Intermittent Fasting Is All The Rage: But How Do you get started with Intermittent Fasting in the first place?
I’m going to break it all down for you below. And along the way, if you want a simple-to-follow guide to help you put the information in this article to practice, grab a free copy of our Intermittent Fasting Cheatsheet.
How long does it take for intermittent fasting to start working?
If you’re apprehensive about how to get started with intermittent fasting, start slow.
It can take your body 7-14 days to adjust to your new eating habits. This is because hunger signals are primarily controlled by hormones leptin and ghrelin.
Leptin is produced in the fat cells and works by sending signals to your brain when you’ve stored enough fat and you don’t need to eat any more food. The fatter you are, the more leptin you produce.
If you’re overweight you can become resistant to leptin resistant. When too much fat produces too much leptin, the leptin signals stop getting sent to your brain. When this happens, the body thinks it’s starving and activates feelings of hunger, whether you need food or not.
If you’ve ever unintentionally skipped a meal, only to be met by ravenous hunger and a bellowing stomach, you’ve felt the effects of ghrelin.
Ghrelin is responsible for the physiological feelings of being hungry. It’s produced in the stomach and it increases when your stomach is empty.
Ghrelin decreases when your stomach is full. The less food you eat – like when you’re trying to lose fat – the more ghrelin your body produces as a response.
Ghrelin can also be secreted at regular intervals when you’re not dieting. This is one reason starting a diet like intermittent fasting can be brutal for the first few days. Once your hormones adapt to the change in your diet, things get better. But ghrelin doesn’t care whether you’re trying to lose fat or not – it’s fired up and ready to devour anything you put in front of it.
Eating at regular intervals helps control ghrelin. It can take 10-14 days for your body to adapt to the eating timing of intermittent fasting. While the first few weeks are difficult, you’re learning a valuable lesson: how to gain control over your hunger signals.
When Should You Eat First With Intermittent Fasting?
If you’re struggling with how to get started with intermittent fasting, start with the most common form: 16:8 intermittent fasting.
You go 16 hours without eating, such as 8:00 PM to 12:00 PM the following day. You would eat all your food between 12:00 pm and 8:00 Am.
For most busy people who are looking to burn fat using 12:00 PM as your first meal is ideal. With this plan, you’re able to focus on work and maximize productivity early in the day. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by your energy and ability to focus due to the release of adrenaline and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) during your fast.
At 12:00 PM, you can eat your typical lunch. Mid-afternoon, you can have a snack or workout meal.
In the evening, enjoy a large meal with plenty of calories to spare.
Intermittent fasting works incredibly well as it helps you focus early in the day to maximize productivity, yet provides enough flexibility to enjoy the social aspects of eating that tend to take place in the evening.
And if you’re working out? For starters, intermittent fasting is not ideal for building lean muscle even if you eat enough calories. Therefore, working out later in the day is going to be best. But if you can only train in the morning and want to maximize muscle/prevent muscle loss sipping on 10g of branch chain amino acids during your training and another 10g post-workout may help boost recovery.
How Do you get started with Intermittent Fasting: Best Practices
Drink Lots Of Water
Studies have shown nearly 75% of people walk around dehydrated. Even 1-2% dehydration reduces gym performance and cognitive performance. It also decreases most bodily functions, including your natural detoxification processes.
Dehydration when fasting increases hunger and irritability. You start feeling “hangry.” Drink more water to avoid being hangry. You’ll also maximize fat loss and performance.
I recommend drinking ½ your body weight in ounces of water per day. That’s around 100 oz, 3 liters, or 6 Dasani water bottles a day for a 200-pound man. Carry water with you at all times and take a sip every few minutes. You’ll thank me later.
Suppress Hunger With…
…Coffee, carbonated-calorie-free beverages, and gum.
Over the first five days, you will be hungry. That’s part of the process while your body resets hunger signals. To minimize discomfort and hunger, drink black coffee. If you must, add a little bit of coconut oil or whole milk, but no sweeteners. Coffee has been shown to suppress appetite and increase the release of stored fatty acids from your body, improving fat burning.
Mineral water and (if you must) carbonated beverages like diet soda are helpful during your fast. The carbonation will give help you feel full.
Finally, chew calorie-free gum. I don’t have any literature to back up gum helping with hunger, but I can tell you after years of fasting and occasionally, prepping for fitness photoshoots that a few sticks of gum are a game-changer for me.
Calculate Your Calories
You could do nothing different with your diet than switching to a 16/8 fast. That means you fast for 16 hours and eat during an eight-hour window, say from 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM.
But I’m here to help you get in the best shape of your life, so it would be rude of me not to share the best way to do so: calculating and tracking your calories.
All you need to do is a measure (and, heck, guess at restaurants) the portion sizes of your food.
This comes back to the most important component of fat loss: You must create a consistent caloric deficit to lose fat.
If you have no idea how many calories you’re eating you’ll have one hell of a time determining whether or not you’re eating the right amount of calories to lose fat.
As Brad Pilon of Eat Stop Eat puts it, If you’re not measuring, you’re not progressing. If you’re not measuring, you have NO idea what you’re doing.
In other words, you’re leaving the most important component of fat loss—creating a caloric deficit—to chance because you don’t want to spend five minutes tracking your food instead of watching NetFlix or scanning Instagram.
Okay, I’m done.
Here’s what to do:
For gradual weight loss, take your body weight in pounds x14.
For aggressive fat loss take your body weight in pounds x10.
To build muscle? Bodyweight in pounds x18.
These simple equations all give you a ballpark number of calories to eat each day. If you want specific calories and the most accurate plan using caloric cycling customized to get you in the best shape of your life, you will benefit from my coaching, here.
Calculate Protein, Carbs, and Fats
You’ve calculated your calories, great! Now it’s time for proteins, fats, and carbs. The beauty of the intermittent fasting lifestyle is you can eat low carb, high carb, or whatever style of diet you prefer as long as you’re following the eating window.
Let’s use a 200-pound man following an aggressive fat loss plan as an example.
Protein: Protein is essential for building lean muscle and keeping hunger at bay. A simple rule of thumb is to have 1g of protein per 1 pound of body weight or 200g per day.
Protein: 200g, or 800 calories of protein
Carbs: Carbs fuel performance and can help provide essential energy for your body.
We’ll put carbs at 30% of your calories.
This means 2000 calories x.3= 600 calories from carbs.
There are four calories per 1 gram of carbs, so this comes to 150g of carbs.
Fat: Fat is essential for hormone production and overall health.
Since we have 2000 calories to work with, 800 are used for protein, and 600 for carbs, we have 600 left.
Here’s the math: 2000- 800 (calories from protein)- 600 (calories from carbs)= 600 remaining calories.
Since fat has nine calories per gram, divide calories by 9.
600/9= 67 g of carbs.
Altogether, this 200 bro would aim for the following each day:
Train At The End Of Your Fast
Because of the release of adrenaline during fasting, you’ll find yourself ready to roll when it comes to training. The first few days, while your body adapts, can be tough. But once you’ve adapted to fasting, you’ll find yourself loving fasted training.
To sweeten the deal, your insulin sensitivity, which is already heightened from the fast, will be even higher after exercise. This makes it even easier for your body to use your post-workout meals as fuel for recovery and muscle growth rather than fat gain.
Here’s our popular Minimalist Muscle Blitz workout which will help you torch body fat, build muscle, and get more athletic.
If you exercise In the morning…
Things get a bit more complicated. For most people, fasting from the night before to the afternoon works best because they can have a larger dinner. In other words, you’ll probably enjoy fasting from 8:00 PM to 12:00 pm and eating from 12-8 PM much more than eating from 7:00 am to 3:00 PM each day.
But if you work out in the morning, how can you make sure you’ll maximize your gains without breaking your fast?
By taking 10g of BCAA’s during training, then another 10g after training. This should feasibly help you stimulate protein synthesis while decreasing the breakdown of amino acids as fuel.
Then, proceed as you would with your normal feeding window.
Understand This: Yes, You Will Be Hungry At First
When you start fasting, you will be hungry to start and towards the end of your fasts. But you won’t wither away your hard-earned gains and diet.
Hunger is not an emergency.
Truthfully, hunger is a state of mind for most of us, and it’s a state of mind you need to conquer if you want to look great naked and experience the benefits of intermittent fasting.
Your body will adapt. It will change to better deal with hunger. But give it time. If you go into a fast and you convince yourself it’s impossible; you’re not going to succeed. You will soon give up.
Trust me here and relax. Not eating isn’t a huge deal. You’ll get to have bigger meals later today anyway.
The Final Word: How To Get Started With Intermittent Fasting
Like any type of diet, fat loss takes time. The truth is your body can only burn fat so fast, a few pounds per week at most.
Your body will take a few days to get accustomed to the hunger pangs. But once you’ve adapted, you’ll find fasting to be a simple and maintainable plan for losing stubborn fat, looking great naked, and taking control of your health without obsessing over fitness.
And if you want a no-nonsense guide to getting lean, having more energy, and getting in shape while you enjoy your favorite foods, then grab a copy of our Intermittent Fasting Cheatsheet.