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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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April 17, 2012

Why Fast? Part Six – Choosing a Method

By Mark Sisson
293 Comments

Assuming you’ve been keeping up with the series, you should be saying to yourself “Hey, maybe this fasting thing would be a cool thing to try out, and it might even make me healthier/live longer/lean out/lose weight/etc.,” which is a sufficiently extensive list of benefits, don’t you think? I could probably go on theorizing and speculating about all the reasons why you should consider intermittent fasting, but I’d rather move on to the implementation. Thinking about fasting, reading about fasting, and reciting the benefits of fasting are all pointless if you don’t know how to go about doing it.

First, let’s go over the different variations of fasting. I’ll give a quick rundown. Each involves not eating for a period of time, unsurprisingly.

A couple other rules that apply to all the given methods:

  1. Sleeping hours (provided you don’t sleep-eat) count as fasting hours.
  2. Eat well regardless. While some fasting plans tout their adherents’ ability to eat crappy food and still lose weight, I’m not interested in fasting solely as a weight loss method.

Okay, on to the variations.

Leangains

Martin Berkhan’s incredibly popular fasting protocol is slightly more involved than others, but still pretty simple:

  1. A daily 16 hour fast (Martin sometimes recommends 14 for women, who just seem to do better on shorter fasts) during which you eat nothing. Coffee, tea, and other non-caloric fluids are fine.
  2. A daily 8 hour (or 10 for women) eating window.
  3. Three days of weight training, ideally performed at the tail end of the fasting period. To improve performance and muscle protein synthesis, you have the option of consuming 10 grams of branched chain amino acids 10 minutes before the workout.
  4. Always eat high protein.
  5. On training days, eat more carbs and less fat.
  6. On rest days, eat more fat, fewer carbs, and slightly reduce calories.
  7. Most people begin their fast after dinner (say, 9 PM), workout in the afternoon (at around 12 PM), and break their fast immediately post-workout (at around 1 PM), but you can use any schedule you prefer.
  8. Your post-workout meal should have about 50% of your day’s caloric allotment (a real feast).

Who should try it?

Because it’s geared toward people interested in losing fat and putting on muscle and strength, Leangains presupposes that you will also be lifting heavy things several times a week, usually in the fasted state. Therefore, Leangains is best-suited for people who will be training on a regular basis. In fact, it’s probably the most meticulously-designed IF program.

People with steady schedules will have more success than people with erratic schedules. A huge part of Leangains is the hormonal entrainment induced by regular feeding times. Once you get locked into your routine, your hunger hormones will adapt to the schedule, and the fasting should get easier, or even effortless.

Eat Stop Eat

Put together by Brad Pilon, Eat Stop Eat is really basic:

  1. Once or twice a week, don’t eat for 24 hours.
  2. Start your fast in the morning, at lunch, or at dinner. It doesn’t matter as long as you don’t eat for 24 hours.
  3. Break your fast with a “normal-sized meal.” Don’t try to make up for the lost calories by feasting.
  4. Exercise regularly.

Who should try it?

People interesting in fasting for the therapeutic benefits (cancer protection, autophagy, life extension, etc.) would probably get a lot out of this method, as opposed to people interested in the body composition benefits.

Going a full 24 hours without food is a much tougher slog than going for 16 hours. In my experience, going lower-carb and higher-fat makes longer fasts easier, so I’d have to say a low-carb Primal eater would do better than most.

The Warrior Diet

Ori Hofmekler’s plan is based on the feast-and-fast concept:

  1. Eat one meal a day, at night, and make it a big one. A real feast. You have three or four hours to eat until full. So it’s basically 20/4 hours.
  2. You can occasionally snack on low-calorie raw fruit and vegetables during the day, but try to limit protein as much as possible until the feast.
  3. Exercise during the day, in a fasted state.

Who should try it?

People who have trouble sticking to a stricter fast will do better on the Warrior Diet, as it allows light eating during the time leading up to the feast, but I wonder if you’d be squandering some of the benefits by eating.

Alternate Day Fasting

Researchers often use this method in lab studies:

  1. Eat normally one day (last meal at, say, 9 PM Monday).
  2. Don’t eat the next day.
  3. Resume eating the day after that (at, say, 9 AM Wednesday).
  4. It works out to a 36-ish hour fast, although there’s plenty of wiggle room. You could eat at 10 PM Monday and break the fast at 6 AM Wednesday for a “mere” 32 hour fast.

Who should try it?

People who have no trouble going to bed hungry. With Leangains, Eat Stop Eat, and the Warrior Diet methods, you can always manage to get to bed with a full belly; with ADF, you will be going to bed on an empty stomach several times a week. That can be tough.

That said, the therapeutic benefits to serious conditions will most likely really be pronounced with this way of fasting. The casual 20-something Primal eater who lifts heavy things and enjoys going out with friends? Probably not ideal. The older Primal eater interested in generating some autophagy and maybe staving off neurodegeneration? It might just work out. And while I’m not able to tell a cancer patient undergoing chemotherapy what to do, I’d guess that the longer fasts will be more beneficial in that regard, too.

But my personal favorite way of implementing fasting?

Eat WHEN – When Hunger Ensues Naturally

I’m not going to put any bullet points here, because none are required. Instead, I’ll give a few scenarios:

I wake up bright and early on a Saturday morning. It’s about 65 degrees, the sun’s out, Buddha’s walking around with the leash in his mouth, and Red Rock Canyon is kinda calling my name. I’ve got my coffee already and I’m actually not all that hungry from dinner. You know what? I’ll go on that hike, skip breakfast, and really work up an appetite for lunch. Or not. If I’m hungry afterwards, I’ll eat. It’s a fast, but not really.

I hit the gym, put in a light workout, then swing by the beach for some sand sprints. I’m toast by the end and have to stagger back to my car, but I’m not hungry. Even when I get home and smell the grilled salmon, I have no desire for it. I might eat later that night, but only if my appetite returns. I’m fasting post-workout only because it doesn’t occur to me to eat, not because I’m following a plan.

I’m away on business, stuck on a layover that’s turned into a delay that’s turned into an overnighter. The only food available is a Kudos candy bar – I mean, healthy granola bar (they seriously still make these?) from the mini fridge, a greasy pizza joint on the corner across the street from the hotel, a Chinese takeout place next to the pizza joint, and a slew of fast food restaurants some ways down the road. It’s late, I’m tired, I had a Big Ass Salad before I left for LAX… you know what? I’m just going to skip the “meal.” I’ll figure out something at the airport in the morning (20 hour fast) or once I land (24 hour fast). And I’ll be okay either way.

That’s eating When Hunger Ensues Naturally.

This is the most natural, most effortless way of “fasting,” at least for me, because it allows a person to eat intuitively. Although most people will eventually acclimate to more regimented fasting schedules, and many may even need and thrive with that structure, I prefer a more fractal, loose, random pattern of “missing” (in quotations because I don’t feel like I’m missing anything, and that’s the whole point!) meals. I have no data on whether it’s as effective or more effective than the more popular methods, but I do know that I’ll often fast for 16 hours and eat for eight, or skip an entire day of eating, or sometimes (but very, very rarely) even approach a full 30 hours, and it seems likely that this random pattern of eating characterized the eating “schedules” of our ancestors.

In short, we’re all doing the same thing, chasing the same goals. We’re all skipping meals, reducing calories, staying active, and all the while we’re doing this without feeling miserable and restricted. It just so happens that because we’re efficient Primal fat-burning beasts, switching over to burning our own body fat reserves for energy during a fast is a natural, seamless transition. We often don’t even notice it. There’s no effort involved.

That’s the key: lack of stress. If any or all of these fasting methods stress you out, make you irritable, kill your performance, make you feel restricted, or reduce your ability to enjoy life, and these feelings persist beyond the first five fasts you attempt (when some adaptation difficulties are totally expected), you shouldn’t employ them. You should shelve fasting for a while and come back to it later, or never. It’s not a “requirement” or anything. It’s just a tool you can wield if your situation warrants it. In fact, this is the perfect opportunity to conduct an informal experiment of one. Try Leangains for a week or two, then throw in a full 24 hour fast once or twice a week for a bit, then try the WHEN method. Compare and contrast. How did you feel? How did you perform at work, at home, and in the gym? Take some waist measurements perhaps, or analyze your favorite barometer of body composition to see how the different fasting methods worked – or didn’t work – for you.

Now, I’d like to hear from you. What’s your favorite fasting method? Do you have one, or you just kinda go with the flow? Be sure to review the previous installments below and if you have any questions about any of the stuff I’ve covered in this series, leave them in the comment section and I’ll try to get them answered for you next week. Thanks for reading!

Here’s the entire series for easy reference:

Why Fast? Part One – Weight Loss

Why Fast? Part Two – Cancer

Why Fast? Part Three – Longevity

Why Fast? Part Four – Brain Health

Why Fast? Part Five – Exercise

Why Fast? Part Six – Choosing a Method

Why Fast? Part Seven – Q&A

Dear Mark: Women and Intermittent Fasting

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293 Comments on "Why Fast? Part Six – Choosing a Method"

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yoolieboolie
yoolieboolie
4 years 5 months ago

Going with the flow and applying WHEN has me satisfied so that I doubt I’ll try another method anytime soon. Thanks for the info! Great series and I love the discussions that ensue.

Harry Mossman
4 years 5 months ago

Same here. In the morning, I don’t eat until I have a appetite. Sometimes that is when I get up. On those mornings, I immediately have something like bacon and eggs, and maybe a little fruit. Then I may have only a snack e.g. some nuts between then and dinner. Or I might have a light salad for lunch. Other days I am not hungry until 11 or even noon.

einstein
einstein
4 years 5 months ago

Same here. I do 16 hours when I feel like it. Not regularly though. Longer ones are not for me. And definitely no high sugar 50% of calories during one sitting AKA Leangains. Tried it and it brought back my cravings and expanded my belly – sixpack or not, a big belly is not a pleasant sight 🙂

TokyoJarrett
4 years 5 months ago

Yay to 16 hour fasts. This is just how my body likes it most of the time.

Nay to one-day massive carb-ups. While they do make my muscles look more impressive afterwards, the horrible bloating on the day of just isn’t worth it.

Jeremy
Jeremy
4 years 5 months ago

What if you need energy for a job? How do we know you’re telling the truth?

April
April
4 years 5 months ago

HI, I tried to post but not sure if it worked. Have been IF for about two weeks. 14-16 hour fast each day. Wondering if it is okay to do if trying to get pregnant. Worried it might reduce my changes of conceiving??

beki
beki
4 years 4 months ago

hi. i am a midwifery student and from what my teachers have told me it is very good to do a fast a few weeks before conceiving, then the weeks prior to conception its best to eat as much nourishing things as possible. once pregnant i don’t believe even a 12 hour fast would be a good idea.

Jeremy
Jeremy
4 years 5 months ago

Mark Sisson is just talking out of his brain-dead ass. Fasting makes people weaker, it makes it difficult to think clearly, it makes people vulnerable to infectious diseases, and people at work will subject you to well-deserved ridicule. Sisson and his brainless, luddite, anti-religious, racist followers need some good, hard skull crackings in reality.

Christos
Christos
4 years 4 months ago

You do realize people fast for religious reasons all the time right? Easter just passed and I fasted for the week. I ate occasionally, but to be honest I still had energy and though I had cravings, they eventually went away. PS: You need a hug. Not sure why you carry so much hate, but its not serving you. Life’s too short to spend it so angry

Jeremy
Jeremy
4 years 4 months ago

I’m upset because it didn’t work for me and I am still obese so I criticize everyone and everything. I’m a deadbeat.

Dr Jason
Dr Jason
4 years 1 month ago

If it didn’t work and you were really doing it right, I grow more concerned for your hormones and health. This works on almost all my patients except those with thyroid issues or other more severe problems. You may need to get checked.

Barton
Barton
3 years 10 months ago

No, you’re upset because you’ve screwed up your endogenous endorphin production via some type of mind-altering chemical abuse. The road back is long and even more depressing. Good luck.

John
John
4 years 1 month ago

LOL!

Mike Cramb
3 years 5 months ago
I have been complete fasting for 3 days now . I started at 120.5 kilos now 116 kilos neat. I have been drinking lots of water and have had a cup of coffe or tea each day no sugar or sweetner. I dont feel hungry any more ,i have lost the bloated feel i had. Today i have plenty of energy and i am in a fairly high state of ketosis ( checked urine by keto strips). I did get a bit of a headace after the first 24 hrs as my body (liver) switched to burning fat instead of… Read more »
Mike Cramb
3 years 5 months ago
Now on my 4th morning weighing in at 115.2 kg thats 5 kilos lighter in 4 days . Im feeling good not at all hungry, dont think i could run 5ks but im up to working around the yard and doing most of my usual routine. I have a doctors apointment this evening so i will have my blood sugar levels checked. I had full bloods taken the day before i started to fast including liver function etc. It will be interesting to see what changes if any occur when i finish fasting. I am seriously thinking of staying on… Read more »
David
David
4 years 5 months ago

I have been doing essentially Eat Stop Eat (I call it starving Thursdays) for a couple of months now. I have to say that as long as my last meal before the fast and my first meal after the fast are mostly protein and fat, I hardly notice the circa 26 hour fast. And this form of fasting has really accelerated my excess body weight loss. (24 lbs in less than 3 months).

Grokitmus Primal
4 years 5 months ago

I only eat once a day. It takes me 30-45 minutes. I keep it low carb and I still can’t eat all I want or I will gain weight.

rob
rob
4 years 5 months ago

Might want to try something different, I don’t think you can go through life never eating all you want.

Brian
Brian
4 years 5 months ago

I just tried “Eat, Stop, Eat” yesterday and did okay. A few moments of hunger but mostly I felt really good and alive.

I just started a powerlifting regimen, however, and I’m going to keep an eye on my strength gains. Has anyone had experience with actually gaining strength while doing this or another fasting program?

Justin Tadlock
4 years 5 months ago
It depends on your current level of strength. If you’re new to powerlifting, you can pretty much gain strength doing anything. Just the simple act of lifting a few heavy weights will make you stronger. If you’re an advanced lifter (i.e., someone who can squat/dead 400+ and bench 250+), you’ll probably find it hard to make strength gains when fasting. I don’t have any hard data on this, but I know several advanced lifters whose numbers plateaued or even dropped when implementing a fasting regimen. You pretty much have to eat lots of food to make strength gains when you… Read more »
Tanner
Tanner
4 years 5 months ago

If you are at that point, is there really a reason to continue eating large quantities in order to gain strength?

Isn’t the goal to be lean and healthy?

David
David
4 years 5 months ago

Good point. How about the goal being: Lean, getting stronger, and being healthy?
My fasts affect the workouts. The performance drops. Food is energy. Energy=good workout results. Fasts = subpar workouts for me. So, I eat a little prior to and after workouts, which keeps me going strong and shortens wod rcovery.

John
John
4 years 5 months ago

“Isn’t the goal to be lean and healthy?”

Really? What is “the” goal? Your goal is whatever the hell your goal is, not whatever you hope is the consensus goal.

Justin Tadlock
4 years 5 months ago

The goal for Brian seems to also include powerlifting, which means he wants to get really strong. Not everyone’s goals are exclusively about getting lean an healthy.

Mike
Mike
4 years 4 months ago

I agree and disagree with David below. Energy does mean for good performance in your workout but a ‘poor performance workout’ doesn’t exclude results. I’ve found that my deads, squat and bench all went up doing fasted workouts. My workouts would suck in the morning but every couple of weeks I would do an evening benchmark workout and find my 1RM. Even though my fasted lifting was sub par in the moment it resulted in huge gains when fed.

rob
rob
4 years 5 months ago
I have one meal a day four days a week (mostly because I enjoy eating my face off once a day), I’ve noticed both strength gains and strength losses during the years I’ve been doing this, and imo it’s not tied to how often you eat but to total caloric intake/outake. If you are running a caloric deficit then it doesn’t matter how frequently you eat, gaining strength is going to be very tough. Right now I’m trying to get leaner cause I’m running a lot, so naturally I’m losing strength … has nothing to do with how frequently I… Read more »
Brian
Brian
4 years 5 months ago

Thanks. I need to lose quite a bit of body fat. I’m trying to walk a fine line between gaining strength for fitness and losing fat for health and appearance. I don’t want to do too much of one at the expense of the other.

Leangains may be a better option for me.

Grant
Grant
4 years 5 months ago
The general consensus in the LG community is that LG is more suited to someone who has already gained strength on a program like Starting Strength or Strong Lifts and is now looking for body recomposition – i.e. dropping body fat levels to single figures. My own experience has been that a program like Starting Strength is really tough on LG so I have decided to just focus on strength and worry about fat later. Make the most of newb gains while you can. Don’t worry too much about body fat until you can deadlift 2x body weight, squat 1.5xBW… Read more »
einstein
einstein
4 years 5 months ago

Leangains is for guys who want to look like Berkhan, like natural bodybuilders. If you just want to burn fat and get lean and stronger, follow Mark on this. His results are easily sustainable without much effort under any condition, while the results of a Leangains style training go away easily and quickly once you stop following the regime for a while for whatever reason.

Justin Tadlock
4 years 5 months ago

Brian, if you can share your current lifting PRs (squat, dead, bench), it will help. You might be able to fast and restrict calories while still making strength gains. It really depends on your current level of strength.

Dave
Dave
4 years 4 months ago
I have found that it’s hard to “do it all” at once. I.e., pick one of the two goals – get strong, or get lean. That said, most of what Rippetoe posts will tell you that most folks over 20%, even if they are “eating for strength” can still lose body fat on the SS or an intermediate program – you’re going to burn off a lot of the calories you take in through lifting. It won’t get you down to single digit body fat, but you probably won’t stay above 25%, either. A lot of it, IMHO, comes back… Read more »
Goyo
Goyo
4 years 5 months ago

I feel that all my gains come from recovery from training hard and not the actual workout, per se. It took me a few weeks to get dialed in to train as hard as I was used to in an unfasted state but once I did the gains came.

Recovery is really key to making gains. Replenish protein and other micro nutrients and get plenty of rest (sleep).

Matthew Caton
4 years 5 months ago
I was following the fasted training protocol with 10 grams of BCAA pre-workout, Leangains style, because I was trying to make strength gains. My strength gains were steady with that, but they practically doubled after I ditched the BCAA pre-workout. Like 2% gains every week instead of 1%. Personally, I can get extra rep on everything, past the progression that I’ve planned, training completely fasted. A rep is fairly big considering I work with my 4-8 RM. Now, I train exclusively in the completely fasted state. I guess I’m that guy… It fit’s my schedule and I love it. In… Read more »
Niklas Wallis
Niklas Wallis
4 years 5 months ago

I’m doing 300+ deadlifts for reps and following the leangains scheme with a primal twist. It’s working great so far (4 months in).

Jimmy
Jimmy
4 years 5 months ago

I also use a power lifting type program (and I guess that I’d qualify as one of those advanced lifters according to his classification) and I have been experimenting with ~16 hour fasts on my off days with no ill effects.. I’ve still been getting no new PR s and gaining muscle

Mark
Mark
3 years 20 days ago

I realize I’m replying to an old post, but for the sake of others who may have the same question… I have had strength gains on heavy deadlifts, squats, and weighted dips while doing Warrior diet and also while doing leangains style IF. And im talking about week after week gains, not just occasional gains.

Tammy
Tammy
4 years 5 months ago
Mark – Thanks for the whole series on IF it has been very informative. Personally, I follow Martin’s method. It’s just easier for me to stay in a routine plus once I got into it, my hunger did change. So even though I stick to it during the week, I find on the weekends I automatically stick to it without even thinking about it. Also, I much prefer to do my workouts in a fasted state. I’ve been sticking to this pretty well since the first of the the year and have managed to gain strength on my workouts and… Read more »
Debra Dixon
Debra Dixon
4 years 22 days ago

Thanks for sharing this Tammy. I’ve been really interested in giving it a go with so much good information from Mark, but then I read the info about Women and fasting and it left me undecided.
You’re posting has encouraged me to give it a go. Thanks.

Mike B
Mike B
4 years 5 months ago
Mark, Great post, and perfect timing! I’ve been trying a few of these methods for the past few weeks, and still deciding which I like most, but I have a question on the LeanGains method. On the lifting / higher-carb days, would you follow the 250g – 300g carb guideline that you discussed in your carb refeed post? At 3 times per week, it seems like it might be overdoing it a little, no? Would you just slightly emphasize carbs over fats, but stick to 150g max as recommended in the the PB? What are your thoughts on this? Thanks… Read more »
Tanner
Tanner
4 years 5 months ago

I also was wondering about the amount of carbs to eat on training days if you are following the lean gains program.

What’s your thoughts Mark?

Grant
Grant
4 years 5 months ago

Check out the LG calculator: http://www.1percentedge.com/ifcalc/

Matthew Caton
4 years 5 months ago

You don’t want to do a carb refeed with a lot of fat if fat loss is your goal. Go to my website and check out the article titled “Insulin Spikes” for the details on that.

300 grams is usually good for a healthy man, and 200 for a healthy woman.

I do a refeed once every 3 days, but I also only train once every 3 days.

Mike B
Mike B
4 years 5 months ago

I don’t know man, 300g sounds awfully high for 3 days a week. I think I’m going to start out at ~200g carbs (mix of sweet potatoes, LOTS of cruciferous veggies, and only a little sugar from frozen cherries and blueberries) and see how that works out for me. I also plan on following Marks / Martin’s advice on keeping fat low – under 50g on lifting days. I just started today, so I guess we’ll see what develops over the next few weeks/months. Any more advice on the topic from anyone is welcome though =)

Matthew Caton
4 years 5 months ago

You can see on my about me page that my physique has benefited nicely from 350 grams of carbs during refeeds.

I usually workout on an 8 day week, so I workout 3 days and do 3 refeeds every 8 days. If I need extra rest I’ll push it to a 9 or even a 10 day week.

I write in some detail, and give tips on carb refeeds on my website.

Lucy Stebbing
Lucy Stebbing
4 years 5 months ago

i have been doing lean gains now for about a month, its been working well but i like the idea of it being 10/14 for women i am going to give that a go, although most of the time i am fasting 16 /8 anyway!

thanks for this i am going to experiment as i like the idea of ustilising the natural need for food as a fast and a way of loosing fat

Sean
Sean
4 years 5 months ago
After reading the first part of the why fast series I started fasting. I was doing a Brad Pilon style or alternate day type fast. Basically, on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday I only eat supper. A normal sized supper not a big feast. This gives me around a 20 to 24 hour fast depending on when I ate supper the night before. This has worked for me and I have lost 2 to 3 pounds each week since. Now, I have been having two coffees with cream during my fasting days adding up to probably 75 to 100 cals spread… Read more »
Luke
Luke
4 years 5 months ago
Since switching to paleo, my kids (girls, 9 and 11) often skip breakfast and or lunch. It’s totally up to them. I just tell them to eat as much as they want if they’re hungry and not to eat if they are not hungry. When they say they’re not hungry I don’t make them eat. Back when they ate a normal breakfast and lunch, they would want a snack as soon as they got home from school. Now they have more energy and spend a lot less time eating. No lack of calories as they can eat a 1 pound… Read more »
MOWL
4 years 5 months ago

Bravo to you! If more parents did this kind of “food parenting”….we would not be raising a generation of sick, overweight kids.

Decaf Debi
Decaf Debi
4 years 5 months ago
I’ve noticed the same thing with my kids, ages 4 and 6. CW tells us that small children have small stomachs and “have” to eat every couple of hors, so like most kids in their preschool, they ate breakfast, then a snack, then lunch, then a snack (or two), then supper and another snack before bed. Cutting the grains and loading them up on more eggs and meat, they might not ask for breakfast until 3 or 4 hours after waking. Then lunch is closer to when they used to have an afternoon snack. Supper is later, too. Snacks are… Read more »
Happycyclegirl
Happycyclegirl
4 years 5 months ago

We certainly allow our kids to “self-feed” on the weekends and as best as possible during the week. They are 5 and 2 years old. They tell us when they are hungry and we offer food then. We also have bacon left on the counter and they grab what they want when they feel like it.

It’s worked well so far. It also means we don’t have battles at the dinner table about eating their food.

Decaf Debi
Decaf Debi
4 years 5 months ago

You can have bacon left after cooking it?!

I started with cooking half a package at a time. None left. Then I started making the whole package. None left. Last time I made bacon, I cooked two full packages and STILL none was left when I went back to the kitchen. My husband and kids seem to think that wild scavengers will invade the house and take it or something, so they are sure not to even leave a bacon bit-sized scrap left!

Matthew Caton
4 years 5 months ago

My hat is off to you.

That is a great thing you are doing for your kids, probably less of hassle for you as well. Your going to have some very healthy kids.

steve
4 years 5 months ago

great series mark!

Mary
Mary
4 years 5 months ago
I recently began IF’ing — usually 16 hours, but did a 24-hr. fast the other day and it was pretty good. Questions: 1. I can’t shake the idea that I’m messing with my metabolism. I can’t eat huge meals so w/2 meals per day I worry my calories are too low. Thoughts? I don’t want to be fasting and also undereating. 2. How do I know I’m burning fat vs. protein, once my initial glycogen stores are used up? People talk of being “fat adapted,” but I can’t tolerate huge quantities of fat. (I don’t process it well; slow-emptying stomach.)… Read more »
Susan
4 years 5 months ago

Research shows it takes days of not eating food to slow your metabolism, and even then it isn’t as drastic as we originally thought.

Barb
4 years 5 months ago
I think that depends on if you are keto adapted or not. If you are IF’ing in a keto adapted state, the rules do change and you should not be in danger of soliciting the starvation response. I have personally never tried IF’ing without being keto adapted. Protein does not actually burn well as a fuel, so you will go, I believe, from burning sugar to having to convert proteins (and some fat) into sugar to burn, aka ‘gluconeogenesis’. Unless you can become keto (fat) adapted, your body will continue to burn the sugar that it makes. In the even… Read more »
Ruby
4 years 5 months ago

How do you KNOW when you are keto adapted? Is it a sensation? Are you just intuiting it? Do you do some kind of test?

Jake
Jake
4 years 5 months ago

i think it’s one of those things like love, you just know lol

RobG
RobG
4 years 5 months ago
I take a shot at an answer. First, your diet should have shifted you over given enough time – no grain, low carbs to more fats, protein. That could take a month? I guess longer if you haven’t really gone into the optimal carb zone on the chart Mark publishes. Second, upon doing a fast how do you feel? If you have a ‘Carb Flu’, wiffy, headaches – then you are not keyto adapted yet. No problem, because the fast will actually accelerate your switch to fat burning. Personally the only discomfort I have during a IF or even 3… Read more »
Travis Koger
Travis Koger
4 years 4 months ago
Ruby, There are tests for ketosis. Ketostix are a test strip you submerge in urine. If it comes out a purple colour then you have a reasonable amount of ketones in your system. These are not the best for accuracy, but typically you are only looking for a guide, rather than trying to work out the exact mmol. The better test is your blood and you can get home test devices for this that will to a finger prick test. These are very accurate. The other method you can use is simply based on what you have eaten over a… Read more »
Mary
Mary
4 years 5 months ago

Interesting; thanks for the replies. I take digestive enzymes with meals to help with stomach emptying, but sometimes I just think I do better on a moderate (vs. high) fat diet.

I haven’t been consistently “paleo” for very long, but I feel fine during fasts, so I’ve really no idea whether my body is using protein or fat for energy. Hm.

Ruby
4 years 4 months ago
Okay… on “ketosis” – I ordered a version of ketostix online… actually, something that’s supposed to test for a bunch of stuff… so we’ll see. I get a little frustrated when I see stuff like, “you just know.” No, you don’t just know. If you’ve never been in ketosis, how the heck would you know? “Carb Flu” is also a totally subjective thing. People who have been consuming allergenic type food their whole lives have been known feel instantly better when they quit wheat and dairy. So where is their “carb flu?” Most of us probably lived our pre-paleo version… Read more »
adam
4 years 5 months ago

great article.
Is a TBS of butter/heavy cream in coffee considered breaking the fast? Seems to be a few different opinions on this in the paleosphere and curious to get your opinion.

Brian
Brian
4 years 5 months ago

I do sort of a combination between the LeanGains and and Warrior Diet. I work out in the afternoon, and usually go straight to cooking dinner. I eat slowly until I’m full, and if I get hungry again before bed, there’s usually some leftovers. The only time I drink coffee is before a workout, but I don’t do any of the BCAA or other pre-workout supplements.

Kevin Kolk
4 years 5 months ago
I’m somewhere I suppose between the Eat Stop Eat style and the Warrior Diet. I fast currently two days of the week. Having my last meal sometime between 6-9pm and then not having anything until the same time except for usually a small snack at 4-5pm when I get home while cooking dinner. I run (usually HIIT/Sprints) on the fasting days around 1-2pm in the afternoon. I’d also say my main motivator at this point is weight loss rather than the other benefits. Also as a former fat guy who could set his clock with his stomach there is something… Read more »
Goyo
Goyo
4 years 5 months ago
I started IF about two years ago. I started with the WD method because it was the easiest and most natural for me. I loved the expressions on people’s faces when I had to explain to them my first meal of the day comes at sundown (no it’s not Ramadan and no I am not Muslim). In summertime here in MN that can come as late as 10p. Now I just eat WHEN. I do Crossfit and sometimes I do it fasted and sometimes I eat a small portion of protein beforehand. It just depends on my energy levels that… Read more »
Heather
Heather
4 years 5 months ago
Hi, I am with you on the WHEN approach, my hubby and I employ it all the time, and it is working for him even though he isn’t completely with the program. After decades of the conventional approach, it’s so liberating to have such a disconnect with food. If my day is busy, I simply don’t waste time eating. If there is nothing that I can buy to eat, I simply don’t when I am traveling. There is no guilt, no problem, and it’s so easy. I do try and throw in a longer fast every week, but generally eat… Read more »
Steve
Steve
4 years 5 months ago

I have the same question as Adam.

I drink black tea with a tablespoon or two of coconut cream and 1 tablespoon of coconut oil Will this break or hurt my fasting?

Either way, I know its alot better then the 2-3 donuts and drive through breakfast I use to get.

sjmusic2
sjmusic2
4 years 5 months ago

I don’t think it really matters at the end of the day. Are you achieving your goals, if yes then don’t fret the small stuff.

katie
4 years 5 months ago

Would you still recommend fasting for someone trying to put mass ON (or at the least, not lose any kind of weight or body fat). I know fasting doesn’t necessarily mean less food, but if I wanted to fast solely for the disease fighting reasons, would you recommend it still? What are some ways to ensure no mass is lost? Also, does having say cream in your coffee in the morning negate any fasting benefits? Any opinions are welcomed!

Dave
Dave
4 years 5 months ago
Katie, read the LG’s website. As the name of the program is “LeanGains” you’ll see Martin’s recommendations for IF while retaining and even gaining mass. All it takes is a couple looks at his photos to realize he’s not losing mass. His basic premise is to eat a large post-workout meal and if you train in a fasted state to supplement with BCAA’s to help with protein synthesis. While he doesn’t recommend a Primal diet, there’s nothing to preclude it if you don’t mind getting a few extra healthy carbs here and there. As to your cream in coffee question… Read more »
Matthew Caton
4 years 5 months ago

It is hard to gain weight, or eat enough, while eating whole foods and following a daily fasting protocol. Just keep your eating window big enough, so you can get enough food in.

Kevin Herrington
Kevin Herrington
4 years 5 months ago
After trying EatStopEat and Martin’s method, I’ve come to the same conclusion as Mark – mix and match, and do what works with your life. I’ve settled on skipping lunch, with a some 24 to 36 hr fasts mixed in and had good results. It broke my weight loss plateau and I feel a lot better than constantly being in a fed state. But, a word of warning … Do it for at least a week, because the first week is BRUTAL. I know it’s different for everyone, but it was really, really hard for the first week, then like… Read more »
Will Serge
4 years 5 months ago

Great post. Really puts things into perspective. I’m a total Eat-Stop-Eat-er. (And I’m actually fasting right now)

Josh
Josh
4 years 5 months ago
Since switching from a high carb, whole grain, and low fat diet, I have frequently found myself accidentally in the middle of an “eat when I’m hungry” fast. It feels great and I don’t waste time eating meals I don’t need. However, because I am very active, I have recently been trying the leangains approach. It seems to work well and my workouts don’t suffer, but I tend to think about the fast too often. I don’t want to stress about eating an hour early once in a while, so I’ll probably stick to eating when I’m hungry.
Dave
Dave
4 years 5 months ago
I’ve loosely followed LG’s style, but have an erratic workout schedule so one day I might train fasted and the next not. This makes it a little more difficult to plan the post-workout meals, but I try to maintain an approximate 16/8 eating schedule, cutting off around 8 or 9 pm. Recently I purchased Eat Stop Eat, and have started incorporating 24 hour fasts once or twice a week, usually on my rest days (basically extending my 16 hour window to dinner). One thing I have done is taken Martin’s recommendation of BCAA’s prior to a fasted workout. He seems… Read more »
Manda
Manda
4 years 5 months ago
Ditto. You just described me exactly. My eating window is a bit earlier in the day than is typical (because I want to avoid snacking at work where I’m surrounded by food) but I have no problem going to bed hungry and not eating breakfast until about 11 in the morning, regardless of when I wake up. I’ve never had that sort of freedom from food. Was a constant grazer, and was never satisfied by anything; I was always thinking about the next thing I was going to put in my mouth. Not anymore! I haven’t tried any 24 hour… Read more »
Linds
Linds
4 years 5 months ago

Ok…so I really like the idea of WHEN fasting (I pretty much do it already anyway). But sometimes I’m truly hungry fairly often, even when I think I shouldn’t be (like on lower activity days). Anyone have this issue? Should I just eat…or wait it out until I’m hungrier, considering that I’m not expending much energy? Anyone feel like they have some insight for me? Thanks!

JoeBrewer
JoeBrewer
4 years 5 months ago

I maintain a high appitite on my rest days because of the workout the day before. I have always been that way. I actually don’t eat as much on workout days because the workout kills my hunger, but the next day, look out. I think it takes time for some people to refuel the system after a good workout.

Also try to drink more water and get out and walk, that will take care of the hunger too.

HopelessDreamer
HopelessDreamer
4 years 5 months ago

i agee – remember that your body builds up/repairs AFTER you work out. you need to fuel that recovery with good food.

Aaron Blaisdell
4 years 5 months ago

+1 (ditto)

oxide
oxide
4 years 5 months ago

I do better with an evening fast: breakfast 6 am, lunch at 11:30, bulletproof cocoa at 2 pm, only tea after.

Karen
Karen
4 years 5 months ago

I have heard of bulletproof coffee but not cocoa. Would you share your recipe? It sounds good.

Chris
Chris
4 years 5 months ago
Thanks for this series, Mark! It’s been great. I’m a fan of the Leangains protocol. I train 3 days a week (Squat/DL, Bench, Chins) generally in the morning around hour 10-12 of my fast – I then continue the fast to 16 hours. Ideally I’d be lifting closer to hour 16 but I work 7-4 and this is the best I can do without shifting my eating schedule to not include the standard dinner hour and I’m just not willing to do that for a few reasons. Even so, I’ve had great success using Martin’s recommendations. I definitely consider myself… Read more »
Mario M
Mario M
4 years 5 months ago

We’re following a very similar eating/training/workout schedule and I’m wondering if you’ve been using BCAA’s as per Martin’s guidelines?

Chris
Chris
4 years 5 months ago

Yes I am, Mario. Whenever I train in the morning during the week I follow Martin’s early morning fasted training protocol pretty closely. Usually 10g ~5:30, another 10g around 7:30, final 10g around 9:30 and lunch @ 11:30.

Often I will have a workout on the weekend and I will wait to go in until I’m at 16 hours and will just do the 10g pre-workout, come home and eat.

Cheryl
Cheryl
4 years 5 months ago

I have been loosely following LG’s, also (typically 17/7, skipping breakfast). I love the fact that I don’t have to “worry” about eating breakfast & am no longer longing for snacks in between meals. It has also helped with staying away from “treats” at the office. And, once 7pm hits, I know that my fasting period has started, so this has helped with late night snacking.

The Primalist
4 years 5 months ago
I haven’t yet experimented with fasting. I typically eat breakfast/lunch/dinner and a late afternoon snack. This article reminded me that I’d like to increase the gap between dinner and breakfast – if I eat dinner a little earlier, I can come close to fasting, and might also be able to skip my pre-dinner snack. I like the idea of eating when hungry (isn’t that the purpose of eating afterall? :p) – and it goes hand in hand with mindful eating. Especially on weekends, when I can eat whenever, I try to remember to only eat when I’m actually hungry, rather… Read more »
Yuzo Yamada
Yuzo Yamada
4 years 5 months ago

Today I will begin my yearly 2-week fast. I am very attuned to fasting and have near-miraculous results afterward…always. Wish me luck!

Yuzo Yamada
Yuzo Yamada
4 years 5 months ago

This means no food and only water…a REAL fast.

Mark Cruden
Mark Cruden
4 years 5 months ago
I did ADF for a year. But I’m trying something different now. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I eat one meal a day. This is a gigantic salad at around 6pm. I don’t eat any animal protein with it (just nuts, seeds, etc.) and I drink my coffees black. The rest of the days (except sometimes Saturdays, depending) I eat three meals and two snacks. All the meals have animal protein (grass-fed beef, elk, wild salmon, really good eggs, etc.) and I put heavy cream in my coffee. This gives me a 24 hour fast 3 days a week (sometimes on… Read more »
Patrick
Patrick
4 years 5 months ago
I have really enjoyed basically doing the Warrior Diet. I don’t eat anything all day, black coffee in the morning when I wake up. I work out around 3:30 or 4:00 and then its dinner and maybe a snack late night. But I have always wondered if I am doing it correct. Am I eating enough? When you say “feast”, what does that entail? Example: Coffee yesterday morning, nothing all day. No workout, and then had a large bowl of steamed shrimp and broccoli. Not a struggle to do but want to make sure that I am not hurting myself… Read more »
Nkem
Nkem
4 years 5 months ago
I eat pretty much the same way (Warrior Diet) with the exception that I have daily my cup of coffee with extra cream in the morning before my workouts. I work out in the mornings (kettlebells and rowing) and I don’t eat till dinner. Been doing this since January and it has become like second nature. I’ve never really “feasted” as I’m just never really that hungry even with daily fasting. In addition, there is only so much meat and vegetables I can eat at one sitting, and I eat till I’m full. I feel extremely good so far, so… Read more »
Primal Texas
4 years 5 months ago

Sleep and training schedules are important ingredients to success when implementing LeanGains.

Not every plan/recipe works for everybody. We’re all wired differently and lead different lives.

Mark Cruden
Mark Cruden
4 years 5 months ago

I do have a question if anyone can give me some advice. What do folks do about supplmental vitamins during their fasts? Take them as usual? Wait until they eat?

Mary
Mary
4 years 5 months ago

I can’t take my vitamins because they give me a reeeally upset stomach without food, so I just skip them… except for vitamin D.

HopelessDreamer
HopelessDreamer
4 years 5 months ago

in the summertime (depending on where you live, maybe all year..) you can get Vit. D by spending time outside with your skin showing!

merryish
merryish
4 years 5 months ago

Not so much if you live in New England and work in an office. Even mid-day mid-summer, the angle of the sun isn’t great for getting your Vitamin D. And the sun’s too low in the mornings and evenings, when I’m out in the world during the week, to do me much good in terms of Vitamin D.

Cheryl
Cheryl
4 years 5 months ago

Most vitamins & supps suggest to take with food, so I wait until a meal (I IF @17 hrs daily)

Mary
Mary
4 years 5 months ago

I go with WHEN, because I am already naturally thin and worry about losing weight, so I eat when I am hungry. Even still, I typically go about 12 hours a day without eating, and every Saturday I don’t eat my first meal until around 2:30, 3 or sometimes 4 in the afternoon because I am usually not hungry before then.

Gabby
Gabby
4 years 5 months ago

I tried to fast for 24hrs in January after going through a food overhaul during the holidays. I did it Eat Stop Eat style after a friend of mine recommended it. I was in a haze, couldn’t focus, felt sick and only made it to 22 hrs.
After Mark’s IF series, I decided to try again since I’ve been eating Primal for about a month now. I have to say it was SO MUCH easier. I did not feel any effects of the fast and felt that I could go on longer.

jennifer
jennifer
4 years 5 months ago

Mark,
Thanks so much for this summary, perfect timing actually! I’ve been reading up on fasting methods since you first introduced the “Why Fast” series. I found that 16/8 is the most natural fasting period because I’m not really a breakfast kind of girl. However, I’m not eating a feast for dinner as described in Leangains because I can eat that must after working out and I’m not interested in becoming too muscular, just lean and toned.

Nionvox
4 years 5 months ago

I pretty much eat when i’m hungry, like the last one. Sometimes that can be one meal a day, sometimes it can be three. Sometimes nothing until the next day. I’m rarely hungry in the mornings, anyway.

Kyle
Kyle
4 years 5 months ago

I have been using Berkhans form of fasting since Jan 2. All i can say is i am blown away by the results. I have lost 35lbs, and i can confidently say it is almost purely bodyfat as my strength has gone up immensely. My deadlift went from 245lbs for 6 reps to 405lbs for 6 reps. Bench, squats and chins have all increased by quite a significant margin as well. Im sold, i will eat this way for the rest of my life. It really has changed my life.

Mike B
Mike B
4 years 5 months ago

Hey Kyle,

Congrats on the results man! Good for you! Hey so, earlier in the comments section of this post, I asked a question about grams of carb consumption on lifting days. Do you follow Mark’s refeed recommendations of 250-300g? Do you follow something else? Are you doing the LG approach within the Primal guidelines?

mmmpork
mmmpork
4 years 5 months ago
I’ve started combining Alternate Day Fasting with the “Warrior Diet” eat once a day thing in a limited window. For one day I don’t eat (I might have heavy cream with my coffee and about 8oz of plain kefir or yogurt mixed with cream in the afternoon if I’m feeling really hungry but no solid food). The next day I only eat within a 6 hour window. The nice thing about only eating once a day is I don’t really have to count carbs as carefully. I still avoid grains, sugar, potatos etc, but it gives me a little more… Read more »
Vance
4 years 5 months ago

The Eat When method, usually on days when I’m not as active.

Wrightee
Wrightee
4 years 5 months ago

Good results and feel awesome on this schedule: 2pm-8pm eat; coffee with coconut oil and grass fed butter on rising about 6am ish. 24 hour fast on Monday from Sunday dinner to Monday dinner and a “normal” Saturday to not stress out the kids!

Josh
Josh
4 years 5 months ago

I do almost the exact same thing, including the 24-hour fast on Monday. The BP coffee tides me over until after lunch and tastes so good.

However, I do wander whether BP fasting really does preserve all the fasting benefits. Who cares? Seems to work for me.

Primal Montana
Primal Montana
4 years 5 months ago

Great series Mark! It has inspired me to jump into the realm of intermittent fasting. I’ve taken to the 24 hour fast. Eat a normal meal for dinner (by 8:00 Pm) then not again for 24 hours. Suprising how easy this is now that I have switched to Primal. I used to be a total carbaholic, couldn’t go more than 2-3 hours without eating something or I’d go hyper-glycemic.
Thanks for all the information on your site, it’s really helped me to remain focused and committed.

Gary Deagle
4 years 5 months ago

I prefer the 16 hour fast and eight hour eating window. I like being in the fed state less for less digestive stress and I also love training fasted. My sleep, workout performance, and digestion has all been improved from this style of fasting.

Barrett
Barrett
4 years 5 months ago

I’ve had the most luck in skipping dinner, and not breaking fast until the next dinner or even breakfast. I feel like I sleep through the hungriest part of the fast, the 8-12 hour period. After that you can either eat or not, and your body doesn’t much care.

Amber
Amber
4 years 5 months ago

I have been interested in fasting for a while now. I could use some advice…if some one could tell me the best type of fasting for weight loss while maintaining muscle as best as possible. The most important thing for me right now is the weight loss. I do have quite a bit of weight to lose and have no trouble fasting. Thank so much.

merryish
merryish
4 years 5 months ago
My primary goal is fat loss, and I’ve got a long way to go before I get to it. The best method for me has been to get keto-adapted (very low carb) and then skip meals until I can’t anymore. Basically this equates to Eat Stop Eat – Once or twice a week I do dinner one night, then nothing at all until dinner the next night. (I do sometimes have coffee with cream during a fast, but only one and only sometimes; usually I just stick to black coffee or tea.) I get a kick out of the headspace… Read more »
Mr. Koozie
Mr. Koozie
4 years 5 months ago
I’ve been experimenting with fasting for about two months now. Here’s what I do: skip breakfast every day. Drink tea during the morning hours, water after that. Sometimes I have a cup of coffee with a small amount of heavy cream. Eat a small lunch. Eat a larger dinner. No snacking. Then on the weekends I only eat once per day and it’s at about 5:00 or 6:00. I lift heavy three times per week and go for short walks every day. I do some HIIT as well. This has worked quite well for me. In addition to better fat… Read more »
Sydney
Sydney
2 years 8 months ago

What are your results so far?

Alexander
Alexander
4 years 5 months ago

I got my feet wet with Art De Vany’s skip dinner once a week fast. which is very doable. then tried longer wait till really hungry style fasts.

facedancer
facedancer
4 years 5 months ago

I’m doing Warrior diet for about 8 months now.
Or something close to it, because I don’t really stress out about it and sometimes “cheat” (well, I actually do that about every Saturday when I visit my grandma!)
I have no wish to change my eating habits because IF gives an incredible sense of freedom, with eating only when you want, not stressing about meals (or their absence)

molly
molly
4 years 5 months ago

Firstly I’d like to say I’m primal in the UK and loving it! I sometimes do Eat WHEN, but lately I have been doing the EAT STOP EAT when I fast for 36-38 hours and I never feel hungry. I exercise regularly and hope it will help me to lose some weight.

kmonsterg
kmonsterg
4 years 5 months ago
Last September/October I experimented with the Leangains method (mostly 16/8, sometimes 14/10, I’m a woman) for about 6 weeks. The fasting was the easy part, it was the scheduling that was hard! This was especially the case on weekends or with friends in town as it meant I had to adjust my feeding window, which I don’t like to do. Eventually, I abandoned the method because the scheduling was causing me a lot of stress. I’ve also experimented with a handful of 24hr fasts and find them to be pleasant, provided I don’t try to workout strenuously. Lately, I’ve done… Read more »
mars
mars
4 years 5 months ago

I’m definitely a WHEN eater. My husband and our little boy are too. We don’t stick to eating schedules; we eat when we’re hungry and stop before we’re full. And I don’t eat between meals or after dinner. Often times I won’t eat from dinner (7:00 pm) until 10:00-11:00 the next morning. I feel great! And I am a pre-dawn runner/weightlifter and have no workout issues. WE LOVE PRIMAL!

Victor Venema
4 years 5 months ago

I occasionally fast 24 hours or one day (Eat Stop Eat). It has been easy from the start. Even the first time I only was a little hungry.

I do get cold hands or even cold feet in winter at the end of the fast. One solution I found is to go for a long hike at the end. Does anyone have any other ideas how to combat cold hands while fasting?

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