Forget about counting calories and reading the label of every food you eat when you’re dieting to lose weight. There’s another way to diet that doesn’t require you to do any of these things. It’s called intermittent fasting and may be the best way there is to lose weight and keep it off.
You won’t just lose weight when you follow this diet strategy either. When you fast the weight you lose will be from your excess body fat, not muscle. This means that once you’ve lost the weight you’ll look even better. You’ll stay strong even though you’re dieting and eating less too. Additional benefits of intermittent fasting are that your energy will increase and sugars cravings will be eliminated too.
Intermittent Fasting Defined
The basic definition of intermittent fasting is that you have set times during the week where you don’t eat. You are allowed to drink as much water or other calorie free drinks as you like. That’s all there is to it. Fasts typically last between 14-24 hours. The longer you fast, the more calories you’ll burn. Some experts claim that the fat loss benefits of fasting kick in around the 20 hour mark although I personally find even a 16 hour fast to be beneficial for weight loss.
How To Perform An Intermittent Fast
All you need to do is determine which meal of the day will be your last and when you will eat again the following day. If you’re going to do a 24 hour fast, a great way to do so is to make dinner your last meal and then don’t eat again until the same time the next day. On the other hand, if you decide to make your fast last 14-20 hours instead, just figure out at what time the next day this many hours will have elapsed. This is when you will eat again. When you do eat again, have a regular sized meal to get back into eating. You probably won’t be able to eat too much at this meal anyway.
You’ll probably want to fast 1-2 times a week. The frequency you perform a fast is going to be inversely proportional to its duration. What I mean by this is the longer the duration, the less often you fast. If you’re doing a 24 hour fast for example, doing so 1-2 times a week will produce results. Fasts that last between 14-20 hours can be done more often. Many people eat this way every day, fasting for 14-20 hours and then eating within the 4-10 hour window that makes up of the rest of the day. You’ll have to give each method a try to see which works best for you.
What Should You Eat After A Fast?
I think the best way to eat after a fast is to follow a low carbohydrate diet. More specifically, you should avoid processed foods and simple sugars. This means eat little to no bread, crackers, cookies, pasta, or rice. Fruit juice and sodas should be avoided too.
Foods you should eat plenty of are protein rich meats (beef, eggs, fish, pork, and poultry), healthy fats (coconut, fish, and olive oil), and plenty of vegetables. Other foods that are okay to eat in limited quantities are berries and sweet potatoes. Eating this way will help you keep your body in a state where it’s using fat for fuel so you continue to lose weight and get rid of body fat. Your energy levels will also remain consistent. Binging on carbohydrate and sugar rich foods is likely to leave you feeling sick, tired, and bloated. Doing too much of it may limit your weight loss progress as well.
Many intermittent fasting experts including Brad Pilon and Martin Berkhan recommend that you don’t eat too much when you break your fast. This is because doing so can leave you feeling sick to your stomach and sleepy. I also find that the best way to eat after a fast is to have a moderately sized meal and then eat a larger one the next time I eat.
What To Expect From Intermittent Fasting
While you may feel hungry the first couple of times you fast, it will pass. Many people, myself included actually experience an increase in energy and mental clarity while fasting. This is especially true after the first 12 or so hours have passed.
Drinking water sweetened with a little lemon juice helps many people get past the occasional hunger that can happen while fasting. Unsweetened tea can help too. Whatever you do, stay away from diet sodas and artificially sweetened drinks. They can actually make you feel like eating, even if you’re not hungry.
How Does Intermittent Fasting Help Me Lose Weight?
The first and most, obvious way that intermittent fasting helps you lose weight is that you eat less food, given you don’t binge the rest of the time.
Other ways it can help you lose weight include:
- Lowering and stabilizing insulin levels. This makes it easier for your body to burn fat as fuel and decreases the likelihood that the food you eat will be stored as fat.
- Fasting can increase insulin sensitivity too. Increased insulin sensitivity means the cells of your body require less insulin to function. Your body is better at burning fat when insulin sensitivity is increased too.
- Fasting increases levels of chemicals called catecholamines (epinephrine and norepinephrine) in your body. These chemicals cause your body to burn more calories from stored body fat. Over time this means you’ll lose weight, get leaner, and look better.
- Fasting decreases your appetite. Over time you’ll notice that cravings and hunger decrease when you fast.
- Increased growth hormone levels. By increasing production of this hormone, your body will burn more calories from your stored body fat. One study shows that a 24 hour fast increased growth hormone secretion by 1300% in women and 2000% in men.
How Much Weight Will You Lose?
The amount of weight you lose from intermittent fasting will depend on a variety of factors. They include what and how much you eat when you’re not fasting, how long and often you fast, and how you exercise.
If you fast 1-2 times a week you should be able to lose at least 2 pounds every week. The heavier you are to begin with, the more weight you will lose each week. Some people report losing 3-4 pounds a week from intermittent fasting.
More importantly, the weight you lose will be from your excess body fat. You’ll hold onto your muscle which will enable you to be healthier and look better in the long run.
Check out the success stories section of leangains.com to read about and see before and after pictures of men and women who have followed his fasting and workout program.
Working Out And Intermittent Fasting
Once you get used to how you feel while fasting, you should be able to work out just fine when you are on a fast.This is true for lifting weights and cardio workouts. I’ve trained during a fast many times and find that my performance doesn’t suffer at all. Much of it, I find is merely mind over matter. Working out while you’re fasting may actually be beneficial because it will enable you to burn more calories from your stored body fat and increase growth hormone levels higher than if you eat before working out.
One thing that I do find effective is to take a branch chain amino acid supplement before and after I train. This gives me extra energy without the calories. I notice that I’m not as sore the day after either. Tyrosine supplements are also helpful for giving yourself more energy and focus during your workout too. Creatine monohydrate powder can also help you have enough energy available to put 100% into your workouts.
Another option is to wait until after you’ve broken your fast and had a small meal prior to your workout. It’s not my preference but may be what works best for you.
There are several reasons intermittent fasting is an effective way to lose weight.
- Fasting can help you control key hormones that are associated with weight loss (growth hormone, insulin, norepinephrine, etc.)
- Fasting is easier to do than counting calories and restricting specific foods.
- Fasting can actually give you more energy and mental clarity.
- Fasting enables your body to use fat for fuel and energy and helps you preserve muscle mass. This means when you lose weight you look better too.
Now all that’s left is for you to give it a try and learn for yourself how quickly it can help melt away excess body fat and boost health and performance in and out of the gym.
Additional Intermittent Fasting Resources
This is the website and blog for Brad Pilon, author of Eat Stop Eat. It’s the first book on intermittent fasting that goes through all of the current research to build a practical and safe way to fast, lose weight, and improve your health. Brad’s website provides tons of free information that will quickly educate you regarding all things related to intermittent fasting.
Brad’s approach to intermittent fasting is to perform a 24 hour fast 1-2 times a week. His book describes how to painlessly do this, the best ways to eat when you are not fasting, and how to workout on this diet. He also provides a ton of scientific references to support everything he writes. I highly recommend reading it before your first fast.
Experiments With Intermittent Fasting
Written by John Berardi, PhD, this free eBook details the basics of fasting for weight loss. What’s really cool about this book is that John tried out several different types of fasting programs himself and provides detailed results on each. This includes before and after pictures, weight loss, changes in percent body fat and muscle mass, and even results from the blood work he had done to show how fasting affected his health too. Since it’s free and details several ways to fast for weight loss, this is a great book to read before undertaking your first fast.
This website feature the fasting guidelines of Martin Berkhan who has used intermittent fasting to lose weight and build muscle. His results are impressive. Martin maintains super low body fat year round while still training hard and getting strong.
His fasting style is a little different from Brad Pilons since he advocates a 16-18 hour daily fast with a 6-8 hour window where you eat. He also advocates taking branch chain aminos before your workout.
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