Intermittent fasting (IF) has been sweeping through the fitness industry with increasing ferocity over recent years, with it’s growing popularity more and more people are becoming exposed to a new way of setting up their diet and managing their nutrition.
As I’ve said before I’m a big fan of IF and use the 16:8 style of intermittent fasting most of the time.
However, I’ll also be the first person to tell you that it’s not for everyone.
With that said, if you do choose to use IF, it does have huge benefits when it comes to dieting, particularly if you’re trying to lose fat, which is when I find it most useful as a dieting strategy.
When done properly it can help you;
Manage feelings of hunger by allowing you to eat bigger meals when you do eat
Increase diet adherence by giving you more dietary flexibility
Managing hunger and sticking to your diet are vital when it comes to your overall success and ability to reach your goals.
Intermittent fasting can help you do this, however, whilst some people can fast for prolonged periods with very little problem, others can find it a bit more difficult particularly when first starting out.
To help you out here are a selection of tips that you can use to get the most out fast and make your journey a little easier.
These are things that have not only worked well for me personally but also friends and clients alike.
Without any further delay, let’s jump in.
Start Your Fast After Dinner
Where you’re doing daily or weekly fasts, one of the best tips I can give you is to start your fast after dinner.
Doing this means you’ll spend a big chunk of your fasting period asleep.
Particularly when using a daily fasting setup like 16:8 if you start fasting after dinner and then;
Spend 1 – 3 hours watching tv or other evening activities
Spend 6 – 9 hours asleep
You’ve already fasted for anywhere from 7 to 12 hours, making a 16 hour much more manageable.
Increase dietary adherence
More manageable hunger
Eat More Satiating Meals
The food you eat can influence your ability to both stick to your diet and stick to your fast and this is where IF can help you out big time.
Picture your usual fat loss diet;
Eggs or porridge in the morning
Followed by a bland lunch of unseasoned chicken breast, sweet potato and veggies
Protein and water/milk shake after your workout
Then you finish the day with an equally uninspiring meal in the evening
If you’re lucky you can scrounge enough calories to have a few handfuls of nuts a couple of times day
You feel unsatisfied and far from content with the idea you’re going to have to do it all over again, and again and again until you hit your goal weight…if you don’t quit before then that is.
Not to mention the hunger and cravings that come along with this type of diet.
Now picture your fat loss diet when using intermittent fasting;
You skip breakfast instead opting to drink water and coffee (or any other 0 calorie drink you want – see point #4)
Lunchtime rolls around and you still eat chicken breast but this time it’s got a delicious BBQ seasoning and is accompanied by cheesy potatoes and a side of veggies with a dressing.
Protein and water/milk shake after your workout
It’s dinner time and you’re out for a friend’s birthday and pizza is on the menu
On your previous diet this would cause you to freak-out or worse, not even show up because you didn’t want to mess up your diet, but with the calories saved from not eating breakfast you eat your share and know you’re still within your calories for the day.
On days where you’re not out in the evening you have enough calories to include 1 – 2 small snacks (omelette or something similar)
This is the difference between IF and other dietary protocols, the freedom to include the foods you like and generally eat a more satisfying and therefore satiating diet.
Good satiating foods include;
Or other foods that you can eat a lot of without consuming a ton of calories;
This isn’t an excuse to go crazy (point #2) but instead it’s an opportunity to create a fat loss diet you enjoy and can stick to over the long-term.
Boredom is the enemy.
It’s the silent killer that creeps in to destroy your progress little by little, slowly wearing you down and pulling you backwards.
Think about it for a moment…
How many times has being bored lead you to eat more than you should do, want to or even realise you are;
You’re doing something mundane at work and the snacks let in the kitchen are beckoning
You’re at home watching Netflix, it’s ok but not captivating and you find yourself mindlessly reaching for the snacks
But what is it about being bored that causes you to eat?
You can thank dopamine, a chemical in the brain, for this.
Dopamine is the reason you feel good when you accomplish a goal and is responsible for reward-motivated behaviour.
Interestingly, it’s been found that eating can stimulate the release of dopamine and as a result the good feelings it provides.
More than this it’s ‘junk’ food, particularly those high in sugar, fat, and sodium that are good at making you feel great.
“that boredom markedly increases food consumption [in] both obese and normal [subjects].”
It’s really not surprising that you eat more when bored, you’re practically hardwired to chase that dopamine high.
Blunt Your Appetite
Without a doubt hunger pangs will set-in from time to time when fasting.
When this happens, the trick is to blunt your appetite and the best way to do this is with 0 calorie drinks that help provide satiety and keep hunger at bay until it’s time to break your fast.
As long as the drink is 0 calories you’re good to go, examples include;
Break Your Fast With A Normal Sized Meal
We touched on this earlier when we talked about how IF isn’t an excuse to eat whatever you want.
As with every other diet out there, IF only works for fat loss or muscle building if you maintain the appropriate calorie deficit or surplus.
This means when it comes time to break your fast you don’t want to throw caution the wind, particularly when your goal is fat loss.
Yes, skipping breakfast frees up calories to give you more freedom for your other meals but if you go too crazy then you’ll undo the calorie deficit you worked so hard to create.
Now, your meal size when breaking your fast will depend on whether you’ve just worked out or are working out later in the day.
With this in mind here are some guidelines to keep you on track;
#1 – Just Worked Out
In this case you want this meal to be 50 – 60% of your calories and include a mix of all macronutrients.
#2 – Working Out Later
In this instance you want this meal to be 30 – 50% of your calories, again made up from a mix of macronutrients.
These guidelines are will help ensure you break your fast without going over board by giving you a rough idea of how much to eat based on your circumstances.
By getting this part of your fast right, you’ll get the full benefits whilst being able to maintain the correct calorie intake and leaving enough calories to eat satisfying meals later in the day.
Stick To A Routine
Routine is described by the Cambridge Dictionary as;
“a usual or fixed way of doing things.”
When it comes to IF this can be achieved by;
Beginning and breaking your fast at regular times every day
Using a weekly diet where you eat the same (or similar) things each day
Prepping food in advance
Having a routine makes it easier to stick to your IF schedule because when you discover what works for you and stick to it every day you remove the doubt and second-guessing from the equation.
All you have to do is follow through.
Not mention that establishing a routine helps to remove decision fatigue.
Decision fatigue is the term given to the deterioration of your ability to make decisions after a prolonged period of making decisions.
What this means is that if you’re continually having to make decisions like;
What you’ll eat
When you’ll eat it
When you have time to cook it
If it fits your calories and macros
You’ll eventually get to the point where you make the wrong or easy decision because you’re ‘decision making muscle’ is worn out.
By reducing the number of decisions you need to make each day you’re essentially removing the potential barriers to your success.
If you’re struggling to see the progress you want and often find yourself straying from your diet and fasting hours, you will benefit from implementing a routine.
Give Yourself Time To Adjust
It’s only normal to want results straight away…
To skip the awkward beginner phase and go straight to seasoned pro, or at least the ‘I kinda know what I’m doing’ part.
However, to skip this initial learning stage is to set yourself up to fail.
You need to give yourself body time to adjust to fasting, particularly if this is your first time.
It’s only normal to get hunger pangs when your first start and chances are you’ll slip up a handful of times too, this is also OK and normal.
It doesn’t mean you need to give up or that it won’t work for you. Instead it’s an opportunity to learn, to question why or how you slipped up and take steps to stop it from happening again.
By going through this process you’ll be better prepared for future difficulties that may arise in the future.
Trust the process and follow through even when it get’s tough, remember no one is perfect the first 1st, 10th or even 100th time but stick with it and not only will you adjust but you’ll be taking the first step to building the mindset you need to succeed.
Use The Right Mindset
I might sound like a broken record sometimes, but often the most important points need to read multiple times before they really sink in.
This is one of those points…
Intermittent fasting is not a quick fix or shortcut to reach your goals if nothing else is working for you.
It’s purely another dietary setup than can work very well for some people, if it’s used properly and fits in with their lifestyle.
When using IF it’s important to keep this in mind and know that, yes, it can bring incredible results, but these results are reliant on your;
Hitting your calorie and macronutrient goal
Applying progressive overload
The same goes for all diet setups, so whether you’re using IF or something else you need to keep this in mind.
How To Foster This Mindset In 3 Steps
Set your goals based on realistic expectations of what’s actually possible not what you wish was possible
Be single minded in your efforts and understand that consistent effort towards a singular goal is the best route to success
Be patient. Realise that just as you didn’t lose the body of your dreams in a day, week or month, neither will you build it that quickly
To help prevent the breakdown of muscle mass when training in a fasted state you want to consume 10g of BCAAs (branch chain amino acids) before you train.
If you’re not going to be breaking your fasting after your training session, then it’s advisable to take another 10g.
However, if you’ve timed it so your first meal is after you finish training then don’t worry about the second dosage.
When used properly, intermittent fasting can provide huge benefits in regard to nutritional freedom and therefore enjoyment.
This is because by skipping breakfast you save yourself anywhere from 300 – 1,000 calories depending what you normally eat.
These calories can then be redistributed to your lunch, dinner or 1 – 2 snacks to help you enjoy your diet more.
Friend’s birthday dinner in the evening? No problem! Skip breakfast and have a protein filled lunch to leave you with lots of calories to enjoy the evening without going over your daily calories.
Going on holiday or travelling? Great! Skip breakfast, do lots of walking and eat two big meals; one in the afternoon and one in the evening.
Eating in a calorie deficit? Sure! Stop eating breakfast and using up calories which could be used to eat more satiable meals later in the day and help you avoid feeling hungry all the time when trying to lose fat.
Any other type of social occasion? Enjoy yourself! By using intermittent fasting, you can always save calories for any type of occasion where you anticipate you’ll eat more than usual.
Of course, you still want apply the 70/30 rule (sometimes known as the 60/40 or 80/20 rule) where the majority of your diet is made up of nutritious foods that include a varied mix of micronutrients and vitamins as well as ensuring you get a mix of all macronutrients.
The other 30% can then be made up of foods you enjoy, even if they are devoid of micronutrients and vitamins.
Doing this allows you to;
Keep your sanity
Stick to your diet
IF is a great dietary tool, particularly when losing fat and whilst some people can seemingly breeze through their fast without so much as thinking about food, for other it’s not so simple.
For these people a little help can go a long way to helping you get the most out of fast. If you use the tips laid out in this post, then you’ll do exactly that and you too will be able to;
Keep hunger at bay
Stop mindlessly eating when hungry
Keep your nutrition under control
Stick to your diet
Here’s to your successful fast.