I’ve tried every diet under the sun. High carb, low carb, high fat, low fat. I even went 28 days where my only source of sustenance came from six protein shakes per day(terrible idea – felt like I was dying and lost 5 pounds of muscle).
For me the number one reason to follow intermittent fasting is ease of adherence. The best diet in the world is useless if you quit after two weeks. There are two powerful factors that help you adhere to intermittent fasting: physiological and psychological. The physiological changes will mitigate your hunger levels and food cravings. The psychological benefit of knowing that you can eat until you’re fully satiated will give you the mental fortitude to push through initial hunger pangs and resist unhealthy temptations.
Table of Contents:
- What is Intermittent Fasting?
- Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
- Intermittent Fasting Guide
- Meal Examples
What is Intermittent Fasting?
There are many variations. The general principle however is to fast(not take in calories) for a period between 16 to 20 hours and eat all of your daily calories in a given “feeding” window. The typical schedule for most people following intermittent fasting would be to fast from 8pm to 12pm and then eat three meals between 12pm and 8pm.
I eat a meal replacement shake(700-1,000 calories) between 1-3pm and a solid meal(between 1,500 and 2,000 calories) between 5 and 7pm then fast until the next afternoon.
The Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
We all know and understand that in order to increase our muscle size and performance in the gym we need to place increasing amounts of stress on the body. But did you know that fasting causes a similar beneficial stress on our fat loss and hormone systems?
“Fasting causes hunger or stress. In response, the body releases more cholesterol, allowing it to utilize fat as a source of fuel, instead of glucose. This decreases the number of fat cells in the body,” says Dr. Horne. “This is important because the fewer fat cells a body has, the less likely it will experience insulin resistance, or diabetes.”
This recent study also confirmed earlier findings about the effects of fasting on human growth hormone (HGH), a metabolic protein. HGH works to protect lean muscle and metabolic balance, a response triggered and accelerated by fasting. During the 24-hour fasting periods, HGH increased an average of 1,300 percent in women, and nearly 2,000 percent in men.” – Source
These positive stress responses are the root cause of the “magical” results people have experienced with intermittent fasting. The increased fat oxidation allows your body to burn more fat while the increased growth hormone triggered allows you to increase your lean body mass and recover more quickly from workouts.
Why skipping breakfast will actually make you less hungry
Martin Berkhan wrote a great post on why breakfast makes people hungry. The takeaway is that high levels of cortisol causes a heightened insulin response. And since our cortisol levels are naturally highest in the morning(right around the time when most people eat breakfast) then we are inadvertently causing a tremendous insulin spike if we eat breakfast(even if you’re not ingesting a lot of processed carbs or sugar with breakfast). That insulin rush then causes a precipitous drop in blood sugar which then causes you to feel ravenously hungry 2-3 hours down the road. If you want to know more about the effects of glucose, insulin, and leptin here’s another epic post I wrote on the subject.
The key mechanisms at work:
- Insulin Control – Fasting controls your insulin levels. Insulin is the “storage” hormone that signals to your body to store energy. It is triggered by food intake and especially by carbohydrate intake. Insulin not only tells your body to store nutrients but it directly inhibits the process of lipolysis(the use of stored fat for energy). Controlling insulin is the most important factor in losing fat and maintaining low bodyfat.
- Leptin – Think of leptin as insulin’s antagonist. Leptin is released by your fat cells and signals to your body that you are in positive energy balance – thus it stimulates the feeling of being full and allows proper energy metabolism(burning stored energy for fuel). Insulin directly inhibits leptin from producing the feelings of satiety. The two periods in normal human development that are associated with the most weight gain are also two periods of hyperinsulinemic states(puberty and pregnancy).
- Insulin resistance and leptin resistance – Chronically elevated insulin causes insulin resistance and leptin resistance(your receptors become numb to the effects of leptin and insulin) and both insulin and leptin resistance are seen in almost every single obese individual. In studies mice who had their leptin production centers surgically removed rapidly gained weight to the point of obesity and stopped all physical activity. After scientists injected the mice with extraneous leptin the mice quickly shrank down to a normal body index and regained their energetic activity. However obese humans injected with leptin showed no change in their body index – this means that humans are not leptin deprived, but rather they are leptin resistant(more leptin won’t do you any good – your receptors have become dulled to the signals that leptins produce). Therefore it becomes vital to regulate your insulin in order to allow leptin and insulin to function properly in your body. Proper hormonal function will ensure that you feel satiated by normal meal sizes and ensures that your metabolism remains high. Fasting has been shown to improve both insulin and leptin resistance in the laboratory. – Source
The vital takeaway here is that an abundance of insulin causes a cascade of negative hormonal changes in your body. These changes eventually lead to leptin and insulin resistance which causes your body to chronically be in “storage” mode. These changes also block the natural signals which signals to your brain that you are full after you’ve eaten enough calories. The result is that you eat and eat and eat and store almost every calorie you consume as fat.
Low-carb, Paleo, carb-cycling, and the Ketogenic diet all modulate carbohydrates. Why? Because modulating carbohydrates modulates the insulin effect and therefore reduces all of the negative outcomes we’ve just talked about with regard to insulin and leptin resistance.
Intermittent fasting is simply another method to modulate your insulin response but I think it is superior for a number of reasons:
- You can do intermittent fasting with another style of eating(like Paleo for instance).
- Intermittent fasting causes positive stress reactions in the body that then increases growth hormone secretion and improves insulin and leptin sensitivity.
- It is psychologically easier to stick to an intermittent fasting style of eating.
- Intermittent fasting is the only effective way that I have found to lose significant amounts of fat and gain significant amounts of muscle at the same time. All other options fall far short in this regard.
Intermittent Fasting Guide
- Feeding window – This is the period of time to get in your daily nutrients. The feeding window should be between four and eight hours long.
- Fasting window – No calories should be consumed during this time. The fasting window consists of any time that is not within your feeding window.
- 0600 Wakeup
- 1200 First meal around 500 calories(40% protein, 40% carbohydrates, 20% fat)
- 1300 Workout
- 1400 Post workout meal 1,000 to 1,500 calories – Eat 60-75% of your daily carbohydrate allowance in the post-workout meal.
- 1900 Last meal – High protein, high fat, and fill in the rest of the carbohydrates for the day.
- Fast from your 1830 meal until 1200 the next day.
Waking up late in the day:
- 1200 Wakeup
- 1300 Fasted workout(take 10g BCAAs 30 minutes pre-workout and 10g BCAAs immediately post workout)
- 1700 First meal, split your calories evenly between your first and second meal and spread your carbohydrates out evenly.
- 2300 Second meal, take in the rest of your day’s calories
- Fast from your meal at 2300 until your first meal at 1700
Working out early in the morning:
- 0600 Wakeup
- 0700 Workout(take 10g BCAAs 30 minutes pre-workout and 10g BCAAs immediately post workout)
- 1000 Take 10g BCAAs
- 1200 First meal of the day, split your calories and carbohydrates evenly between the two meals
- 1800 Last meal of the day, split your calories and carbohydrates evenly.
Working out at night:
- 0600 Wakeup
- 1400 First meal of the day, high protein and high fat, low carbs.
- 1700 Workout
- 1800 Post workout meal, get 60-75% of your carbohydrates in during this meal fill in rest with protein and fats.
- 2000 Last meal of the day, lower calories than post workout meal. High protein, high fat, low carbs.
- 0600 Wakeup
- 1300 First meal of the day
- 1700 Second meal of the day
- 2000 Last meal of the day
- Feel free to split the calories of the meals up how you like. It’s okay too to just eat two bigger meals at 1300 and say 1900, or just one gigantic meal between 1700 and 1900.
- 0530 Wakeup
- 0630 Gym strength/hypertrophy session (I take 5g BCAAs pre-workout and 5g BCAAs with 10g whey post workout)
- 1000 10g whey with 3g BCAAs
- 1300-1400 Meal replacement shake, 50g protein, 25-50g carbohydrates(from frozen fruit), 40-50g fats(from coconut oil and flax seed).
- 1630 Crossfit workout – lots of metabolic work and high intensity interval cardio
- 1730-1830 Solid meal, 75-200g carbs and then high protein and fats to fill out the rest of my calories
- I then fast from that last meal until 1300-1400 the next day.
Keys to success:
- If at all possible you should eat your largest meal of the day and get in a majority of your carbohydrates immediately post workout. Studies have shown that there is a two hour window post workout where nutrients taken in are shuttled preferentially to your muscle stores. This has two distinct advantages: 1) more nutrients shuttled to your muscles means less nutrients shuttled to your fat and thus less fat gain, 2) more nutrients shuttled to your muscles improves your rate of recovery and your rate of muscle growth. “In conclusion, the present results suggest that a distinct advantage in muscle glycogen storage can be achieved after exercise with the addition of protein to a carbohydrate supplement. When supplementation occurs immediately postexercise and 2 h postexercise, this advantage appears to be maintained even when compared with a HCHO supplement.” – Source
- Limit high glycemic index carbohydrate sources in all meals except your post workout meal. Ex: sugars, bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, bananas, etc. This again is aimed to control your insulin spikes. Getting big insulin spikes when you’re not in that post-workout glycogen reuptake window can lead to increased fat storage and hinder your body’s natural fat burning process.
Post-Workout Meals – High carb, high calories:
Steak and Potatoes:
- 16oz steak
- Mushrooms, peppers, and zucchini stir-fried in coconut oil
- Bacon-wrapped Jalapenos
- One potatoe and one sweet potatoe
- Roughly 2,000 calories
Chinese Noodle Soup:
- 10oz pork and 3oz tripe
- 200g carbs from Chinese soup noodles
- Chicken broth fortified with 2tbsp olive oil
- Onions, jalapenos, and cabbage
- Roughly 1500 calories
Pork and Broccoli Stir-Fry:
- 12 oz pork stir-fried with 6oz broccoli and half of an onion in 3tbsp coconut oil
- 3 cups cooked rice
- Roughly 1200 calories
Non-post workout meals:
Low-Carb Chuck Steak Soup:
- 12 oz chuck steak slow-cooked for 8 hours with 3 cups of chicken broth
- Onions, cabbage, mushrooms, and tomatoes brought to boil with chuck steak
- 800-1,000 calories, high protein, moderate fat, low carb
- 12oz Hamburger, green beans, and mushrooms stir-fried in olive oil with soy sauce, garlic, and ginger
- About 800 calories, high protein, high fat, low carbs.
Baked Tilapia with Vegetable Stir-Fry:
- 16oz Tilapia baked in the oven with bell peppers and onions stir-fried in coconut oil
- 800 calories, high protien, moderate fat, low carbs.
Chicken and Broccoli Stir-Fry:
- 1 Chicken breast stir-fried with cabbage, broccoli, and onions in coconut oil
- Served on 1/2 cup white rice
- Roughly 600 calories, and a good balance of protein, fats, and carbohydrates.
I have a webinar covering intermittent fasting more in-depth for Elite Members. I also answer questions for elite members in the private member’s forums and help design specific intermittent fasting strategies for their specific goals. That’s just the tip of the iceberg for the benefits of being an elite-member, learn more about elite membership here.