocol
2 Low-Calorie Days / 5 High-Calorie Days
With this protocol, you have two very low-calorie days followed by five higher calorie days.
Which Protocol Is For You?
It depends. You can try a 4-hour eating window, or a 6- to 8-hour eating window.
(Hint, hint. You can basically fast for as long as you want).
You can try a 16- to 24-hour fast.
It’s a matter of experimenting and finding what you like the most and what works best with your current lifestyle and goals.
If you’re just starting out, I’d recommend an easy protocol. The lean gains method works well for most people.
Once you get used to fasting for 16 hours, then you can try something a little more aggressive, like a 24-hour fast.
I wouldn’t recommend fasting for more than 24 hours because the chances of losing muscle increase.
Here are two examples:
1- 16/8: Lean gains protocol.
2- 12-hour and 24-hour fasts.
Why And How Does Intermittent Fasting Work?
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Plain and simple.
The number one rule to lose fat is to be in a calorie deficit. If you’re not in a deficit, you will not lose weight/fat.
[Calorie Deficit: You’re in a calorie deficit when your body is not receiving sufficient calories from foods and drinks to meet your energy demands, so it must break down tissue to make up for the missing energy. This condition is also called hypocaloric].
Why intermittent fasting?
Many people struggle to get themselves in a calorie deficit to lose weight, and that’s where intermittent fasting comes in.
Intermittent fasting places restrictions upon your life that make it more likely for you to get into a calorie deficit.
By reducing the number of hours in which you can consume food, the likelihood of consuming fewer calories is greater, and weight loss might become easier.
I use the word “might” because it’s possible to not lose weight when you fast, and it’s possible to gain weight while you fast if you eat more calories than what you burn.
If you fast for 16 hours, but then you eat nothing but high calorie/low volume in your eating window, then you’ll still struggle to lose weight.
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Let’s get into actual numbers:
In the example above, skipping breakfast will allow you to have larger meals at the end of the day, which will leave you feeling satisfied and will also have you consuming fewer total calories.
Just by skipping breakfast, you can save 500 daily calories. And when you eat 500 fewer calories per day, you’re very likely to shed some fat and lose some weight.
In fact, 1 pound of tissue has around 3500 calories, so to lose 1 lb. per week, you need a 3500 calorie deficit over a week, which can be achieved via a 500 daily calorie deficit.
And all of this can be done if you skip breakfast.
Sounds cool right?
Well, it is:-).
But before we continue I need to clarify something:
Many intermittent fasting zealots can swear that the protocol is some kind of magical thing that will bring you superpowers, so I want to talk about the things that intermittent fasting is NOT:
3 Things Intermittent Fasting Is NOT
Many people think intermittent fasting is superior, or magical in a way, but really, it’s just a simple way to consume fewer calories (if your goal is to lose fat), so I want to talk about some of the things intermittent fasting is NOT:
1- Intermittent Fasting Is NOT Superior For Fat Loss Than a Normal Diet.
Many people claim/think that since you spend more time without food in your body, then you will burn more fat.
But that’s not true.
In the end, fat loss is caused by being in a calorie deficit, and the deficit itself is what makes you lose fat and weight, not the fact that you’re fasting.
This is negated by the fact that you can gain weight and fat even while doing intermittent fasting IF you consume a surplus of calories.
The bottom line? You can lose fat with a normal eating schedule as long as you make sure that you get yourself in a calorie deficit.
That said, the rules that intermittent fasting place on your life might make fat loss easier for some people.
It’s simple: if you have fewer hours to eat, then it’s more likely you’ll eat fewer calories.
2- Intermittent Fasting Is NOT More Anabolic To Muscles Than a Regular Diet
Intermittent fasting does cause you to release more Human Growth Hormone (HGH), which is a hormone that’s highly anabolic to muscle.
I can almost hear you thinking:
“Aha! I knew it! Intermittent fasting will help me grow more muscle because I’ll release more HGH.”
Not so fast. I have some bad news for you.
Human Growth Hormone is anabolic ONLY when there’s abundant protein and calories. So if your goal with fasting is to raise human growth hormone levels, the absence of nutrients will completely cancel out all of the potential muscle growth benefits.
Give it some thought.
Are you going to get bigger and grow muscle by not eating? Sounds a bit silly.
3- Working Out in a Fasted State Will NOT Make You Burn More Fat
Fasted training is not superior to training after consuming calories.
And this might be shocking for you, but fasted training is actually inferior to feasted training.
Why? Well, can you see yourself completing an intense leg workout that requires you to do sets of 10-15 squats, followed by sets of leg presses?
You might die if you try this.
Eating sufficient carbs and protein before training is a very good idea.
You already know what intermittent fasting is not, so now let’s talk about some of the downsides to intermittent fasting.
The Ugly Truth About Intermittent Fasting
As you may already imagine, not all is pretty about intermittent fasting. It does have some downsides.
So let’s break each one down:
1- Adherence Might Be Difficult.
Some people might enjoy fasting, some people might hate fasting.
Evidence does not show an increase in adherence over a regular diet in the long term.
That doesn’t mean it’ll be the same for you; it’s just what the research shows.
You might love it or hate it, and the only way to know is by trying it.
3- Over Indulgence And Fat Gain Is a Possibility
You can still gain fat if you overindulge during the feasting window.
At the end of the day, for fat loss, you want to create a calorie deficit.
2- The Transition Period Will Be Tough
Personally, I haven’t fasted, so these words are coming from talking to experienced fasters and from doing research.
The initial transition from eating on a regular schedule to intermittent fasting might get tough, but it’ll only last a few days.
After the initial jolt, your body will adapt to the new fasting/feasting routine.
4- Breaking your current habits will be difficult
Humans are creatures of habit.
Habits make us, and changing habits is incredibly difficult, but not impossible. If you want to start an intermittent fasting protocol, you’ll have to retrain your body to NOT want food every few hours.
Later in this article, we’ll tell you the best/easiest way for you to get started on an intermittent fasting protocol.
5- You Might Get Hungry And Lethargic
A lot of people feel hungry and lethargic when they start on an intermittent fasting protocol, but that’s mainly related to a lifetime habit of eating every couple of hours.
And the effect seems to go away after a few days.
6- It’s Not The Cure To All Body Problems
You need to understand that Intermittent Fasting is NOT the solution to all of your nutrition problems.
If you skip breakfast but then go on to eating 4,000 calories worth of ice cream, milk shakes, and pumpkin spice lattes, you will not lose weight.
Like I mentioned earlier, the main benefit of intermittent fasting is that it makes it easier for anyone to get into a calorie deficit by reducing the eating window
If you have a history of struggling with portion control and of binging, then it might be a good idea to track your calories and macros even if you’re fasting.
Now that you know what intermittent fasting is and isn’t and the negative side of it, let’s talk about why intermittent fasting could work for you and the positive aspects of it.
Let’s start by busting some common myths that are floating around…
Busting The 4 Most Common Reasons Why People Think Intermittent Fasting is Bad
There are many naysayers that speak lies about intermittent fasting, and my goal with this article is not to convince you to try it but to present all the evidence to you, so that you can make an educated decision about whether to try it or not.
So here are the most common reasons why people think intermittent fasting is not good and evidence of why they’re just NOT true:
#1 Intermittent Fasting Slows You Down And Eating More Meals Will Boost Your Metabolism
There’s this recent trend where people think they need to eat a bunch of meals per day to “boost” the metabolism.
But it really doesn’t work like that. More meals do not boost the metabolism more than 2-3 meals. The most important variable you can control when it comes to improving your body composition is the number of calories you’re consuming.
The relationship between the energy consumed via foods and drinks versus the energy used on your daily activities is called energy balance.
And your energy balance will ultimately determine whether you lose or gain weight, there are three states when it comes to energy balance, and you can only be in one at a time.
Positive energy balance: when you consume more calories than what you burn, this leads to weight gain.
Neutral energy balance: when you consume the same amount of calories that you burb, this leads to weight maintenance.
Negative energy balance: when you consume fewer calories than what you burn, this leads to weight loss.
Here’s a visual:
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If you want to alter your bodyweight — whether to gain or lose weight — then energy balance should be your top priority.
#2 Breakfast is The Most Important Meal Of the Day
Well, this is not true at all.
Skipping breakfast has no effect on total weight loss, so the idea that it’s “better” for fat loss is not true.
As you already know, the main driver for bodyweight alterations is energy balance, not whether you eat or skip breakfast.
So, you can effectively skip breakfast, and you will be okay — nothing will happen to your metabolism.
#3 Intermittent Fasting Increases Cortisol
This is a good one.
But the funny thing is that the complete opposite happens.
A study did a comparison between 1 meal/day to 3/meals a day, and found that the participants eating once per day saw a significant decrease in the concentration of cortisol levels.
So, fasting will have no negative effect on your cortisol levels. In fact, it will actually reduce them.
#4 Intermittent Fasting “Burns” Muscle
This point is still debatable. Studies have found no difference between regular dieting protocols to intermittent fasting protocols when it comes to lean mass retention.
One study even found that individuals who practiced fasting retained more muscle than individuals who didn’t.
But still, my common sense tells me the opposite, and if I were to do a fasting protocol, I wouldn’t fast for more than 16 hours to lower the chances of muscle loss.
This is my opinion: if you spend long periods of time without feeding protein to your muscles, I believe you will have some degree of catabolism, and this is probably more likely for longer fasting periods.
It might not be a big deal, and for some people, the tradeoff will be worth it, so if you only care about getting a bit leaner, improving your health, and looking a little better, then fasting might make things easier on you.
But if you’re an individual who competes in physique sports, fasting might not be the greatest idea.
I still admit I might be wrong here, but until further research comes out, I’ll let you decide
Now, let’s talk about some potential unique benefits that intermittent fasting can bring to your life.
4 Intermittent Fasting Hidden Benefits You Don’t Know About
These potential unique benefits were mentioned in a paper by Mac Nutrition University, which is one of the top authoritative figures in the world when it comes to science-based nutrition.
The benefits they talk about are:
1- Bye Bye Constipation:
Many people complain about constipation when they first start a diet, even when they eat their veggies, fruits, and plenty of fiber.
Well, for some reason intermittent fasting seems to get rid of that issue, and it seems to work with almost every protocol.
2- Perceived Hunger Vs Actual Hunger
Many people, me included and you probably as well, tend to reach for food or snacks at the slightest feeling of hunger.
Intermittent fasting helps you learn to differentiate between perceived hunger and actual hunger, which could potentially improve your relationship with food.
3- Might Improve Adherence
I know I said it might be detrimental for adherence a couple of paragraphs ago, but bear with me here. Context is important.
Some dieters freak out when they miss a meal, and when you’re on an intermittent fasting protocol, this might bring relief to them because missing a meal is not a big deal when you’re trying to lose fat.
So this benefit mainly applies to people that want to get into the single-digits body fat.
Who Is Intermittent Fasting For – And Why It Might Be Your Best Option:
Let’s do this bullet-point style:
Intermittent fasting might be a good idea for those that are…
- On very-low-calorie diets. For these individuals, eating fewer but larger meals might increase diet ease and adherence.
- Inclined to eat one or two large meals as opposed to 4-6 smaller meals.
- Busy, and don’t have much time to prep/think about food.
- In need of and want a big change in their lives.
- Traveling during a fat loss phase: weighing your food while traveling might be problematic, and an intermittent fasting approach might solve this problem.
- Trying to lose weight, but don’t want to track calories.
- Not breakfast eaters.
Also, intermittent fasting might be great to…
- Differentiate actual hunger from perceived hunger.
- Enjoy your meals more.
- Create a sense of gratitude, and respect the privilege of eating.
- Take a break from counting, tracking, and meal prepping.
If you fall into one of these categories, you might want to consider giving intermittent fasting a try. It might simplify your life while giving you a great body.
And you can always pair your fasting protocol with one of our FREE training programs. Pick yours here:
But, there’s a caveat. Intermittent fasting might not be good for you, even if you fall into one of the above categories. Let’s talk about why intermittent fasting might not be ideal — and even dangerous — for women.
Why Women Might Want To Avoid Fasting
Fasting effects on women are different than on men.
Yet, I know some women that completely love it (my gf is a fan). Here is a list of conclusions drawn by Dr. John Berardi from Precision Nutrition, one of the leading nutrition education companies in the world. You shouldn’t try fasting if:
- you’re pregnant
- you have a history of eating disorders
- you are chronically stressed
- you don’t sleep well
- you’re new to diet and exercise
What’s more, the female reproductive system is complex, and it’s highly affected by eating patterns and energy consumption.
In general, women tend not to have high protein diets, so an intermittent fasting protocol might reduce protein consumption even more, negatively affecting fertility.
Know this: intermittent fasting will probably affect reproductive health if it becomes highly stressful for your body both physically and psychologically.
If, despite the warnings above, you’ve still decided to try it, then start with the easiest and shortest protocol, and keep your eyes peeled for any of the following symptoms:
- Menstrual cycle becomes irregular or stops.
- Sleeping patterns become irregular or are affected.
- Hair starts falling out.
- Skin gets drier or acne pops out.
- Recovery from workouts is negatively affected.
- Stress and irritability increases.
- Mood swings are more frequent than usual.
- Libido drops (and your vagege stops liking sexy time).
Then stop it. Immediately.
I know what you’re thinking:
“But this is so unfair! Why do guys get to do whatever they want and walk around ripped?”
You’re right, but maybe, from a reproductive and evolutionary point of view, your body wasn’t designed to walk around shredded.
What to do instead? Learn about proper nutrition, eat plenty of veggies, fruits, healthy fats, and lean proteins.
And if you don’t want to figure this stuff out on your own, then you can work with me 1:1 and all of your nutrition and training needs will be placed in the hands of a professional. All you’ll have to do is sit back and execute on a plan.
Is It Possible To Build Muscle While Doing An Intermittent Fasting Protocol?
F#ck yeah you can.
Let’s bring it back to energy balance. As you already know there are three states of energy balance that you can be at any given time (negative, neutral, positive).
Negative balance leads to weight loss, neutral balance leads to weight maintenance, and positive balance leads to weight gain.
To build muscle, you have to be in a positive energy balance ‘cause that’s the only way you’ll gain weight.
That means that as long as your protein intake is high enough (1 gram for every lb of bodyweight), and you’re on a proper weight training program, building muscle while fasting become completely achievable.
The only challenge I see with building muscle while fasting is that, usually, to build muscle you have to eat large amounts of food. Some people have to go up to 4000+ calories. Consuming all this food in a short window of time might become a challenge, especially if you want to stick to healthy foods.
One thing is certain: to build muscle you must get a proper training workout plan.
Intermittent Fasting FAQs
- Will intermittent fasting make me lose more fat than regular dieting? Nope. At the end of the day fat loss comes down to energy balance: the relationship between the amount of calories you spend on your daily activities and the amount of calories you consume.
- Can I eat anything I want during the feasting periods? You can do whatever you want, but if weight loss is your goal, then you still need a healthy, balanced, calorie-controlled diet. With intermittent fasting, all you’re doing is changing the frequency, timing, and size of your meals.
- Should I work out fasted? You can try it for a week or two and see how you feel. If you like it, stick to it. If you don’t like, then schedule your fasting/feasting periods so that you get a small meal before training. Don’t overcomplicate this, just give it a shot.
- What should I eat? Well, your diet should be mainly made off plenty of veggies, fruits, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Additionally, you should be eating for your goal (fat loss, maintenance, and muscle gain). Again, we come back to energy balance and calories.
- Will my body go into starvation mode? No. Starvation mode is not real. It’s just a hyped-up term used by fitfluencers. No need to worry about starvation mode.
14 Tips and Tricks about Fasting
Here’s a quick overview of some of the key concepts of Intermittent Fasting and what to keep in mind if you want to try it.
1- Start small:
If you decide to give it a try, don’t start with the toughest protocol, start with the easiest one.
The leangains method seems to be the easiest one to do.
2- Be patient
You will go through an adjustment period where hunger and cravings will be higher than usual.
Be patient. Give it at least a week to let your body adjust.
3- Always be flexible
The idea behind intermittent fasting is to make things simpler, so don’t overthink it too much.
Adopt a flexible mindset from day 1, which mean that you can’t fail. Just adjust your days and protocols according to how any particular day is developing.
4- Know your numbers
Calculate calories and macros as you would for a normal diet (might not be necessary if you have A LOT of fat to lose), but it’s always a good idea to have an estimate of calories and portions.
5- Keep your protein high
Keeping a high protein intake is one of the easiest ways to protect yourself against muscle loss and satiety.
Aim at consuming between 0.8-1.2 grams of protein for every pound of bodyweight.
6- Cycle calories and macros
Workout days can and should be higher in calories and carbs than non-workout days.
7- Stick to non-processed food
Make sure that most of your meals are coming from whole unprocessed food.
8- Most carbs post-training
Eat most of your carbs immediately after training.
9- Most of your protein and fat in your last meal
You want to make sure that your body has a steady stream of amino acids while you’re fasting, and the easiest way to do that is to make the last meal the one with the higher protein + higher fat content.
10- Pay attention to your body
How do you feel? How are you recovering? How’s your sleep?
11- Love it or leave it
Try it for 7-10 days. If you love it, keep doing it, and if you hate it or don’t like it, leave it.
12- Zero calorie drinks and coffee will be your best friend
You can drink unlimited zero-calorie drinks and black coffee. They help with cravings and going through the fasting period.
13- Eat plenty of veggies
You still need a healthy diet, and consuming plenty of veggies will improve health.
14 – Don’t expect a miracle
Intermittent fasting will not miraculously change your body.
You still need a calorie deficit if you want to lose weight.
Getting Started With Fasting
Here are some quick tips to get started:
Do a very simple/easy protocol. Even something like 16/8 might be too drastic for some people.
Start by skipping one meal 2x per week and keep track of how you feel (sleep, hunger levels, stress levels, recovery, etc).
Once this becomes easy, then you can go ahead and skip one meal for every day of the week.
And once this becomes easy, then you can maybe add in a couple of 24-hour fast periods.
DISCLAIMER: You should always consult your doctor before starting on any diet protocol, and if you follow the advice in this article, do so at your own risk.
Also, as you get started, keep track of your bodyweight. Take pictures and measurements so that you can compare progress.
The Bottom Line About Intermittent Fasting
Now you know all the facts out there about intermittent fasting.
It’s time to make a decision of whether you want to try it or not.
Here’s the truth:
If you decide to try it, give it some time and do it under the care of a professional.
If it works and you like it, then you can keep implementing it for the rest of your life. Some people love it, some people hate it.
The bottom line?
You’re on a quest to improve your body and your health. Intermittent fasting is just a tool in a toolbox, and it could be a way to make things easier for you.
And if it doesn’t work for you, there are other strategies! If you wanna explore other options, then you can book a free consultation call with me here.
Would love to know about your experience with fasting.
One more thing:
If you want to truly transform your body, then you can apply to join my private community of people that are serious about changing their body and health.