A Beginner’s Guide to Intermittent Fasting

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Back in the day when I worked at a gym, the early shift used to start at 6.30 am. If I’d done the late shift the night before, this often meant getting by on just four or five hours of sleep, which isn’t enough for me.

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But I still used to sacrifice 30-45 minutes of precious sleep time and get up earlier than I needed to. That was so I had time to make food to eat during the day. At the time, I believed (wrongly as it turns out) that I wouldn’t be able to build muscle if I went more than a few hours without eating anything.

The fact that IF lends itself to a lower meal frequency has a big advantage in the “time spent preparing and eating food” department. And I certainly don’t miss the smell of tinned tuna at five in the morning.

Intermittent fasting sits well with the current body of evidence on diet and weight loss

We’ve known for a while that eating six versus three meals a day has no benefits as far as fat loss is concerned. We also know that IF performs just as well as continuous calorie restriction when it comes to preserving muscle while dropping fat. And that breakfast doesn’t affect your ability to lose weight whether you eat it or skip it.

You’d think that 16 hour fasts would give you less energy. For me, the opposite is true.

As I mentioned earlier, my most productive time of day is the first few hours in the morning, especially with some caffeine inside me. Skipping breakfast doesn’t hinder my ability to get stuff done. In fact, I usually get a lot more done in the morning than I do in the afternoon after I’ve had something to eat.

When I started training first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, I was worried that my performance in the gym would take a hit. Which it did at first. But after a few weeks of getting used to it, things got back to normal.

I’m not saying that intermittent fasting improved my strength. But it certainly didn’t make it worse.

Intermittent fasting isn’t perfect

IF started out as an effective way to free yourself from the various “rules” associated with dieting—eating six small meals a day, avoiding large meals at night, not skipping breakfast—most of which were largely pointless as far as weight loss is concerned.

The same thing, however, is now happening in reverse, with some IF proponents preaching an equally pointless set of rules about what and when you’re supposed to eat.

Google around for information about intermittent fasting results, and you’ll also see a lot of nonsense from “biohackers” getting excited about how fasting raises growth hormone levels by 2000%, as if this is somehow of critical importance when it comes to improving your body composition (it isn’t).

Like any diet, intermittent fasting has the potential to go wrong. Some people eat so much during the “feeding window” that they end up in a calorie surplus rather than the deficit required to lose weight.

I’ve also heard of guys cramming the vast majority of their food intake for the day—sometimes in excess of 6000 calories—into a single evening meal.

IF normally goes hand in hand with a more “flexible” approach to dieting. But that doesn’t change the fact that a calorie deficit is still required if you want to lose fat.

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