Saturday, February 18, 2012

Intermittent Fasting

The main obstacle for the majority of people trying to reach their fitness goals is finding a diet plan that works for them. It's often very difficult to find a diet plan that fits both a person's lifestyle as well as their eating preferences. I already discussed one diet principle called If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM) discussed here. Now, I'm going to discuss another diet that has been gaining a lot of popularity called intermittent fasting.

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting isn't exactly a diet. It's more of a different way of eating. The way it works is you go a certain length of time without eating(fasting) and it is followed by a window of time where you consume all of your food for the day. The length of the fast as well as the frequency of the fast varies depending on which intermittent fasting plan you choose to follow.

Proposed Benefits

Studies have shown that intermittent fasting can:

-Reduce blood glucose and insulin
-Preserve muscle
-Decrease body fat
-Lower inflammation
-Lower blood pressure
-Reduce oxidative stress
-Increase protection against neuro-degenerative diseases
-Increase alertness
-Increase fatty acid oxidation
-Keep metabolism strong

Despite these possible benefits, my personal opinion is that none of these should be your main motive for choosing to follow intermittent fasting. The real benefit is the freedom it allows you with your eating. Rather than be focused on eating every few hours, you can completely forget about food for a large portion of the day. You can be more productive with your time by not wasting it preparing meals multiple times per day. It also allows more freedom when you go out for dinner with your friends and family because you have a greater amount of calories saved up.


The is no one way to practice intermittent fasting. You can fast for as little as 16 hours or as much as 24 hours. You can fast everyday or you can do it only a couple of days per week. An important thing to keep in mind when reading about intermittent fasting is that not everyone following it weight trains. There are a lot of people who use it to lose weight and don't even work out. A person who lifts weights shouldn't follow the same method as someone who doesn't. I will go over a few different intermittent fasting options below but there is only one that I would actually do as a weight lifter.

24 Hour Fasts: This method is more geared for people trying to lose weight who don't necessarily participate in weight training. The fast is 24 hours followed by a very short feeding window where you eat just one meal. For example, you would eat your dinner at 7 pm and then not eat again until 7 pm the next day. This is better for people who don't weight train and have a slower metabolism. Their total calories for the day may only be around 1,600 which is very doable in one meal. I wouldn't recommend this for people who work out because with only one meal per day, you either have to train fasted or not have a post workout meal. Neither is optimal.

Every Other Day: With this method, you don't fast every day. It's similar to the 24 hour fast except you only do it a few days per week. For example, on Monday you could follow intermittent fasting and eat just one meal at 7 pm. On Tuesday you would eat normally and then on Wednesday you would fast again and only eat one meal at 7 pm. This is a slightly better option for weight lifters because you could set it up so that your fasts are on off days and your normal days are on training days. This will allow you to have pre and post workout nutrition on training days but reap some of the benefits of intermittent fasting on your off days.

Leangains Method (Reccomended): As a weight lifter, this is the option I would strongly reccomend if you choose to follow intermittent fasting. This is because it is the only method that structures your meals in a way to provide proper pre and post workout nutrition.

This option calls for a 16 hour fast and an 8 hour feeding window. In those 8 hours, you would typically have 3 meals which includes a pre workout meal, a post workout meal, and another meal after that. The largest meal of the day is your post workout meal.

Ideally, you should fast during the night when you are sleeping and continue your fast through the morning and break it in the early afternoon. This is because for most people, it's easier to skip eating in the morning when you aren't that hungry anyway and it allows you to go to bed full. By having your feeding later in the day, it gives you something to look forward to. It also allows your eating schedule to line up easily if you choose to go out for dinner. If you have your feeding early in the day, now you are fasting at night which blocks you from being able to enjoy a meal with friends and family. Keep that in mind if you choose to have your feeding early in the day.

There are a few options you have with the leangains method. You can have one pre workout meal, two pre workout meals, or train with no meals and only BCAAs. Here is a sample of each one.

One Pre Workout Meal: If you have a flexible working schedule, this method is the way to go. It allows you to train in the afternoon and fast in the morning.

12-1 PM: Pre-workout meal consisting of 20-25% of daily total calorie intake.
3-4 PM: Training
4-5 PM: Post-workout meal (largest meal).
8-9 PM: Last meal before the fast begins

Two Pre Workout Meals: This is a more appropriate method if you work a 9-5 job and can't eat your largest meal during the day and can't train in the afternoon.

12-1 PM: Pre workout meal one consisting of 20-25% of daily total calorie intake.
4-5 PM: Pre-workout meal two roughly equal to the first meal.
7-8 PM: Training
8-9 PM: Post-workout meal (largest meal).

Fasted (not recommended by me): This is for people who train very early in the morning but don't want their feeding to be too early in the day. You train only on BCAAs which still counts as part of your fast. Your feeding doesn't begin until you have your post workout meal. In my opinion, your training will suffer if you do this as well as your recovery. I wouldn't follow intermittent fasting if this is the only method that fits your schedule.

6 AM: 10 grams BCAAs
6-7 AM: Training.
8 AM: 10 grams BCAAs
10 AM: 10 grams BCAAs
12-1 PM: Post workout meal (largest meal of the day) begins 8 hour feeding window
8-9 PM: Last meal before the fast.

Here are a few key points to keep in mind if you choose to follow any of the leangains methods.

1) Hit Your Macros: Intermittent fasting doesn't mean you no longer have to hit specific macro nutrient goals. Your macros should be the same whether you follow this type of diet or not. Ideally, you should have most of your carbs pre and post workout and your last meal should have less.

2) Off Days: On days you don't train, your first meal of the day should be your largest meal rather than your second. As with any diet, it's usually a good idea to lower carbohydrates on your off days and raise fats a bit.

3) Diet Soda, Coffee, Sugar Free Gum: You are allowed to drink zero calorie drinks as well as chew sugar free gum during your fast.

4) Meal Frequency Doesn't Matter: Remember, the main benefit of this type of diet is the freedom it allows you with your eating. Although people generally eat three meals, you don't have to if you don't want to. The above samples are just examples. You can adjust the times and amount of meals however you would like.

5) Don't Drastically Alter Your Fasting and Feeding Windows: Your fasting and feeding windows should remain constant everyday . You can change it by a couple of hours but you shouldn't drastically switch it on a daily basis. The only exception would be if you get a new job or something comes up where you need to completely change your schedule. If that happens, change your fasting and feeding windows and then consistently follow it.

Best To Use When Bulking or Cutting?

Intermittent fasting can be used for both bulking and cutting but it is primarily geared for people who are trying to lose weight or maintain their weight. This is because when you are cutting, your calories are restricted which makes it a lot easier to eat all of your food in a smaller amount of time. It's also nice to eat larger meals that are satisfying rather than eat several small meals that don't fill you up. If you are bulking, it may be easier to spread your calories throughout the day. However, if eating all your calories in a smaller window is not an issue, go ahead and use intermittent fasting.


Intermittent fasting is a different approach to eating that some people may find easier to follow than the more traditional ways of eating. There are various health benefits associated with it but the main benefit is the freedom it allows you with your eating schedule. Although there are many possible methods of intermittent fasting, the leangains method is the only one that I would recommend for a weight lifter as it provides proper pre and post workout nutrition. It's important to remember that any of these methods can be tweaked to fit your schedule. You can fast 16 hours, 13 hours, 18 hours, 20 hours or whatever you choose. The whole point is that you are now free to eat without worrying about a meal schedule. If you are uncomfortably trying to fit one of these into your schedule then it is defeating the purpose.


yeayaknow said...

If on this method, you still have to hit your macros, then isn't this just IIFYM? Because on IIFYM, meal timing also does not matter (for instance, you can eat all your macros in one meal).

OoFaP said...

On any diet, you have to hit your macros. IIFYM just means that you can use any foods to hit them and not just typical healthy foods.

ThuhoanNguyen said...

Hey, great article. I understand that you dont recommend fasted training as the schedule you have provided. Is it because there are 5! hours until post workout meal? What if I train fasted (10gr BCAA) and have my postworkout meal directly after? Thanks

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