Intermittent Fasting Diet Tips & Tricks For Men & Women (A How To Guide)

Intermittent Fasting Diet Tips & Tricks For Men & Women (A How To Guide)

Walk into to any gym anywhere on the planet Earth and ask the person who looks like they’re the most muscular or the most athletic what kind of food they eat and how often they eat it. He’ll be given any number of different types of diet plans and setups.

One person will tell you that you should eat several small meals a day, another person may tell you that you only have to eat 3 times a day but you still need to have your 3 square meals as they’re called.

Somebody else might tell you that low carbohydrate and high fat is the way to go, while another person might tell you that it’s all about the protein.

While these touch upon many different aspects of dieting and eating methods, very seldom do you have people tell you simply skip breakfast and lunch and eat later on in the day.

As a matter of fact, if you told any of the above people that you planned on skipping most of your meals throughout the day and eating only later in the afternoon and evenings, you might be told that you’re crazy, you’d likely be told that all of your muscle mass would waste away. If anything you would be ridiculed by some of the bigger guys who are so sworn to their methods that they couldn’t see it any other way.

But what if there was a different way? What if there was a very simple way to get your calories throughout the day that didn’t involve complicated meals, carrying around little containers of food with you everywhere you went to make sure you ate every so often, and allowed you to enjoy your life not focus on food so much.

If you would like to simplify things and possibly get into the best shape of your life, then intermittent fasting might be something that you might be interested in. So stick around and learn a different way of eating, a simpler way that many think was ideal for our ancestors running around on the Plains and living in caves, and which logic dictates must be optimal for us too.

WHAT IS AN INTERMITTENT FASTING DIET?

Intermittent fasting is nothing new. As a matter of fact monks have been practicing fasting for Millennia based around religious principles[1]. People in different religious cultures like the Muslim religion practiced and still do practice religious fasting at certain times of the year (during Ramadan)[2].

Put in the absolute most simplest and distilled terms, intermittent fasting is simply not eating for a period of the day. Literally not consuming any calories meaning no sugary sodas or fruit drinks, at worst your beverages would include coffee with a few tablespoons of creamer but no sugar. You simply shift you’re eating to a different time of the day.

(If I ever want to sell you a book I write about intermittent fasting, it will be very short, because I really just described it and its entirety.)

The general idea with intermittent fasting is that by shifting your calories and avoiding food for prolonged periods throughout a 24-hour day you are setting your body up for a number of different hormonal and metabolism shifts. We will get down to the details a little later, but in short intermittent fasting is sort of like a daily reset for your body.

Instead of constantly being slammed with calories and food throughout the day, the body just gets to deal with you what you fed it and then start burning fat and optimizing all of your different body levels during the time you fast.

NOT EATING? FOR HOW LONG?

This depends on what you are doing in terms of intermittent fasting. There are several different ways that you can fast. Some people will go 16 hours without food and eat all of their meals and an 8-hour period. Some people go an entire 24 hours. Others will fast several days in a row, while others will eat as little as 500 calories of only protein each day, going as long as they can without eating and then eat only as little as 500 calories which is almost the same as fasting for all intents and purposes.

Don’t worry, we go into more detail on this question more a little later on in this article.

How Long Should You Fast – Depends on You

I read too many posts online where people are absolutely miserable on their diets. It is a shame that people will look at eating and losing fat as a torture test, and it makes sense that they will fall off a diet and then blame their genetics or some other “boogeyman” for why they are still overweight, sick and unhealthy.

The short answer to the question “how long should I fast” is simple:

Fast for as long as you can, without being uncomfortable.

The diet that works best is the diet that is going to be optimal for you, there may be better ways to lose fat if you were too fast longer, but I believe in being able to stick to a diet versus being miserable for a few hours every day if your hunger really kicks up. If you can only go 12 hours without food then do so. If you can make it to sixteen hours without eating you’ll find some wonderful benefits that go on behind the scenes in your body when you get up to this point in your fast.

SUMMARY: Intermittent fasting is simply not eating for a specific period of each day. You choose what works for you, but in general longer fasting periods tend to have better results on body shape and fat loss.

HOW (and why) DOES INTERMITTENT FASTING WORK?

If you take a look online and search anywhere, you will see a lot of scientific data and arguments about intermittent fasting diets that aim to “prove” that intermittent fasting (IF for short) works[3] by literally “ramping up your metabolism” as well as your growth hormone production and other bodily functions in order to help you maintain your weight more efficiently and either get leaner, more muscular, or in some cases both of these different things at the same time.

I will not say that the science is not there to prove these benefits, however one of the most important ways that intermittent fasting actually work is often overlooked by people who are being romanticized by the science behind this way of eating.

Intermittent fasting works so well at fat loss by:

  • Making it very easy to eat less calories in a 24 hour period.
  • Taking away hunger while you eat less.
  • Giving you great energy levels while the top two points are happening.

SUMMARY: Intermittent fasting has a lot of science backing it up, but it works more or less by making it easier to eat less and feel great while on a diet. This is accomplished by eating less throughout the day, but eating in only a specific time frame, or set number of hours.

HOW INTERMITTENT FASTING DIETS ARE BETTER THAN “REGULAR” DIETS

It might be helpful if we take a look at what happens when we go on a “regular” diet to lose weight. This will help to explain further why intermittent fasting diets can help to prevent some of the problems with dieting.

Let’s imagine that you go on a diet. You may be great with diets and count all your grams of protein, carbohydrates and fats or you may just be trying to cut out sweet sugar filled soda pop and eat less at fried foods. Either way, you are likely lowering your calories throughout the day. That is a good thing, because lowered calories are the primary way we lose weight.

Granted you are eating less, you may fall into the trap that millions of other dieters get stuck in. You are constantly tired, hungry, and feel like the diet is going to fail at any minute after only a few days of “sticking to it” and eating better.

So what is happening? For reasons that are not your fault, you are constantly kicking your insulin up throughout the day, which is causing you to have a few reactions that work against your fat loss diet.

Insulin is a hormone that your body releases when you eat food (it is released more with carbohydrate based foods). It is used to help breakdown and transport energy in and out of the organs (like the liver) and into the muscles where it is used for energy later (more on insulin below).

Excess carbs are stored in body fat, but when insulin is released, it can cause some unwanted side effects, especially in those who have weight to lose. Some of these side effects are (but are not limited to):

  • Increased hunger if blood sugar remains high
  • Decreased energy after blood sugar drops
  • An increase in the strength of the above two points if you are like many people and suffering from any level of insulin resistance.

SUMMARY: In short, each time you eat, your blood sugar is spiked through insulin release. This can cause ups and downs in energy levels and hunger through the day, meaning that even your best intentions to stay on a low calorie diet, eating healthy foods, can become a frustrating task over time.

Related Article – How Insulin Works

IS INTERMITTENT FASTING BEST FOR FAT LOSS OR MUSCLE GAIN

Most people are going to be using intermittent fasting for fat loss. This is due to the fact that it happens to be great a keeping you feeling full and energetic while eating less, however you can certainly use IF for muscle gain.

It is unpopular opinion to some online to say that intermittent fasting is not “optimal” for muscle gain, and you of course can use it to build muscle as well as lose fat. Some like Dr Layne Norton make good arguments for eating protein every few hours when trying to build muscle mass[4], but overall you will gain muscle on any diet that has you eating more calories than you need in a day.

If it is shown to be better (based on some studies)[5] to eat protein every few hours, then why would people use intermittent fasting for muscle gain? A big reason for using IF on a diet is going to come down to trying to gain as little fast as possible when dieting. Unfortunately, some fat loss will happen whenever you try and gain muscle – unless you are one of the very few genetically gifted people that do not gain fat (you almost certainly are not).

Because every person has different individual genetics, you should try IF out for yourself during a diet and a weight gain mass diet to see if it will be appropriate for you. Until you try, never discredit any ideas that are founded in science.

SUMMARY: You can use IF for either fat loss or muscle gain. The popular opinion (backed by some science) is that eating protein to spike protein the body every few hours is best when gaining muscle, but intermittent fasting will work for either fat loss or muscle gain.

HOW TO START INTERMITTENT FASTING IN THE NEXT 30 SECONDS

If you want to start IF today, the instructions are simple:

  • Do not eat
  • Keep not eating for a while
  • Start eating after you have not eaten for around 12 or more hours.

That was supposed to come off a little sarcastic (in a nice way), but truthfully, there is little to intermittent fasting for most people. You will block out time during the day to skip meals, and during that time you can do whatever you do during a day. Go to work, exercise, play a video game or do housework.

In short, life goes on but you are not dedicating your time to planning or making and eating meals. You are simply living without the anchor of food around your ankle, until a preset time when you will start to eat.

If you are dieting to lose weight, you will of course want to reduce your calories to lose fat. Otherwise, you can eat as you normally would in the “eating window” you choose.

SUMMARY: To start with intermittent fasting today, you will want to stop eating for a period and then start again later on. You can adjust your calories to suit your goals, and simply eat your meals in a predetermined time frame (usually called an “eating window”).

HOW LONG SHOULD I STAY FASTED?

How long you stay fasted will be up to you. I mentioned earlier that people need to be able to adhere to a diet to be successful with it, so if you read one website that says to fast a whole 24 hours, and attempt this only to feel awful, stick with what works for you.

I personally stay fasted between 12-16 hours, depending on hunger. I will give you acceptable results in any situation. When I had a job that had me sitting much of the day, I pushed my fasting to 20 hours or more, however these days I find myself more flexible and break my fast between 12-16 hours or whenever I feel that hunger will start to effect my performance at work or in real life.

When we talk about intermittent fasting, we talk about alternating periods where we eat and periods where we do not eat. This means that we will talk about these in a ratio. This will be displayed like this

16:8

In this case, the first number is the TIME SPENT FASTING while the second number is the TIME SPENT ALLOWING US TO EAT.

So in a 24 hour period, we are not eating for 16 hours, and eating for 8 hours. This is a 16:8 fast.

Fasting can have many different “brand names”. These include (but are not really limited to this list):

  • “Leangains” is a 16:8 fast that uses a specific type of weight lifting and eating schedule to help you lose fat or gain muscle (or even do both at the same time). Read more at www.leangains.com
  • “The Fast Diet” is a 5:2 diet, but in this cast the 5 means DAYS spent eating, and the 2 represents DAYS FASTING in a week. We will talk more about the 5:2 diet at a later time on this site. Read more at www.fastdiet.co.uk
  • “Eat Stop Eat” a diet that has you doing 24 hour fasting periods, followed by days of normal eating. Read more at this link.
  • “The Warrior Diet” is perhaps one of the older versions of fasting diets. It is a book written by Ori Hofmekler. It is based on the idea that we used to eat a certain way as we evolved as a species. Check out the diet on Amazon.
  • The “Omega Body Blueprint” is interesting in that it combines the above diets into something that should work for everyone, but is slightly geared towards bodybuilders and gym rats. Check out more here.

There was even a famous YouTube personality called Low Carb Cory, who advocated fasting for 36 hours straight. No food whatsoever, followed by what could be known as a “food free for all” for 24 hours. Check his video on his fasting method out below:

SUMMARY: There are several “brand name” intermittent fasting diet types. They all differ slightly but all have you not eating for a part of the day. Do what works for you, and do not suffer on your diet.

WHAT IS THE BEST INTERMITTENT FASTING EATING SETUP

If you are paying attention (and I totally know you are), the answer again comes down to the “best” fasting period being the one that you adhere to the best. That is not to say that you won’t benefit more from a 16 hour fast than a 12 hour fast. You will, I repeat you WILL benefit more if you fast longer (due to hormonal shifts, a speed up in metabolism and increase in growth hormone past 12 hours of fasting), but if your lifestyle and performance at your job or home life suffers because of extended fasting, then do your best and get the best results you can without being miserable on your diet.

WHAT CAN I EAT DURING THE FAST?

This is a very loaded question that to me has a pretty simple answer. Do not eat anything during your fast, the exception being calorie free drinks, and perhaps some coffee creamer. Many people will use BCAA (branch chained amino acids) if they are in the gym and want to ensure they are getting optimal muscle preservation, but it is not necessary for most people.

Link: Check out some supplements that are useful with intermittent fasting

There are reports that as little as 25 calories can shift you out of a fast, but these are not backed by any sience. Because everyone reacts differently to calories, the best bet is to simply not eat. It is a lot easier than you think, and fear not because your muscle will not burn away if you do not eat something for a portion of the day.

SUMMARY: Keep food to zero, and be sure you are not sipping on juices or sodas with calories in them (the calories will come from sugar). Keep coffee creamer to a few tablespoons, and use artificial sweeteners if you need to, instead of sugar.

Side Study – Religion has used fasting for centuries

I want to point out something briefly, if may help put your mind at ease. If you worry about the idea of skipping meals, and are concerned with the idea of “starvation mode,” consider that Buddhist monks and nuns traditionally fast, skipping meals after they eat at noon, going until the next day without food.[6]

Monks generally live longer than many other populations and have no trouble with health throughout their lives.[7]

The argument that many would make is that monks are vegetarian, and live in a “bubble” where they are not dealing with the same everyday world most people in western culture experience. It’s also noted that monks are not bodybuilders or athletes, however whether a person is an athlete or not, fasting will hold the same benefits for them.

Perhaps one of the most popular examples of modern day religious fasting during Ramadan, and the fact that millions of Muslims who fast during Ramadan do live in the modern world and are athletes, hitting the gym, or playing soccer/football (even professionally.)[8]

HEATH BENEFITS OF INTERMITTENT FASTING DIETS

On the surface, the primary first benefit of intermittent fasting is “fat loss,” but with fat loss, you get a lot of different health benefits that happen when you start to fast. These are beneficial to everyone, even though some of them may sound like they would benefit only make bodybuilders happy.

  • Increased energy
  • Decreased fat
  • Maintain and preserve muscle during a diet
  • Help increase sleep quality
  • Help balance insulin levels and fight insulin resistance
  • Decrease or eliminate hunger entirely
  • Increased stamina

HOW DO INTERMITTENT FASTING DIETS ACTUALLY WORK

First of all, let’s get one thing out of the way that I was told a long time ago. “Grazing” and eating small meals throughout the day is complete garbage. Utter BS that is completely unnecessary.

If you are paying attention here, you may have noticed that on this diet, we are SKIPPING MEALS. Logically this means that we are eating LESS in a 24 hour period, but how does skipping one simple meal that would only contain around 400 or 500 calories do much to help us lose serious fat?

“None of this makes sense! THIS IS CRAZY NONSENSE” your brain is shouting.

First of all, you need to tell your brain to take a break and have a little faith that there is a scientific backing to all of this. There have been extensive studies with intermittent fasting, metabolic rates, and growth hormone (most often referred to as “GH” and a big buzzword these days) to fully understand why and how fasting works to benefit practically everyone.

Intermittent fasting plays directly into most people’s hormonal profile nicely, and it has been argued that not eating throughout the day is the preferred way to eat, based on the fact that throughout the course of human history, we were never as well fed as we have been for the past few hundred years (and specifically the past sixty years with the mass commercialization of food). ADD CITATION

Because of this, a number of positive hormonal shifts occur whenever you simply skip meals and stop eating.

HOW HORMONES CONTROL YOUR BODY FAT AND MUSCLE MASS

There are two major hormones at play when you fast, these are insulin and growth hormone. We have mentioned them before in this article, and I do not want to drop too much science on you, but what you need to understand is how these two hormones help to regulate fat burning, and control how fast and efficiently you burn fat and maintain muscle.

Insulin

This major hormone is responsible for many things, but since this is not a scientific review we will just leave it at this. Insulin is a growth hormone, it helps you grow tissues, mainly fat or muscle. It is released when you eat and is ANABOLIC (makes things grow). If you are totally healthy and eat carbohydrates then insulin will put these carbs into muscle and blood sugar for use as energy. Excess will be stored as fat.

If you are like many people, your body probably does not regulate insulin well and if you are in bad shape, it may even be filling your fat stores more than blood sugar needs and muscle storage.

Insulin also puts a sudden STOP to pretty much all fat burning that may be happening in your body. This means you shift from a fasted state (burning fat for fuel) and into fed (storing carbs and fat as energy later). Good luck getting lean this way, especially if you are not as efficient with insulin as you should be.

Intermittent fasting helps to lower insulin levels. The result is that you have steady energy levels and you will continue to burn fat as your main fuel source instead of forcing carbs into storage for later use.

INSULIN SUMMARY: Insulin is a storage hormone and many people have eaten poorly for so long that they have poor control over it. Fasting helps to reduce insulin, increase energy and fat loss and make dieting much easier.

Growth Hormone

There is so much to say about growth hormone (GH or HGH) and a lot of it is super complicated. In short though, GH is what helps you grow (with a name like growth hormone, did you expect anything else?)

GH has been called the “fountain of youth” and possibly with valid reasons to back that claim up. Teenagers are FULL of GH, and it shows.

In a time of not eating, lack of food (aka “fasting”), the body increases GH production to help preserve your muscle mass. This is a neat evolutionary trick for keeping your alive, and it can be used in the modern world to help you reach diet and fitness goals faster, without the need for crazy injections like you have heard of people using.

So what does GH actually do? It helps your body to repair itself. Regenerate. Meaning clear skin, nice hair, and more importantly to you reading this, more muscle mass. If you are fasting, GH helps you to maintain the muscle you do have, and if you are eating more calories than you need, it helps to make muscle vs storing the excess calories as fat. GH helps your body break down fat for fuel too, which means you will lose more fat if there is more GH present.

GROWTH HORMONE SUMMARY: Growth hormone helps your body regenerate, which is how it creates new cells (think “young cells”) and keeps you energetic and healthy. It creates new muscle and preserves your existing muscle, uses fat for fuel and helps you feel great. Fasting increases GH levels, which is something that everyone should want.

Adrenal Response

Nor-adrenaline is just as it sounds, related to adrenaline, the same stuff that makes a person energetic and “amped up” under certain circumstances.

Fasting increases nor-adrenaline which is good for you, because it helps to break down fat faster. The body taps into fat for fuel and under times of “stress” it will go to fat that is stored to get this fuel. Studies have shown that the metabolism can increase by upwards of 3.6% when fasting due to this effect, which means we will be spending 3.6% less time dieting at some point in the future.

The idea is simple. Cavemen would go long periods where they did not eat. This is the same as fasting, and your body will give you extra energy in order to help the caveman you get food and survive. This energy was a survival mechanism, but it is now a nice side effect of intermittent fasting.

It also gives you a nice bump in energy, so that idea of not eating food making you tired? That is actually the opposite of what happens with intermittent fasting.

PUTTING THE INTERMITTENT FASTING PUZZLE TOGETHER FOR SUCCESS

In this article we have covered several different topics. Here is a summary of points:

  • Intermittent fasting is simply picking a part of the day and not taking in calories during that time.
  • During this period, you eat nothing with any real calories. A few tablespoons of coffee creamer at max, to ensure that you are still in your fasted state.
  • You can choose different fasting periods, but the most popular are 16 hours or 20 hours.
  • Fasting works so well by helping your hunger levels. You are less hungry and the diet is easier to stick to.
  • Fasting helps your hunger by leveling out insulin levels. This causes better energy levels and allows you to enjoy your diet more than if you ate every few hours and were hungry from insulin spikes.
  • Growth Hormone is elevated, which helps preserve your muscle, build new muscle, and uses your own body fat for fuel, further helping fat loss.
  • Starting intermittent fasting is as easy as not eating. Simple as that.

If intermittent fasting is so easy, why do more people not try it? Most of the time, this comes down to people worrying about all of the old “nutrition rules” they were taught their entire lives.

  • Eating breakfast as the most important meal of the day
  • Eating several times a day to “keep the metabolism moving.”
  • Muscles “breaking down” because of missed meals

…And many other old ways of thinking that are starting more and more to become debunked by science and research.

Will intermittent fasting work for you? The only way to tell is to try it out for a few days, and see how you feel. Drop a line in the comments and let us all know what you think, if fasting is for you, and if it has helped you out on your way to a leaner and healthier you.


REFERENCES AND USEFUL LINKS
[1] Chapter 4: The Development Of Fasting From Monasticism Through The Reformation To The Modern Era
[2] Rules of the Fasting of Ramadan
[3] Intermittent Fasting Scientific Evidence
[4] Layne Norton PhD on protein: how much and how often?
[5] The effect of protein timing on muscle strength and hypertrophy: a meta-analysis
[6] On Fasting From a Buddhist’s Perspective
[7] Why do women, monks and nuns all live longer than men in the general population?
[8] How Muslim Athletes Deal With Ramadan

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