As of February, I’ve been intermittent fasting for a year.
I delay breakfast each day by a few hours so my total time without food from dinner
the previous day, to breakfast the next day is about 16 hours.
So if I eat dinner at 7 pm on Monday, ill have breakfast at 11 am on Tuesday.
I’m leaner, stronger and more productive than I’ve ever been.
In this post, you will learn how I’ve done it and ill help you decide if you should too.
Will Intermittent Fasting (IT) Work For You?
How you use IT and how suitable it is for you, will depend on your goals.
If your overall goal is to change your physique, your goal will be to either:
1. Maintain muscle and lose fat
2. Maintain fat and build muscle (lean muscle gain)
We’re not going to talk about building muscle while losing fat because although possible,
it’s normally not possible for the average person getting into fitness.
I’m mostly going to talk about maintaining muscle and losing fat but ill run through the few
subtle differences on how you start IT if your goal is to maintain fat and build muscle.
Although my focus is mainly fat loss in this post, I’ve linked in an article below which shows
you how could gain 20 pounds of muscle in 28 days.
Over the years, I’ve seen IT work very well for some clients and not so well for others.
Heres a few situations that IT has really helped clients with.
If any of them sound like you, then IT is definitely worth a go.
You Hate Eggs or You’re Sick of Eating Them Every Day
If you’ve been reading my posts lately, you’ll have a good understanding of nutrition.
If you haven’t read any, then start with this one before reading this post.
When we start new clients in our 28 Day Transformation Challenge, we bring them in for
an induction where we set goals, measure their body fat and design their
nutritional plans so they can lose 10 pounds in the 28 days.
10 pounds is a lot of fat to lose in 28 days, so we have a few changes to make to their diet.
We start with breakfast.
Breakfast is the hardest meal of the day to change for new clients.
They don’t want to give up their cereal and toast.
something they’re so used to – cereal, toast
tea for brekkie.
Maybe grab a croissant or something in the shop on the way to work.
They know its shit food but they struggle to find other viable options.
After all, who’s got the time to make breakfast in the morning, right?
Maybe you’re not a fan of breakfast and skip it already?
You can’t stomach food in the morning but you end up eating crap later
in the day because you’re starving by 11 am.
You may currently eat a high protein and fat breakfast?
Eggs, omelettes, bacon, avocado.
That sort of thing – lots of protein and fats and no carbs.
My favourite combo is:
- 2 Poached eggs
- 2 Extra egg whites
- 4 Bacon medallions
- 1/4 Avocado
- Asparagus and tomatoes on the pan
It’s a serious mix and only takes 5 mins to make.
5 minutes is nothing and if getting up 5 mins earlier in the morning means
you’ve made a simple change that will help burn fat, then it should be top of
It’s no secret that if you want to lose fat, you need to manage hunger.
You can have all the motivation in the world but if you’re hungry, forget it.
You have to eat fewer calories than you’re used to lose fat, so hunger can be an issue.
Fortunately you can stay full while eating less calories quite easily.
Start by increasing your protein intake, ideally through lean protein sources.
Thats where eggs come in – they’re packed with protein.
Theres 13 grams of protein in a medium egg and nearly 60 grams in the
breakfast combo i just showed you above.
But if you’ve been eating eggs for a few weeks..you can get sick of them pretty quick.
Even if you’re mixing them up between poaching, scrambled or whatever.
Eggs and egg after a while and you can really get turned off them.
Include your normal breakfast time within the fasting period so you skip it.
Work back from the time you want to eat your first meal at, maybe your 11am break in work?
16 hours back from 11am is 7pm the previous evening.
So you eat dinner at 7pm on Monday and then nothing until 11am on Tuesday at your break.
Even if you started with 14 hours, you could eat until 9pm.
You’ve skipped breakfast and given yourself bigger meals and more calories for the rest of the day
without a single smelly egg in sight.
You Get Sugar Cravings or Want Lots of Carbs In The Evening
Its 7 pm and you’re at home on the couch.
Tired and drained from the day.
Willpower has ran out and you’re craving something with sugar.
Sugary treats and carbs aren’t on your plan though…
You know giving in will ruin your diet and you’ll feel guilty afterwards
but you have zero willpower left and you cant handle the restriction.
You give in and destroy some ice cream, pizza, sweets or whatever.
Destined to “start fresh on Monday” forever.
There is another way.
If you know you crave carbs in the evening, then eat carbs in the evening.
But you need to take them from earlier in the day.
You cant expect to eat carbs all day and lose fat without a plan.
Let’s say you’re a 70kg (154 pounds) female and you want to lose fat.
Eating 2150 calories a day, you will maintain your weight.
Eating 2150+, you will start to gain weight.
The more you eat over 2150, the faster you will gain weight.
You will gain about a pound a week eating 2650 for example.
To lose fat you need to eat about 10-20% less than 2150.
So about 1850 to start.
You’ll lose about a pound a week.
Lift weights 3-4 times a week and that could be 2 pounds per week easily.
Body pump classes, boot camps and other classes don’t count by the way.
Training, programming, coaching and heavyweights are the key ingredients here.
Exactly the type of stuff we do in our challenge.
Anyway, my point is if you need to eat 1850 to lose fat and you know you’ll want carbs
in the evening, then don’t eat carbs during the day and eat as close to 1850 as you can each day.
Track your food using MyFitnessPal until you get a handle on how much you currently eat and how
much you need to adjust that current intake and meal size to hit your 1850 goal.
After you track your food for a week or two, you can make adjustments.
You might be able to eat carbs at lunch and in the evenings and still be under your
daily calorie goal of 1850 for fat loss.
Once you eat 1850, you’ll lose fat.
Even if you’re eating carbs in the evening.
Where IT can help you in this scenario is by giving you more calories later in the day.
Calories that you can use for the carbs you know you’re going to crave in the evening.
1850 is your calorie goal and it doesn’t matter if you eat than within 12 hours or 8 hours.
Your results will be the same.
But if you fast for 16 hours, then you have 8 hours left in the day to eat all your calories.
Eating in a smaller window means your meals will be bigger.
Remember IT isn’t about eating anything less.
You still need to eat 1850 to lose fat, whether you’re fasting or not.
But by fasting in the morning, you have saved up calories that you would normally
have eaten at breakfast and that can be used for carbs in the evening.
The Weekends Drinking and Eating Out Prevent Your From Losing Fat
Drinking and eating out are easy ways to rack up a lot of calories.
The sort of numbers that prevent fat loss and undo your efforts from the week.
While IT is only one step of eight you need to focus on if you want to lose fat
while enjoying your weekends guilt-free, its a very useful one.
For the other seven steps, check out this post:
Intermittent fasting is step seven.
The way to approach the weekends drinking and eating out is to try balance
out the surplus calories, you consume through drink and food.
You’re going to take in extra calories when you’re out so your goal is to save up
calories during the day so you have more calories to spend on drink and food that evening.
IT makes that easy because its a period where you’re not eating and saving calories.
Follow your normal IT eating schedule; breaking your fast after 16 hours.
Fill up on high protein / high volume foods that are low in calories for the rest of the day.
Depending on how heavy your drinking or eating out is, you can also adjust your carb intake
in the rest of your meals for the day. If you need to save a lot of calories, remove carbs
from all your meals during the day and replace them with extra lean proteins and greens.
Between fasting for a period of the day and saving extra calories from removing some or
all carbs from your days meals, you will save up a pretty substantial amount of calories.
That could be the difference between you losing fat or gaining fat each week.
I have no problem drinking and maintaining 10-13% body fat year round.
If you want to see how my days food looks on a drinking day comment below and ill
post a full account on my food, drink and activity from when i wake on drinking day, to
when i go asleep on hangover day.
You Want to Transform Your Body by Gaining Muscle and Minimising Fat Gain
If you’re a guy, you probably want bigger arms, chest, shoulders?
Maybe you’re female and want to build your glutes or legs?
If you want to gain muscle, then make sure you’re relatively lean to start with.
I always recommend guys get below 15% and women below 20% body fat first.
Here’s how they look.
You’re going to gain some fat while building muscle.
You need to accept that.
While its possible to maintain your body fat while building muscle; the training,
nutrition and supplementation protocols are so unrealistic for the average person,
they’re not even worth talking about.
Your goal should be to minimise fat gain as much as possible while gaining muscle.
The weight scales should be going up faster than your body fat percentage.
You can see now why it’s important to measure body fat for any goal.
We have invested in a state-of-the-art body composition scanner called an InBody 570.
Clients have full and unlimited access to it to monitor their progress.
It prints out a sheet showing you every parameter you can imagine so you
can accurately monitor progress. Here’s a look at a printout.
DON’T try to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time…
DO try to do it over a 12 week period.
Now don’t get me wrong – you don’t need to pile on fat while building muscle, but its
extremely unlikely you will stay the exact same body fat percentage while gaining any
substantial amount of muscle (more than about 6 pounds of muscle).
You may have been told otherwise, probably by someone trying to sell you something.
As mentioned earlier, the protocols to do this are so far out of reach for the average
person, so I wouldn’t even consider it.
A much better approach that will actually work for you is to cycle your goals between
fat loss and hypertrophy in 12-week blocks.
Your goal is to gain muscle and maintain your current body fat percentage every 12 weeks.
You pursue a hypertrophy goal for 8 weeks and gain muscle, along with the inevitable bit of fat.
Then, for 4 weeks you pursue a fat loss goal and aim to maintain as much muscle as possible.
The result, which you measure on a 12 week basis should be that you have gained muscle and
maintained your body fat percentage you started your 12-week block with.
Is Intermittent Fasting For You?
If anything i’ve talked about sound like you, then IT is definitely worth a go.
Unlike many nutritional plans, its incredibly easy to understand and start and
could be just as effective for you as a full nutrition overhaul.
Take the guys in our Alpha Blueprint program as an example.
Its an online fat loss program we run for 40+ year old men.
The lads typically lose 2-3 pounds per week.
Its notoriously hard to get men of that age to change their nutrition, especially
when you’re dealing with them online and have no face-to-face interactions.
They need things simple and they need to see results within 2 weeks to stick with it.
Enter intermittent fasting.
I give the lads 3 very basic food goals to hit every day and one of them is fasting
for a short period of time.
How to Start IT
Start by picking the most appropriate time to break your fast.
Choose a time you can assign at least 10 mins to eat, so probably your break around 11/12.
Don’t choose some random time when you cant eat because you’ll be hungry and end up eating crap.
When you have the time that you plan to break your fast, just work back to find the time
your fast period begins the previous evening.
I would recommend starting with a 14 hour fast and adding a hour onto your fast each week
until you reach 16 hours total.
Planned Time to Break Fast: 11am
Fast Period Begins:
Week 1: 9pm (14 hours)
Week 2: 8pm (15 hours)
Week 3+: 7pm (16 hours)
If your goal is fat loss and you think saving all your food for a shorter period of the
day will help you take in less calories, then IT is worth a go and could be a great
solution for you.
If you want to lose fat – you need to be in a calorie deficit.
If you want to do that as quickly as possible, consider starting resistance training.
Whatever you do needs to be sustainable and enjoyable. Whatevers sustainable
will allow you make consistent progress without much effort.
Want help putting this all together?
Fill in the form below and we will contact you within 24 hours to help.
Phil “Cant wait to eat all my carbs this evening” Giffney
Personal Trainer Dublin and Body Transformation Gym in Blackrock, Dublin