From back in 2007 I’ve been doing intermittent fasting as part of a total health plan, and I feel I have been ripe for a good while now on writing this guide to fasting…
Although intermittent fasting (IF) may sound like something new to most people, in reality, it’s a tradition and way of health that has been practiced for ages. In fact, the word “diet” is latin and means «way of life», and fasting has been a big part for many cultures and their way of life for centuries.
Today, more and more people start to notice the benefits of fasting. It’s actually a big part behind success stories of popular fitness enthusiasts and Hollywood celebrities like Hugh Jackman and Dwayne Johnson!
“How does it work and is fasting the right thing for me to do?», you might ask.
Well, I aim to give you a comprehensive guide to fasting that will answer your questions, and also reveal my very own style of intermittent fasting.
How To Use Intermittent Fasting To Have Single Digit Fat Percentage And Awesome Dense Muscle Mass
Your body shifts between two states. It’s either in a fed state or a fasting state. As part of the fed state you also have what we call the absorptive state, which is when you’re finished eating and your body is digesting the meal.
Research and experience show that it’s much easier for our bodies to burn fat during the fasting state. Accelerated metabolism and fat loss while fasting occurs because of many reasons. One of those reasons is because our levels of insulin get quite low.
Put in simple terms, the time from your last meal at night until your first meal the next morning is an example of the fasting phase. If you take your supper at 8pm and breakfast at 7am the next morning you are fasting for 11 hours. Although, most part of those 11 hours are spent in the absorptive state.
After a meal is consumed, our bodies require roughly 12 hours until it enters into a proper fasting state. This explains why it’s rare that people who follow a typical western lifestyle enters this state. But, IF can put us in that proper fasting state that we rarely make it to when eating normally, thereby enabling us to lose weight quite fast.
What Is The Scientific Concept Behind Intermittent Fasting?
The concept of intermittent fasting requires you to willfully deprive yourself of food. Right off the bat, that sounds like an evil thing to do to yourself. Right? To willfully become and stay hungry! What deranged person would bring the feeling of hunger on themselves!!?
Well, as I’ll explain in more detail through the course of this guide to fasting, the reason we feel hungry is because our brain directs us to feel so.
If you alter the behavior of your brain, then it becomes much easier to control what you eat and how many calories you take in. I’m in awe about how my brain works, as when I decide to go for things like this, my brain seems to adjust in an instant and don't send strong hunger signals to tell me to eat.
Scientific evidence tells us that intermittent fasting does have a beneficial impact on our health. In fact, it's seen as one of the most powerful interventions you can do if you are struggling with health issues.
IF is more a lifestyle than a diet. It requires both discipline and dedication. It's strong virtues like those that make your brain play along by not sending you hunger signals.
What are the benefits of intermittent fasting that I love the most?
A great benefit to IF is that it helps remove cravings for sugar and snack foods, thereby it's far easier to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. It normalizes my insulin and leptin sensitivity – both factors which are key for optimal health.
Doing these bouts of fasting also lower my levels of bad cholesterol, thereby improve blood flow and ensure steady flow of oxygen to my body cells. It normalizes my ghrelin levels which affects the patterns of hunger and satiety in my body.
IF reduces inflammation and lessens free radical damage which in turn helps reduce my levels of toxicity. Indirectly, it also improves cognitive function and preserves my memory functioning and ability of learning.
Fasting the way I do also helps boost my levels of growth hormone, which I believe many of you want more of as it directly correlates to your workouts and ability to grow muscle mass.
When I do intermittent fasting coupled with workouts and a good diet, I experience more muscle growth and easier fat loss than what I normally do. I'm way more alert and awake, with higher levels of energy throughout my day. I sleep better and I feel my brain is more clear.
Time To Give Intermittent Fasting A Try?
If you are ready to give IF a try, my step by step guide to fasting will help you get started. It is extremely easy to follow and I've made it easy to memorize.
1. Take Baby Steps – HOW TO START
Like with most other things of value and importance in life, intermittent fasting requires intelligence. If you start head on, without preparing your mind that is, it will be difficult to fast even for a few hours. Convince your brain that this is really happening, by being 100% determined to complete what you're about to do.
The first few times is always a bit more tricky than what it it will be when you get used to it down the road. Your brain and body will play along in time. Also, the first few hours, maybe the first half, of your fasting is always more difficult than the last half. Stay strong and you'll reap the rewards after it's over.
Doing intermittent fasting require steady intake of water. I keep a bottle with me all the time, and have a few cups of green tea during my fasts. You can chew gum, have a mint or drink coffee as well, but make sure to not eat or drink anything with lots of calories like sodas or cappuccino.
2. Get Your Priorities Right – WHY FAST
Before you start, you should set clear goals. Why are you fasting in the first place?
Is that you want to use it to improve your body composition? Are you doing it as an anti-aging and disease prevention mechanism? Do you want a boost of energy? Do you want better performance in sports?
If you answered yes to the former question then fasting for 16 hours and leaving a feeding window of 8 hours every day would the most appropriate schedule to adopt. If you are in it for disease prevention then 30 hours of fasting would be fine. In fact you can do a bit more than 30 hours only that you shouldn’t exceed 72 hours.
3. A Lifestyle Schedule – WHEN TO FAST
Being a lifestyle activity, I think IF should be done in such as way that it does not interfere with your social life too much.
You might also want to choose a fasting window that has th least amount of temptations. It'll help when you start out to not give in when those hunger signals try to make you eat.
I do two kinds of fasting. One is a short daily fast (16 hours) for when I buckle down to achieve quick results over short periods of time, like wanting to build muscle mass and lose fat for a summer vacation or a photo shot.
The other one is a bit longer (24 hours) weekly fast, which I follow all year around to maintain my fitness and health in general. I never do those two patterns of fasting at the same time though.
I find that an ideal time to do my intermittent fast is from 8:00 pm to 12:00 am. Yup, this is a 16 hour fast and it leaves me 8 hours to eat every day. You can always pick another schedule that meets your unique needs, but I find that this window work very well for me.
4. Leave Some Breathing Space – CHEAT DAY!
It is wise to have a day to indulge. This is one of those days where you eat whatever foods you want, just like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson who ate 4 pizzas and 14 pancakes (and much more) on his cheat day not too long ago. He's a big fan of intermittent fasting and do it as part of his overall fitness regime.
Because I keep sky high levels of vitamins, minerals and various herbs in my diet, I seldom feel any kind of urge to eat candy or fast food. However there are physiological reasons to do the cheat day, although one of the main benefits of the cheat day is psychological: It discourages you from cheating all the other days, thereby encouraging to work harder towards your health goals.
5. Move That Body – WORKOUT AND FASTING
Studies show that fasting is most effective when you also work out. I do my workouts in the morning. I get up at 4.00 am, take my vitamin pills with a huge glass of water, and then work out in a fasted state. Then I go to work and don't eat until lunch time, at about 12.00 am.
It sounds crazy, but it works. Forget what the food and supplement industry tell you. You don't need to eat before, during and after your workouts! It's when challenging common beliefs like this that you will grow the most! ;)
6. Eat And Train Like A Warrior – WAYS TO FAST
To answer this question, we are going to consider three popular diets. Eat Stop Eat, a 16/8 protocol and the 5/2 Diet.
– The Eat Stop Eat Program
Created by author Brad Pilon, this method of intermittent fasting leaves me free to eat what you like on my non-fasting days. This is the program that initially taught me about intermittent fasting back in 2007.
With this program there is no mandate that says I can't eat the foods I love, and hence there are no need for “binge days”. By using a highly flexible plan, the Eat Stop Eat system takes advantage of a “metabolic loophole” thereby enabling you to lose fat and increase muscle mass without changing your life drastically.
No foods are expressly forbidden on this diet, although the author does encourage eating healthy foods such as lean protein, vegetables and fruits. This program also recommends resistance training two to three times per week. Herbs, coffee, spices and tea are also encouraged during your fast.
The ESE Book is highly recommended to learn about intermittent fasting in detail, and I consider it the bible of fasting. I'd love to send you more information about it. Just sign up for my newsletter and I'll send you details ASAP:
Out of all the different IF methods, the ESE is the easiest to follow I think. Although, after years of doing this, I've got no problem fasting every day like I do with the 16/8 protocol.
– The 16/8 Protocol (like Hugh Jackman a.k.a The Wolverine)
This method allows for an eight-hour window in which to eat followed by a 16-hour fasting session. It's great for when you want to shed fat and gain muscle mass as fast as possible. Yup, you are encouraged to work out when following this type of fasting.
I like to do bodyweight workouts, with intense gymnastic or calisthenic exercises. You might prefer to lift weight, but whatever you like, make sure to work out using the 16/8 fasting protocol. In a nutshell, the 16/8 protocol encourages you to eat a lot of calories with a high amount of lean proteins during your wight hour window of eating.
Hugh Jackman follows this protocol after Dwayne Johnson taught him about it. They both eat incredible amount of lean chicken breast when doing this fast, hitting about 5000 calories. But that mean you also have to sweat blood and tears during your workouts! :)
P.S. Long boring cardio workouts, like 4 hour rides on a bike, is not a compatible workout on your fasting days.
– The 5:2 Diet Program
In the 5:2 intermittent fasting diet you fast for 2 days and eat normally for 5 days, albeit you eat slightly healthier than usual. In reality, this program isn't really an IF method. See, you never actually enter a fasted state when using it.
For the 2 days you are required to limit your daily intake to 500 calories (600 calories for men). The other 5 days you need to stick to a recommended daily calorie intake of 2000 calories for women and 2500 for men.
This program is designed in such a way that it takes your body to a “repair mode” rather than a fasting mode. Under the “repair mode” your body repairs damaged cells and naturally reduces levels of toxicity.
It's pretty much a method for those who want similar benefits to fasting, but who don't work out very hard or who have the determination to not eat at all for a full 16 to 24 hour.
7. The dangers – WHAT TO AVOID
Sure, IF is a healthy way of life but don’t make the mistake of thinking that it is a smooth ride for everyone.
Pregnant or breastfeeding mothers would be better off keeping away from this regimen. Diabetics and people with genetic disorders that are related to eating habits should speak to a doctor before making a decision to embark on a journey of fasting.
Indeed, there are tremendous hormonal changes involved with IF and it's wise to exercise caution. See how your body adapts within the first few weeks and determine whether it is the right thing for you.
It is worth noting that both historically and scientifically, the practice of fasting has a high success rate and minimal side effects. Millions of people fast regularly as part of their culture with good results for their health.
8. Focus On The Quality Of The Process, Not The Outcome
Intermittent fasting is a great way to differentiate between “imagined hunger” and “real hunger”.
Moreover, I find that it helps me to go deeper into the physical and psychological experience of true hunger. It offers me an opportunity to learn more about my own body and above all: it helps me lose my fat and build my muscles in both size and strength.
I strongly believe that a healthy IF routine is one that is based on the pretext of “quality of life” rather than “quick short-term results”.
It is important to pay attention to the signals my body send me. By listening to my body I'm able to adjust my fasting patterns accordingly to avoid strain. Some important signals that I always look for include:
- Drastic changes in appetite e.g. sudden food cravings
- My hormonal health
- My blood profile
- The quality of sleep I enjoy (and want to keep enjoying)
- My mood and emotional health
- My general energy levels
I'd like you to consider what else is going on in your life before you stick to any IF plan. Think about things like: how well you rest, how much training you do, what demands life require of you, and most importantly; how well will fasting fit into your routine.
Why Consider Using This Guide To Fasting?
Simply put, it is a practical option that works without spending time and money on some special type of foods that need lots of preparation.
Although not all fitness plans are created equal, caloric restriction tends to have a huge impact on weight loss. When you fast you automatically limit your caloric intake without counting calories or anything.
This gives your body a chance to shed off excess fat – simply because you are eating less calories now than before.
– It is not time consuming
Other diets require you to perform some rituals on a daily basis. For instance, most programs require you to prepare at least five meals a day. When knowing how to fast properly, all that hassle is pretty much non-existent. IF, as you can clearly see, requires less time and has the potential to save you money.
– Makes it easier to plan your day
IF offers a simple plan that anyone, including those with busy office jobs, can follow. Instead of rushing out for a meal after every 2 to 3 hours, this option leaves you to only worry about eating within your ideal feeding window.
– Minimal social anxieties
It is not uncommon for fitness enthusiasts to skip out on social functions because of specific diet and exercise requirements. However, I find it easy to combine intermittent fasting with social events. Like with the ESE plan, you'll be able to indulge a bit without facing negative consequences.
Moreover, IF makes it easier to maintain your fat percentage and muscle mass when going on business trips or other social and travelling shenanigans.
Does IF affect men and women differently?
Yes, people of different genders can have different experiences with IF. For instance, studies have found that it improves insulin sensitivity in males, but not to the same extent on females.
Yet another study by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that triglycerides may decrease in men, while it remains relatively stable among women. Regardless of these studies, there are many more studies that build up under the fact that fasting is advisable. I think you should give it a shot and track your results.
Concluding My Guide To Fasting
The most important point to note in this guide to fasting is that intermittent fasting is not a magic bullet – but all the same, it is highly effective. You just really need to know how to fast safely, and with this guide you are able to.
It can help you build muscle and lose fat; if you adjust your intake accordingly that is. Most importantly, it can help you steer clear of bad eating habits especially if you are addicted to sugar pastries and snacks.
That being said, it is advisable to seek proper medical advice from a professional if in doubt about your health prior to embarking on a fasting program. Note that marketing by a big food industry has led us to believe that not eating is unhealthy. That it will hurt us. This is not true, and I dare you to challenge common beliefs like that every day of the week. You'll be surprised at what you'll learn from it!