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 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, in my opinion, responsible for ‘most’ of the benefits and results.
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
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 sound kinda 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. 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 ok 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, and this is purely from my own experience and that of many of my clients, keep this meal to between 20-305 of your daily calories. If you don’t count calories (and I think you should if you really want to know your body and meet the goals in a timely fashion), then try to make it 1/4 ish 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 carb-centric 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, keeping large meals to evenings, skipping breakfast, and eating a protein and fat based lunch works amazingly well. It allow 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. 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, play around 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, 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 is what keeps me wedded to IF.
Should You Try Intermittent Fasting?
I personally 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 ‘radical’ dietary changes that could impact your wellness. If, after discussing the benefits and drawbacks as the 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 radically alter your cravings and body composition. It might be just what you’ve been looking for.
As mentioned, I tend to fast 16 hours, then eat in an 8 hour window, but 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 been able to get by with no ill effects on coffee alone. 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……LOL
If you have any questions about intermittent fasting or 16 hour diet fasting in particular, please 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.
Thanks for reading, I appreciate you taking the time.