Hey guys, let’s talk nutrition!
By now you’re probably tired of hearing me say this. But when trying to reach your fitness goals, the importance of proper nutrition really cannot be overstated! You can’t outwork bad eating habits.
For anyone trying to build lean muscle, burn fat, or just live a healthy strong lifestyle, owning your nutrition is a must.
But knowing how to eat right can be a little confusing, especially these days. Almost every week some new diet is trending, and it seems like everyone has their own nutrition hacks that they’re pushing.
It can all get a little confusing, especially when some of the information seems to contradict each other.
One topic that’s definitely trending right now is intermittent fasting. It’s one strategy many people have adopted to help them reach their nutrition goals.
But does intermittent fasting work? Can it really help you lose weight? What are the benefits of intermittent fasting? Should you be doing intermittent fasting?
For the answers to these questions and more, read on! Welcome to Intermittent Fasting 101
Intermittent Fasting Basics
Fasting is abstaining from food for a period of time, and intermittent means that it’s interval-based.
During intermittent fasting, you basically structure your diet so that there are alternating periods of time when you eat followed by times during which you eat very little or don’t eat at all.
One reason this has caught on is the idea that when you go for a long period without food, your body becomes more prone to burning fat at a higher rate.
While there might be some data to support it, this theory is largely up for debate. Basically, the jury is still out on whether fasting leads to a more effective or higher rate of fat loss.
But another main reason intermittent fasting seems to have caught on with so many people is simply that they like it!
It’s a way of reaching their daily and weekly macro goals that they’ve found works for them.
But there isn’t just one way of doing intermittent fasting (it can never be simple can it ?). Different techniques have been developed which mesh better with different people’s lifestyles.
Intermittent Fasting Methods
There are a handful of strategies that can be implemented for intermittent fasting.
While they each are a bit unique, they’re essentially different versions of accomplishing the same thing. It’s all about lifestyle fit.
Just a disclaimer, the “normal eating” days mentioned in a few methods below are still meant to be composed of a healthy macro conscious diet.
This is probably the most popular method used and, if it fits with your lifestyle, it might be the most sustainable.
If you were using this technique, you would set an 8-hour eating window and a 16-hour fasting window.
During a typical day, you would wake up in the morning and skip breakfast. Your first meal of the day would be lunch, which you would eat around noon, and your last meal of the day would be dinner around 8 pm. Most people have a snack or two between each of their meals, or even more than two meals during their eating time.
So if you do the math, your window of eating would be an 8-hour block between 12pm-8pm, and your non-eating interval would be a 16-hour block from 8pm-12pm the next day.
This might work well for people who don’t workout early or who generally don’t like to eat in the mornings anyway.
5 days/2 days
On this plan, you eat as you normally would during 5 days of the week, and then significantly reduce your calories for 2 consecutive days.
On these fasting days, users generally eat 2 small meals totaling about 500-600 calories per day, for a final count of just over 1000 calories for the 2 days combined. After the second fasting day, you resume your normal eating habits at breakfast on the following day.
This is probably less sustainable for most people, as hunger is likely to be high during the fasting days. Nutrition protocols that leave people feeling hungry for long periods of time are less probable to be followed. It could also be hard to workout on your fasting days, increasing the likelihood that you’ll skip the gym those days.
6 days/ 1 day
This method is similar to the 5/2 protocol, but fasting only occurs during 1 day of the week. Users follow a normal diet for 6 days followed by a 24 hour fasting period on the 7th day. The primary difference here is that during the fasting period, you literally eat no food at all.
If you were following this method, you would eat dinner on the night of day 6 and then not eat anything until dinner on day 7.
Again, the hunger experienced on the fasting day may be unpleasant enough to make this unsustainable over the long haul.
This style of intermittent fasting involves every-other-day fasting. On non-fasting days you eat as you normally would (again, your “normal” is still meant to be a healthy diet). On fasting days, users either significantly restrict calories to 500 or less, or they do not eat at all.
This was the method of choice in one study where participants lost 2.5% of their body weight in 22 days, although in almost every case users reported dealing with feelings of hunger on every single fasting day.
For that reason, this is another method which may also be hard to stick to over the long term.
The Warrior Diet
This diet is a variation of intermittent fasting which implements a sort of ramping up technique every day. Users begin the day by consuming just fluids, then low-calorie fruits and vegetables during the afternoon, before finally consuming a meal in the evening.
Aside from the negligible calories consumed from fruits and veggies, they are allowed to eat only during a 4-hour window at the end of the day, which is when they get the vast majority of their daily calories. Those calories are meant to come from whole, unprocessed foods.
What makes this potentially unsustainable as a lifestyle is that you have to eat quite a bit during your one meal in order to reach your daily macro goals. Eating that much at one time may be a bit over the top for some, while going the whole day without eating may not very enjoyable either.
Intermittent Fasting Results
Here we come to the big question. Does it work? This is what you all tuned in to find out, right? Well, the answer depends on your definition of “work.”
As far as being a viable method for healthy eating and reaching your macro goals each week, then yes it definitely works as an option.
But does intermittent fasting work as a more effective means of burning fat? Well, the answer to that is a little bit less clear.
Many people have reported weight loss after beginning intermittent fasting. However, this is likely due, at least in part, to the fact that they’re eating fewer overall calories. It’s no secret that reducing calories over a period of time generally leads to weight loss, and you don’t necessarily need to fast intermittently to reduce your calorie consumption.
Studies like this one suggest that calorie reduction leads to the same weight loss outcome whether it was achieved by intermittent fasting or constant daily calorie restriction. However, due to the allowance of larger meals, some people found it easier to stick to a reduced calorie diet based on intermittent fasting.
But all things being equal (that is, when carbs, fat, protein, and calorie consumption are the same) it hasn’t really been indisputably shown that intermittent fasting will lead to more effective weight loss results.
So Should I try it?
The goal for everyone should be to find a way of meeting your nutritional needs that is sustainable for you. That means finding a method of eating that you enjoy and that you can stick to over the long-term. If you think intermittent fasting will help you accomplish that, then you should definitely try it out.
But if you’re considering adopting intermittent fasting purely for the fat-loss benefits, you shouldn’t necessarily be expecting to see better results than you would from a traditional exercise and nutrition protocol.
It comes down to personal preference and what you can most effectively adapt to. Basically, if it fits with your lifestyle and you can make it a sustainable way to live, then go for it!
Why you might want to try intermittent fasting
If you generally don’t get hungry in the mornings or prefer not to eat breakfast, and you can last until lunch without a meal, then you might want to try it. It also might be good for those that don’t work out early in the day.
Consuming your calories during a shorter window of time allows you to eat more at each meal in order to reach your macro goals each day. If you’re partial to larger portions at mealtime and struggle when trying to eat multiple smaller meals each day, intermittent fasting might be something to experiment with.
Or if one of the other methods sounds like a good fit for you, then do it!
Things to remember before starting
If you do decide to give it a try, you should still prioritize your daily and weekly macro goals and stay within those calculations. As I mentioned, this probably means you’ll have to eat more food at each meal.
Another thing to consider is how your workouts will fit into this eating style. Feeding your body the right nutrients not long after you workout is super important for recovery. Ending your workout during a period of fasting will rob your muscles of those nutrients and inhibit optimal recovery.
Additionally, training after you haven’t eaten all day may lead to diminished performance, fatigue or even dizziness and nausea.
So if you are doing intermittent fasting, do your best to workout during a period of eating. Try to avoid exercising when hungry, and prioritize solid nutrition immediately following your workout.
My Take on Intermittent Fasting
The key to all nutritional strategies is finding something that works for you long term and that you don’t view as a short-term “dieting” strategy.
I personally don’t use intermittent fasting as part of my own nutrition regimen. Not because I’m against it, but because I’ve found the best way for me to reach my daily and weekly nutritional goals is by eating multiple small meals at regular intervals throughout the day.
I also workout early in the mornings because I like it and because it fits best with my lifestyle, so I make sure to have a solid post-workout meal to optimize recovery.
This may not work best for you however, so it’s important to experiment until you find the method that fits best with your schedule and personal preferences.
When chasing after your fitness goals, your nutrition has to be on point. Basically, what that comes down to is getting your macros right by eating a balanced diet. The method of accomplishing this may vary from person to person.
Every one should find a way of eating that fits with their lifestyle and which they enjoy. This ensures sustainability and long-term success.
There isn’t one set way that’s right for everyone, and it’s important that you find the right way for you.