The first thing you need to know about Intermittent fasting (IF) is that it is a lifestyle change and not a diet. It is a method in which you eat within a set period of hours during the day (“fed” state) and fast for the rest. For example, the most popular split of the fasting and feeding window, and the one that I have been following for a few years now is the 16:8 split. Essentially what you are doing here is eating during an 8 hour window and then refraining from eating or ingesting anything that has calories in it for the next 16 hours. How this works is, I typically eat my first meal at 12 noon and finish my last meal at 8 pm. After that I am in a fasted state for the next 16 hours until 12 noon the next day. You can choose a time window that suits your lifestyle. If you would like to have your first meal at 2 pm and last meal at 10 pm, that’s fine too. So the feeding and fasting window will be of your choice.
6 am: Wake up
6.30 am – 8.30 am: Train
8.30 am – 12.00 pm: Continue fast
12.00 pm: Break fast with first meal (post workout meal)
4.00 pm: Small snack
7.00 pm-8.00 pm: Second and last meal of the day
8.00 pm onward: Fast
Depending on how I feel in terms of energy, I might have a have a cup of black coffee to help with the workout.
What about my post workout shake?!?
Enough studies have shown that the “window of opportunity” after your training where you need to consume protein in order to maximise muscle growth is much larger than initially thought. You don’t necessarily need to consume your protein shake within 30 minutes of your workout. While there are some very minor benefits to consuming a post workout meal, you will not notice the difference unless you’re a competitive bodybuilder or the like. It is more important to hit your calorie and macro targets over the course of the day.
What can I eat or drink during the fasting period?
For many fasting means you can drink milk, eat fruit etc. But putting anything that has calories in your body will get you out of the fasted state because as soon as you ingest calories your body produces insulin. The aim of the fasted state is to not cause any insulin spikes whatsoever and this means consuming 0, yes zero, calories. So during the fasting window you are allowed,
- Black coffee
- Black/green tea
You will not be including anything that has sugar, sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, molasses, palm sugar, coconut sugar, jaggery etc. Essentially nothing that has any calories in it. Some people consume BCAAs during the fasted state but even though as per nutrition label norms it says 0 calories, technically they do contain calories and causes an insulin spike in your body. If you want to know what fasting is in general and the benefits of fasting, you can read about it here.
How does IF aid in fat loss?
When you have a shorter window during which you consume calories or are in a “fed” state the tendency is to eat fewer calories as it is harder to overeat over a shorter period of time. The body goes into a fat burning state only when all the glucose and glycogen stores in your body are depleted, which is generally around 12 hours after your last meal. So by being in a “fasted” state for 16 hours after your last meal you give your body a window of opportunity to burn fat.
Take care that just because you’re following an IF lifestyle it doesn’t mean you can eat how much ever and what ever you want and you will magically lose fat. You still need to be in a caloric deficit if you want to lose fat. What IF does allow you to do is eat larger, more satisfying meals (since you’re eating over a shorter window) and if you combine it with IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros) you could have a sustainable form of eating for a fit lifestyle. If you want to know more about how to combine IF and IIFYM, let me know and I will put up a post about it.
But, wont fasting slow down my metabolism?
In the IF protocol you will be consuming your daily caloric needs according to your macros. The only difference is that you will be consuming this within a set window of 8 hours instead of eating throughout the day. Since you are consuming your daily required calories your body will burn these and maintain its metabolic rate.
It has largely been proven that consuming 5-6 small meals a day does not increase your metabolism and neither does consuming just 1 large meal slow down your metabolism. By consuming more meals or snacking, what does happen is you have more insulin spikes and this could potentially reduce insulin sensitivity.
Will I lose muscle on IF?
Short answer, no. Any time you’re in a caloric deficit, you run the risk of losing muscle whether you’re doing IF or not, especially if you want to drop weight fast and create too large a caloric deficit. Having said that there are ways to mitigate this. One way would be to create a small caloric deficit of around 200 calories while continuing to weight train. Some studies have also shown that IF increases human growth hormone (HGH) which contributes to building and preserving muscle.
How do I start Intermittent Fasting
The easiest way to try IF would be to start by skipping breakfast and having lunch a little earlier. You can then start pushing lunch later little by little till you are having your first meal at the beginning of your planned “fed” time, be it 12 PM or 2 PM. So you might start off with a 12:12 fast:feed protocol and then slowly work towards a 16:8 fast:feed protocol. I started off directly with the 16:8 protocol as I didn’t have a habit of eating breakfast anyway but your mileage may vary. The important thing is to listen to your body and go by what you feel comfortable with, there are no hard and fast rules. If one day you feel hungry earlier for whatever reason, just go ahead and break your fast.
Benefits of IF
- You spend much lesser time planning meals
- Aids in fat loss and helps to maintain ideal body weight
- Some studies have shown that it helps in the prevention of certain chronic diseases like diabetes and even cancer in some.
- A lot of people also claim improved mental focus while in a fasted state.
Difficulties with IF
- The only drawback when following IF is socialising. This is any case an issue if you’re trying to eat right and eating 4-6 meals a day. When you have a dinner or a party to go to, I recommend that you give IF a break that day and just continue the next day. If you are good 80-90% of the time the remaining 10-20% will really not matter much.
If you have any questions or need more information on how I follow intermittent fasting, get in touch or comment below and I’ll get back to you.