Please note: this program is best followed if you begin on a Monday.
Today is the day you begin an intermittent fasting protocol.
The protocol I recommend is one based on the LeanGains exercise program, but it isn’t an exercise protocol or even a specific diet protocol. While I recommend people do Mark Sisson’s “Primal Blueprint” in terms of what to eat, go ahead and eat whatever you want, just stick to the parameters of the intermittent fasting protocol.
The Intermittent Fasting Protocol Parameters
The parameters are pretty easy to comprehend:
- You will pick your fasting hours and eating hours. For a man, aim for a 16 hour fast and an 8 hour eating window. For women, aim for a 14 hour fast and a 10 hour eating window.
- You will consume calories only in your eating window. Calories are obvious ones like a donut or a steak, but they’re also not-so-obvious ones like cream or sugar in your coffee.
- You will attempt to reward your brain with something good whenever you get hungry outside of your eating window. If you start feeling hunger at 9am, spend the time you normally would eating by doing something productive. Throw out some clutter, or walk around your office and say hi to people, or drink some ice cold water and breath in and out slowly.
Day One Sucks
The first day of intermittent fasting sucks. This is because your brain and body are entrained to think they’re going to eat. No, you aren’t hungry. The signals your brain is sending you appear to be hunger, but they’re not. When you “break the fast” every day around the same time, your brain goes into body glucose protection mode. Too much glucose in your blood will kill you, so the brain prepares for a bolus of food by flooding your body with insulin.
Insulin in your blood will give off the signal of hunger, but you’re not hungry. Your body has fat on it, probably excess fat. The body can and will use that fat for energy. It’s that insulin that is flooding your blood that is telling you to eat glucose to neutralize the insulin. Lucky for you, your body will eventually stop putting insulin in your body early in the morning as the brain learns that you aren’t going to be killing yourself with excess glucose.
That crazy hunger will go away, usually in a matter of a few days. Days #1-3 are usually the worst, but you have 100,000 years of human history before you to re-adapt to the proper way of eating.
Also, you’ll have stomach growling that occurs. In fact, after 2 hours of no food, the stomach will growl automatically. You’ll think that you’re hungry. That’s not true. The brain, when it sense you haven’t eaten in 2 hours, will set off this growling in order to make sure that all your food (digestible or not) gets pushed down into the entire digestive tract. The growl isn’t hunger, it’s just what your brain signals your body to do in order to get every last calorie you’ve eaten. Every hour or so during the first few days, your brain will trigger these growls. Eventually it should reduce significantly, once your brain and body understand that you only eat for certain hours every day, instead of all day, wake to sleep.
Fasting Is Not Starvation
Remember, for most of human history, we had no packaged food, we had no refrigeration, and we didn’t even have preservation techniques. We could only eat when we stumbled upon wild food (animal or vegetable), and before agriculture, there wasn’t that much wild food everywhere. So we went for days without eating.
During these early days of IF, you will think you are hungry. Some of you who are the most unhealthy will think you are starving. You are not starving. Your body is fine, it is adapting to switch from eating too much food too often to consuming body fat for energy.
Odd Energy Moments
On day one, you might find yourself twitchy. You’ll attribute this to hunger. You may be tapping your feet or shaking a leg or feel your body wanting to do SOMETHING. Normally you quiet this twitchiness with snacking. Bad idea.
That extra twitchiness is your brain creating catecholamines and flooding your body with them. Know what those do? They switch your body into hunter-killer mode. The brain has no idea that food is just a microwave away. It will never comprehend that. But the brain tells the body to eat, and if you were passing out from lack of energy, the wild lion would eat you. Instead, these lovely catecholamines put your body into a mode to let you be stronger, faster, think clearer, so you can go out and slaughter that wild lion.
Catecholamines are awesome. Know how you usually want to pass out after breakfast and after lunch? Those days are gone. Now you will have energy, think better, move better, and get more things done before your first calorie of the day hits your tongue. Catecholamines also force the body to burn off all that fat you were carrying around uselessly — fat on your belly is stored as energy for your body during hunter-killer mode.
Your First Calorie
Remember: no cream in your coffee, no sugar in your tea. You can have black coffee or black tea and not lose your fasting hours. Your body started fasting the minute you consumed your last calorie yesterday. Most humans start shredding off body fat while they’re sleeping, but the real moment of fat loss happens later. For some, it takes as long as 18 hours before you hit the prime fat loss zone; for others it starts at the 10 hour mark. Most people hit the magic zone around 14-16 hours.
If you stopped eating at 10pm just before bed, you will hit the magic fat burning zone between 8am and as late as 4pm. Most of you will hit the zone between noon and 2pm. It’s after that time that you should eat. I suggest eating at 1pm if you can schedule it. Noon is fine, but not as fine as 1pm or 2pm. Day 1 is the hardest, so if you have to eat at noon, do so.
Your first calorie should be protein first. Your body will be burning fat, but it will also start burning off muscle. Aim for high protein and then focus on your fats and carbs. I don’t care what you eat today, just focus on protein. A bag of beef jerky is a nice addition to any meal. Hot dogs or burgers are fine. A boring chicken breast is good, too. Make sure you’re eating a lot of protein — protein prevents muscle loss.
How Often To Eat
In your eating window, you should eat as often as you like. Over time, you will naturally eat less as your body and brain realize the penalty of eating too much.
In these first two weeks, during that eating window, eat as much as you like.
Eat 3 meals and fill up the empty moment with binge snacking if you want. Your body won’t penalize you today for it, but over time you will find the urges go away.
I eat twice a day. Big meals. No snacking in between. You’ll get there naturally, without hunger penalties, as your body is programmed to be a hunter-killer machine in everything you do.
Preparing for Day Two
Remember that magic zone where fat loss occurs the fastest. You won’t learn how long it takes you to get to that zone for a few weeks (or more), so the key is to keep within your eating window hours. If you picked a 16/8 fast, stop eating at the 8 hour mark from where you started. If you picked a 14/10 fast, stop eating at the 10 hour mark.
Eating means drinking calories, too. No alcohol outside of your eating window. No snacking outside of it. No sugary drinks. Just stop. You’ll probably go to bed feeling hungry, or even starving, but that penalty mode will go away in a matter of a few days, a week at most.
Head on to Intermittent Fasting: Day 2.