I view intermittent fasting as more of a long-term lifestyle change as opposed to a quick fix, and as such it should be approached in a way that addresses health as well as body composition. Before I get into more details, I want to express to following tips that will greatly increase the likelihood of you creating an awesome physique.
Just because you’re allowed to eat a ton of food at one sitting doesn’t mean that you should use it as an excuse to break the fast with a trip to the Chinese food buffet. It’s kinda typing with your nose – sure you could do it, but that doesn’t make it a good idea. As with any diet plan, you should get a majority of your intake from real (read: mainly unprocessed) foods while controlling your intake of the junkier stuff such as cookies, ice cream, cakes, etc.
Anyone that’s been on a diet for a few weeks only to give up and fall victim to the hunger beast knows all too well that any tool that you can use to fight hunger must be used if you want to experience any long term success. Luckily for you, by simply increasing your protein intake you’ll be way ahead of the game since the typical American diet tends to be low in protein and high in carbohydrates and fat (mainly from processed junk), and I imagine this trend isn’t only limited to Americans these days.
Protein has been shown to be the most satiating macronutrient out of the bunch, which means that gram for gram protein will keep you full longer than carbohydrates or fat. Not convinced yet? An increased protein intake in the face of a caloric deficit will help maintain muscle mass, which should always be a primary objective when trying to lose body fat.
Want more you say? Well then, let’s have at it! Thanks to the thermic effect of food (the price of processing food after eating it), there is an inherent metabolic benefit from increasing your protein intake: you get more bang for your buck by eating more protein. It costs your body roughly 20-30% of the calories in a gram of protein to break it down,
Here is an example:
1g protein = 4 kcals
220g protein = 880 kcals
880 x 20% = 176 kcals
Total calories ingested = 704 kcals
Take note that I’m only using one day as an example. If you spread this out over the course of an entire week, everything else remaining consistent, you’ll have passively burned an additional 1,232 calories by doing nothing aside from eating more meat (or your protein source of choice).
I recommend setting protein at a minimum of 1g/lb of bodyweight as a starting point, increasing it to around 1.2g/lb if hunger is really becomes a problem or if you’re in a deep caloric deficit.
I’m sure your parents have been telling you this forever, but here is the question – are you doing it? If not, you’re already sabotaging yourself right out of the gate. Aside from the well-documented health benefits of fruits and vegetables, the fiber content of these foods will help slow the digestion of a meal, keeping you satiated longer than you would’ve been without them. Add fiber to a mixed meal and you have the blueprint for dietary success with minimal effort.
While it sure may seem like it at times, intermittent fasting isn’t magic and anyone who tells you that calories don’t matter is most likely trying to sell you something crappy. I’ve found that, at least initially, tracking your macronutrients is necessary if you want to go beyond losing a few pounds to having visually stunning results.
A detailed look at how to track your calories is beyond the scope of this piece, so if you haven’t done it before I suggest you check out this resource to see one way of going about counting calories.
In general, on workout days you want to increase your calories via carbohydrate intake while decreasing your fat intake. On non workout days you want to decrease calories from your carbohydrate intake while increasing your fat intake. Regardless of the manipulation of fats and carbohydrate, protein should remain relatively consistent from day to day.
You can train fasted, therefore beginning the 8 hour feeding window right after your training session.
Option A Breakdown
3pm: Post workout meal
7pm: 2nd meal
11pm: 3rd meal
Great Post Workout Meal Ideas
Your training won’t be completely fasted – ideally you would take 10g of branch chain amino acids (BCAAs) about 15 minutes before your workout. It’s best to go with powder form due to the fact that it’s much easier than popping a ton of tablets, but that choice is up to you. I personally use , but I’ve heard good things about as well. You can also go with a scoop of if you don’t want to take any BCAAs.
Editor’s Note: Project Swole’s choice of BCAA supplements is XTEND; great flavor, great price!
If you find that either of those options are a bit too sexy for you, you can experiment with completely fasted training and see how you respond. I do it regularly and haven’t experienced any consequences from a strength or workout performance standpoint.
You can begin your feeding window with one or two pre-workout meals, depending on your schedule and preference.
Option B (one meal) breakdown
12pm: pre workout meal
4pm: post workout meal
7pm: 3rd meal
Option B (two meal) breakdown
12pm: 1st meal
3pm: pre workout meal
7pm: 3rd meal
If you go this route, it’s best to keep the pre-workout meal(s) between 15-25% of your daily intake (in the case of the one meal option). For the two meal option, try to keep it between 40-50%. The idea here is to get the bulk of your calories in after your workout in order to take advantage of the fact that those calories will be shuttled towards muscle building, glycogen replenishment and recovery, decreasing the likelihood that they’ll be stored as fat.
On non training days, the size and number of meals is up to you. Sometimes, when I’m pushing super low calories on an off day – think around 1300 or so – to reach my goal faster, I may only eat one huge meal a day. This naturally extends the length of my next fast if I want to keep the habit of eating during the same window everyday, but I’ve been doing this long enough where I’m ok with that now.
For beginners though, I highly recommend keeping your non training day and training day eating patterns fairly consistent simply from an adherence standpoint until you learn what you can and cannot get away with.
At the end of the day, intermittent fasting is a tool that should be used to get you from where you are to where you want to be in as stress-free of a manner as possible. If at any point you become way too bogged down by the details, do me a favor and step back, look at the big picture to gain some perspective, and adjust the protocol to find what works best for you and your life. After all, it doesn’t make sense to free yourself from one set of mental shackles only to become a fanatic about something else.
Do you have any questions, fears or concerns? Leave them in the comment section below and I’ll address them personally before we move on to the final topic in this series – how to set up your training program.
A graduate of Eastern Michigan University, Roger Lawson II received his bachelors degree in English Language and Literature. His passion for writing, teaching and helping others achieve their goals while improving their quality of life, has led him to pursue a career in the fitness industry. Wanting to first ask of himself what he would ask of his clients, Roger transformed his body and mind over the course of six months, finishing as a runner up in Precision Nutrition’s Lean Eating Program.
Roger is a personal trainer at All Access Fitness Academy in Shrewsbury, MA, and is the owner of RogLawFitness.com . He recently completed a three month internship at Cressey Performance in Hudson, MA under the guidance of Eric Cressey, Tony Gentilcore and Brian St.Pierre where he learned the fundamentals of proper coaching and professionalism in the fitness industry.
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