Intermittent Fasting – Your Two Best Options
There have been many fad diets over the years, ranging from mild to wild. Some are so dangerous that it’s best not to even name them since that could lead people to search out the details and experiment with them. Let’s just say the choices of miracle diets have been abundant over the years.
The typically accepted bodybuilding and fitness diets aren’t nearly as severe as some of the fad diets that have come along, and they tend to actually work for the long haul. These nutrition plans normally involve several small meals spread evenly throughout the day, and when it comes to fat loss, this method has been used with good success for decades. For these “trickle-feed” proponents, the idea of “fasting” has no place in a true athlete’s nutritional program… Or does it?
As athlete’s participating in a wide variety of activities, we’ve been trained to believe that constant feeding is paramount to achieving physical and athletic goals, so letting yourself feel hungry must mean you’re burning off every ounce of muscle you’ve worked so hard to create. That’s not true with Intermittent Fasting.
Intermittent Fasting doesn’t involve the multiple days of hunger and pain most of us fear, but rather extended intervals based on controlled periods of fasting. These fasting methods have become very popular with athletes because of their fat-loss effectiveness.
Intermittent Fasting isn’t for everyone, however, and it’s not designed to be. Obviously, if you have blood sugar issues, consult your health care professional before trying any new nutritional plan. While this sort of diet may help people with short term goals like losing a few pounds to fit into old high school clothes, it’s most useful to athletes looking to stay in contest-ready condition year round or to reach phenomenal conditioning prior to a photo shoot or competition. It’s also ideal for those who seem to have hit a metabolic wall, where no other dietary changes seem to offer much progress or for those who simply crave change, variation, and challenge.
There are multiple versions of Intermittent Fasting, some of which seem a bit excessive while others just involve reduced calories and no real fasting. We’re going to concentrate on the two versions that make the most sense.
2-Days-On Intermittent Fasting
This method involves just two 12-hour fasting periods two days per week, and they’re done on nonconsecutive days as a means to address the potential for muscle loss. The general thought with this method is that you can not only ramp up the fat-burning process and reduce your calorie intake, but you can also prevent your metabolism from going into emergency mode and slowing down so that fat burning stops all together. It’s also believed that this method can help to boost your body’s production of anabolic hormones, thus amplifying the fat-burning effects and simultaneously bumping up the muscle-building effects of the increased hormone production
With the term “fasting,” many worry about having their metabolism slow down, but proponents of the 2-Days-On style of Intermittent Fasting state that the slowdown only occurs when fasting is performed for multiple, consecutive days. Rather than a slowdown, these nonconsecutive fasting days have been shown to allow increased muscle-protein synthesis (increased muscle gains!) on feeding days, and that’s on top of the increased rate of fat loss.
The 2-Days-On plan has a varied-calorie approach, similar to the Zig-Zag calorie method but to a higher level when taking the fasting days into account. This method does allow what some would refer to as a “cheat” day, but the reality is that this day should be treated like your normal “On” days with slightly increased calories, generally from carbohydrate sources.
Daily Intermittent Fasting
The title alone will scare many people off, but the key word is “intermittent,” so it’s really just a very structured diet as far as timing goes. This version has you fasting for 16 hours per day with an 8-hour window of eating. While 16 hours without eating sounds intense, remember that this fasting method takes sleeping hours into account. Most of us tend to have “open eating” from our first meal of the day to our last, and that tends to normally be around 12 hours if you eat your first meal at 7 A.M. and your last around 7 P.M.
Daily Intermittent Fasting requires that you decrease that open feeding period from 12 hours to 8 hours per day, and the key is to keep that same schedule every day to ensure that your body adapts.
Structure is Key
With either the 2-Days-On or Daily Intermittent Fasting, you only have a very particular window of opportunity to feed if you want to ensure that these methods of fasting actually benefit your goals. If not followed, you’ll very likely just end up sporadically hungry while losing muscle and possibly making no headway in losing fat. Structure is key, so develop a plan that works for you and stick with it!
Regardless of the method of Intermittent Fasting you choose, one of the biggest factors is that you consume absolutely no calories during the fasting periods. Calorie-free beverages are fine, including naturally-sweetened coffee and tea, but remember… The natural sweetener must be calorie-free, so no honey, raw sugar or anything else you want to convince yourself is healthy because it’s natural.
Either of these two fasting methods should be structured around your workout program. The 2-Days-On plan works well if you have two rest days spread out through the week, since you can plan your 12-hour fasts on non-training days (sample schedule below). With Daily Intermittent Fasting, morning training will likely work best, but you can alter the timing as needed. If training early in the day, your 8-hour eating window should begin with your post-workout shake or meal (sample schedule below).
2-Days-On basic guidelines have you sticking with a “normal” fat-loss diet five days per week and the intermittent fasting days on two nonconsecutive days:
Day 1: 12-hour fast (non-training day)
Days 2-3: 5-6 small meals
Day 4: 12-hour fast (non-training day)
Days 5-6: 5-6 small meals
Day 7: 5-6 small meals with slightly increased calories
Note: Fasting days begin with your first meal of the day, say at 7 a.m., and end with your last meal of the day, 7 p.m. in this example. Meals should be balanced and typical of your non-fasting days. A small, slow-release protein drink before bed is allowed to keep protein intake up.
As far as meal planning goes, the 2-Days-On approach takes a bit more weekly planning, as you’d have your normal training-day meals plus fasting-day meals to consider. Based on an early-morning workout schedule, this is what your meal and supplement planning may look like:
Meal 1: Pre-workout BCAA supplement
Workout: Intra-workout drink
Meal 2: Post-workout whey protein shake
Meal 3: Breakfast
Meal 4: Lunch
Meal 5: Mid-afternoon Slow-release 100% casein protein shake
Meal 6: Dinner
Bedtime: Slow-release 100% casein protein shake
Non-Training Fasting Days
Morning Meal: Breakfast
Evening Meal: Dinner
Bedtime: Slow-release 100% casein protein shake
Daily Intermittent Fasting basic guidelines take as much planning, but don’t require a different daily schedule. Training in the morning is ideal with this type of Intermittent Fasting, since you can get a double-whammy of fat burning by treating every training session the same as fasted cardio. You get a big spike in fat burning, and your first meal of the day would be your post-workout shake or meal. For instance, if you have your post-workout meal at 9:00 a.m., that would mean that your last meal would be at 5:00 p.m. Work schedules may dictate a different plan for you and food cravings can be at their highest in the evening hours, so training later in the day or holding off on your post-workout shake for an hour or two may be more beneficial to those who may have trouble with evening fasting.
Pre-workout zero-calorie BCAA drink
Workout: Intra-workout drink
Meal 1: Post-workout whey protein shake + BCAA supplement
Meal 2: Breakfast
Meal 3: Lunch
Meal 5: Mid-afternoon slow-release 100% casein protein shake
Meal 6: Dinner
As you can see above, the basic six meals per day approach still fits into both versions of Intermittent Fasting. With 2-Days-On it’s used only on training days, and with Daily Intermittent Fasting it’s a daily approach to meal planning, but those meals have to be condensed into a shorter time frame. With either method, you may find that the fasting process and listed supplements may actually suppress your appetite, so reducing meal sizes or dropping to five feedings per day may be necessary.
When eating five to six “meals” per day, remember that these should be small and well balanced based on your own caloric needs and macro ratios. They should be spread out by an average of 2.5 hours, with some people preferring longer or shorter intervals.
Timing and planning are everything with 2-Days-On fasting days, as you get only one morning meal followed by a 12-hour fasting period before your evening meal. With Daily Intermittent Fasting you still need to plan the timing around your work schedule, and you’ll want to time it so that you’re not feeling too much hunger in the evening hours, but remember you must stick to the 8-hour window in which to feed.
Supplements can be beneficial on any sort of nutrition plan, but they’re particularly helpful when dieting for fat loss, and premium-quality supplements are essential when you’re on any sort of Intermittent Fasting program. The chance of muscle wasting is raised considerably due to the lack of calories, let alone the physical and mental stress of any such program.
Intermittent fasting of any sort is a demanding process, and it’s imperative to stick to your specified feeding hours in order to take advantage of its potential effectiveness. A high-quality pre-workout drink with boosted BCAA and zero calories would be ideal, especially if you find something specifically formulated for fasted cardio. The perfect pre-workout BCAA drink should provide all the energy-boosting, fat-melting, and muscle-defense mechanisms you need to get through a fasted workout, but make sure it adds zero macros to your diet.
Fasted training can make it tough to not only feel energized, but the lack of a good pump and muscle fullness can also defeat your motivation. Old-school nitric oxide supplements were decent, but the latest advancements in science allow for a genuine intra-workout supplement that can delivers extreme muscle pumps, increased endurance, strength, and energy, plus heightened mental focus and extremely efficient nutrient delivery. The ideal intra-workout formula should contain a combination of ingredients that promote pump, vasodilation, and endurance, while also fighting fatigue, sustaining energy, and increasing nutrient uptake. As with your pre-workout, be sure your intra-workout drink has no caloric impact.
If it’s your first official meal while on an Intermittent Fasting program, or even if it’s during a regular training program, your post-training nutrition is crucial to recovery and muscle building. The perfect post-workout drink would be a 100% pure whey protein that delivers an easy-to-mix, quick-digesting, and high-protein dose of high-quality whey right when you need it most—immediately after training. With fast-absorption and easy mixing, a post-workout whey protein drink can help preserve and build muscle.
Because this post-training time is so important, and because of the proven ability to promote muscle gains and prevent muscle wasting, a BCAA formula with a 12:1:1 ratio of L-Leucine, L-Isoleucine, and L-Valine with added L-Glutamine would be the perfect compliment to your post-workout whey protein drink. This combination would make for the fastest muscle growth and best muscle-preserving insurance possible.
All-Day Nutrition (during feeding periods)
Adding a scoop of 100% pure whey protein to each meal is an easy and efficient way to bump up your quality protein intake, but sometimes you want a longer-lasting protein as an option between solid meals. A time-release 100% casein protein would not only help satisfy your hunger and add vital high-quality protein to your system, the nature of this protein itself offers a trickle-feed effect, so you can effectively get all-day amino acid release, which is a huge key to building and preserving muscle.
When dieting and reducing calories, many people completely eliminate fat from their diets, but there are essential and beneficial fats that you should always maintain for your general health. Plus, the right fats can help you burn fat and retain muscle! Essential fatty acids (EFAs) do exactly that, especially if you find a quality formula delivering the perfect balance of health-building Omega-3, 6, and 9, as well as fat-burning and muscle-building CLA with EPA, DHA, and GLA.
Lastly, but often most important, energy, motivation, and the general drive to stay focused can be the showstoppers when it comes to any fat-burning program, but that’s especially true with Intermittent Fasting. When you’ve hit the wall and progress stops, or if you just need the drive to keep going and you want to see visible changes to your body on a regular basis, a quality fat burner with thermogenics and mood elevators can not only boost your metabolism, but it can give you the kick you need to push through those intense workouts. Plus, with the right fat-burning matrix, you’ll be able to see more results you’ve been working so hard to achieve.
Don’t Fear The Fast
Intermittent Fasting takes the fear out of the whole idea of fasting. Yes, you’ll go through periods of hunger that may be a challenge, but if you plan well as listed above, the advantages should be well worth the effort. If you’ve been struggling to shed those final pounds, or if you simply want to put your fat burning into hyperdrive, give one of these methods a try, and be absolutely certain to maximize your feeding periods with quality food and premium supplements that are guaranteed to deliver results.