Intermittent fasting (IF) is honestly a hidden gem given the fact that the majority of the population has no idea what it is (yet). I’ve been creating content around intermittent fasting since 2012 on YouTube with one of the more popular videos approaching one million views. Let’s just say that I’m not only a practitioner of IF but also an advocate!
I first began fasting while looking for quick and effective ways to lose weight. You wouldn’t believe some of the dumb things I tried before integrating a fasting routine. Needless to say, they didn’t work and just wasted my time and money.
I’ve posted several photos of the process on my Instagram page. I have a post of my weight loss transformation photo from 2014, which showcased the results of my fasting in 2012. Back then, I fasted every day (minimum of 16 hours, sometimes up to 24 hours) for one year straight while training at least six days a week and achieved great results. I documented the journey more in-depth on my “My 1-year healthy lifestyle transformation” blog post.
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What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is also known as time-restricted eating. It involves prolonged periods of not consuming food or any calories for that matter. There’s much debate around the topic of what constitutes a true fast, with many debating whether they can consume certain food or beverages without breaking fast.
To be clear, when I was first practicing IF every day for a year straight, I would not consume anything other than water, unflavoured BCAA (branch chain amino acids), and black coffee during the fasting periods.
A minimum fast is considered to be 14 hours. However, I like to set the bar a little higher with a minimum 16-hour fast and 8-hour eating window. A common question asked is whether or not sleep time counts as fasted time, and the answer is yes, of course! Technically speaking, if you sleep for seven hours, then your remaining fasting time is only nine hours based on the 16-hour minimum.
How to Do Intermittent Fasting
As briefly explained above, the best approach to fasting is to fast for a minimum of 16 hours including sleep time and to consume food within an 8-hour eating window. Of course, you could be more aggressive and fast for 18 hours, 20 hours, and even up to and over 24 hours in some cases (though, I never personally exceeded 24 hours). The tricky thing about fasting for 20 hours is you’ll only leave yourself a 4-hour eating window, and depending on your goals/objectives and caloric requirements, it can be difficult to consume all the needed calories and nutrients within a 4-hour window.
Personally, whenever I fasted for more than 20 hours, I found it challenging to eat enough food while leaving time for digestion, and in most cases, I ended up consuming my entire caloric intake within a single massive meal, which would take about an hour to eat.
If you are new to intermittent fasting, I suggest starting with a 14-hour fast and 10-hour eating window, then after a few days (or a week), scale up to a 16-hour fast then an 18-hour fast. The sweet spot for many is 18-hour fasting.
You can also get a DNA report from 23andme and submit it to Dr. Rhonda Patrick’s Genome Analysis Tool, and it will make suggestions for your ideal fasting period. My DNA report revealed that genetically I benefit from a 16hr+ daily fast, among lots of other resourceful information.
It’s important to note that water is your best friend while fasting! If you are not consuming an adequate amount of water, you’re not fasting correctly. You don’t want to be fasting from food and dehydrating yourself. That can actually be damaging in some cases. Of course, many people around the world dry-fast for personal or religious reasons, and in all honesty, I’ve never been a supporter of that approach, although some argue there are benefits to it, spiritually/religiously speaking.
How to Break a Fast While Intermittent Fasting
How you break a fast depends on your goals. However, most of the time, people fast for weight loss so the following instructions will focus on that.
When I was fasting for weight loss, I had a very strict routine that proved to be quite successful. It’s important to exercise while fasted so your body doesn’t use readily available energy (calories) from the food you have consumed, but rather, seeks energy from stored fat deposits in the body.
It’s quite simple really – if you haven’t consumed food, then your body will need to source energy from fat to perform an exercise. My routine specifically involved 15-minute warm-up cardio at a moderate pace, leading into bodybuilding-style weight lifting (high repetition), followed by 10-minute cool-down cardio at a moderate pace. Keep in mind that heavy weight lifting isn’t recommended with intermittent fasting, thus, why my focus, in particular, was on high repetition (lower weight) bodybuilding.
Once you have completed a workout while fasting, it’s time to consider what food you will consume to break a fast. I’ve always been a proponent of clean eating while breaking a fast, and that means no fast food or sugar. You don’t want to unwind all of your hard work from fasting and exercise by consuming junk food.
When I would breakfast after 16, 18, or 20 hours, I would have ready salads, lean meats, such as chicken or steak, and fish. I kept the carbohydrate intake reasonable with brown rice or vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussel sprouts.
Most of the time, when you are breaking a fast with meals, you’ll want to plan ahead so you can allocate enough time for eating the first meal, then digesting it before getting into a second meal. If you are planning to eat all calories within a single meal, keep in mind that it is a bit challenging and may be too taxing on your digestive system. I suggest working your way up to a longer (20-hour) fast with a single meal, however, starting with two to three meals within your eating window.
The common mistake people make while breaking fast is gorging themselves with food, which actually becomes counterproductive and can lead to bloating and discomfort. I urge you to take your time and slowly ease into your first and second meals to ensure that your body is absorbing the nutrients from food and sustaining itself for your next fasting day.
Consider IF to be much like a house of cards in that if you incorrectly stuff yourself with junk food, it can lead to prolonged digestive issues spanning hours, days, or more. Treat your body like a temple, and water-fasting is how you clean and maintain that temple. When breaking a fast, consider all your hard work throughout the day and don’t ruin it with poor nutrition or dietary habits. Focus on the plan, goal, and future results you’ll achieve!
Intermittent fasting is one of the most powerful and effective ways to lose weight, detox, and regulate your body. An important takeaway is to consume enough water during your fast, consider eight to ten 16 oz glasses of water per day, and if you feel hungry, drink water.
Look into unflavoured BCAA’s (Branch chain amino acids) as they are beneficial and will ensure your muscles are sustained and recovering well from exercise. BCAA’s are essential, meaning they can’t be produced by your body and must be obtained from food, which is challenging when you are fasting and not eating. BCAA supplements have been shown to build muscle, decrease muscle fatigue and alleviate muscle soreness.
One final takeaway is to plan and execute religiously. This means you should be focused and dedicated to your goals and will not waiver, which can be challenging when you’re hungry at a party or buffet with everyone around you eating while you’re drinking plain water. Trust me, I went to many social gatherings with tons of food and beverages while fasting, and the mental game is possibly the most important aspect of maintaining your fasted state.
As always, I encourage you to reach out to me on social media to share your progress and results with IF, and I wish you all the best in your fasting endeavors!
More Intermittent Fasting Tips
Featured photo credit: Kim Cruickshanks via unsplash.com