For me, skipping breakfast and eating big meals in the evening is the key to easy fat loss.
I first learned about Intermittent Fasting in the summer of 2013 when I came across Kinobody. Greg was doing it for a few years and I decided to give it a shot. After trying IF for one week, I never went back to eating in the morning.
In this post you’ll learn pretty much everything you need to know about Intermittent Fasting:
- why it makes cutting easier
- how to use it for fat loss
- how to structure your meals around training
- how IF affects muscle growth, muscle retention and metabolic rate
Let’s get started !
The Benefits of Intermittent Fasting for Fat Loss
Let’s first get one thing straight.
The calorie deficit is what produces fat loss, not intermittent fasting.
I often get questions like these: “I’m no longer losing weight on IF ! I don’t eat until 3 PM, why am I not losing fat!?”
Fat loss is all about your calorie intake. Fasting for a few hours every day doesn’t burn body fat if a calorie deficit is not present.
Check out the hierarchy of importance for cutting for a visual presentation:
As you can see results come from sticking to the macros and strength training. Nutrient timing (where Intermittent Fasting fits into) is close to the top of the pyramid – it doesn’t affect results in and of itself.
The great benefit of IF is that it helps you better manage your hunger and cravings. By skipping breakfast we take advantage of the fact that most people are not hungry in the morning and can save more calories for the second part of the day. Ironically, short-term fasting actually blunts appetite and you can easily go a few hours without food in the morning.
Eating most of our food in the second part of the day helps a lot with comfort and satiety.
Most people are genetically and socially inclined to eat more in the evening. You never hear of someone saying they binged like crazy in the morning or afternoon. No. Binge eating happens at night.
Some researchers speculate that this is the way our species evolved – we would hunt or gather food during the morning hours and only get to eat in the second part of the day. If you think about it, this way of eating also fits our lifestyle today. In the morning and noon we go to work, or school and are generally busy. Only in the second part of the day we have time to cook and eat a good meal.
Moreover, almost every social event we attend (weddings, parties, dinner with the family or friends, going to movies, etc) happens in the evening. That is why it makes sense to save a good portion of our calorie budget for the evening meal.
So Intermittent Fasting makes sticking to the deficit easier. But it’s not what produces fat loss. You can read more about this in the article Meal Frequency & Food Distribution when Cutting
In short, the benefits you get out of doing IF are these:
- Better hunger control because of the fasting period
- You’ll find it harder to overeat because your eating window is only a few hours long
- You have more calories to work with for each meal which means more satisfying meals
- Less time spent preparing and eating food – more productivity
- You can save enough calories for the evening meal to allow eating out
- Eliminates the need for cheat-meals. You can make your meals so large they feel like cheat meals
How to do Intermittent Fasting for Fat Loss
You’ve learned the benefits of IF, now let’s see how to actually do it.
The Intermittent Fasting style I recommend you follow is the Kinobody Guide to Intermittent Fasting. This is what I do myself.
In short this is how you do it:
- Don’t eat for 4-6 hours after waking up.
You don’t need to break your fast at the same time every day, you just need to push your first meal back a few hours.
- Drink a few tall glasses of water and a cup of coffee during the fast.
Studies suggest that thirst is most of the time confused with hunger. Most people living in developed countries are actually chronically dehydrated but they don’t realize it. We end up consuming food when in fact we need water. By getting into the habit of drinking water as soon as you wake up, you eliminate that false sensation of hunger we have in the morning.
Sparkling water works great during the fast because it fills you up a little. Whatever hunger you had will be completely eliminated.
Then about 2 hours after waking up have a cup of black coffee. Coffee without sugar or milk is a powerful appetite suppressant. The combination sparkling water and black coffee makes fasting 4-6 hours completely effortless (I’d even say enjoyable!).
- Have 2-3 meals in the second part of the day – what you’d call the feeding window. I recommend using any one of the 3 templates below to get started.Personally, I use template 1 the most.Template 1:12-2 PM – First meal of the day (30% of daily calories)
4-6 PM – Second meal (30% of calories)
8-9 PM – Final meal (40% of calories)Template 2:12-2 PM – First meal of the day (15% of daily calories)
4-6 PM – Second meal (60% of calories)
8-9 PM – Final meal (25% of calories)Template 3:12-2 PM – First meal of the day (40% of daily calories)
6-9 PM – Final meal (60% of calories)
- Experiment and see how you like to split your macros for each meal.
Enjoying your fat loss diet almost guarantees that you’ll get as lean as you want. I spent 2 years experimenting to see what meal pattern satisfies me the most in a deficit.
What I discovered I enjoy most is this:
In my first meal I have lean protein and veggies – medium protein, medium fiber, low carb, low fat
In my second meal I get high fat foods or desserts – low protein, high fat, medium carb
And in my last meal I get most of my protein and carbs – high protein, high carb, low fat, low fiber
This way every meal has something special. You can do this too, but also experiment and see what you like most.
- Workout anytime after your first meal or immediately before it.
Intermittent Fasting and training is a long subject so let’s address it separately in the next section.
This is how Greg and I do Intermittent Fasting. It’s simple and effective.
When to work out while doing Intermittent Fasting
Workout anytime after your first meal or immediately before it. This is the only guideline for training.
Recent evidence shows that nutrient timing and protein timing around your workouts is not as important for muscle growth as we initially thought. Hitting your macronutrient targets for the day is way, way more important than when you eat.
However, to maximize results it is recommended that you don’t delay your post-workout meal more than 2 hours if you didn’t have a pre-workout meal that day.
With IF you can train anytime you want after your first meal. You can even train after your last meal as you’d have all the nutrients in your body, they wouldn’t have been digested and absorbed yet. By the time you finish your workout you’ll have a lot of amino-acids in your blood and protein synthesis can start.
But if you train early in the morning, it’s not ideal to delay eating until lunch. You will still make gains of course. Protein synthesis starts to climb 3-4 hours after training, peaks at the 24 hour mark and then steadily decreases until it goes back to baseline 36-48 hours after training. But if you’re an experienced lifter that is close to his genetic potential, delaying your post workout meal may compromise the rate of muscle growth a little.
If you must train early in the morning, then I recommend having a protein shake after your workout. You wouldn’t be fasting anymore but you’d still save most of your calories for the evening meal – reaping the adherence benefits.
Should I workout fasted while doing Intermittent Fasting?
It’s not mandatory or beneficial. Based on what I know and experienced, fasted training is not much different from fed training when training volume is relatively low.
Fed training is definitely superior for doing high volume workouts.
I personally workout both fasted and fed, depending on my schedule. In all my workout videos I am fasted because we film in the morning when the gym is empty. When we’re not filming I workout after my first meal, around 4 PM. I make good gains regardless.
I would say this decision is up to you. If you like training fasted do it. If you like training in the evening, do that instead.
Intermittent Fasting and Body Composition
Fasting for 4-6 hours in the morning doesn’t have any negative effects on body composition, muscle growth, or metabolic rate. You can learn why by reading Martin Berkhan’s epic article Top 10 Fasting Myths Debunked.
Small meals do not ramp up the metabolism neither are they better for appetite control, eating in the evening doesn’t make you fat, short-term fasting doesn’t lead to muscle loss and you don’t need to eat protein every three hours to maintain your muscle mass.
Meal frequency and food distribution don’t affect fat loss and body composition. 2-8 meals per day will yield pretty much the same results for fat loss and muscle retention.
Problems start to appear when you go the extremes. Eating only one meal a day will cause you to develop unhealthy relationships with food where you train yourself to consume enormous amount of calories at each sitting. On the other hand, eating more than 6 meals a day creates the opposite problem. You think about food all the time because you’re having very little meals every hour or two that don’t satisfy you. Either end of the spectrum makes adherence to the calorie deficit more difficult.
Recently, the awesome researchers Alan Aragon, Brad Schoenfeld and James Krieger recently did a meta-analysis that looked at the effect of meal frequency on body composition. They found no difference. Their conclusion was this: Given that adherence is of primary concern with respect to nutritional prescription, the number of daily meals consumed should come down to personal choice if one’s goal is to improve body composition.
What’s your take on Intermittent Fasting for Fat Loss? Do you have any questions? Anything else to add? Leave a comment below and let me know!
This is best diet Intermittent Fasting diet I know and the program I’m using right now.
Some of you asked me why I don’t create my own fat loss program. It’s because I haven’t found a way to improve this one. I’m not going to rip Greg off.
His approach is unique:
- fasting 4-8 hours in the morning
- black coffee during the fast
- sparkling water to fill you up
- fruit snaking to delay meals
- splitting your protein and carbs in your big meal to maximize satiety
At first glance these seem like unimportant things but believe me they make a world of difference.
I highly recommend you check out this program. You can learn more about it here.