Lose Fat, Gain Muscle and Look Great Naked: Why I started Intermittent Fasting
I’ve been doing Intermittent fasting (IF) for the last 6 months and this is what has happened:
My body fat is down 3% (from 13% to 10%), I’ve managed to get stronger in the gym, all the while training less often (3 days a week down from 5). How that’s possible? Let’s examine:
There are significant hormonal changes that take place when Intermittent Fasting: Growth hormone spikes (in some cases as high as +2000%), your metabolism increases, allowing your body to burn fat for fuel and IF makes it easy as hell to stay in a caloric deficit, without dieting.
Like many of you, I had been conditioned to believe that I needed 6 meals a day to gain muscle and that breakfast was essential: “You gotta get that metabolism firing first thing in the morning,” they said. For a long time I actually believed them. How wrong I was.
In this article, I’ll explain how you can get started even if you have no experience. We’ll cover the scientific research, basic concepts, the intermittent fasting protocol that I use for maximum benefit and answers to common questions.
But first things first:
WHAT IS INTERMITTENT FASTING (IF)?
Intermittent fasting is not a diet, it’s a pattern of eating. Simply put, it’s a way of scheduling your meals so that you get the most benefit from them.
It doesn’t necessarily change what you eat (more on this later), it just changes when you eat.
The typical pattern is usually a 16 hour fast followed by an 8-hour eating window.
THE INTERMITTENT FASTING PROTOCOL
The 16/8 Method: sometimes referred to as the Leangains protocol, involves skipping breakfast and condensing your daily eating period to 8 hours. For example, from 1 pm to 9 pm and then you “fast” for 16 hours in between.
Personally, I eat my first meal around 3pm and the second around 9pm. This is what works for me, but you can choose what’s best for you.
A simple way to figure this out is to eat your first meal 5–6 hours after waking. That’s the start of your 8-hour feeding window.
Wake: 8:00 am
First Meal: 1:00 pm
Second Meal: 9:00pm
In the above example, If you wake up at 8am every day, you’ll have your first meal around 1pm and your last meal anytime before 9pm then fast for 16 hours until you start eating again the next day at 1pm. Simple.
Surprisingly, since I’ve started intermittent fasting a few months ago I’ve decreased body fat (down 3% from 14% to 11%), and increased muscle mass, all while spending less time in the gym and eating like a king.
You may be wondering how can someone become stronger, increase muscle mass, drop fat and feel better…
It’s actually quite easy:
BASIC CONCEPTS — CREDIT MARTIN BERKHAN OF LEANGAINS
Leangains is the system most closely related to how I eat and train. Martin Berkhan’s system involves a few basic requirements to maximize muscle gains and minimize fat. These include:
1. Maintaining high protein intake everyday (1–1.5g per pound of body-weight)
It’s important to keep your protein high every-single-day to assist with muscle growth. Maintaining high protein intake on your ‘low-calorie days’ will keep you full and satisfied since protein is the most satiating nutrient.
2. Eating higher calories on training days (higher carbs and lower fat)
You can reap huge benefits from increasing your calories and nutrients on training days when you muscles are most receptive. Boosting carbs will serve to replenish and restore glycogen levels while putting your body into an anabolic state that’s ready to put on muscle.
3. Lower calories on rest days (lower carbs and moderate fat)
By lowering your caloric intake on rest days, we can efficiently burn fat. Reduce carbs to 100–120 grams to maximize fat burning while keeping your body out of ketosis.
4. Get 60–100% of calories following your workout.
This is accomplished by either having one pre-workout meal consisting of 20% of your total calories for the day or training fasted with 10g of BCAA’s or 30g of whey protein.
By eating most of your calories following your workout, you can promote muscle growth with fewer calories overall. If your goal is bulking than this means little to no fat gain. If you are cutting this means no muscle loss. Either way, you’re building muscle and losing fat.
WHY IS INTERMITTENT FASTING BENEFICIAL?
To understand why IF is so effective we have to understand what happens to your body when you’re eating.
Your body goes through three states:
The fed state: your body is in the fed state when it’s digesting and absorbing food. The fed state typically starts when you start eating and lasts about 3–5 hours as your body digests and absorbs the food. It’s very hard for your body to burn fat during this time because your insulin levels are too high.
After that, we have:
The post–absorptive state: meaning that your body isn’t processing a meal. This period lasts about 8–12 hours after your last meal until you finally enter the fasted state.
The fasted state: insulin levels are low allowing your body to burn fat that wasn’t previously accessible during the fed state.
During a regular eating schedule, it’s rare that our bodies ever enter this fat burning state.
Let me reassure you that intermittent fasting is legit.
In this article, I’m going to break down intermittent fasting and all the research to back it up.
We’ve all been conditioned to believe that skipping breakfast is one of the worst things that you could do and that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I’m here to tell you that’s just nonsense.
OUR BODIES EVOLVED FOR INTERMITTENT FASTING
Because early humans proliferated on diets of underfeeding and overfeeding, it suggests that we are meant to thrive on intermittent fasting.
Did our ancestors wake up and grab a bowl of Honey Nut Crunch and a glass of OJ, before heading out for the day? Fuck no. They didn’t even have a way to refrigerate that shit.
Our bodies evolved to be able to function without food for extended periods of time.
If anything, fasting from time to time is more “natural” than constantly eating 3–4 meals per day. God forbid you subscribe to the typical bodybuilding notion that you need 6 meals a day or you’ll ‘lose all your gains, bro!’
That shit is absurd and it’s something I, unfortunately, bought into for a long time.
THE IMPORTANCE OF CALORIES & MACROS
It’s important to note that proper nutrition and IF go hand in hand. If you’re eating a shitty diet and not paying attention to what you put in your body, then IF won’t work nearly as well.
However, from my experience, you’ll start to crave natural wholesome foods like meat and veggies. Since you’re only eating 2 meals a day dieting becomes incredibly easy.
With each meal you’ll have plenty of calories to work with while remaining in a caloric deficit, this gives you a ton of options huge satisfying meals. Last but not least, fasting makes it damn easy to incorporate treats into your meal plan without going over your allotted daily calorie limit.
Understand that as far as fat loss and muscle mass is concerned, the calories and macros do actually matter.
Main takeaway: if you’re looking to drop fat, stay in a caloric deficit while eating enough protein as to not lose muscle in the process.
WHY YOU SHOULD CHANGE WHEN YOU’RE EATING — THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF INTERMITTENT FASTING
If you’re looking to lean down without crash dieting or cutting your calories down to almost nothing, it’s by far the best way.
In most cases you’ll actually try to keep your calories the same when you start intermittent fasting. (Most people eat bigger meals during their window.) Additionally, IF is the best way to keep muscle mass on while getting lean (see The Importance of Calories and Macros below).
In reality, all that other stuff aside, most people start intermittent fasting to lose fat.
Intermittent fasting allows you to shred fat, pack on muscle and reveal your abs all while requiring very little change in behavior.
By eating only two meals a day and condensing the time you eat, you’re almost guaranteed to consume fewer calories, leaving you in a caloric deficit. Additionally, IF changes hormone levels that help to facilitate fat loss.
8 GREAT REASONS TO FAST:
HGH helps to regulate body composition, body fluids, muscle and bone growth and fat metabolism. Now you see why spiking this hormone would be a good thing.
2. Insulin: Insulin sensitivity improves dramatically and insulin levels drop. Lower insulin levels allow your body to use fat for fuel. (Study).
3. Cellular repair: When you’re fasting, your cells initiate cellular repair processes. Something called autophagy happens, where cells digest and remove old dysfunctional proteins that have built up inside cells. (Studies: 1, 2)
Other scientifically proven benefits are — an increase in growth of brain cells and neurons, improved cognitive abilities, increased life expectancy, improved blood lipid profiles, decreased cardiovascular risk, reduced risk of cancer and Alzheimer’s, increased release of the fat-burning hormone norepinephrine (noradrenaline) and a host of other benefits.
Losing fat and getting lean are great, but these aren’t the only reasons to start intermittent fasting.
5. Intermittent fasting makes your day easy:
When you wake up, you don’t have to worry about eating breakfast.
Just grab a glass of sparkling water and start your day. Since I live in Milan, I drink San Pellegrino, it tastes great and helps to stave off hunger.
You’ll also notice you’re saving money. No breakfast to buy = more money for other shit.
6. Intermittent fasting helps you live longer:
Scientists have long known that restricting calories is a way of lengthening life. Intermittent fasting can extend lifespan in rats. Studies showed that fasted rats live as much as 36–83% longer (Studies: 1, 2 ).
7. Intermittent fasting may reduce the risk of cancer:
This is debatable because there hasn’t been a ton of research done on the relationship between cancer and fasting. However, animal studies suggest that intermittent fasting may help prevent cancer. Fasting appears to not only reduce the risk of cancer, but also cardiovascular disease. (Studies: 1, 2, 3, 4)
8. Intermittent fasting is much easier than dieting:
There are a few reasons that diets fail. The main reason most diets fail is because we don’t actually follow the diet over the long term. It’s an incredibly difficult behavior change problem.
Imagine you cut carbs to lean down: apart from the fact you need carbs for energy healthy testosterone levels, it’s something you will crave constantly. Anyone who’s done low carb knows exactly what I’m talking about.
Once you get over the idea that you need to eat all the time intermittent fasting becomes incredibly easy. I think the mental barrier is the biggest thing that prevents people from fasting because it’s really not that hard to do in practice.
Fasted Training — Best if you train in the morning
If you’re training fasted it’s best to do so 1–2 hours before your first meal of the day. It’s important to supplement with 10g of BCAA’s or 30g of whey pre-workout. This helps to increase protein synthesis and limit protein breakdown. If you train super early in the morning I recommend having 30g of whey post workout.
One Meal Pre-Workout– Best if you train in the afternoon
Eat your first meal 2–3 hours prior to training. Your first meal should be relatively small and consist of 20–25% of your daily calories. Best options: lean meats and fruit.
Two Meals Pre Workout — Best if you train in the evening
For those of you who train in the evening, such as myself you’re going to have 2 small meals prior to training. Your first meal should be whenever you finish your 16–18 hour fast. The second meal should be about 3–4 hours later. Both meals should total around 40% of your daily calorie intake. Eat the remaining 60% of your calories post workout.
FAQ’S & ADDITIONAL TIPS:
1. Men’s Health says I’m supposed to eat every 3 hours or “I’ll lose all my gains!?”
Your body burns calories when it’s processing food. So if you eat more frequently, you’ll burn more calories throughout the day. Thus, eating more meals should help you lose weight.
You burn calories proportional to the size of the meal your body is processing. So, eating six smaller meals that add up to 2500 calories burns the same amount of energy as processing two large meals of 1250 calories each.
It doesn’t matter if you get your calories from 10 meals or in 1 big ass meal, it won’t matter.
2. Isn’t breakfast the most important meal of the day?
The truth is that humans have evolved to eat very little during the day and feast at night. Breakfast is actually a relatively recent phenomenon. The idea that breakfast is the most important meal of the day has largely been pushed by cereal companies to increase the sales of their products.
Fasting isn’t a marketable topic and that’s why you rarely see any advertising for it. This makes it seem strange or even crazy when it’s absolutely not.
If you’re someone who just loves breakfast foods, doing IF doesn’t mean you have to give them up! Just eat them at 1pm each day.
Also, when you eat a massive dinner the night before, you’ll be surprised by how much energy you have in the morning without breakfast.
3. What can I drink during the fast?
Water, coffee, tea and other non-caloric beverages are fine. Don’t add sugar or sweetener to your coffee. You can add a small amount of milk or cream but keep it to a minimum.
I drink sparkling water for the first couple hours upon waking, followed by a cup of black coffee if I start to think about food. Coffee is great for blunting hunger, and on an empty stomach, you’ll feel the caffeine much more.
4. I’m a girl. Should I do anything differently?
Yes. I know you have to do something different due to your blood sugar levels differing from men, and you’ll probably have to shorten your fast time but I have no first-hand knowledge. Check out this article.
5. Should I take BCAA’s on my rest days?
No. There is no need for BCAA’s on rest days.
Save the biggest meal for last!
I personally eat my largest meal at night. This allows you to stay full all night and makes fasting the next morning so much easier. In addition, eating a big meal at night makes you’ll sleep like a baby.
Add low-intensity cardio on rest days for more fat burning
If you want to ramp up the fat-burning it helps to add about 45 minutes of low-intensity cardio on rest days. Try to keep your heart rate between 60–70% of your max. Doing low-intensity cardio really speeds up fat loss, without making you hungry.