Recently by Mark Sisson: Beat the Creep: Gradual Weight Gain Stopped and Reversed
Assuming you’ve been keeping up with the series, you should be saying to yourself “Hey, maybe this fasting thing would be a cool thing to try out, and it might even make me healthier/live longer/lean out/lose weight/etc.,” which is a sufficiently extensive list of benefits, don’t you think? I could probably go on theorizing and speculating about all the reasons why you should consider intermittent fasting, but I’d rather move on to the implementation. Thinking about fasting, reading about fasting, and reciting the benefits of fasting are all pointless if you don’t know how to go about doing it.
First, let’s go over the different variations of fasting. I’ll give a quick rundown. Each involves not eating for a period of time, unsurprisingly.
A couple other rules that apply to all the given methods:
- Sleeping hours (provided you don’t sleep-eat) count as fasting hours.
- Eat well regardless. While some fasting plans tout their adherents’ ability to eat crappy food and still lose weight, I’m not interested in fasting solely as a weight loss method.
Okay, on to the variations.
Martin Berkhan’s incredibly popular fasting protocol is slightly more involved than others, but still pretty simple:
- A daily 16 hour fast (Martin sometimes recommends 14 for women, who just seem to do better on shorter fasts) during which you eat nothing. Coffee, tea, and other non-caloric fluids are fine.
- A daily 8 hour (or 10 for women) eating window.
- Three days of weight training, ideally performed at the tail end of the fasting period. To improve performance and muscle protein synthesis, you have the option of consuming 10 grams of branched chain amino acids 10 minutes before the workout.
- Always eat high protein.
- On training days, eat more carbs and less fat.
- On rest days, eat more fat, fewer carbs, and slightly reduce calories.
- Most people begin their fast after dinner (say, 9 PM), workout in the afternoon (at around 12 PM), and break their fast immediately post-workout (at around 1 PM), but you can use any schedule you prefer.
- Your post-workout meal should have about 50% of your day’s caloric allotment (a real feast).
Who should try it?
Because it’s geared toward people interested in losing fat and putting on muscle and strength, Leangains presupposes that you will also be lifting heavy things several times a week, usually in the fasted state. Therefore, Leangains is best-suited for people who will be training on a regular basis. In fact, it’s probably the most meticulously-designed IF program.
People with steady schedules will have more success than people with erratic schedules. A huge part of Leangains is the hormonal entrainment induced by regular feeding times. Once you get locked into your routine, your hunger hormones will adapt to the schedule, and the fasting should get easier, or even effortless.
Eat Stop Eat
Put together by Brad Pilon, Eat Stop Eat is really basic:
- Once or twice a week, don’t eat for 24 hours.
- Start your fast in the morning, at lunch, or at dinner. It doesn’t matter as long as you don’t eat for 24 hours.
- Break your fast with a “normal-sized meal.” Don’t try to make up for the lost calories by feasting.
- Exercise regularly.
Who should try it?
People interesting in fasting for the therapeutic benefits (cancer protection, autophagy, life extension, etc.) would probably get a lot out of this method, as opposed to people interested in the body composition benefits.
Going a full 24 hours without food is a much tougher slog than going for 16 hours. In my experience, going lower-carb and higher-fat makes longer fasts easier, so I’d have to say a low-carb Primal eater would do better than most.
The Warrior Diet
Ori Hofmekler’s plan is based on the feast-and-fast concept:
- Eat one meal a day, at night, and make it a big one. A real feast. You have three or four hours to eat until full. So it’s basically 20/4 hours.
- You can occasionally snack on low-calorie raw fruit and vegetables during the day, but try to limit protein as much as possible until the feast.
- Exercise during the day, in a fasted state.
Who should try it?
People who have trouble sticking to a stricter fast will do better on the Warrior Diet, as it allows light eating during the time leading up to the feast, but I wonder if you’d be squandering some of the benefits by eating.