There’s so much information out there on Intermittent Fasting and it can take you hours to trudge through different posts and figure out how to put it all together.
Luckily you don’t have spend hours researching because this guide will have EVERYTHING you need to know about fasting.
From what you can and can’t eat, finding out the best fasting approach that suits your lifestyle and what mistakes to avoid.
An Introduction To Intermittent Fasting (IF)
What Is Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent Fasting is a term used to describe a period of time of when you’re not eating (fasting) and a period of time where you do eat. Technically whenever you stop eating you’re “fasting” but usually the term is used to describe someone doing it for 12 hours or more.
Three Main Types Of Intermittent Fasting
– One Meal A Day (OMAD)
– Alternate Day Fasting
– Time Restricted Eating (TRE)
ONE MEAL A DAY (OMAD)
OMAD involves a 23 hour fasting period (although his version of fasting means you can eat low calorie foods) followed by a one-hour non-fasting period. The most popularised version of this is known as the warrior diet and was created by Ori Hofmekler.
The premise is that you would eat very little calories during the day (coming from fruit and vegetables) and a 90% of your calories would come from one big meal.
For example, You may only drink black coffee, tea and sparkling water during the day. Have two or three servings of vegetables and a piece of fruit to keep you satiated and wait until dinner to eat your actual meal.
At dinner, you would have three portions of lean protein, three fistfuls of vegetables, a large sweet potato and a whole avocado. You would drizzle over some olive oil over the top and also add a shake with your meal to ensure you’re eating enough protein and calories.
Eating just one meal a day can be hard, especially if you’ve never tried Intermittent Fasting before. But if you have a big appetite (like me) then this can be a useful strategy to avoid overeating and to help restrict your calories.
I do OMAD once a month to give my digestion a rest for 24 hours without food, reset my hunger cues and just remind myself that I’m not going to die if I don’t eat for 24 hours.
If you’re trying to exercise daily this can be a challenge as protein is important after your workout and only being able to eat at night could cause problems like lowe energy and muscle loss.
ALTERNATE DAY FASTING
With this method, you follow various ratios on fasting to non-fasting days. If you’ve heard of the 5:2 diet which was popularised by Dr Michael Mosley, people eat normally for five days of the week and on the other two days, they eat 400 to 500 calories for women and 600 to 800 for men.
I’m going to share with you a slightly different approach in this guide that is tailored more towards someone who wants to combine fasting and lifting weights.
This approach to intermittent fasting is called The Deficit Day System and was created by one of my mentors, Tony Boutagy.
With the Deficit Day System, you eat very little for several days of the week and then on the other days you “eat normally”. On deficit days, you’re restricting your calories to about a third of what you would you usually eat.
The average male burns about 2,400 calories a day. This means that for the deficit days you would only be eating 800 calories a day and the majority of those calories would come from protein.
The reason you want most calories coming from protein is that you want to protect or even build lean muscle and you need protein in order to do that.
Your deficit days would fall on the days you train with weights because weight training is also protective of muscle. When you lift weights, you’re sending signals throughout your body to use protein and carbs more efficiently, so it goes to your muscles.
Typically, you would only eat two meals on the deficit days. You will skip breakfast have lunch between 12 pm and 1 pm and then dinner at 5:30 pm.
Keep your first meal small and light, and then have more calories around dinner time.
Lunch could be something as simple as two scoops of protein powder with water.
Then your dinner would be a big lean serving of protein (fillet of white fish, chicken breast, a piece of steak, etc.) a lot of leafy green vegetables and salads, and a small serving of starchy carbs (think sweet potato or some type of legumes). That’s basically all you would have for the day because you’re restricted to only 800 calories and when you find out how many calories those foods contain you will be very surprised.
To follow this program, pick two days during the week when you’re going to do weight training and make them deficit days.
In this example, we’ll pick Monday and Thursday. Having a day at the start of the week and one in the middle will mean you’re more likely to stick to it.
You’re less likely to go out for breakfast since it’s not a weekend and you’re not going to go out for dinner with mates since it’s not a Friday night. You also won’t really have any lunch commitments on a Monday.
An Example Of Alternate Day Fasting
You wake up and train at 7 am and then you’re on your way to work by 8.30am.
During the day you drink a black coffee, black tea, green tea or sparkling water (anything with no calories) to keep hunger at bay.
At 12.45 pm you have your first meal, which is a shake consisting of two scoops of chocolate protein powder and water. Then you have a green tea at around 3 pm to keep the hunger cravings away.
You have dinner at 5.30pm, which is homemade chilli con carne and then you finish eating by 6 pm.
For the next two days, you go back to eating at a normal time that suits you and following the 80/20 approach of eating which means 80% of your intake of the day should be whole nutritious unprocessed food and 20% on a few pieces of chocolate or a few beers etc.
This method works well for people who have busy days and don’t really worry about food. If you struggle with trying to manage calorie intake day-to-day then this would be a better option because you’re putting yourself in a big deficit for only two to three days during the week and don’t really have to focus too much during the rest of the week.
On those deficit days, You will get some cravings for more food, but you’re just going to have to refrain from them with coffee and tea.
Remember it’s only a few days during the week and one thing that is very helpful to overcome your cravings is to just tell yourself you can have a normal day tomorrow. Then when it is your “normal day”, the craving will be gone.
TIME-RESTRICTED EATING (TRE)
The final method you need to be aware of is TRE, which means every day there is a fasting period and a shortened eating window of four to ten hours.
This is my favourite style of intermittent fasting and I follow the most common approach – 16:8.
This means that you fast for 16 hours each day and eat all of your daily calories during the remaining 8 hours. This diet has been widely popularised thanks to Martin Berkhan and the diet is known as Leangains. It’s the most popular method for people who lift weights as one of the most important things for muscle growth is food. With this system, you have a period every day when you’re eating and one when you’re not – but you’re still getting food into your body every day.
Here are the different types of TRE that people use:
This means if you stop eating at 10 pm at night you should not be eating until at least 2 pm the next day or even longer depending on the amount of time you’re aiming to fast for.
In the time frame, you’ve chosen you would then make sure to eat all of your calories you need for the day.
This method works best for anyone looking to live a normal life and not feel restricted because they can’t go out with friends and family when they’re “dieting”. This is also the best approach if your goal is to gain strength and muscle mass.
HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST SCHEDULE FOR YOU
One type of fasting is no better than the other. The best version to follow is what’s going to suit you and your lifestyle. If you hate tracking food intake then TRE may not be the best for you and maybe you’d prefer OMAD or ADF
Out of the three different types of Intermittent Fasting, pick which one is going to suit you best and follow it.
What Can You Have While Fasting?
There is a lot of debate about what can be consumed during the fast because certain foods still contain “zero calories” like sugar-free drinks, teas, black coffee, chewing gum, etc.
Since your goal is to use Intermittent Fasting to lose fat and to make it work with your lifestyle then the information about what really breaks a fast will not apply and you can have your sugar free gums, drinks, black coffees and teas.
Here’s what I recommend:
From your last bite of food at dinner time, eat and drink nothing but water for a minimum of 12 hours. Why 12 hours? Because you should give your body a rest from having to do any digesting of food at all.
After that 12 hours you have the options of consuming:
- Black coffee
- Black tea/Green tea/ Herbal tea
- Water with a squirt of lemon or lime
- Pre-workout that has less than 10 calories
- Essential Amino Acids (EAAS)
- Natural sweeteners like stevia, cinnamon, nutmeg
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Sugar-Free Gum
- Sugar-free energy drinks
THESE THINGS ABOVE WILL NOT BREAK YOUR FAST.
Let me make this as clear as mud… Anything you consume that’s not listed above WILL break your fast, but if your goal is to lose fat you just need to be in a calorie deficit.
If you must have a dash of milk in your coffee then so be it, you’re technically not fasting which is fine, as long as you’re still eating fewer calories than you burn during the day because that’s what matters most, eating fewer calories than you burn.
If you have to have a dash of milk in your coffee that’s about 30 – 50 calories but that helps you stay away from food and stay on track with your calorie deficit then that’s still helping you towards your goal of losing weight so don’t stress.
However, if you’re having 2 – 3 coffees a day and they’re full of milk, all of those extra calories do add up and can stop you from losing fat.
Let me give you an example of a typical day for me:
- Nothing but water until 5 am
- 5:10 am: A Shot of coffee before work
- 8:00 am: Another coffee
- 9:00 am: Meal 1
- 11:45 am: Workout
- 2:00 pm: Meal Two
- 4:30 pm: Meal Three
- 5:00 pm: Fast
The reason I like to have dinner early is that I train clients in the evenings and I don’t want to wait until I get home at 8 pm to scoff down a big meal right before bed.
Eating dinner further away from bedtime has also been shown to help improve your sleep quality because your body isn’t focused on trying to digest food and it also will stop you from late night snacking since you’re “not allowed to eat”.
What To Eat When You Break Your Fast
You can eat whatever you want while fasting (jokes not really).
One thing I pride I love teaching my online is how they can still eat the foods they enjoy in moderation when following Intermittent fasting. If they want to go out to dinner with their friends once a week and eat something “naughty”, they will. Intermittent Fasting helps build a better relationship with food.
In order to do this, you can follow the 90/10 rule.
90% of the food you eat should be whole nutritious food that’s not packaged and processed. This means meat, dairy, eggs, vegetables, sweet potatoes etc and you can then have some “free food” in the remaining 10% of your diet.
When I say “free food”, this means you still have to eat within your macronutrients and calorie goals for the day but you have 10% of your allowance for “free foods”.
If you are eating three meals a day following the 16:8 fasting approach, you’re eating 21 meals a week. That means two meals a week should be “treat meals”.
You’ll notice I said “treat meals” and not “cheat meals” because you’re not really cheating yourself. A “treat meal” is taking time to enjoy what you’re eating and not feel guilty about it afterwards. A treat is eating half a pizza instead of a whole one, a small Coke instead of a large, and eating it with your family on a Friday night and actually enjoying it instead of hiding in the fridge so no one sees you.
If you consume more calories than you burn during the day, then you will not lose weight. It’s plain and simple.
Intermittent fasting isn’t going to change this.
So here’s a formula to follow for you to know how much you need to eat every day
Body weight (in kgs) x 30 for men
Body weight (in kgs) x 27 for women
70kg male x 30 = 2100 calories
70kg female x 27 = 1890 calories
That’s how many calories on average you would need to eat in order to MAINTAIN your bodyweight at this current moment.
You might be eating more than this or around this calorie range which is why you aren’t able to lose weight.
The next thing you need to do is to reduce the number of calories by 10 – 15% to figure out how much you need to be eating to get your body to start burning fat. You should always aim for the smaller reduction at first because the less effort it takes to lose fat, the better.
Male: 10% of 2100 calories = 1890 calories.
Female: 10% of 1890 = 1700 calories
The goal is to have you eating as much as possible so you’re not eating off your own hand or nibbling on celery all day.
Curbing Hunger During Fasting
If you find yourself getting hungry during the fast, here are some ways to get rid of it.
- Black coffee – Whether it be decaf or caffeinated, coffee has been shown to reduce your appetite.
- Exercise – When you exercise, even if it’s going for a walk, you divert blood away from your stomach and to your muscles working which signals the body to focus on exercise instead of hunger.
- Sparkling Water/ Diet Soda – Carbonated drinks fill up your stomach with volume and trick it into thinking it’s full.
- Chew Gum – Sugar-free of course.
- Keep Busy – Most of the time you’re not hungry, you’re just bored and when you find something you can concentrate one, you’ll notice your hunger will disappear.
Can You Workout If You’re Fasting?
If you do weight training first thing in the morning when you’re fasting, I suggest having a ½ scoop of protein powder after your workout to avoid losing muscle. After you have your protein powder you keep fasting until your “official” time you usually eat.
Having a ½ scoop of protein does technically break your fast but what matters most is calories and you also want to prevent losing muscle mass which is why I recommend this approach.
Mistakes To Avoid
One problem you may face when you first start following this way of eating is that you get hunger cravings, this is completely normal since you’re trying to teach your body how to go for a certain amount of time without food and since it’s not used to having to go hungry for so long it’s going to be sending you hunger signals during the times when you usually it.
You have to be strong during this first phase and avoid giving in to temptation and binge eating everything in site. A way to combat this is to make sure that you haven’t got trigger foods in your house or around you at work because when there’s temptation around you’ve eventually going to give in. Keep yourself busy and focus on work during your fast, kill your appetite with black coffee and avoid the binge eating by keeping the trigger foods away during your fasting window.
NOT EATING ENOUGH
Since you’re now going longer without food doesn’t mean you should be eating like a bird and only having salads and chicken breast. Your goal is to eat as much high protein, vegetables and fruits as possible to help keep you full and satiated and staying under your calories. Since you’re not eating so many small meals this means you can double up on the protein and vegetables and not stress about gaining weight simply because you’re having few meals and larger portion sizes. This also leads on to my next point…
NOT TRACKING FOOD
Yes, you still have to be tracking your food and making sure you’re hitting your calorie and macronutrient goals for the day. I recommend using this food scale. Intermittent Fasting doesn’t mean you can eat whatever you want whenever you want because calories still do play a part in fat loss.
This also means you shouldn’t be eating too little either. If you find yourself severely under eating and not hitting your calorie and macronutrient goals during the day then the option for you would be to do a shorter fasting period or have more calorie dense food during your feeding window. The goal of Intermittent Fasting is to help you feel like you’re full when you eat and eating as much as possible while still being able to lose weight. I mean who wants to starve themselves every day for the rest of their life? No one that’s who…
STRESSING OUT ABOUT THE FASTING PERIOD
If you’re stressing because you went 10 minutes over your feeding window or you broke your fast 10 minutes early then you need to just step back and relax a little. Intermittent Fasting is a lifestyle approach and it’s meant to help you work in with your lifestyle which means you get to choose your hours. 10 – 30 minutes over or under isn’t going to change anything as long as you’re still in a calorie deficit.
Remember, there are no magical properties to Intermittent Fasting when it comes to weight loss as long as you’re in a deficit. If once or twice a week you wind up going under or over don’t stress and get straight back on track the next day. As long as you’re not making it a daily habit everything is going to be ok, I promise.
DOING HIIT TRAINING
When you first start off doing Intermittent Fasting just make sure you take it nice and easy with your training and work your way into it. If you’re not used to training on an empty stomach, you can get nauseous since your body doesn’t know how to switch over from burning carbs as a fuel source to burning fat. The same thing will happen if you’re trying to do a HIIT workout. You’re going to notice very quickly that you will bomb out and feel like you’ve hit a wall or even worse, feel sick.
Take your time easing into it for the first two weeks and even if you need to have a protein shake or a banana before a workout to adapt to fasting that’s fine. Back off training super hard for a week and slowly work your way back up and in no time you’ll be back to pushing yourself hard.
How To Socialise While Fasting
Most restaurants these days will have their nutrition guide on their website. You can have a look to get an idea as to how many calories it contains. Another way is you can just apply a little rule of thumb and say that the meal is 800 – 1000 calories. Why this number? Most restaurants use a lot of oils, fats and carbs which means a lot of calories. It’s safer if you overestimate your calories instead of underestimating them just for the sake of having it affect your goals.
What To Tell People If You’re Fasting:
- I’m not hungry.
- I’ll just have a black coffee or tea I don’t feel like eating.
- Actually, I feel a little bit off at the moment and don’t have an appetite.
- I had a big breakfast/lunch.
- Nothing really looks appealing at the moment.
- I’m going to eat a big meal later and don’t want to ruin my appetite.
- I just ate before coming.
- Or simply tell them what you’re doing and not give a damn what they think.
You’re Now Ready
That’s everything you need to know about how to get started with Intermittent Fasting and fitting it to your lifestyle. All you have to do is go out and start practising it daily. In order to make it easier for you I’ve created a bundle that has over 20 high protein recipes to eat when you break your fast, a 6-week workout program and an Intermittent Fasting cheatsheet.