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To eat or not to eat

Essen oder nicht essen

Intermittent Fasting is more than a conscious decision to feel lousy - on the contrary, many people feel and train better than ever with Intermittent Fasting! Here's a brief introduction to the main approaches to intermittent fasting and a way to test whether intermittent fasting might be right for you. If you've spent any time surfing the web on fitness and nutrition websites, then you've probably heard of intermittent fasting. At first you may have laughed at this concept. I mean don't we always fast in phases when we don't have food in our mouths? When you dig a little deeper, however, it's hard not to be intrigued by this idea of fasting - if only because the people who love it seem to really love the concept while those who don't love it see it as unimaginable. Supporters of intermittent fasting say they feel better than ever and point to a wide range of improved health markers. Opponents of the concept scoff. The intensity is so high on both sides that many wonder which side they would take if they had to choose one.

But where is the best place to start? How do the different variants of fasting systems differ? Wouldn't you starve to death in the long run?

If you were to reduce all intermittent fasting systems to the lowest common denominator, it would probably be this: sometimes you eat and sometimes you don't. But you spend more time eating. But you spend more time not eating than you do eating. That's the real point. This premise might be enough for many to click the little red x and make this article disappear.

If you're not in that group, then read on as we take a closer look at the appeal, risks and different interpretations of the 'eating window'.

Why is intermittent fasting so popular?

Perhaps the most important reason behind the increasing popularity of intermittent fasting among men and women is that this dietary strategy is convenient. Think about it: You wake up in the morning and instead of spending time in the kitchen, you can enjoy your coffee in peace and then go straight to work. You don't have to prepare food, you don't have to clean up and nothing gets in the way of your productivity. In addition to this, many people report that fasting gives them a feeling of elation. They say that they feel more energized and alert and as a result are better able to complete their tasks.

Raise your hand if you're someone who likes to snack in the evening. That's probably most of us. Now keep your hand up if you often find yourself in the kitchen in the evening, opening cupboards and drawers in the hope that different snacks will magically appear before your eyes. Moving your eating window back means you can eat more in the evening when your willpower is at its weakest. Why is this great? Normal weakness is transformed into strength. Does it really make sense to deprive yourself of things you really want during moments of weakness? It doesn't have to be like that.

Some people simply try to reach a state of satiety by eating treats and whole foods. Others crave carbohydrates in particular and have a craving for rice, sweet potatoes, bread and the like. Still others reach for gummy bears and want nothing more than to snuggle up in bed with a bowl of ice cream before drifting off into the realm of dreams. Intermittent fasting gives you the freedom to indulge your cravings to a certain extent, rather than fighting them all day long and only making them worse. Many people can - within reason - still eat what they want and still stay slim. With pretty much all intermittent fasting systems, you can go to sleep with a full stomach and a satisfied grin on your face and still stick to your macros for the day.

This means you can lose fat without feeling like you're on a diet. In general, you will face much less resistance in your food choices in daily life.

Who is Intermittent Fasting suitable for?

You might like intermittent fasting if you fall into one or more of the following categories:

  • You lead a very hectic life
  • You have a job that makes eating regularly a real problem
  • You are rather lazy when it comes to cooking
  • You have a very big appetite
  • You hate Tupperware bowls and can never find the right lids
  • You have already experimented with intermittent fasting in a rational way and have had positive experiences

How do I know which system is right for me?

At first glance, you won't know. At second glance, you will realize that one variant will appeal to you a little more than the others and that you will have to read up a little more on the subject. I know that you would prefer it if I told you exactly what to do. You want the answers and of course the inventor of each of these methods will tell you that their version is the best. But from a non-financially influenced point of view, I can tell you that different approaches are best for different people. The trick is to find the best method for you.

Here is a very brief overview of some of the most popular intermittent fasting methods. These are only very, very rudimentary summaries, so I encourage you to do a little research on the internet and find out more about each of these approaches. Each of these approaches has a different approach when it comes to how you should behave during the "settling in" phase, which you should keep in mind when doing further research.

Lean Gains by Martin Berkhan

  • Includes a 16/8 protocol (which means you fast for 16 hours a day and eat for 8 hours)
  • Macronutrients and total calorie intake are cycled throughout the week. You consume more calories on training days and less on non-training days.
  • Cheesecake and other treats are allowed several times a week during specific time slots.


Eat Stop Eat by Brad Pilon

  • You fast once a week for 24 hours and eat normally for the rest of the week
  • You are completely free to decide how and what you eat on the non-fasting days


The Renegade Diet by Jason Ferruggia

  • 16/8 protocol (14/10 for women), with the majority of carbohydrates consumed in the evening.
  • Very much health-oriented: whole organic foods, although the list of permitted foods is quite short.


The following two diets are often included in the category of intermittent fasting diets, even though they allow limited food intake during the day. Thus, you will not spend part of your day in a fasting state, which generally begins 8 to 12 hours after your last meal.

The Warrior Diet by Ori Hofmekler

  • 20/4 Meal plan: You hardly eat anything during the day, but eat all the more in the evening.
  • The window of limited food intake can include limited amounts of raw fruit and vegetables, eggs, yogurt, coffee and tea.
  • Allow free consumption of all food groups during the eating window until you are full.


Card Backloading by John Kiefert

  • In Kiefer's 18/6 protocol, you consume protein and fat during the day and save most of your carbohydrates and calories for the evening after your workout.
  • Allows and encourages the consumption of high-glycemic foods during the post-workout meal, including donuts and pizza.


What you should look out for

You may look at the list above and feel that one of these approaches must work for you. However, even though I have had great success with my clients using different variations of intermittent fasting, I would like to point out that this diet is not for everyone.

First of all, you need to realize the following: Fasting is not just an excuse for not eating. I know women who have reported that intermittent fasting has eliminated a large part of their chronic eating disorders, while other women have experienced the exact opposite with increasing frequency of binge eating, anxiety and neuroses about food.

On a purely physical level, some will just feel like crap and won't be able to get through the mornings without noticeable hunger. Others will feel groggy, lethargic and lacking in energy during intermittent fasting. Some will find a way to abuse the rules of intermittent fasting. You may try to justify your continued junk food dominated diet as you have now packed your food into an 8 hour window, as if this will somehow make it better if you consume junk (which is not the case). You may also become more obsessed with food: You'll look at your watch more often, count the seconds until your fasting window is over, etc.

If any of this happens, don't try to force yourself into something that doesn't suit you. There is nothing wrong with eating smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day if this works better for you. Neither method is necessarily wrong. What is wrong is being a slave to your diet, or losing control completely.

Done? Not so fast...

Rather than jumping headfirst into pure intermittent fasting, I would strongly recommend that you have a 2 to 3 week acclimatization period before starting any of the systems described. It's not uncommon to experience some quite unpleasant hunger pangs during the introductory phase, which is why I think it's a good idea to slowly reduce your eating window rather than jumping straight from 14 to 8 hours. For example, during your first week you can try to shorten your eating window from say 6am to 8pm to 8am to 8pm. That's a 12 hour window you're working with. That seems doable, doesn't it? At best, hunger pangs will be completely absent and at worst, mild.

In terms of food choices, you should continue to eat what you have been eating or, depending on the form of intermittent fasting you have chosen, slowly start to eliminate certain foods from your diet and replace them with others. Maybe you give up those sweet breakfast cereals or save them for your post-workout meal. You could also replace butter with coconut oil when cooking. Or you could incorporate more fish or fish oil into your diet. During week 2, go one step further and eat from 10am to 8pm. Just think of it as a late morning breakfast and dinner is still your dinner. Week three is the final phase of your adaptation period as you reach your first 8 hour eating window. Congratulations, you have now lost your Intermittent Fasting virginity.

At the end of these three weeks, there's a good chance you'll know if Intermittent Fasting (or at least the approach you've tried) is a good fit for you. There's no better teacher than experience, right?

I know some readers are impatient and can't wait to dive right in. You think you're too hardcore to need some wimp acclimatization phase. In that case, you are of course free to go straight to an 8 hour eating window. But don't say afterwards that I didn't warn you.


I am a shift worker. Can I still practice intermittent fasting?

Technically you can, but if your eating window is constantly changing then this can have devastating effects on your metabolism. It's far from ideal. Work with what you have, but do your best to eat at least around the same times each day.

Do I need to count macronutrients during intermittent fasting?

No, you don't have to, but you should also be aware that just because your eating window has shortened doesn't mean you can suddenly eat everything in any quantity. You will continue to gain weight if you consistently eat more calories than you consume - no matter how narrow your eating window is. Intermittent fasting is great, but it's not magic.

What if I miss my eating window? What if my typical eating window is between 10am and 8pm, but I eat something by 10pm one night. Do I then have to adjust my eating window the next day?

There will inevitably be days when this happens because life gets in the way. The train may be late, you may be struggling with your baby or you may simply have forgotten to eat. These things happen. Just eat when you can and eat again the next day at your usual time. Don't worry about it. Just try to stay as consistent as possible.

How will intermittent fasting affect my training sessions?

You don't necessarily have to change the way you exercise just because you are now doing intermittent fasting. Some methods require specific training and if this is the case, then follow the appropriate training protocol. Otherwise, just keep doing what you're doing in the gym.

What if I train early in the morning?

If you train early in the morning or at any other time before your eating window starts, then it's a good idea to take some BCAAs while you train. Different programs have different opinions on supplements, but I personally have found amino acids to be helpful. You can either start your eating window right after your workout or continue the fast with more BCAAs until it's time to eat.

What would a typical day look like if I trained in the morning?

There are many ways to approach this. Here is just one of many possible examples where BCAAs come into play:

  • 6:00 a.m.: 10 grams of BCAAs with water
  • 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m.: Workout + 10 g BCAAs with water
  • 8:00 am: 10 g BCAAs with water
  • 10:00 am: Meal 1
  • 14:00: Meal 2
  • 18:00: Meal 3

The timing and macronutrient intake of each meal will inevitably differ based on which Intermittent Fasting protocol you follow, but in general such a scheme works quite well. If we're talking about cardio training, then you probably don't need BCAAs unless it's high-intensity cardio training,

Will my strength decrease?

A lot of people report that they can actually see an increase in their performance at the gym, which is pretty cool, right?

I've tried Intermittent Fasting, but I feel terrible with it. What can I do? The whole point and purpose of eating a certain way is that it makes your diet lighter - not heavier. If you really feel so bad about it, then do something else. It's as simple as that.

By Sohee Lee

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