More and more people are jumping onto the intermittent fasting bandwagon, with a wide range of eating and fasting windows. This post will look at my fasting protocol of choice, the 16 hour diet, which in layman's terms, is a 16 hour daily fast with an eight-hour eating window. It works for me, and for many other men and women, and when deconstructed to the bare bones, the LeanGains intermittent fasting protocol which Martin Berkhan has so successfully promoted, is, based on a 16/8 IF (Intermittent Fasting) diet.
Martin's approach involves cycling calories and indeed carbohydrates, up and down depending on whether you are on a training or rest day. But the 16 hour fasting is central to the protocol, and is responsible for 'most' of the benefits and results. I coach a lot of people, using intermittent fasting as one of my central themes, and it just works!
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Would The 16 Hour Diet Simplify Your Life?
The 16 hour diet can work for anyone, helping them to shed body fat in a safe, controlled, and enjoyable way. It fits extremely well with a wide range of lifestyles, and is particularly useful if:
- You have tried many other diets and found them difficult to sustain
- You lead a busy life where access to meals on a regular basis is tricky
- You despise the idea of eating multiple tiny meals a day, and enjoy eating BIG
- You're not a huge fan of breakfast anyway, and are happy to sup on coffee, tea, or water instead
- You want to still enjoy treats and all the foods you love, without getting fat
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- What Is Intermittent Fasting?
- Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting
- Physiological Benefits
- Lifestyle and Psychological Benefits
- Styles Of Intermittent Fasting
- Which IF Style Should YOU Choose?
- Setting Your Daily Food Intake Targets
- Getting Started With Intermittent Fasting
- Food Choices
- Evaluating Progress
- Making Adjustments
- Intermittent Fasting And Training
Anyone can do a 16 hour fasting diet. There is no need whatsoever to raise and lower calories on a daily basis (although it is effective, and perhaps even prudent, if you are training at high intensities, more on that in another post). Setting calorific intake at an appropriate level for you, and fasting/eating in a 16/8 hour window works wonders for many people, but forget the smoke and mirrors, and all the books telling you about the magic of fasting, the main reason it works is far simpler than that.
16 Hour Diet - The Eating Method Simplified
OK, so as I mentioned in the previous paragraph, the 16 hour diet involved fasting for 16 hours in a 24 hour period, then eating within an 8 hour eating window. This sounds kind of tough, but you have to remember that for the vast majority of the 16 hour fasting period, you are going to be in bed and sleeping! Imagine as an example, you wake up at 7 am, drink a coffee or two, then head out to work, or get on with some chores. It's OK to drink coffee or tea during the morning, and a splash of milk is generally fine if you are OK with dairy. The few calories are not going to make a huge difference in the scheme of things. Sugar is best avoided, you are trying to keep calories non-existent or very low during the morning part of the fast.
At midday, you do lunch. This is ideally a protein and fat based meal, I tend to stick with eggs, tuna, some salad or vegetables, even some cheeses. Ideally, from my own experience and that of many of my clients, keep this meal to between 20-30% of your daily calories. If you don't count calories (and you should if you really want to know your body and meet the goals in a timely fashion), then try to make it roughly a 1/4 of your daily intake. The reason I tend to keep this lunchtime meal small is that if I am going to blow my diet plan and get into over-eating, it ALWAYS tends to be at night. So, I keep intake low when I am not prone to over-eating (during the day), and eat the bulk of my food in the evening with my family.
Regarding the 16 hour diet and training, there is a lot of discussion about whether one should eat your large meal, or carbohydrate-based meal post workout, so at lunchtime for people who train late in the morning, I tend to advocate not doing that. If you train at 11 am, eat a couple of pieces of fruit afterwards to stifle tissue breakdown (catabolism), eat your normal lunch, and still go for the big carby meal in the evening. People worry about fuelling intense workouts, but if you are eating 3 or so higher carb meals per week to coincide with your workout days, you are going to be fairly topped up in the glycogen tanks anyway, and the large evening meal will ensure that you can grow your muscle tissue and keep glycogen tanks topped up. If you are an athlete who is training multiple times per day, things are a bit different, and you may need to drip-feed carbs during workouts.
I really have found, that for most people, this intermittent fasting system works amazingly well. It allows you to:
- Enjoy large evening meals with family, at social functions, or at business dinners.
- It allows you to induce a calorie deficit by fasting or eating less during the easier periods, read, during the working day.
- You sleep better after eating a large satiating meal in the evening.
- The evening meal is a reward for control during the day, enjoy it.
- You can eat a treat in the evening as part of your daily intake, without guilt and blowing your numbers.
- Reducing daytime meals can free you of the need to cook, or buy lunch and snacks, it's very liberating!
- Definitely helps to reduce/remove your dependence on food, creating a healthier relationship.
These are just a few reasons to consider intermittent fasting, and for most people, a 16/8 fasting diet seems to work well. It could work for you, too, Women are a little more 'hit and miss' with fasting, but a 14.10 hour fast seems to work better. Play with it, see how it works for you, experiment with meal distribution during the day, and meal sizings. It can take some time to dial into an enjoyable routine, but it is so worth it. I am a massive food lover, and IF has really been one of the main plans to keep me on track towards my goals. I can do it other ways, and have done with success. But the BIG evening meal, and the effortless fat loss is what keeps me wedded to intermittent fasting.
Tenacity, planning, and solid execution will get you to your goal.
Should You Try Intermittent Fasting?
I strongly believe that intermittent fasting can work well for anyone, but if you have specific health issues or are in, or recovering from an eating disorder, you really need to be careful, I'd advise you talk to your health care provider before embarking on any big dietary changes that could impact your wellness. After discussing the benefits and drawbacks as they appertain to you, you might want to test the water slowly, dipping in a toe at a time. Remember, most of us have a lot of life ahead of us, there is no need to hurry. Enjoy learning about yourself and how some simple manipulation of food intake timings can significantly alter your cravings and body composition. It may be just what you've been looking for. So, why not try it?
What is really cool is that once you body adapts to the less frequent eating, you can go longer if you NEEDED to. I've been at meetings where I just couldn't eat all day, there was wheat on the menu, which I try to avoid, and I've gotten by on coffee alone with no ill effects at all. It is very liberating. Particularly when you see others starting to get the shakes at 11 am because they haven't eaten for two hours!
If you have any questions about intermittent fasting or 16 hour diet fasting in particular, please fill in my consultation form or drop me an email. I'm more than happy to discuss your personal circumstances and offer a view. Or leave a comment below and we can get a conversation going here.
What are your views on the 16:8 diet? How has it worked for you?
Share your experiences in the comments below!
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