Intermittent Fasting: The Definitive Guide

DISCLAIMER: Please consult a doctor before performing any kind of diet change including intermittent fasting. This article is for informational purposes only.

Yes, it’s true, I fast. No, I’m not crazy.

I fast anywhere from 16 to 24 hours a day and it’s changed my life for the better.

I’ve never been more focused, I’m sharp as a tack and I’ve been able to get into the best shape of my life.

… and I’ve coupled intermittent fasting with this and the results have been nothing short of incredible.

My hope is to spread the good word about why traditional information on dieting doesn’t work and the science behind why fasting works 100x better.

If you’re asking yourself, “What is intermittent fasting?” don’t worry, we’ll get into that too!

In this post I’d like to get to the nitty gritty on why exactly an intermittent fasting diet (and low carb diets in general really work) and why other forms of dieting don’t even come close.

Then I’ll get into the exact protocols you can use that fits you best if you want to try a fasting diet plan out for yourself.

Grab a coffee. Let’s get right into it!

Intermittent Fasting Has Been Around For Centuries

According to studies that have been conducted in religious practices and ethnology, fasting has been found to be an essential undertaking.

We’ve seen people of all walks of life intermittently fasting, but why?

Recent studies have shown that fasting has taken on a new dimension whereby it has been recommended as a practice that has numerous benefits towards dieting.

Within the health and fitness practice, intermittent fasting has been found to be an important weight loss undertaking.

While this could be a trending subject, the proponents of intermittent fasting have been of the view that if this practice is well executed, it has numerous health benefits because it allows one a limited eating opportunity.

In instances where one has had dinner, supporters of intermittent fasting have been of the opinion that the following day an individual can thereafter miss breakfast, snacks and even lunch.

It’s interesting that people were using fasting as a tool for health a long time ago, yet we’re just getting to more studies on this in recent times.

Intermittent fasting is a practice that involves restraint from both food and drinking and has been found to not only hold religious significance but also dietary importance. It’s been practiced over the ages around the world for centuries.

Even the ancient Greeks were big advocates of fasting. Not just for the health benefits because they were pretty fit back then, but for the mental clarity it gave them.

The Canadian Medical Association was of the observation that given the increasing cases of obesity around the world, limiting the amounts of energy intake could help in managing the health problem.

On the other hand, although most of the intermittent fasting practice has been carried out on animals, available research has shown encouraging outcomes as this has positive effects on both the brain and general health.

Moreover, Collier was of the view that intermittent fasting improved immunity, managed oxidative stress, improved memory and individual learning.

He noted that intermittent fasting enabled people to easily cope with stress since the body cells became adaptive.

Mosley and Spencer, two doctors from California were of the observation that limiting the intake of energy within the week had health benefits.

They noted that an intermittent fasting of about two days in a week was essential in improving an individual’s health.

Today’s Dieting Information Is Outdated

The biggest problem with calorie counting is it’s such a flawed and outdated way of thinking.

A lot of people don’t really understand obesity or what causes it and that’s why so many people have such a hard time losing weight. I hope to clear that up for you today.

These days we have so many problems that are taking lives and they’re almost always attributed to obesity.

The foods we eat have a huge effect on how our bodies perform throughout our lives.

  1. Heart attacks
  2. Strokes
  3. Kidney disease
  4. Cancer,
  5. Diabetes

These are all problems today because of the foods we eat.

These are all dietary diseases so they should be treated with a strategy revolving diet.

The “Biggest Loser”

I’m sure a lot of you have seen or have heard of the show the “Biggest Loser”. It’s huge and in a lot of other countries — not just the United States.

If you haven’t heard of it, it’s about a bunch of contestants who compete against each other to see who can lose the most amount of weight in a specific time period.

These people are really obese so it’s a diet where you are restricting calories and doing a lot of exercise to drop the pounds. People are mesmerised by this because they see their fat loss journey.

Now, this show has been running for quite some time and even some of the contestants have openly come out and said that they’ve regained the weight and that the program isn’t sustainable.

I would think that this probably happened to a lot of them, but they may be binded by contract to not say anything about their experiences at this point.

This isn’t just this occasion where people were able to lose weight, but not keep it off. It happens everywhere.

Calorie Reduced Diets

When you focus on a calorie reduced diet, your weight eventually plateausand then comes creeping back up.

I’m sure you’ve done a diet similar to this and had similar results from it. Right?

The funny thing is, even though despite these diets not working, they’re all ranked really highly.

They all come down to the same premise as well which is, if you can reduce the calories that go in your body and increase the calories that go out through exercise, then you’re golden. Not so much, though.

But why?

All the doctors approve of it. So why does it not work?

Are Doctors Preaching The Wrong Information?

To the naked eye, it makes sense. If you’re eating a lot less and moving a lot more then that is what is causing the body’s weight to go down at such a rapid pace. Especially for these people that weigh 300+ pounds that are on the show.

When the time period is over, the contestants look great! You see the before and after pictures and they’ve lost 100+ pounds and the transformation is incredible. The vast majority of that weight is fat.

You can see that body fat goes anywhere from around 50% down to the mid to high 20’s and everything is all fine and dandy. Why doesn’t this continue though after the show?

Is it because the contestants jump right back into their old habits? Since no one is watching, they’re back to sneaking in twinkies and doughnuts, right?

Not so.

The Real Problem — Your Metabolism

We’ve known this for a while, but when attempting to lose weight this way, your metabolism slows down dramatically.

This is exactly what happens to all the contestants that were on the “Biggest Loser” and people who have attempted this form of weight loss all around the world.

In every case, the contestants are cutting the amount of calories their body is taking in by a significant amount.

Lets say that you start burning 3,000 calories a day and then over the course of your weight loss journey you end off at burning about 1,500 calories a day.

When your metabolism slows that much and you’re burning 1,500 calories a day and take in 1,700 through food, it’s no wonder why you don’t lose weight.

How can you?

But You’re Eating Less, What’s The Problem?

Remember 1,700 calories is a LOT less than what they were putting in their bodies before attempting to lose weight.

However, when you burn 1,500 calories a day and take in 1,700 you’re still in a surplus!

Your body starts to feel cold, you get really hungry all the time and guess what, you’re exhausted.

These are all symptoms of a metabolism shut down. All while this is happening, your weight is creeping back up.

You see that this is happening and you try to combat it with more exercise, but it’s not going to help unless you work out for 5 hours a day.

Who has time or the desire for that? Not me, that’s for sure.

The contestant’s basal metabolic rate is falling as the show is going on and when the show is finally over, they’re not burning as much energy because of this metabolic slow down.

It’s not just them though, it’s anyone who’s ever tried this way of losing weight.

Eat Less, Move More Has Been Preached Since The 1900’s

This isn’t new information. For over 100 years we’ve known the effectiveness of eat less and move more, yet this terrible advice has been fed to us over and over again through doctors and fitness “experts”.

When people have inevitably failed on this diet, the experts say, “Oh, you shouldn’t have had all those carbs” or, “You’re not following the advice I gave you correctly.

Science is proving that’s not the case at all. We’ve followed the advice… it’s just bad information.

The advice in the first place was wrong and a big portion of our population is suffering from all these lies and misinformation with diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and more because they can’t get their weight under control.

It’s sad, really. But there’s methods that work.

Let’s look at one that’s incredibly effective.

Why Stomach Stapling Surgery Is Effective

Some people just don’t want to be bothered with the amount of hours and dedication it takes and feel it takes too long to reach their goals.

So they do something drastic in hopes of getting their dream body.

In a nutshell the stomach stapling surgery, called bariatric surgery, basically makes your stomach really really small so that you can’t overeat like you used to.

Your stomach is reduced to a size of a golf ball and just can’t take in the amount of food it would have been able to before.

Of course, just like we talked about earlier, if you don’t eat as much, (calorie restriction) you’re going to lose weight. That’s not a surprise, so it’s no wonder the people who have this surgery lose incredible amounts of weight.

The BIG surprise is this surgery actually works to keep weight off in the long term.

Here’s what’s interesting though. Can you guess what happens to the metabolic rate of the patients who undergo bariatric surgery?

It actually goes up. But why?

Your Resting Metabolic Rate Explained

Well, unlike the contestants on “Biggest Loser” and people with the “eat less, move more” mentality, the resting metabolic rate and the total amount of energy expenditure (the energy that’s burning off) hasn’t really gone down.

In most cases, the energy that’s expended hasn’t changed at all.

Think about it. You’re not running marathons or working out for an ungodly amount of hours each day. It’s just business as usual for your body.

In the first example of restricting calories and exercising more, the metabolic rate of these people continues to fall until they eventually fail.

In the second example, patients who’ve undergone the stomach stapling surgery are eating less, but the energy they’re burning hasn’t changed and therein lies the answer as to how we can all use this to our advantage.

What Actually Happens When You Eat

When we eat food, our insulin levels go up. It’s that simple. It’s the hormone that stops your body from burning fat and it tells your body to store that fat that you’re not burning off.

If you’ve been in the fitness industry for long enough, you’ve heard of the term “macros”. People track their macros with what they eat to make sure they fall within a certain range.

Macros are just short for macronutrients and it’s just the mixture of fat, carbohydrates and protein in the foods you eat.

Depending on what you’re putting into your body, your insulin levels will go up according to that. What carbs do when they enter your body is turn into glycogen. These are just chains of glucose in the liver and it’s the storage of sugar.

When there is too much stored sugar, your liver produces something called lipids and then stores your fat.

How Our Bodies Store Food

When you don’t eat for long periods of time, your insulin levels start to drop and that is a signal to your body that it should start burning something for energy.

You start to get energy from the glycogen stores. It’s the stored sugar in your body and the energy you get is from the stored fat that’s in your body.

A good analogy that I’ve heard is if you think of your glycogen like a cabinet or drawer. You store glycogen and it’s easily available and you can store a lot of it.

Fat, however, is more like a safe with a lock, key and fingerprint scanner. You can store as much of it as you want, (to a degree) but it’s a little harder to get out.

You basically have two forms of how you store energy in your body. Since the glycogen is easy to access, your body prefers that first.

You can only fill up your glycogen stores so much, though. You can’t fit your whole kitchen in one cabinet.

Once your glycogen is completely filled up, your body has no other choice but to start storing fat in that safe of yours. Make sense?

All Calories Are Not The Same

Are all calories treated the same in our bodies? We’ve been led to believe that all the calories we consume on a daily basis are treated equally and go into this one big place in your body together, but when we need those calories for energy, it comes out of the same place it went into.

We now know that’s not the case.

The body does not have this big giant area where we store calories. You can either do one of two things; store sugar, or store fat. It’s one or the other.

So we have our cabinet and we have our safe. The calories we get from food can go into our cabinet and come out of our cabinet because that’s the easiest place it can go for your body.

There’s one more thing that we have to consider though and that is how much food can actually go back and forth between the cabinet and the safe. That’s what we really need to know because we need to know how to get the fat to leave the harder to access safe.

Insulin Is What’s Making You Fat

Insulin, which we talked a little bit about earlier, is the big player here. It’s whole job is to stop you from getting the fat out of your body.

If you are eating a big meal, you’ll likely have a lot of insulin and that is what’s going to dictate where your food gets stored in your body. The cabinet or the safe.

When your insulin levels get really high though, you can develop insulin resistance. When that happens picture your safe dropping to the bottom of the ocean. Losing weight at this point is like a pig learning to fly.

Think of it like a drug. The more of it you take over time, the more you’ll need later on to get the same effects.

It’s the same idea with insulin resistance. Your body produces more of it because it HAS to.

This is why people who are obese for long periods of their life, it’s hard for them to lose weight. Their insulin resistance has been high for so long. Their safe is at the bottom of the ocean.

So now, your doctor starts to take notice of how unhealthy you are and puts you on the flawed model of reducing your calorie intake, but what happens at this point in your body?

When you’re at this stage and you’re reducing the calories IN, your body is going to reduce your calories OUT.

Think about it. If your body doesn’t have enough calories coming in now, it will just hoard what it already has for your survival. It’s not going to let you keep losing weight until you wither away and die.

If you’re not considering influencing your insulin levels, then you’re not going to get the fat out of your body. Plain and simple.

What Happens During An Intermittent Fast?

So is there a way of getting to your fat stores without having to go through painful surgery? You bet.

When you fast, your carbohydrate oxidation skyrockets. Initially, you’re not burning a whole lot of fat. You’re burning off those sugar reserves that are easily available. The stuff you have in your body cabinet.

Once your glycogen stores are all burned up, your carbohydrate oxidationgoes up. It’s this point here that you start burning your body fat for energy and that’s exactly what we want it to do.

A lot of people tend to think that during this phase you’re burning off your muscles. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Scientifically speaking, protein isn’t a storage form of energy.

So why would it utilize your muscle mass for energy during a short (16–24 hour) fasting period? It doesn’t.

Why Intermittent Fasting Doesn’t Burn Muscle

You can’t burn protein to provide glucose. We excrete a certain amount of nitrogen each day as well as taking in a certain amount of nitrogen. This is completely normal.

Urea is made in your body when protein is broken down. It’s made in your liver and actually passes through your urine. This, of course, was studied heavily during fasts to see the effects of fasting and the loss of muscle mass in people.

There was a study that patients underwent 24 hour fasts every other day for 70 days. The scientists have found that your urea levels don’t go anywhere during these kinds of fasts.

If muscle breakdown was happening, urea levels would go through the roof, but they don’t. They stay the same.

Intermittent Fasting Conserves Muscle Mass

What’s happening is that your body is smart. It’s conserving our muscle mass during our fasts not burning it because it knows we need it.

In the study they measured fat-mass and fat-free mass and I’m sure you can guess what happened.

The fat mass went down because the body had nothing to do but burn off fat for energy in the patients. The fat-free mass didn’t budge an inch.

The studies and tests are clear and I’ve found this to be the case for myself as well. I’ve never been leaner or stronger in my life and it’s all thanks to intermittent fasting.

Don’t worry, I’ll share with you the exact protocol I use below.

Putting This Altogether

Now you’re starting to see why fasting and low carb diets are extremely effective protocols in losing weight. Simply for the reason that it empties out your “cabinet”, so to speak, which leads to fat burning by pulling it out of your “safe”.

The important thing you want to do is get rid of the insulin factor too because you wont have that telling your body to keep the fat stored.

By fasting you get rid of all that stored glycogen, your insulin is down and now you can get to your stored body fat and burn it off.

Our Bodies Were Built For This

People are scared of the whole fasting idea, but the reality is that we, as humans, are built this way. Animals in the wild are built this way. We were built to handle long periods of time where there is no food.

There were no fast food restaurants you could run to during the caveman days. You had no refrigerator storage.

The reason why people throughout the world are as fat as they’ve ever been in history is because of our access to so much food!

People argue, “I can’t do fasting. Fasting is just going to put my body into starvation mode.” I just shake my head when I hear this.

This makes no sense because when your body is starving, your metabolism slows down to the point where you’re going to regain weight. That’s exactly what happens when you try to reduce your calories, though.

Like in the examples above, by reducing calories your body goes into starvation mode.

The OPPOSITE happens when we fast.

Resting Energy Expenditure And Basal Metabolic Rates

There was another study where there was 4 days of fasting with all normal people. In the study, the weight of the people goes down and that was expected, but there was an additional discovery that was quite surprising.

There’s something we have called our Resting Energy Expenditure (REE) and it’s closely related to our basal metabolic rate. It’s basically the amount of energy that’s required by the body during a rest period of 24 hours.

What the doctors found was that in the REE of the patients went up. They were burning more energy into the fast than before without any food.

This makes all the sense in the world. Think about back in the caveman days when food was scarce. Did our ancestor’s bodies just shut down? No way. They had to find something to eat so their body gave them energy to do so.

When you’re tired you can’t take down a woolly mammoth can you? No, you would need sleep and rest if your body didn’t have any energy.

Your body looks within to what it has and it sees that it has plenty of energy to burn from your fat stores. It is taking from the safe! You have more energy to move around and even exercise if you wanted.

Another amazing thing that happens is your adrenaline goes up as well. It goes up because your body thinks it’s in survival mode and that’s what you need to find your next meal.

That’s how we were able to evolve and not become extinct as a species. It’s pretty amazing if you think about it, but this is how we’re all built. Now it’s time to embrace it.

Intermittent Fasting Protocols To Use

Finally! Enough with the science mumbo jumbo… now it’s time for the good stuff.

Some people have a more conservative approach, where I tend to take things more towards the extreme to see where I can push them and also see how my body will react to different protocols.

Most days of the week I’ll be fasting for 20–24 hours and have one big meal for dinner. And yes, I work out and have tracked to see if I would be losing muscle. I haven’t — the research above proves that.

In fact, I’ve gotten stronger the longer I’ve done this and have never been leaner.

To this end, this post will outline all the intermittent fasting benefits and why it’s the best form of weight loss and healthy living lifestyle out there today.

Daily Intermittent Fasting

What’s popular in the fitness world is the 16–8 protocol which is where you fast for 16 hours and eat during an 8 hour window.

Personally I started out with this and thought it was extremely easy as all I did was skip breakfast each day.

Normally I finish dinner around 7:30–8pm so I would eat around 12–1pm each day. This allows me to eat dinner with my family so it’s perfect.

Your sleep kickstarts the fast because you’ll get anywhere from 6+ hours of sleep each night.

Skipping breakfast isn’t a big deal for me because I used to eat it by myself anyway so it’s not socially awkward to skip it.

If you just can’t give up breakfast food, (like me) just eat that for lunch. No one said you had to give it up!

It’s very easy to adapt to this schedule. I found it incredibly easy since day one because I used black coffee to curb my appetite until lunchtime.

Weekly Intermittent Fasting

If you want to ease into this to see how it feels you can do a fast once a week. You’re still getting the benefits of fasting, but weight loss will be at a slower pace.

You’re essentially skipping one meal each week, but that still adds up. That would be the minimum I’d recommend doing a fast.

If you practice intermittent fasting once a month you’ll likely see no results at all. It’s healthy, but what’s the point. It would be like eating one healthy food all month and being proud of that. You can do it, I promise you.

Alternate Day Intermittent Fasting

This is a better protocol in my opinion, but only after you’ve got the feel for some of the other protocols.

In this protocol you would essentially fast for 24 hours, eat normal the next day and then repeat. So you would have dinner on a Sunday night and not eat again until dinner Monday night. Then you would eat normally on Tuesday and fast on Wednesday the same way you did on Monday.

You’ll see a lot of these kinds of alternate day fasting in studies and is a popular protocol to use giving a ton of health benefits along the way.

If you’re looking to gain weight for training though I would not recommend this protocol. I’ve used this to lean bulk though with amazing results. My strength went up while my fat went down dramatically.

How I’m Currently Intermittent Fasting

These days I’m fasting anywhere from 20–24 hours a day and I love it. I’ll eat my last meal by 8pm and I’ll break my fast anywhere between 4 and 8pm the next day.

I’m working out 3 days a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday and have been progressing in my workouts each and every week. I work out in the fasted state and I’m never short of energy. I get better and better with each workout.

Some people supplement with Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s) but I don’t. I don’t feel it’s necessary as I didn’t notice any edge because of it when I tried it and I feel the benefits of staying in the fast is better for me anyway.

Like I said earlier, I like to push the boundaries on what my body can do.

I decided to try this protocol by watching a Vegan strongman named Dr. Amen-Ra. You can find his videos on YouTube if you’d like to see what he does, but essentially he fasts for 23 hours every single day.

Conclusion

Thanks for sticking with me during this journey! I know it was a lot of information to take in, but I hope I gave you enough of it to make a decision for yourself if you’re going to try out any of the protocols listed above.

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me or leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you.


Originally published at informalinsights.com on January 1, 2017. Mario Deal writes for Informal Insights where entrepreneurs come to get health, productivity and success hacks.