Intermittent Fasting

Throughout history, various cultures have incorporated fasting regimens into their lifestyles. Justifications for fasting run the gamut from cleansing and detoxification to religious edicts (such as Ramadan) to the health-promoting properties of fasting. Still other people approach it from the ascetic view of denial of pleasure.

I approach Intermittent Fasting from a standpoint with several benefits, which we'll explore below. First, there are two basic versions of Intermittent Fasting (IF). While you'll derive the benefits of fasting from either method, a little experimentation will show you immediately which is your preferred method.

The first version looks at the day's meals through a hunter-gatherer perspective and could most appropriately be called a Compressed Window IF. In this version of IF, you fast for 18-20 hours each day and eat for 4-6 hours. By fitting all of the day's calories into a 4-6 hour window, rather than spreading them over the course of 14-16 hours as most people do, the day is freed up for other activities. The hunter-gatherer perspective, a lens through which all human endeavors should be viewed given our evolutionary history, is that during the day, our ancestors would have been out finding food. The evening would have been reserved for eating and celebrating with family and friends.

The second version is the Alternate Day fast, whereby you fast for 24 hours, then eat for 24 hours. You can implement this form of IF in various ways, for example, eat until 6pm, then don't eat again until the next day at 6pm. By doing so, you still get to eat everyday, but you have a 24-hour period for the body to relax and not deal with digestion.

Let's Cut To The Chase. What Are The Benefits?

I have tried both versions and find that the Compressed Window version of IF works best for me. I work all day, then head home and eat a large salad loaded with colorful vegetables, nuts, eggs, sardines, and olive oil. After allowing some time for digestion, I then cook my evening meal, which is typically some sort of meat with prodigious quantities of vegetables and sometimes a sweet potato. Basically, I eat only two large meals per day, a total of about 3000 calories.

Of course, the question in your mind now is probably something along the lines of, "Yeah, but everybody knows you have to eat 5 times per day to have a lean body. What do you look like?" I easily maintain my weight of 185 pounds and 10% bodyfat at a caloric intake of over 3000 calories per day. It is so effortless that for the last few years, I've only gotten leaner and stronger while doing IF.

The benefits I derive from fasting, and which many others report as well, are numerous:

  • I sleep better
  • I have improved mental clarity during the fast
  • I have improved workout performance during the fast
  • My body fat percentage is lower at the same bodyweight (i.e., more muscle mass)
  • I don't worry about food during the day - I can get up, run out the door to work, work all day, then go home to eat. I don't have to be concerned with fitting in lunch and food is no longer the focal point of my day.
  • No food-induced crashes during the day - I'm on top of my game all day. Even eating low-carb Paleo on a normal eating schedule left me more lethargic than this
  • Better in-tune with my body - I have learned to distinguish psychological hunger (i.e., it's noon and I should eat) from real hunger. When I get truly hungry, I break the fast and eat, even if it's outside my "window"
  • More energy - You'd think I'd experience fatigue with no food intake, but I can't quit moving and having an urge to go run around the block during a fast
  • Food tastes better - it's amazing how much better a well-cooked meal tastes when you haven't eaten all day

Most people think fasting means lacking energy. On the contrary, my body has learned how to tap into its fat reserves to provide more than ample energy during a fast. In fact, I find my workout performances are significantly better when working out fasted. Other people report the very same thing too! It's as if the body is meant to work this way.

Ok, I'm Intrigued. But How Do I Start?

The easy answer to that question is "slowly". You can't just stop eating every other day and expect your body to react with approval. I found it easiest to slowly increase the length of my fast. I started by just skipping breakfast and increasing the size of my evening meal to compensate for the calories. I broke my fast every day at lunch time for a few weeks, then started moving lunch closer to dinner, about an hour every week. Eventually, my first meal was moved to the evenings when I was home from work and I no longer needed to take or buy a lunch.

About a year ago, I started an experiment with a 24-hour fast, eating from 6pm to 6pm, then fasting until the following 6pm. I found that many of the benefits of fasting, such as the lack of food-induced crashes were missing. On the days that I woke up and ate breakfast, even a low-carb breakfast of eggs and spinach left me a bit less perky than simply not eating.

That's why I say that you'll have to figure out which version of IF works best for you. For you, Alternate Day Fasting may be perfect. Or perhaps a 3-hour eating window or a 6-hour eating window is best for you. Fasting really becomes about listening to what your body is telling you and reaping the benefits of that.

One Final Word of Advice

One very important thing about fasting is that, while you can get away with less optimal food choices than you can on a normal diet, food quality makes fasting much, much easier. You can actually gain weight while fasting if you are loading up on sugary processed foods during your eating periods rather than focusing on quality meats, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and fruits.

In the end, there is no "best" way. The best way is what fits easily into your lifestyle and allows you to focus on living, not when your next meal is going to come. I urge everyone to try this approach to eating.

Ready To Give It A Try?

If you're ready to give Intermittent Fasting a shot to improve your health, check out the excellent ebook "Eat Stop Eat". In this book, you'll learn the hows and whys of Intermittent Fasting and see exactly how to incorporate it into your lifestyle.

Just click here to start implementing this healthy change into your life!


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Comments 18 comments

tracey m. 7 years ago

hello i had a question if i eat early in the morning and a small snack like a apple at 2oclock and then i dont eat again until early morning the next day isnt that intermittent fasting? i lost 50lbs when i first started this. thanks for any reply.


Scott Kustes 7 years ago

Hey Tracey,

That certainly sounds like Intermittent Fasting to me. Just be sure you're eating enough food when you do eat that you don't slow down your metabolism. I still eat 2500-3000 calories per day. I just cram them into a shorter time frame.

Cheers

Scott


tracey 7 years ago

hello scott thanks a lot for your reply i wanted to say when i do eat in the morning its usually the kind of food that people usually eat for dinner . i like to eat baked chicken with gravy and sweet potatoes and a vegetable of some kind like brocolli. Then afterwards ill workout at the park near me or i will go walking.ive been doing this for12 years and i was 160lbs at the time and i lost 50lbs from following this lifestyle. I didnt know there was a name for what ive been doing. Also id been afraid to change my one meal a day plan to one meal at night because im afraid that eating at night will definetly cause weight gain for me or it may disturb my sleep at night. I sure hope that my metabolism hasnt slowed down, i usually feel pretty energetic during the day, its just that i sometimes crave sugar around 3oclock and it nags me and some days are better than others. i try real hard not to give in to it.


julie 7 years ago

hello scott i have a question how is it that a person can lose weight on the warrior diet considering all your calories are eaten in the late evening. Somehow how would i see any significant weight loss when i weigh on the scale in the morning if i ate a meal at night? im interested in losing 15 pounds and im scared that if i suddenly changed from eating early in the day to suddenly eating late at night woudnt that cause a hormonal inbalance as well as weight gain?


Scott Kustes 7 years ago

Tracey, you're probably eating enough at your bodyweight then. Just wanted to make sure you were.

Julie, most of my calories are eaten in the evening and I have no problem maintaining my weight. There's no truth to the myth that eating late at night leads to more weight gain. The body is smarter than that and metabolism is a function of your caloric intake over time, not over the course of one day. You may not see as much weight loss in the morning since the food you ate the night before is still being digested, but you can counter that by weighing yourself at a different time of day, such as before you start eating most of your calories.

You should probably not "suddenly" do anything. I worked into eating mostly at night by slowly moving my eating times back, shifting breakfast, then skipping breakfast, then doing the same with lunch. Now, I rarely eat breakfast and 3 or 4 days a week, eat only from 5pm to 9pm.

Hope that helps!

Scott


julie 7 years ago

thanks scott for your input it really helps alot. thanks . just one last question how come after i work out and thats usually around 3 i immediately start craving sugar then water then sugar again . I expect to be thristy but the sugar craving is really crazy and since ive been IFing for a long time this has been a long on going battle and it always starts around 3 oclock. My workout is only walking fro about 5 miles then i do uphill walking or hiking and some days i run for 3to 6 miles and then the sugar craving starts or it feels like a craving for soda along with being thristy but not hungry at all. If this is a complicated post im really sorry lol i havent been able to figure this problem out.


skustes profile image

skustes 7 years ago Author

Julie, how long have you been doing IF? What is your diet like? What was your eating like prior to changing it?


julie 7 years ago

hi scott ive been doing IF since 1997 and i was doing it well until about 2002 and i sort of fell off the IF wagon when a few things started going wrong in my life and i started eating more and started eating sugary cookies and soda at night . Before i started IF iwas 150lbs and i ate all day and most of that was carboyhdrates and a lot of fried food and a lot of mcdonalds french fries. Okay now we switch to present day. Since 2003 until this past couple of days i have tried to stay true to IF but this uncomfortable urge to eat junk like potato chips , cookies, any kind of soda and candy would hit me around 3 oclock and then i would try not to give in to it and my thoughts about it would get the better of me and i would give in knowing that my weight would go up. Now since i found your website i just recently found out that in the past in 1997 i discovered how to do IF but i dont think anyone was talking about it then and i diidnt have access to a computer and i wasnt computer literate at the time. I was just experimenting with changing my eating habits and noticed that when i ate one meal a day my weight went down considerably and i was able to start exercising but even then i noticed that at 3 or 4 oclock i was looking for something to drink or eat that had sugar in it and i would get thirsty if i ate the sugar or whatever it was. now since i found your website this was 4 days ago i think i have lost weight again ive lost 4 pounds so far because im IFing again but i think im still dealing with what feels like sugar withdrawl only i dont feel like im going to give in to it. So far i havent its just that id rather not go this sugar withdrawl problem at all. Do you think i should have my meal closer to 3oclock and maybe that will stop all this or maybe my body is trying to tell me thats when its really hungry ? sorry this post is so long im sure this problem probably isnt too complicated, if it is i will understand but im determined not to let it keep me from IFing for life. Ive come too far to stop now.Ive only got 10 more pounds to lose . im 5"2 and im small boned and petite and its important for me that i stay small rather than carrying a lot of excess weight i dont need . now that i know ive been doing IF im determined to stick with it. I apologise for leaving such a long post.


julie 7 years ago

hello scott, this time i wont leave such a long post. Today i moved my eating window to 11:00am to 2:00pm and i noticed that at 3 oclock that maybe the feeling i need sugar or whatever is because im actually hungry because i dont always feel really hungry at 9am or at 10am so i tried eating at 11:00am and i still wasnt really hungry it just felt like i was eating because the food was there and i could of afforded to wait so im skipping breakfast ...slowly until i get to the 3:oo time and i may just solve this problem yet. Ive been reading on the FAST 5 lifestyle and it feels right to me..i hope i havent confused you with the post i wrote before this one. if not let me knowl LOL..thanks.


skustes profile image

skustes 7 years ago Author

Hey Julie, I think you're right that IF wasn't really being discussed in 1997. It's cool that you discovered that for yourself. It's possible that you're not eating enough and are truly hungry at that time. Perhaps you could try expanding your eating window a bit or having a few days where you don't IF so you can get in more calories.

The sugar withdrawals are just something that takes time to get past. But as long as you keep fighting them, you'll get past it. Your body is probably readapting to a more fat-based metabolism (a good thing).

What does your average day's intake look like?

Cheers

Scott


julie 7 years ago

my average day is sort of like this . well let me start by saying today i managed to eat at 12this afternoon today and tommorow i was going to try to eat at 2oclock tommorow and keep going everyday until i make it to 3 oclock. Okay my days intake varies lkie for instance tommorow i will make chicken fried rice with 2 egg rolls, and then the next day i will make fried chicken with spinach and cranberry stuffing and then the next day i will make bacon and eggs with whole wheat toast and stawberry jam, or the next day i will make 2 tacos and spanish rice, or by friday i might make pancakes with bacon and on saturday i like to make spaghetti with meat sauce and mozzerella cheese and brocolli, and sunday i might make sweet and sour chicken over white rice. My one meal consist of enough food for one person and if i try to eat more i get too full and i lose interest in continuing eating. Im thinking that maybe when i finally move my eating time to 3oclock that maybe the sugar cravings will stop, or as you said my metabolism is readjusting to a more fat based metabolism. I know i like rice and french fries and sweet potatoes these things are starchy but i dont know if i could go on a diet of just protein and no potatoes or rice but just vegetables it seems so limiting. Anyway thats pretty much what i cook sometimes because i dont have a large itinerary of what to cook and my culinary skills are limited. Also i do like fruit a lot especially grapes and plums I try to stay close to a diet fit for my blood type. have you heard of that before? I discovered my blood type is type o negative so i also try to eat things that are right for it.


skustes profile image

skustes 7 years ago Author

Hey Julie,

I don't think you need to completely cut out the starchy foods. I eat quite a few sweet potatoes and squashes. But I do find that a lower carb intake makes IF much easier. When I keep my carbs lower and my fat intake higher, I don't get hungry as early. You could try reducing the amount of starches you're eating and see how that helps.

Are you exercising?

I have heard of the Blood Type Diet, but don't know enough about to comment.

Cheers

Scott


julie 7 years ago

hi scott to answer your question i do exercise about 3 times a week . i usually go walking uphill in Runyon canyon about 2 miles uphill where you can see the hollywood sign and i walk in Griffeth Park up to the observatory thats also 2 miles up and 2 miles downhill and i try to run or jog later in the week about 3 miles is all ive really been able to do., and thats in hancock park here in los angeles. Also i wanted to mention that today i decided to wait to eat until 2oclock to eat and the last meal i had the day before was at 3 oclock. I made it but i was so hungry it was really bad and i ate twice as much as i normally would and i felt terrible physically. Because i was away from home i ate what was close to me and it was a hamburger and i ate 2 orders of fries. thats not like me at all. im going back to eating early in the day again giving myself a 5hour window like i did before. I really lost control and i didnt like it. I dont think i could fast until 5pm im almost sure i wouldnt do too well considering that i was starving at when i fasted until 2;00.


skustes profile image

skustes 7 years ago Author

Hey Julie, Sorry for the delay. Sounds like you have a solid exercise plan. I think the key might be slightly reducing the amount of starch you're eating in your meals and/or moving your eating time back more slowly. When I went to eating predominantly after 4pm, I spent 3-5 days at each new mark...so I'd back up eating to 10am, stay there a few days, then 11am, stay a few days to let the body further adjust, then 12pm, etc. You might want to try that. Let me know how things work out!

CheersScott


julie 7 years ago

thanks for the advice i will definetly keep you posted as soon as i can ,and i will try to slowly move my eating window as slowly forward as i can.Wish me luck! thanks.


julie, 7 years ago

hello since i posted a few days back i was going to try to start my eating window at 12:00pm and that kind of worked for me, but then i caught a cold which i usually dont get them too often and it started with post nasal drip and then it ended yesterday after 5 days of a sore throat and sore tonsils. I drank some hot lemon water someone sugessted to me and now my symptoms are gone , but ive been going through a problem with limbic hunger now that my appetite is back and i can smell food everywhere and i can taste it as well and i tried to start fasting again from 10:00am until 3;00 pm and its been really hard and ive been really thristy from the cold i had. So i have to admit my eating habits werent exactly clean today or the last 2 days and i would like to avoid gaining weight again. I need some psycological advice on how to get back to where i was before the cold i had got aa hold of me.It seems like my appetite is crazy for anything right now, i almost have to mentally battle with my mind to continue my 5 hour window.


skustes profile image

skustes 7 years ago Author

Hey Julie,

Sorry to hear about your illness. If your body is directing you to eat, are you sure that you shouldn't be feeding it? If your appetite was down for a few days, your body might just be asking for you to fill it back up. Metabolism is a function of intake over time, so your few days of decreased eating might have your body telling you to make it up.

Make sure you keep clean foods with you. Fats and proteins work very well to satisfy appetite, so don't be afraid of them. Highly carby foods might mess with your insulin and keep your appetite raging right now, especially sugar of any type.

CheersScott


julie 7 years ago

thanks for the advice, but now my cold turned into bronchitis so my appetite is down again and sometimes up until i feel better. I will post again when i feel better. Again thanks for the advice.

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