You're interested in intermittent fasting (IF) and want to get a handle on how to navigate the nutritional demands of this lifestyle. You've come to the right place. IF is kinda a big deal these days, and not because it is the latest in the line of bright and shiny diet fads (it's actually been around for centuries) but because it works — and it works,hard.
Intermittent fasting involves using short, sustainable fasts and shorter periods of eating to to lose fat, gain muscle, balance hormones, increase productivity and basically live a longer, happier life.
During your fasting period, you can drink water, black coffee or tea, but you cannot eat or drink anything with caloric value or anything that can affect your blood sugar levels. The most common form of IF is the 16:8 method, meaning your fasting window is 16 hours a day and your feeding window is 8 hours.
Simple, right? Well, yes and no.
I'm going to take a moment here to stop and introduce myself. I'm Hollay, the Content Manager at BodyRock and the person behind many of the blogs you read. I've worked as a personal trainer and nutritionist, and have been writing with and for the BodyRock FitFam for almost eight years now. (So, even though we’re just meeting, you’ve likely indirectly known me for longer than you realize.)
Hi! Rocking the 12 lb weighted vest for our first outdoor workout of the season!
In my 11 years in the health and fitness industry, I have seen many conceptions and misconceptions around IF that make it difficult for people to get a solid handle on what it is, why it works, and if it can really work for them — because IF will not work for everyone. Our hormones, metabolic requirements, lifestyles and preferences are all different, and there is no one-size fits all diet.
This said, IF does work for me and countless number of people with whom I have worked. If you're not sure if it will work for you, my best advice is to get the go ahead from your doctor (especially if you have any medical conditions) and then, if you get the green light, give it a whirl.
My purpose in giving you this background on myself is two-fold: first, it’s about time I saidhello, right?
Second, I want you to understand that the information imparted here is not simply pulled from some random internet resource (that may or may not be legit) and Frankensteined together to provide you with a mildly informative but ultimately derivative AF read: it's founded in my education and my experience seeing IF in action in real people.
The intel here is also based on Sean's experience and knowledge. If you haven't heard already, he's just launched new, insanely popular IF based workout challenge, Fast & Furiously Fit, which has an accompanying ebook, BodyRockShredFast. This read delves into IF, imparting all the science, all the tips and all the information you need (plus over 40 amazing recipes to support your IF gains). Seriously. Check it out.
So, now that you know where the following IF information is coming from, let's get on with the IF nutrition tips.
When I first started IF a few years ago, it was after years of deprivation diets. (Hey, I may have worked in nutrition and advised against depriving your body of food, but that doesn't mean I listened to my own good advice.) One of the tenants of IF I had a hard time wrapping my head around was the fact I was going to have to eat a lot. For eight hours. When you IF, you need to pack your daily macronutrient requirements into a relatively short period of time, and I had trouble doing this without feeling like I was over-eating.
So, I underate, and as a result, I was homicidal hangry in the morning. My oldest son took to calling me, "The Hulk." The first time, to my face. Later, furtively and behind my back. The two weeks it took me to start feeding myself properly were likely not a rosy time in his childhood. Spare the people you love the same fate: eat!
Take a page from theShredFast ebook and ramp up your eating during the day, making your last meal the largest one. Eat about ⅓ of your daily nutrient needs prior to this point. Many people who successfully IF often use this last meal as an opportunity to load up on the healthy grub they love so they're mentally and physically prepared to fast. And since it's your last meal before bed, you can afford to let all that food make you feel a little lethargic and sleepy.
In the morning and early afternoon when most of us need to feel alert and focused, keep the meals smaller and less dense. Of course, we're not all on the same 9-5 schedule (shout out to all the hardworking nurses who are killin' it in our Insiders Group!), so you may need to rework your meal timing to suit your schedule, but the point of this tip remains the same: make your last meal of the day your biggest, whether that meal is at 7:00 a.m. or 7:00 p.m.
I had a friend in university who ate a shit ton of food. I’m talking lumberjack meals, every meal. It showed. He hired a personal trainer. Like many trainers, he asked that my friend keep a food diary for a few days. After reviewing it, all the trainer could say was, "You know you don't have to make love to every meal, right?"
I've always loved this response, and it brings me to this next tip. I know some people swear bulletproof coffee is acceptable, or drinks with artificial sweeteners or stevia are okay and I'm not going to come down on either side of this debate, since the jury is still out and I've read compelling studies to support both sides. I will say this, though: you have nothing to lose and everything to gain if you just err on the side of caution. Keep your body running in a totally fasted state for best results.
You may like the taste of your keto coffee or stevia sweetened ice tea — and food and drink are wonderful, glorious and absolutely necessary life sustaining things — but you don't need to love-up every meal. You have eight hours to drink your coffee however you like. But while you're fasting, just drink your coffee black.
*On a related note, if you're eating enough and staying hydrated during your feeding window, you will not need electrolyte drinks or snake juice to sustain a 16 hour fast unless your doctor has advised you otherwise.
**And you can get our opinion on bulletproof coffee is here.
I am almost uniformly against closely counting food intake of any kind. It's a personal thing: I don't find obsessing over food quantity helpful. This said, it's essential that we all know a little about how our macro needs to ensure our bodies are getting enough of what they needs. This article is a quick, easy read that will help you get a basic knowledge. For more detailed information, grab the ebook, which also gets into macro cycling (and gives a plan) for optimal IF gains.
Oh, and don't get confused at the mention of macro cycling: you will see gains without it, too, but helps with next-level results.
Yep! Bodybuilders and fitness models galore can attest to the incredible power of working out fasted. It’s been shown to increase your fat burn and help you build lean muscle mass. You don’t need to eat within that ‘golden hour’ of working out if your fast doesn’t break then, but, if you’ve worked out fasted, you should aim to eat within a couple of hours to keep the good gains coming. If the timing isn’t working out and you workout much earlier than your fast breaks, adjust your feeding/fasting windows.
And speaking of which...
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. The adage is old, and it’s apt. While I am definitely not encouraging you to continue with IF if it is simply not working for you, I am encouraging you to give it — and yourself — a fighting chance. There are compelling studies that show women (some women) have a more difficult time fasting than men. Thank our hormonal constitution. The 16 hours can be too long to fast on the regular. And that’s okay!
It takes 8-12 hours from when you finished swallowing the last mouthful of your last meal for your body to enter a fasted state. At this point, your insulin is at its lowest point and will start torching fat. So, you want to give your body a few hours of prime fat-burning time before you enter your fed state again. Hence, the 16 hours. However, you don’t need to push it to 16 all the time. A great many women have astounding success doing a 16 hour fast 4-5 days a week, then a 14 hour fast the other days.
I fast for 16:8 most days, 14:10, others. I even take a day off fasting altogether every few weeks. I also eat a litre of frozen yogurt now and then. Or a heaping plate of my Dad’s amazing chelo kebab. And guess what? The 45 lbs I lost doing IF still stays off.
Ack. I sound like a damn Jenny Craig commercial. Let’s refocus.
My point is this: while there is a science behind IF, there isn’t an exact science to the wayyourbody will react to IF. Try to give your body as much time in the fat burning zone as you can. If you’re eating properly and following these tips, real, devastating hunger is unlikely to happen a 14-16 hour window (though psychological hunger probably will, in the first few days or week — more about this in the ebook!).
Our bodies are amazing, adaptable and resilient. They’re also honest. Get your mind out of the way — the one that tells you that you can’t push your fast an hour more because the people you carpool with are stopping at Starbucks and you need a latte, stat — and pay attention to your body. It will seldom steer you wrong.
Have other questions?Join the BodyRocker Insiders Group! Many of our FitFam is living #ThatIFLife and is happy to help share their opinions and experiences. Ready join the legions of BodyRockers who are loving Sean’s Fast & Furious Challenge. Sign up now! You can score 30 days ofSweatflixrisk free.
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