Sunday, January 9, 2011

Experimenting with Intermittent Fasting

I've been doing a lot of poking around online recently and I stumbled upon a lot of information on Intermittent Fasting.

Intermittent Fasting can mean going without eating for 20-24 hours once or twice a week, or giving yourself a daily window of 6-8 hours in which you are allowed to eat each day. Those who use the practice claim it helps them to burn fat without sacrificing muscle gains or energy.


As someone who never backs down from a challenge, I thought I'd give it a try. I read and read and read and found a blog by a Swedish trainer, Martin Berkhan (, who offers a TON of free nutritional information regarding fasting. Berkhan's Leangains is a 16-hour fast with an 8-hour window in which you consume your allotted calories for the day.

I was intrigued by the idea that I could reap the benefits of a fast AND be able to eat regular amounts of clean foods every day so I decided to give it a try. I could have my cake and eat it too, well, sort of.

Last night I made a pork stir-fry with cabbage and other veggies at 9 pm and a whey protein shake before going to bed. I hadn't eaten much the rest of the day for one reason or another, so I think I was operating on a serious calorie deficit already.

I was weirdly alert and could not get to sleep easily. I wasn't sure why I was so awake as I had a draining workout yesterday morning of 10 minutes of sprint intervals followed by a 40-minute run. Usually I can't keep my eyelids open past 9 pm. Perhaps that was more a response to the large quantities of wine I had been consuming, but that's neither here nor there.

I got a few hours of sleep and was pretty hungry when I woke up. Determined that even I can go 16 hours without food, I made a cup of green tea.

Now, according to Martin's philosophy, you should never train when truly fasting, so he suggests 10 g of BCAA's (Branch Chain Amino Acids) before strength training. I don't have BCAA's at the house, so I had some whey protein - a suitable substitute when in a pinch - before heading to the gym.

I did reverse pyramid (heaviest weights, lowest reps first) and killed flat bench, incline bench press, incline dumbbell press and decline press before finishing off with about 40 mins of slow-state cardio (walking/jogging). A funny thing happened while I was training. I was lifting heavier weights than I have ever attempted on only one scoop of whey powder in more than 12 hours, and I wasn't hungry...or tired.

My appetite did come raging back after the gym but, by this time, it had been 16 hours since I had eaten and it was time to enjoy my biggest meal of the day! Then I eat again around dinnertime and again before long as I don't max out my calories for the day - (about 1,500 a day to stay in a deficit and lose fat). Now this is a program I can get behind.

16 hour fast
Chest workout + 40-mins slow-state cardio
Mood - Good
Energy - GREAT
Hunger level - nonexistent while training; annoying when not doing anything
Commitment Level - 10!

Stay tuned!


Anonymous said...

Hi there, I got to your site via Martin's tweet and have been reading through your progress.

I'm only 2 weeks into working my way back to the "alpha-male physique" I enjoyed up until 3 years ago. A knee injury put me on the bench for a while and then I just stayed there.

I've only just ditched the 6 meals a day dogma I was finding impossible to keep up with and instinctively knew I would never be able to maintain as a lifestyle anyway. Instead I'm opting to try out IF using Martin's 16/8 protocol. I figured I might as well since I'm at square one and if it turns out to be a dud all I've lost is a bit of time.

Anyway, I just want to say how encouraging it is to see real results and satisfaction from someone following the program. You seem to be doing really well and I hope you keep up the good work.

Looking forward to seeing even hotter pictures from you ;)

PS. I wanted to send you a greeting anyway but the reason I chose to write on this post was actually to point out a minor error. You say the split is 16/6 when in fact it's meant to be 16/8. 16/6 would make for a very weird day :P

Jenn said...

Yes, supposed to be 16/8 for men.Thanks for pointing out the error -I've fixed is.

Martin also recommends 14/10 for women (he says we get way too moody and cranky) but I do the 16/8 and seem to be doing ok on it. Tho, others around me may disagree ;)