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An insight into intermittent fasting

Ein Einblick in Intermittent Fasting

What is Intermittent Fasting?

This article will look at the benefits of intermittent fasting and provide you with some simple meal templates to help you get started. Over the past few years, the amount of information and research on nutrition, meal timing and meal frequency has continued to grow as we have changed our eating habits to fit our goals. In the bodybuilding and fitness world, most recommend a diet that consists of many meals spaced 2 to 3 hours apart throughout the day (usually 5 to 6 meals per day).

Today I'm going to give you a little insight into a very popular dietary lifestyle called Intermittent Fasting. I know you're probably thinking the following: Fasting? Is that really a good thing? It sounds counterproductive, how can it work? What are the benefits of fasting and will it be useful if I want to gain muscle mass or lose fat?

Sit back, relax and enjoy what you are about to read. For some it will be magical, for the rest intermittent fasting may not suit their individual lifestyle. The message of this article is this: Intermittent Fasting a lifestyle diet. Intermittent Fasting should fit your lifestyle and make your life easier. Does everyone have to do it? Absolutely not. A lot of individuals who start intermittent fasting look back on it as the best decision of their lives because of the many benefits intermittent fasting has to offer. I am a big advocate of the statement "You shouldn't fix what isn't broken." However, those who enjoy eating five meals a day and find that this fits better with their goals should at least read this article as they will find some interesting information in it.

So where do we start with Intermittent Fasting? How does intermittent fasting compare to eating more meals throughout the day? The whole thing is actually quite simple. Intermittent Fasting (also known as IF) is based on a 16:8 fasting to eating window. You fast for 16 hours and only eat during 8 hours of the day. Do you always have to fast for 16 hours? No. This is also based on your lifestyle. The inventor of Intermittent Fasting. Martin Berkhan, used this structure as a starting point. Martin also says that women can fast from 14 to 16 hours based on their preferences and men can also fall into this category.

The premise is this: this is a lifestyle diet. It should fit your schedule. Should you stress or get upset if for some reason you can't fast for 16 hours? Absolutely not. It's perfectly fine to extend your eating window or shorten your fasting window if circumstances make it necessary. Do you always have to eat within an 8 hour window? Absolutely not. If you want to fast for 20 hours and only eat during a 4 hour window, that's fine. This is all about personal preference and what suits your lifestyle best. It may sound crazy, but believe me, when you see the personal successes of people who follow this lifestyle, it is truly breathtaking. Intermittent Fasting works regardless of the length of the eating window - be it 8, 6 or 4 hours long. Intermittent Fasting can help people with very hectic lifestyles as they may find it easier to eat only during a limited window of time, rather than preparing X number of meals per day. They can eat when they have time and when it fits best into their schedule.

So what does an intermittent fasting day look like? This can vary greatly. As Martin Berkhan says on his website, it depends on when you break the fast (your first meal) and when you exercise. I will therefore show you several possible ways in which you can approach the whole thing.

Examples of intermittent fasting

First of all, you can train while fasting. This may sound counterproductive at first glance, but this is not the case if you understand the underlying logic. Regardless of whether your goal is definition, mass gain or maintaining your existing muscle mass, these guidelines will help you plan your training and diet.

Let's assume that in all of the following examples, the person in question is following an eating window that lasts from 12 noon to 8pm. This is an 8 hour eating window and the fasting phase will last from 8pm to 12 noon the next day.

Training while fasting

Consume 10 grams of BCAAs before and during your workout to help stimulate muscle protein synthesis. This will help your body stay in an anabolic state. Yes, BCAAs contain calories (which do not need to be listed on the label due to nutritional guidelines) but these calories are factored into your total daily calorie intake.

The first meal of the day follows your workout. How many meals you eat after this within your eating window is entirely up to you. Here is an example:

  • Fasting - Fast from 8pm the night before until 10 or 11am the following day, followed by a 10 gram intake of BCAAs
  • Training - Go to the gym and complete your workout.
  • Meal one - 1pm
  • Meal two - 4pm
  • Meal three - 7pm

Key tips: The BCAAs before and during your workout will count towards your daily calorie intake, but this will not start your eating window. If you are using a pre-workout supplement that contains carbohydrates, don't stress about it. Martin Berkhan allows up to 50 kcal within your fasting window. This can come from milk or sugar in your coffee or a pre-workout supplement. So don't worry about it.

1-2 pre-workout meals

Let's say you train after eating one or two meals. Your setup could look like this:

  • First meal- 12 noon
  • workout
  • Meal two - 4pm.
  • Meal three - 7pm/20pm

Or if you eat two meals before training:

  • First meal - 12 noon
  • Meal two - 3 p.m.
  • Training
  • Meal three - 7pm/20pm

These are all just suggestions as to what you can do. If you want to eat four meals in 8 hours, that's perfectly fine. If you want to eat two meals in 4 hours, then do that. It is your choice. The above are just examples that you can follow.

In terms of calories, there are a few things that Martin Berkhan promotes that you should take note of:

  1. The post-workout meal should comprise the majority of your carbohydrates and calories. A good guideline is to consume at least 50 to 60% of your daily calories during this meal.
  2. Pre-workout meals should be fairly light. But again, this is just a personal preference. You know best what your stomach can handle. I remember reading on Martin's website that he eats poultry, some fruit and some vegetables (400 to 500 kcal) during such a meal. Something small that gives you some protein and energy for your training sessions is ideal. If you are training in a fasted state, then forget this information.
  3. On training days, Martin Berkhan uses a higher carbohydrate intake. He likes to use a cyclical carbohydrate and calorie intake. On non-training days, he lowers his calorie intake and eats more fat (again, this is just his personal preference). Does this play a role in the end? Absolutely not. If you know that you can cope better with a higher carbohydrate intake every single day, then you should stick to it. If you want to eat the same amount of calories every day, then do that. Do what makes your life easier. Always remember that this is a lifestyle diet that should fit you and your daily routine.

Now that we have a generic understanding of what intermittent fasting is and how we can plan a meal plan based on our daily routine, let's look at the benefits of intermittent fasting next.

Benefits of intermittent fasting

Does intermittent fasting limit muscle gain? Not really. You won't lose muscle. You simply eat your calories within a set period of time instead of eating smaller meals throughout the day. You will fast in the morning and drink diet drinks, coffee, water, etc. until it's time to break your fast. What you drink is your choice. As I mentioned earlier, you can have up to 50 kcal in the form of milk/sugar or other things if this helps you to control your appetite.

In the beginning, intermittent fasting can be difficult as your body is used to regular meals (which has to do with ghrelin, the body's hunger hormone), but it will adapt over time.

If you want to read more about the hunger hormone, you can find numerous articles and research on Martin Berkhan's site I remember reading that Martin said the following about his diet and fasting window scheme:

"Believe it or not - we're just animals, like the rest of the world. We're not meant to wake up and eat right away. Where would this food come from? We would hunt to find food and then eat, not knowing when the next meal would follow." Basically, this is true. Think about cavemen and how they fed. Were some of them big and strong? For sure. Were there some scrawny individuals with little muscle? Yes. But that ultimately comes down to how much you eat overall. Think of bodybuilders who count their calories and make sure to get their planned amounts of protein, fat and fiber each day. Apply this scheme to a shorter time frame. This is exactly what intermittent fasting is.

The 6 meal theory was based on ensuring a continuous supply of amino acids and protein. This works of course, but if your body is constantly burning food/calories then it's not always burning fat and it's not always working to keep you lean. Total calories are what matter most - not how you eat them. The truth is that eating 6 meals a day has no advantages over intermittent fasting when it comes to maintaining lean body mass, burning fat, gaining muscle mass, increasing the body's natural growth hormone release, increasing serotonin levels, etc. Martin Berkhan covers all the relevant studies in detail, but at this point I would just like to give you a brief overview of this form of nutrition and what it has to offer. Here's another reason why I believe that fewer meals are better. Layne Norton conducted an infamous muscle protein synthesis study. As part of his study, Layne showed how eating meals 4 to 6 hours apart in combination with leucine (which is found in BCAA products) can maximize muscle protein synthesis.

How is this possible? Well, eating more frequently is actually counterproductive to building muscle and stimulating muscle protein synthesis, as protein levels never get the chance to drop back to their starting point before being increased again. Basically, the longer break between meals helps to maximize muscle protein synthesis and the use of BCAAs between meals to increase protein levels allows for a longer gap between meals. Is this another argument against eating regularly? Absolutely, and there is more research investigating intermittent fasting. We haven't even mentioned Alan Aragon and his research described in his book "Girth Control". This book is a good read along with the books by Lyle McDonald.

Intermittent fasting and supplements

Do we really need supplements? I would consider using BCAAs regardless of whether you are training in a fasted state or not. I am a fan of BCAAs as they are digested virtually instantly compared to whole foods or whey protein which are digested over several hours.

What do we lose during training? Glutamine and amino acids if you train in a fasted state. These are essential if you train on an empty stomach. If you eat a meal before training, I would at least consider it optimal, but I am also someone who prefers to play it safe. I would recommend the following basic supplements in addition to BCAAs:

  • Whey protein
  • A multivitamin supplement
  • fish oil
  • Creatine

These supplements should be consumed on a daily basis. You should take them during your eating window.

Here are a few more recommendations I'd like to highlight regarding training and cardio. Martin Berkhan is a big proponent of consistent low-intensity cardio, which includes activities such as walking and the like. He advocates this form of cardio training (e.g. 20 to 30 minutes of fast walking) during the fasting window. This could be done several times a week (2 to 3 times a week). Nothing crazy in terms of speed or incline (you can use a treadmill if you want) - just get your circulation going. If you want to do HIIT training (high-intensity interval training), Martin Berkhan recommends taking BCAAs before HIIT or doing it during the eating window. Depending on your goals (definition/mass gain/body recomposition), the amount of cardio training will vary. In terms of training, Martin Berkhan has a good description of RPT (reverse pyramid training) on his website. But in the grand scheme of things, Intermittent Fasting is a lifestyle diet, which means you should use the workout that suits you best.


There are a few more key points I want to address before concluding this article. If something like a dinner invitation or other social event gets in the way of your fasting window, then just live your life and don't make yourself a slave to your diet.

Stopping intermittent fasting for a day or a meal won't make the difference between success and failure. Stop it and carry on as normal the next day. Count your calories if you can and keep going. Sometimes life is more important than a meal. You can find more in-depth information regarding studies and research, as well as more information on Intermittent Fasting on Martin Berkhan's website This site is packed with great articles that support his statements on training while fasting, cardio while fasting, fat loss and many other aspects of intermittent fasting. This article is just meant as a general introduction to give you an idea of Intermittent Fasting and how you could incorporate it into your life. Intermittent Fasting is based on a 16 hour fasting window and an 8 hour eating window. Whether a person wants to fast these 16 hours or extend the fasting period is a matter of personal preference. Some people extend their fasting window to 20 hours and enjoy 2 to 3 large meals within a very short eating window, while others take full advantage of the 8 hour period to spread their meals over a larger window of time. I highly recommend that everyone use a food intake tracking program to help you calculate and monitor your calorie intake. Such a program will also help you to monitor your protein, carbohydrate and fat intake.

The next step is to set your eating window (as I did in the example above from 12pm to 8pm). If you had a late lunch at say 2pm, this could mark the start of your eating window. The eating window could then last until 10pm or end earlier based on what's going on in your life. There is a lot of speculation around the topic of meal frequency, timing of meals and nutrition, but Martin Berkhan has a firm stance on this based on his experience and the experience of his clients. Those who follow it reap the benefits and will continue to "preach" that it is the best thing they have ever done for their lives and bodies.

Some people enjoy fasting with larger meals, while others prefer to eat many meals spread throughout the day. In the end, everyone has to find out for themselves what is best for them. Give intermittent fasting a chance for 8 to 10 weeks and then decide based on your mood, energy and training.


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