You have experienced fasting in one shape or another whether you fasted on purpose, for religious reasons, detoxing, or simply because you did not have time to eat.
The bottom line is that everyone experiences periods of not eating such as when we are sleeping, but how can intermittent fasting (IF) be incorporated into your active lifestyle?
This post will touch on IF protocols and how you can incorporate intermittent fasting for losing body fat fast.
**If you don’t feel like reading everything, skip to the bottom for a short 3:30min video explanation followed by the daily protocol info.
What is intermittent fasting?
Basically, intermittent fasting is a practice of not eating for a certain period of time followed by periods of “approved” eating. With protocols of IF you lengthen the window of not eating for 16, 24, or 36 hours while narrowing the feeding window to 12, 8, or 4 hours.
The most basic way of thinking about fasting is that it’s merely the period of time you aren’t eating. This could be the 6-10 hours of sleep you get or not eating meals such as breakfast. We tend to fast almost every day in some fashion, but skipping or missing a snack in between meals for example is fasting haphazardly not intermittently. Having breakfast in the morning is literally breaking the overnight fast from sleeping.
What calorie restriction and short-term fasting may be effective for is:
- Enhancing sensitivity of insulin and reducing blood glucose levels
- Increasing oxidation of fatty acids, FFA’s by hormones glucagon, GH, and adrenaline
- Preserving/sparring lean muscle mass
- Maintaining a steady and healthy metabolism (this does not mean speeding it up)
Research has shown people who consumed a calorically dense breakfast lost more weight than those who didn’t. IF followers argue that breakfast is unnecessary and that better insulin sensitivity (i.e. an improved glucose metabolism) can be achieved by skipping breakfast and prolonging the fasting window.
The sensitivity of insulin is elevated after a fasted period of 6-10 hours of sleep. The more sensitive your body is to insulin it’s likely going to be more efficient with gaining muscle and losing fat. Insulin sensitivity is related to glycogen depletion such as in the liver after sleeping or post workout from your muscles. IF goes beyond the 6-10 hours of sleep and increases insulin sensitivity, which is why many people do their workouts or cardio first thing in the morning to further deplete glycogen stores.
Following intermittent fasting has simply made it easier with skipping breakfast. Ultimately it depends on your overall lifestyle, goals, and tolerance to fasting periods or skipping breakfast. The decision is your choice, it may take some experimentation. For quick fat loss results scheduling in periods of IF works well for most people. There are several protocols with one being the ideal practice for most people.
What are the “types” of IF?
Outlined below is an overview of the many IF protocols and what they entail as there are many similarities.
Alternate Day Fasting (ADF) – 36h fast / 12h feed
ADF requires that you eat every other day. For example, eat for a 12 hour window on Monday between 8am to 8pm followed by a 36 hour fast eating again at 8am on Wednesday and repeating the cycle.
Meal Skipping – Totally random (haphazard)
Skipping meals is what most people go through on a day-to-day basis. Some of the IF followers believe in eating like our ancestors did, by eating and exercising randomly. This would mean skipping a breakfast or dinner 1-2 times per week randomly and eating Paleo style.
Eat – Fast – Eat. – 24h fast, 1 or 2 times per week
Involves fasting for a full 24 hours 1-2 times per week while eating high-protein meals in between. This is flexible as you can fast whichever 24 hour period you want.
LEAN GAINS – 16h fast / 8h feed
Start with an 8 hour feeding period followed by 16 hour fast. The diet is high in protein, cycles carbohydrates, and utilizes nutrient timing (i.e. post-workout window). For example, fast from 9pm on Monday until 1pm Tuesday followed with 2-3 small meals until 9pm again. Repeat.
Warrior Diet – 20h fast / 4h feed
This is where you would eat only what’s allowed for the first 18-20 hours of each day where your workout lies within the fasted window. Then you would overfeed during a 4-6 hour window usually after the workout. Works best for most people at dinner to eat at night with family etc.
What’s common about all protocols?
Most of the IF protocols have normal fasting overnight for 16, 24, or 36 hours before a normal feeding window of 4, 8, or 12 hours.
It is argued by many IF followers whether you can eat or drink anything during a fasted period. Some believing the use of supplementation such as Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s) to ward off muscle wasting (breakdown) is a necessity for fasted periods beyond 16 hours. Others believe a true fast eliminates all food and drink. Having experimented with several of the IF protocols myself over a 2 month period the LEAN GAINS protocol worked the best for my goals and lifestyle.
Those who are new to the fasting world should start off with a test phase. Try fasting overnight for 8-10 hours, drinking 1-2 cups of water upon awakening before your biggest meal of the day, breakfast. Always test how your body reacts to fasting and the “hunger pains” that accompany it. This way you are better prepared for extended periods of not eating and will be able to control your food choices post-fasted workout for the added fat loss benefit.
Which protocol is best?
How did Hugh Jackman get so lean and ripped for Wolverine? He followed principles of carb cycling, calorie cycling, nutrient timing, and most importantly, intermittent fasting with the LEAN GAINS protocol.
We have found based on research and personal/client experiences the LEAN GAINS protocol of a 16 hour fast and 8 hour feeding window works best overall for sustaining and supporting lean muscle gains and body fat loss. The concern with longer fasts up to 26 hours is that it may harm your health in the long term, decrease performance, and affect nutrient intake.
What Dr. John Berardi of Precision Nutrition found during 6 months of intensive research was that men and women generally follow the below protocols best:
MEN – 16 hour fast + 8 hour eating window
WOMEN – 14 hour fast + 10 hour eating window
NOTE: best for Men less than 15% body fat and Women less than 22% body fat
How to follow the fundamental IF principles:
- High-protein & vegetable intake – eat lots of protein from meat/poultry/fish and veggies, (with a focus on the greens).
- Fasted training – intense resistance training 3-5 times per week before the 1st meal
- Carb cycling – on training days add in carbs (quinoa, rice, whole grain bread, potatoes, and fruit) to the foundational diet of protein + veggies
- Nutrient timing – the post-workout meal should be the largest
One Day Sample IF Schedule:
8:00am – Wake up, drink 500mL (2 cups) of water
9:00am – Drink 1L (4 cups) water with 1 serving veggie greens + 1 250mL (1 cup) green tea
11:00am – 250mL (1 cup) green tea
12:00pm – Workout session with 8-10g of BCAA’s during session
1:30pm – Eat first meal, largest of the day (include starchy carbs)
4:30pm – Eat second meal, moderate sized meal
8:30pm – Eat third meal, moderate sized meal
Most supplements contain soy, artificial colours, sweeteners and even those long proprietory blends you have no idea the amounts of each ingredient. The PhytoSport After Workout supplement packets are what I use with a 2:1:1 ratio of BCAA’s, Glutamine, B vitamins, and potent antioxidants like pomegranate extract.
No matter your view on intermittent fasting, IF does create an opportunity to:
- Generally eat less calories in a day
- Do a workout where your body replies on stored energy sources
- Look towards eating healthy foods that are as close to their natural state
Intermittent Fasting is not for everyone. Depending on your goals, eating habits, and schedule adding in another regiment might not be for you. Those already working out and physically “fit” with ideal body fat percentages as outlined above can see amazing improvements. Fasting might be one thing you haven’t tried that could help you break through common weight loss plateaus and become very lean.
Berardi, J. (2011). Experiments with Intermittent fasting. Accessed from http://www.precisionnutrition.com/intermittent-fasting-pdf-download?utm_source=IFBook&utm_medium=DownloadButton&utm_campaign=IFBookDownloadButton
de Azevedo FR, Ikeoka D, Caramelli B. (2013). Effects of intermittent fasting on metabolism in men. Rev Assoc Med Bras. 2013 Mar-Apr;59(2):167-73. Accessed from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23582559