Intermittent Fasting: A Primer

Intermittent Fasting Part 1 – A Diet Strategy to Get You Ripped

For many people, losing fat and keeping it off is an impossible task, and they’d sooner reach China by grabbing a shovel and flinging dirt around. The road to leanness is littered with the remnants horrible tasting food, dingy Tupperware containers and the dreams of those who abandoned their quest because of the seemingly insurmountable difficulty.

We’ve all been there at one point or another, but those who’ve managed to travel the wasteland and emerge on the other side victorious have done so by finding a way to stay on the path while others fell to the wayside, rules be damned.

And let’s face it: the fitness industry has managed to create a lot of rules and myths, both intentional and unintentional, to keep people in a constant state of fear and dependence, but the concept of intermittent fasting has come around and anecdotally proved that many of these claims are based off faulty and cherry-picked research, or are just flat out lies. Freeing people from the shackles of dogma and letting them indulge their inner hedonist without an ounce of guilt has helped hundreds, if not thousands, achieve the body of their dreams.

Finally! A Powerful Diet that Anyone Can Follow

Forget about Atkins, low fat dieting, low carb dieting, the South Beach Diet, or any of those other fad diets. Here is a nutrition strategy you can use year in and year out to maintain an ideal body composition, to get shredded for a show, or to lean out for summer.

Without further adieu, I’d like to introduce you to the new sheriff in town and how he can help you get to where you want to be as fast and painlessly as possible.


What is Intermittent Fasting?

Martin Berkhan
Martin Berkhan

Intermittent fasting (IF) is simply a unique style of eating where you alternate between a period of fasting and eating. There are several variations out there on the internet, but the one that I’ve had the greatest success with and feel is most beneficial to the weight lifting community is Martin Berkhan’s Leangains approach.

With this variation, one would fast for 16 hours while eating during an 8 hour window. During the fast, the only things that you’re allowed to consume are water, tea, coffee and other non-calorie containing beverages.

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

Feeling Less Hungry

One of the biggest causes of dietary suicide, and why people fail to stick to their nutritional plan, is hunger. In our modern society where we’re rarely more than 5 minutes away from high calorie heaven, many folks simply aren’t used to being legitimately hungry anymore, so when the slightest stomach rumble rears its head they act as if the world is going to end if they don’t eat RIGHT AWAY.

Hunger is certainly a real issue when trying to lose body fat, but the truth of the matter is that it’s the price of admission you have to pay in order to transform your body. How much hunger you feel, however, is a choice. Dieting is associated with small, meager portions that leave you thinking about food constantly and counting down the seconds until your next unsatisfying meal, so it’s no wonder why this approach constantly backfires on people in the long term: dietary adherence falls to the wayside when you hate every minute of it.

This is one of the greatest benefits of intermittent fasting – actually feeling physically full from meals while on a diet. Since fat loss is first and foremost a matter of calories in vs calories out, the only thing you have to concern yourself with is getting in adequate macronutrients over the course of the day. Wanna know the best part? After a few days of adapting to this style of eating (some people are able to adjust right away), coupled with smart food choices, you’ll rarely find yourself hungry.

I’ve been eating this way for several months now and have gone as low as 1200 calories a day as part of a short term experiment and found that I only got hungry within an hour of having to end the fast, and even then it’s minor.

Feeling More Alert and Productive

Many have also noticed that they feel more alert and productive during the fast, which runs contrary to the popular belief that fasting will lead to decreased mental performance and energy. The human body is an awesome and highly adaptable machine, so to think that it would begin to shut down in the face of a lack of food in the short term is nonsense.

Final Word: It’s Easy!

Another plus is that intermittent fasting forces you to come to terms with your beliefs about eating and realize that you’re making it a lot harder than it needs to be. Don’t want to eat breakfast but can’t make the decision due to having the “it’s the most important meal of the day” myth beat into your head? Give abandoning it a try and see how it works out – no one will kill you for doing so.

Scared to death that your muscles will magically turn to dust while your strength levels plummet? Make sure that your nutrition and training plan is dialed in and set out to prove that this won’t be the case, despite what people may have convinced you to otherwise believe. Be open to experimentation, as it’s the only way to truly individualize what works for you and move beyond general recommendations.

Now that we’ve gotten the basics out of the way, in the next part of this series, I’ll provide details on how to go about creating your own personal meal plan based off foods that you love eating and show examples from my own life.

See also:
Intermittent Fasting Part 2 – Meal Planning

Intermittent Fasting Part 3 – Workout Planning

About the Author

Roger Lawson

A graduate of Eastern Michigan University, Roger Lawson II received his bachelors degree in English Language and Literature. His passion for writing, teaching and helping others achieve their goals while improving their quality of life, has led him to pursue a career in the fitness industry. Wanting to first ask of himself what he would ask of his clients, Roger transformed his body and mind over the course of six months, finishing as a runner up in Precision Nutrition’s Lean Eating Program.

Roger is a personal trainer at All Access Fitness Academy in Shrewsbury, MA, and is the owner of RogLawFitness.com. He recently completed a three month internship at Cressey Performance in Hudson, MA under the guidance of Eric Cressey, Tony Gentilcore and Brian St.Pierre where he learned the fundamentals of proper coaching and professionalism in the fitness industry.

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36 Responses to “Intermittent Fasting: A Primer”

  1. I’ve been following IF for about 3 months now and can honestly say it’s changed my life (sounds dramatic, I know). I am more shredded and am lifting more than ever. I also let myself enjoy carbs now, which I always felt guilty for before. Give it a try for two weeks, and you’ll be a convert!

  2. 2 months ago I did IF, for 2 weeks, I did lost 4lbs, BUT with a caliper I did notice that the only thing I lost was muscle. Then I returned to my low carb diet.

    I know that “Clint – Crude Fitness” doesn’t use the BF% as an indicator of muscle gains or fat loss, so, how can somebody know that he is actually losing fat or gaining muscle?

    Anyway, perhaps I’ll try it again someday, but for now I will stay where I am. I have lost 10lbs with low carb diet.

    Hope that helps.

  3. Hey Roger, I am a huge fan of intermittent fasting. I usually use a 24 hour cycle that Brad Pilon made popular but the Leangains approach you mention here is interesting and worth a shot.

    The biggest benefit that I personally see from fasting is that it balances out my insulin levels, along with other hormones. The end result is that I have no cravings! And for a woman, cravings can be the death of their diet.

  4. Can someone post something using CORRECT measurements? BF%, weight, time, etc, and not just theorys, like I think Steve is doing. Or have yo try it, Steve? Is just so simple lose weight, while you are just losing muscle.

    Regards.

    • Read some of Martin’s posts over at leangains.com in regards to your concerns with losing muscle whilst fasting.

      You won’t go into a catabolic (muscle losing) state by fasting.
      Checkout some of his clients testimonials on the homepage.

      Besides all of this — if you lose a centimeter of muscle, but at the same time lose 5% of your body fat, you will appear ‘bigger’ anyway. It’s all about illusion.

    • Hey Hector,

      I’ll be covering that topic in the next article in this 3 part series, but in short it’s a myth. The only way you’ll break down muscle is if you cut your calories ridiculously hard while not upping your protein intake accordingly, so even then it’s not a matter of the fasting, but of your nutrition.

    • Probably about 1 year. Not religiously. But I always use it to cure cravings and get back on track. I did the 24 hour fast (Brad) for most of the time. I have also started playing with Mike’s 2 Meals per day plan. Funny, the only one I haven’t tried is Leangains and that’s what you all are into. What makes that different?

      • I’m a bit biased towards Leangains because it allows me to get all the benefits of fasting while being able to fit it around my lifestyle in regards to lifting. I haven’t tried the other variations of IF, but I’m familiar with them.

  5. Greetings Roger,

    Thank you for sharing! For some reason when I think of fasting I still call to mind images from watching Gandhi in junior high. 🙂

    I’ve dabbled in fasting a little bit, but definitely not to the extent that you’re talking about. I’m 5% away from my goal to be under 10% body fat, so I may utilize some of the methods you’ve described to try and finish strong and on schedule.

    The problem is a come from a family that’s very social when it comes to food, so it will definitely be a test the first few attempts. My brother fasts quite a bit, but that’s more for religious purposes than for health goals.

    Have you used IF while trying to gain weight?

    Thanks again,

    -Matt

    • Hey Matt,

      Yeah, it can take some time to get it down right, but once you do it’s so easy to maintain.

      I haven’t used it to gain weight just yet, but I’ve found that due to using IF for so long, my ability to take down massive amounts of food has grown to superhuman levels, so I’ll be giving it a try for sure later in the summer!

  6. Intermittent Fasting: A Primer | Project Swole…

    A basic introduction to the world of Intermittent Fasting. This is part 1 in a series of 3 posts that layout the guidelines to following an IF diet. Loosely based on the Leangains protocol….

  7. Some research states that having no protein inside a 3 hour period leads to catabolisation of your muscle. Now this has research stating you can go for a day without food and not catabolise! Where does average joe get real hard evidence these days?

  8. Very informative website. My question is are you still supposed to consume the 1 gram of protein per bodyweight on IF? If so, isn’t it difficult, if not impossible to digest that much protein in 1 or 2 meals? I just started lifting again and I’m about 6’3 185, but have stubborn fat around my belly. I want to build muscle, but also get rid of my belly. Would IF be good for this or should I focus on one of the two?

    • You have an 8 hour feed window, so you can eat 3 or 4 meals in that time if you have to, 1 gram or protein per pound of bodyweight is necessary on IF. Shoot for .8 grams per pound of bodyweight and divide it up evenly between 4 meals. Even if you’re eating 160 grams of protein each day, that works out to 40 grams in each meal, which is doable.

  9. Steve,
    For the last 5 weeks I have been fasting once a week for a 24 hour period. I must say I am amazed with the results. In that time I have managed to drop my body fat percentage from 12% to 10% all while still making strength gains in the gym. I actually broke my personal best for squats and deadlifts last week.
    Niko

    • I like to fast from 8-9pm to noon-1pm the next day. That’s about a 15-17hr fast, with a 7-9hr eating window. I like to train to around 5-6pm after I get some food in my belly. Some people prefer to train at the tail end of the fast, which would be around noon.

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