Intermittent fasting is a highly controversial topic. The popular belief that breakfast is the most important meal of the day has been debunked. This has created a shitstorm among the health and fitness community.
All too often you hear contradictory statements around nutrition and health. This may lead you to believe that science isn’t all too accurate. However, most of the fundamentals are agreed upon by legitimate experts in the field. For example, we know that calories in vs calories out dictates weight gain, that high protein diets are beneficial for body composition, that fruit and veggies are good for your health. But on the frontier of science, we find debate and disagreement. This is where old assumptions are challenged with new evidence. This is usually what the media likes to report on with over sensationalised headlines like “meat causes cancer” or “a glass of red wine a day is equal to an hour in the gym”. These headlines catch our eye because they go against what is generally thought as true. They tend to distort the evidence and make absolute and misleading statements. This can make it very confusing for the general public.
Intermittent fasting (IF) is rapidly becoming popular in the health and fitness community. It is broadcasted as a miracle for health, fat loss and muscle gain by some. Those who have always preached “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” are having their long held beliefs challenged. We can see great body transformations and health outcomes without worrying about eating before lunch. Intermittent fasting was one of the major factors in making my bikini comp prep easier.
I have Martin Berkhan’s LeanGains to thank for introducing me to IF. When I was first learning about IIFYM I would frequently visit this site to read articles incuding the top ten fasting myths and the marshmallow test. I highly recommend reading through his most popular articles at www.leangains.com. This site was a great starting point for learning about both IF and tracking macros.
In 2015 I was lucky enough to travel to the UK for Epic Fitness Summit where medical doctor, strength & nutrition coach, Dr Bojan Kostevski of liftheavy.com, gave a great presentation on all the current evidence. He covered both animal and human studies, and went into detail with what we currently know and it’s implications. If you want to review the science on this topic, check out his site here.
There are many anecdotal IF success stories online. But this evidence is highly biased and subject to human error, as there are many uncontrolled variables and inaccurate reporting methods. This is not to say they should be ignored. This is where we look to science to corroborate the informal findings and test fasting for health and body transformation outcomes.
Fat loss Myths
Many coaches will tell you to eat breakfast like a king, have a medium sized lunch, and a small dinner. There are many myths that tell us to avoid carbs after dark or not to eat after 6pm because you won’t burn it off while sleeping. The truth is, these ignorant statements get it all wrong. In fact, I have had some of the best success eating my biggest meal with the bulk of my daily carb intake around 9pm before I go to bed.
So how should you incorporate IF to reach your goals?
Based on the current evidence and my own experience, I’ll show you how to make work for you.
Why does IF work for me?
- I’m controlling overall calories and macronutrients which is the primary driver of my results
- I’m having 3-4 filling meals, rather than 5+ tiny and unsatisfying meals
- I save a large portion of carbs for my last meal of the day
- I include lean proteins at each meal
- My sleep is improved by late night carb intake
- My daily energy is increased by eating less during the day, and not feeling sluggish
- I’ve eliminated late night cravings by having my largest meal last
Coaching a wide range of clients has shown me that IF can work great for some and not for others. Some clients report increased adherence, energy, while experiencing a decrease in hunger and food focus. They find making the switch has made life significantly easier. On the flip side, some claim it led to increased bingeing and increase in food focus. This is why I never recommend it as a blanket, one size fits all approach. Introducing it gradually, by moving your first meal back a little more each day, is a great way to see whether IF is going to work for you.
A Gradual Approach to introducing IF
Day 1: Eat 10.00am-9.00pm
Day 2: Eat 10.30am-9.00pm
Day 3: Eat 11.00am-9.00pm
Continue to push your first meal later until you reach the desired eating window
Potential Benefits of IF include becoming less food focused, decreased hunger, and increased adherence to calorie & macro targets. Try these strategies when implementing IF.
- Track your calories
- Keep protein intake consistent
- Split protein intake evenly over 3-4 meals
- Once you have pushed your first meal back, try to stick to the same meal times each day to regulate your hunger signals
- Meal prep and/or plan meals ahead of time
- Aim for a 6-9hour eating window within a period that suits your schedule and needs
- Eat a protein and carb based meal/snack with minimal fat & fibre 1-3 hours before training
- Use calorie free caffeinated beverages in your fasting window to blunt hunger
- Avoid the extremes of fasting too long, going too low on calories, etc
Train completely fasted
Have less than 3 protein meals per day
Eat unlimited calories within fasting window
Think that fasting is more important than calories in calories out
Use IF if it leads to bingeing, overeating or food obsession
Option 1: Leangains Style Intermittent Fasting
Eat your target daily calories within an 8 hour eating window
Option 2: Modified Alternate Day Fasting
Keep your weekly total calories the same, but cycle your carbs and fats to allow higher calories on some days and lower on others. This can make dieting more enjoyable.
With both options, you will need to calculate your target daily/weekly calories and macros to eat towards your goal.
If you are going to try either of these methods, I recommend journaling your progress and results. This can help give you accurate feedback as to whether this method will work for you.
If you really want impressive results, include my top training tips for women in this article.
Comment below with your intermittent fasting stories.