Hi my name is David and I don’t eat breakfast.
If you’re a man with one of those big stubborn bellies like me, you should give intermittent fasting a shot. It’s been pretty much pure magic for me on managing my body fat levels particularly while traveling.
The problem I run into, that maybe a lot of you reading this may be able to relate to is that I just can’t eat that much throughout the day.
Well I can, but that’s why I always end up with a big belly. I’m just not that big of a guy and can easily consume large meals. Taking in more calories than I simply need.
At 5 ft 9 inches tall roughly and weighing a solid 166 lbs when in shape, my body simply can’t handle that much food through out the day.
It’s easy for me to over eat and become a fat looking 170+ lbs person. Even now as I write this I’m about 168 lbs. Still fat, but I’m shocked by how much a difference a week has made for reducing my big bloated belly.
Almost like a balloon was pooped.
I can get skinny easily and I can get fat easily. But it’s always been a challenge for me to maintain a heavier muscular weight with a low body fat.
When I say lean, I want to be at 9 to 15% body fat with muscle gains intact.
It’s almost like the two body types are not compatible.
I’m either skinny with muscles
I’m fat but strong.
With intermittent fasting I’ve found the balance that is working for me in maintaining a healthy muscular weight that allows me to eat what I like and lose fat fast.
In the picture below is literally a 1 week difference for me of cutting out breakfast and not eating for the first 6 hours of the day and only drinking black coffee and water. I limit my black coffee to two cups as to not over do the caffeine.
For breakfast I used to typically have two eggs, fruit, toast and a latte.
I normally don’t consume dairy unless it’s yogurt or ice cream ( my point being that dairy is not something I normally consume on a daily basis) and I make it a point to eat less meat.
I don’t eat pork typically (just my least favorite meat). I eat chicken and beef and I even this I try to limit as much as I can by trying simply eat enough grams of protein appropriate for my body. I’m also mindful to consume less sugar.
But that damn latte I had everyday was full of sugar and milk which was a big cause of my belly I suspect.
Yea i’m an idiot in ways like this.
Drinking a coffee milkshake everyday makes you fat? Whaaaaat?
I’m already someone who trains at the gym regularly and I have good muscle definition BUT I was always get so damn fat because I’m just not careful enough of what I eat and how much.
To put my fitness in perspective I can bench more than my body weight weight and I can do 9 or so pull ups and chin ups despite being considered over-weight for my height. So I have a good base level of strength, but my diet is what was holding me back.
I’m strong, but I don’t look impressive. That’s a good problem to have at least and I knew I needed to implement something new to cut the fat but maintain the muscle.
So far the results so far have been very interesting and quite staggering.
I’m leaner and I’ve lost 3 lbs or about 1.5 kilo in a week. My muscle mass has maintained while the tire around my waist has all but melted away. I’ve drop from a 33 inch waist down to 32. My body fat is still too high at about 20%, but it’s a drop from 21% in just under a week.
Update, I’m now at a 30 inch waist.
My strength and energy levels have not suffered at all as well.
In fact, my ability to concentrate and focus on work in the morning has actually improved.
I know, it’s odd.
You would think that not eating would make you sleepy, tired or angry. On the contrary. My energy levels are high, my focus is on point and when I have black coffee with no milk or sugar that coffee gives me that edge to keep working through out the morning without needing food until the afternoon.
It also helps that I’m not normally that hungry in the morning, so you have to know yourself. My older brother is one of those naturally skinny types and could never forsake breakfast because he wakes up with a powerful appetite. In fact, he’s the type that wakes up in the middle of the night and needs to eat.
For me however, fasting for a a bit in the morning is no problem. I look better and more importantly I feel better. Way better.
What is fasting?
Is this just a complicated way of saying skip breakfast?
Yes, yes it is. But let me explain it a bit more.
The whole goal is to limit your calorie intake. If you're fat, you need to find a new eating pattern that reduces your calorie intake.
If you're fat it's because you eat too much for your current fitness level.
We are lead to believe that fatness comes from other things. Too much carbs, too much sugar, too much fat in foods, eating at night, drinking beer and so forth.
While the quality of food does effect how you look, it's the volume of calories you consume that lead to being over weight.
So again, if you're fat, it's mostly because you're eating too much, not burning enough calories, don't have enough muscle development or some combination of the three.
Intermittent Fasting is just a change in your eating pattern
Most fast either in the morning or the evening.
Some take a whole day off once a week and eat nothing.
Others follow my implementation (which I adopted from Kinobody) and fast for a bit every morning. Pushing their first meal to the mid afternoon roughly and drinking black coffee as a way to suppress appetite and to feel the beneficial effects of caffeine.
It also depends on when you wake up. You want to aim for 5-6 hours after you wake up to have your first meal. I wake up early so 12-3 pm max is a good time for me to have my first meal because my last meal is usually around 9 pm.
Why do intermittent fasting?
Calories matter, that's why.
Calories are just a measurement of the energy burned by our bodies as well as the potential energy in foods. Specifically, it's the amount of energy required to heat up 1 gram of water by one degree Celsius.
All foods we consume contain calories and all movements we make burn calories. We also have a specific maintenance level of calories required on a daily basis.
We all know what happens when we get too many, two few or just the right amount of calories:
1 - Right amount:
We maintain a our current weight and fat level through our consistent diet because we burn as much calories as we're consuming. Even if it's an unhealthy weight and fat level. This comes about through habits, behavior and lifestyle.
I just can't lose weight!A defeatist attitude people have
You're eating too much. Maybe you're disciplined through the weekday but what about the weekend? Do you make up for the calorie deficit every weekend?
2 - Too many calories:
We consume more calories than is required for our current maintenance level. When this happens we get fat, put on muscle (if we're training), or some combination of the two.
3 - We burn more calories than we are taking in:
This forces the body to use your fat reserves for energy. Thus you'll lose fat on your body but also muscle if you starve yourself which is obviously bad because muscle burns fat. It really depends on the calorie deficit.
If you throw a big deficit at your body all of a sudden you'll lose muscle and fat. It's recommended that you don't perform greater than a 20% calorie deficit per day. Unless you want to lose muscle.
Run a small calorie deficit week to week as a way to cut.
This is why I've personally found intermittent fasting to be helpful. It's simply reducing my ability to over eat and it forces my body to use fat as an energy source in the morning. Perfect.
You'll simply start looking and feeling better. If you go too extreme however you'll crash. The idea is to fast, not starve yourself.
I know from doing this. I fast one day, feel great, then keep pushing my body by limiting my food intake purposefully the next day and the next though I'm hungry. More fasting, more exercise.
This was before I understood intermittent fasting. I was just frustrated I could not loose my excessive body fat so I went extreme.
The end result after doing this was that my energy levels dropped, I became unable to focus, became unproductive and I over ate.
How to implement intermittent fasting
Here are some eating patterns to leverage:
Side note: Include time sleeping as part of your fast.
Daily fasting - 16 hours of fasting with an 8 hour eat whatever you want window
The first model that I normally follow and adopted from Greg over at Kinobody is the Leangains.com model of a 16 hour fast with an 8 hour eating window. I take Greg's advice and drink two cups of black coffee while I fast. Yes you can drink coffee. It won't break your fast. As long as it's under 100 calories it won't break the fast.
Since I wake up early, I'm ready to eat by lunch. I normally have a small meal at this point and save the big meal for dinner with friends. I also eat a bit of fruit before a workout, or I'll have some sort of green juice with creatine mixed in. As long as you're abiding by a 16 hour fast and an 8 hour eating window it does not matter when you eat.
Just do whatever works for you.
Weekly fasting - 24 hours, once a week fast. No food. Only water, and coffee.
My father would actually do this and I thought he was crazy as a boy. Every week he would weight himself. If he noticed a significant increase in weight he would fast from Sunday afternoon to Monday afternoon. He would only fast if he noticed a change. If no change, no fast.
I don't suggest you follow this as it's unsophisticated. It should not be about weight, it should be about body fat.
I've tried this type of fast in the past and absolutely hated it. I could see this being helpful after a big celebration meal like Thanks Giving, but since I've already adopted the habit of fasting every morning I would simply push the fast to dinner in anticipation of an enormous meal filled with beer, meat, cookies, potato and veggies.
Irregular intermittent fasting - 3-4 days of ALL DAY fasting, other days are eat whatever you want
The idea with this is to do an all day fast multiple times a week and basically be a glutton on the other days. Again, it makes sense if you know you're going to be eating a gigantic meal and want to keep your caloric deficit stable. Example for most would be again Thanks Giving or Christmas.
Fast a day before, eat all you want, fast all day next. Personally I've never tried this and have no intention of trying it. I like routine, I like predictable behavioral change. I like daily fasting because it works for the way I want to live my life.
Why it works
Why does intermittent fasting work?
It works because of the calorie deficit, the fact that you can eat whatever you like after you fast so you don't feel like you're giving anything up and it's easy to adopt after you get over the initial hunger shock the first few days.
Your body can become trained on when to expect food and produce a hormone called ghrelin. It subsides after a few days of doing a daily fast.
Fasting has been shown to actually have a lot of benefits for the human body.
1 - It boosts human growth hormone which is needed for muscle growth and development. It's not enough to move the proverbial dial as they say, meaning you're not going to notice a dramatic difference as you would if you were to say, take human growth hormone, but the observation that human growth hormone increases is none the less a good reason to fast.
2 - Daily fasting forces the body to burn fat for energy. So if you're like me and wanting to loose a big bloated looking belly fast, give intermittent fasting a shot.
3 - This form of dietary restriction has been shown to reduce insulin sensitivity (a high sensitivity helps block fat break down), reduced morbidity and an increased in lifespan. I'm particularly interested in the insulin sensitivity. It's this that makes it very hard to get down to a 9% or 10% body fat simply because of your bodies self preservation mechanisms.
4- Increase longevity. A study was done on mice and it was shown that irregular fasting increase their lifespan.
At the time of writing this I've been doing a daily fast for about a month now. Here's what I like so far:
1 - It's easier than "dieting." I put diet in quotes because we're all on a diet. A diet is simply what you eat, but many take the word diet to mean "low carb" or "vegetarian". The reason diets don't work is because of habits and behavior. People just don't stick to them and for good reason.
Diets that restrict foods are hard to follow because we simply have a tendency to cheat:
- I've been good, I deserve this.
- Just one time won't hurt.
- Oh what the hell.
It's easy to think "low carb" but then you have that one slice of pizza. But it's just one, hey don't judge me.
The goal of any diet is the same. Caloric restriction. With intermittent fasting you can eat what you want. You don't have to give anything up and you may gain a lot of benefits like I have:
- Reduced body fat
- More awake and alert in the morning
- Muscle strength
- Food is much more enjoyable when you're hungry
2 - It's easy to implement and you see results fast. Within two days I noticed a change. In fact I took a picture just to show the difference:
When you get results doing anything, that positive reinforcement makes you want to keep going. Fasting for me is easy and it works.
Do you workout on a fast?
I personally don't enjoy working out in a fasted state because the time I like to fast and the time I have for the gym simply don't match. I like to wake up early, consume iced black coffee while I work and wrap up what I'm doing anywhere around 12-3.
Then I'm hungry. The sort of hungry where I just want to eat so I eat. After I eat a small meal I like to get a workout in then have a bigger meal later.
It's not always like this though. I have broken the fast by not having a proper meal. If I don't have time to eat and need to get my workout in i'll have some sort of fruit and some coconut water before a workout. Then i'll eat a HUGE meal later.
I could never skip breakfast! How do you do it?
Again, I'm not normally that hungry in the morning so it's not a big deal for me.
Just try a daily fast for a week and see how you feel. Also, no one says you must skip breakfast. You could simply reverse what I do and eat breakfast but begin your fast at dinner time.
Breakfast makes more sense for me because I'm already not that hungry in the morning and also it's a meal I have alone. I would rather have a big dinner with friends than breakfast by myself everyday. I also like how I feel when I drink coffee on an empty stomach.
Black coffee? No milk, no sugar? Why black coffee? I really don't want to drink black coffee, gross.
Then don't. You don't have to drink coffee. Water during the fast is fine.
Black coffee is a bit more difficult to drink without anything to make the flavor more palatable. So I drink what's known as "cold brew" coffee. The flavor is quite nice and it's a drink designed to be mixed with ice.
I've actually grown to enjoy the flavor and the effects of the caffeine are very helpful for staying focused on work. It's something I look forward to every morning.
I limit my intake again to two cups. You don't want to over-do the caffeine as it could wear out your adrenal glands making you tired.
Studies have also shown that coffee helps during a fast because it up-regulates your metabolism while suppressing appetite.
I want to eat breakfast, skip lunch and then have a big dinner. What do you think?
Skipping lunch will of course reduce your caloric intake which may lead to a caloric deficit and thus fat and weight loss but the whole point of a fast is to burn excess body fat while maintaining your muscle mass.
When you're in a fasted state, meaning you're a little bit hungry, your body has to resort to your body fat for energy. It's in this state where you get all the benefits of fasting that you would not get if you ate at night, then again in the morning.
I have really limited time.
I work long hours, I go to the gym and have my family to take care of. What do you think? I don't see how I can eat enough.
To be honest, intermittent fasting on a daily schedule may not fit everyone's lifestyle. If you're a big 200 lbs+ guy who needs to consume a lot of calories to maintain your health, size and strength then eat.
I'm 5'9. A healthy weight for a man my size is no more than 168 lbs. That means I need 2,500 calories per day MAX. That's not a lot of food and it's quite easy for me to hit that target with two big meals and a snack.
If you're someone who needs 4,000 or 5,000 calories and can't eat enough or does not have enough time then plan out your meals. If that seems unappealing, try a weekly fast where you take one day off a week in order to get the benefits that intermittent fasting provides.
What do you eat when fasting?
I eat what I normally eat. I'm heavy on vegetables, fruit, carbs with fish, a little bit of meat, a little bit of egg and some dairy a few times a week.
I stay away from processed foods, soda, excessive sugar and what not as best I can. If I know I'm going to going out with friends, I make sure to maintain a caloric deficit so I can enjoy myself as much as possible when out.
Kinobody has a guide on intermittent fasting. It's the layout for how I do IF.
Leangains.com has a lot of fat burning resources.
Hey I'm a woman! Check out this guide then from Marks Daily Apple.
Thanks for Reading!
Going to give intermittent fasting a shot? Send me an email and let me know.
It's been a few years since I've written this. I've been able to maintain a lean, 166 lbs body with a 30 inch waist. Cutting out milk, sugar and minimizing the carbs (generally speaking) while fasting in the morning 5 days a week minimum, weight training 3 days a week (sometimes 2 days if I'm busy) and light cardio infrequently.
I also am very strict about fasting while traveling as I'm not able to have access to a gym when on the road. But generally speaking, I'm not a full time traveler so I stick to a routine of going to the gym 3 days a week.