Three Methods of Intermittent Fasting (Updated)
Intermittent fasting – it is definitely one of the fastest (no pun intended) growing nutrition topics right now. While it is something I am familiar with, I haven’t talked about it before, except in my interview with Brad Pilon which you can find here.
I don’t think intermittent fasting is a quick-fix for all your diet woes, but I do think it’s a great method that can be sustained long term for many individuals. You can definitely use intermittent fasting as a lifestyle approach for nutrition, health, performance, and body composition goals.
I’ll go ahead and say this first – I think most people can use some form of intermittent fasting for body composition changes. However, if you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you know I suggest doing what works best for you.
No two people are the same, and therefore there’s not one universal approach to nutrition, or strength training, that will work for everyone. However, if you want to give intermittent fasting a try, I believe there is an approach that can work for you, and I’ll share them below.
One more thing – keep in mind that I will be sharing my personal experiences with each method discussed; you may experience something completely different when it comes to intermittent fasting.
What Led Me to Intermittent Fasting?
When I got serious about strength training and improving my body composition many years ago, I succumbed to the typical “you must eat 5-6 small meals throughout the day” methodology. I mean, it was (and still is, to an extent) touted as the one and only way to build a lean and healthy body. Naturally, I thought that’s what had to be done, and so I did it fervently.
After following that obsessive compulsive strategy for a year or so, I finally got fed up with the whole thing. I was annoyed with having to prepare so many meals, clean up afterward, and carry around Tupperware.
But for me, that wasn’t the worst of it – I never felt full, I was constantly thinking about food and my next meal, and going out to eat with family and friends was a struggle.
So one day, out of total annoyance and frustration, I just gave it up. I stopped preparing meals in advance. I stopped worrying about the next time I had to eat. I didn’t follow an eating schedule.
Instead of eating according to a predetermined schedule, I ate whenever I was hungry and stopped eating when I was full. I generally went about 14-18 hours between my last meal of the day and my first meal the following day (I usually ate dinner around 6pm and then would eat my first meal around 11am or so the next day). This all came naturally to me and I felt great with my new eating habits. There was no more stress because I didn’t have to eat on a schedule or carry around food wherever I went. Plus, the meals I ate actually satisfied me.
It wasn’t until a couple of years later, however, that I realized this style of eating had a name – intermittent fasting.
Please note – while I don’t personally do the whole “5-6 small meals” throughout the day thing, I acknowledge that it does work for some people. Just as I greatly prefer to follow some form of intermittent fasting to achieve my goals, numerous others prefer to eat small meals throughout the day because they enjoy it and it allows them to achieve their goals.
Again, I encourage you to do what works for you and do what you enjoy – whether that means employing a method of intermittent fasting or eating several small meals throughout the day. I don’t care what you do as long as it makes your life easier, simpler, and leads you to your goals.
I encourage you to read the following information with an open mind. You just may stumble upon something that makes your life easier.
There are several forms of intermittent fasting, but I will only be discussing the three methods I have tried personally.
- 24 hour fasts, one to two times per week
- Daily 14-16 hour fasts
- Daily partial fasts for 20 hours with one big meal
- UPDATE Hybrid system using all 3 methods above
We’ll tackle these methods one at a time.
Fasting for 24 Hours, Once or Twice a Week (Eat Stop Eat)
This is the method promoted by my friend, Brad Pilon. I did an interview with him a couple of years ago which you can find here => Fasting for Weight Loss. He also later shared A Hidden Benefit to Intermittent Fasting. (I encourage you to check out both of those articles).
To keep things simple, I’ll outline the main points and my experience with this method.
- To give an oversimplified explanation – you go 24 hours without food. That means if your last meal was at 6pm today, then you wouldn’t eat until 6pm tomorrow. However, you can, and should, drink plenty of calorie-free beverages.
- Incredibly simple to use, and, in my opinion, the easiest to put into practice out of all the IF methods discussed – you just don’t eat anything for about 24 hours once or twice a week. You can freely drink water and other non-caloric beverages during the fast, but no food. After the 24 hour fast, you eat a regular meal. As Brad explains, “The best way to eat after fasting is to act as if you didn’t fast”. Don’t overeat because you haven’t eaten in 24 hours; just eat a regular meal.
- It’s effective – I have tried it, many of my clients have done it, and those who use Brad’s Eat Stop Eat and get phenomenal results are way too many to list. It works (I’m a proud affiliate for ESE; please note if you click that link and make a purchase I’ll receive a commission).
- It’s flexible – For those who prefer this method of intermittent fasting, it’s recommended that they fast on their busiest days. This way you don’t focus on not eating food and potential hunger, but instead you can be very productive. Also, if you know you have a family event or other social gathering planned, you can adjust your fasting days accordingly.
- Numerous health benefits – Brad discusses these in his book, so I won’t go over them here. Simply put, fasting provides numerous health benefits beyond fat loss, and that is always a good thing.
- Did I mention it’s really simple? I’m all about keeping things as simple as possible, especially when it comes to eating and losing body fat. With Brad’s method of fasting you don’t have to count calories, weigh food, or even restrict your favorite foods. Therefore, there are no “forbidden foods”.
- Brad’s system in particular is very “freeing” for many people who use it. They’re no longer required to count calories or even restrict their favorite foods. Many people who’ve been OCD with dieting in the past can’t believe how easy this method is and the amazing results it produces without any stress.
- This method may be too difficult for some people – some individuals simply struggle with going extended periods of time without eating. Some people get headaches, fatigued, cranky, or just too anxious. In my experience, however, many people “grow out” of this after a few fasts. If you still want to give this method a try, I suggest “breaking in” to fasting, and just go as long as you can at first and gradually increase the fasting phase over time.
- For some people following a 24 hour fast leads to binge eating – even though you should eat a normal meal after the fast, some people think they are entitled to eat anything and everything they want as a “reward” for fasting for 24 hours. This can be remedied with some self control, but some people are just apt to binging after abstaining from food for too long.
Recently Brad wrote an excellent article – Fasting, You’re Doing It Wrong – that highlights some of the most common mistakes people make when fasting along with some other very useful information. Be sure to check that out.
Daily 14 – 16 Hour Fast (Leangains method)
This form of intermittent fasting is used and promoted by Martin Berkhan. He has done an incredible amount of research on the topic as well, and his results and those of his clients speak the truth of his system.
- Men fast for 16 hours each day and women for 14 hours
- Oversimplified explanation – if your last meal is at 8pm tonight, you wouldn’t eat again until 10am (women) or 12pm (men) tomorrow. Personally, I have no issues going the whole 16 hours and occasionally go to even 19 hours depending on my work and training schedule.
- As with the previously discussed method of intermittent fasting, you don’t consume any food or caloric beverages during the fasting period. Water, sugar free gum, and other non-caloric beverages are okay.
- This method, in my experience, is incredibly easy to sustain long term and to follow every day as it’s very simple to implement.
- This IF method generally means you’ll be skipping breakfast. For some people this could be quite difficult at first, especially if they buy into the whole “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” mindset. Some people also feel sick, sluggish, or light headed if they don’t eat first thing in the morning. Me, I’m never hungry in the morning so it’s no issue.
- Martin suggests eating three meals a day without any snacks in between, but also says two large meals is fine, too. Since you’ll only be eating three (or two) times per day, you’ll be eating larger meals, and that means you’ll actually feel full. This is a huge plus for me.
- Having a social life is much easier than with other dieting methods (as was the case for me with eating 5-6 small meals each day). Because you can eat larger meals, it’s easier to go to restaurants and social gatherings without having to stress about what you’re going to eat.
- This type of intermittent fasting can be used for fat loss, building muscle, and even maintenance, so it’s adaptable for any goal.
Daily 20ish Hour Partial Fast (The Warrior Diet)
This style of intermittent fasting is known as The Warrior Diet and was created by Ori Hofmekler. Basically you perform a 20-ish hour partial fast every day, and then have one large meal at night.
- During the fasting part of the day, you can consume a few servings of raw fruits and vegetables, fresh fruit/veggie juices, and a few servings of protein (protein shake, some nuts, boiled eggs, etc) if desired. These are kept quite small.
- You eat your main meal at night. Ori has guidelines for what to eat, and in what order to eat certain foods (veggies first, then meat, etc).
- Some of his recommendations are quite rigid and can be difficult to follow long term; at least in my personal experience.
- Having to eat such a large meal at night doesn’t work for everyone. For example, I personally don’t like how full I feel after eating such a large meal. Then again, some people absolutely love it.
- It can be difficult to get in all of your fruits, veggies, and protein with just one large meal.
- It can lead to binging on the wrong foods. Some people will inevitably think, “Well, I haven’t eaten hardly anything all day, so I can eat anything I want”. Then they end up eating nothing but pizza, wings, and cookies every night.
- You don’t have to worry about food all day. For many people, this is the greatest benefit of the Warrior Diet. Since you do the vast majority of your eating at night, you don’t have to worry about preparing food during the day.
- It saves money. You won’t be eating as much as you usually do, so you’ll likely save some money on your food bill.
- Increased energy levels – many people, myself included, tend to experience greater energy levels when fasting. This was the case, for me personally, with all three of the intermittent fasting methods I’ve used.
- This method is probably best suited for fat loss and not building muscle mass. Again, others may have a different experience.
- Can be difficult to work around social gatherings that take place during the day.
Fat Loss Forever IF Method
What do you get when you combine the most well known intermittent fasting methods – Eat Stop Eat, The Warrior Diet, and Leangains – and put them into one method? John Romaniello and Dan Go did just that and “created a ‘hybrid’ fasting program that took all of the popular methods and combined them in the most intelligent and sophisticated way, all for one purpose; to use the strengths of each method to cancel out the weaknesses of others” and created their own version — Fat Loss Forever. (That’s an affiliate link).
In addition to combined the three IF methods discussed above, they also incorporated a method Roman termed Feast/Fast. In a nutshell, this method includes an entire cheat day followed by a 36 hour fast.
The authors state the following about Fat Loss Forever:
This program is intended to do two things:
1) Offer a 12 week program that will help you burn fat faster than ever before.
2) Help you keep the results for your entire lifetime – via the incredible benefits of intermittent fasting – by providing you the easiest nutrition lifestyle ever created.
After reading the FLF manual and looking over the accompanying components, here are my thoughts. Please keep in mind this is strictly MY opinion based on the materials and my experiences.
The information is presented well, and it’s also an entertaining read, which is nice. The various fasting days are arranged in what the authors say is the simplest and most effective way possible. The longest fasts will be on the days you’re busy allowing you to focus on being productive and you won’t worry, and hopefully won’t be aware of, potential hunger. And, if you like cheat days, then you’re going to love this method because you get one every single week.
They also provide several training programs which are put together well and you can get away with using only your bodyweight and dumbbells, so training at home is an option. The only potential downside here is that some of the workouts may be difficult to perform as written in a crowded gym.
What are the potential downsides of FLF? First off – if you don’t do well with intermittent fasting, then you definitely won’t like this. Also, you have a specific IF method to follow on certain days, and that, for some individuals, could get confusing or be too challenging. My other main concern is that people will overdo the cheat days and eat tons and tons of food that is nothing but processed, trans-fat laden crap, even though the authors say, “Do not use IF as an excuse to eat crap”. If you don’t handle cheat days well, then this may not be the method for you.
With that said, if you like to have things laid out for telling you exactly what you should do so there’s zero guess work on your part, then Fat Loss Forever may be the method for you.
Should You Try Intermittent Fasting?
If you think a method of intermittent fasting could greatly simplify your nutrition, then maybe you should give it a try.
I think it all comes down to some personal experimentation. You may prefer one method over the other, or you may prefer to use each method at different times just for the sake of variety and to change things up (I currently do this).
And, please, don’t think you have to “convert” to intermittent fasting just because it’s the next big thing. Intermittent fasting works, no doubt about it, but I still suggest you do whatever works for you and your lifestyle. Whether that means eating 5-6 small meals per day or adopting a form of intermittent fasting – just do what works for you.
As you’ve seen in this article, I’ve used, and enjoyed, different methods of IF. But, over time, it just wasn’t working for me anymore. You can see my experience in Is There a Dark Side to Intermittent Fasting? in addition to what I do now.
And please keep in mind, no method/nutrition approach will produce the results you want if you’re constantly stressed out and miserable. You need to find a method you enjoy and that you can sustain long term.
I’m Interested . . . Now What?
If you’re interested in trying one of the methods of intermittent fasting discussed above, I strongly advise you to read the author’s own words and apply the method in the way he provides. The information above is based on my experience and only scratches the surface of each author’s method. All too often people half-ass apply what they read or tweak things from the beginning, and then after they don’t get results they write the program/method off as a complete failure.
Don’t do that. Do what the author says and apply as written.
-Brad Pilon’s method (once or twice a week 24 hour fast) can be found here
-Martin Berkhan’s method (daily 14-16 hour fast) can be found here
-Ori Hofmekler’s method (daily 20ish hour partial fast) can be found here:
-John Romaniello’s and Dan Go’s FLF system can be found here.