Appendix A

How To Do Intermittent Fasting: Cheat Sheet with Our 3 Favorite Protocols

So you've gone through the book, read every word (right?), and decided you want to try intermittent fasting. Good for you. But which style should you choose? We outline our suggestions below.

1. The Trial Fast

What It Is

Simple, you try it out. The Trial Fast is what we have our own Lean Eating clients do: try going without food for 24 hours.

Why Do It

To experience hunger intentionally in order to get accustomed to the feeling, and, well... not freak out. The ability to manage hunger is essential to fitness and good health, and this is a great way to get better at it. (Check out more benefits of the trial fast in the Introduction.)

Who It’s For

The Trial Fast if for anyone who wants to try fasting without committing to it full-time. It’s also an excellent way to see if more advanced forms of fasting will be right for you.

Get a little spacey during your trial fast? A little irritated at people? Well, those are actually common responses. Nothing to worry about. Want to put your head through a wall or yell at everyone who enters the room? That could be a problem. But you’ll never know until you try.

How To Do It

Essentially, you pick any 24-hour period, and don’t eat during it. But we like to add a few things to make it easier. Here, we’ll assume a Sunday fast:

10 PM Saturday:

  • Eat your last meal of the day
  • Drink 500 mL (2 cups) of water

10 AM Sunday:

  • Drink 1 L (4 cups) of water + 1 serving greens powder
  • Drink 250 mL (1 cup) of green tea
  • Take 5 grams BCAA (branched chain amino acids) powder (or take 5 capsules)

3 PM Sunday:

  • Drink 1 L (4 cups) of water + 1 serving greens powder
  • Drink 250 mL (1 cup) green tea
  • Take 5 grams BCAA (branched chain amino acids) powder (or take 5 capsules)

10 PM Sunday:

  • Eat a small snack before bed
  • Drink 500 mL (2 cups) of water

Monday:

  • Eat normally

Tips and Strategies for the Trial Fast

  • The tea, greens, and BCAAs aren’t essential to fasting, but in our experience, they make it a lot easier.
  • Drinking water in particular helps to mitigate feelings of hunger.
  • Be aware of your body cues. Feeling stressed out or “upset” during your fast? Relax. Take a few deep breaths, and pay close attention — this is what hunger can feel like. The more you know about the feeling, the easier it is to manage in the future.
  • Have healthy food (lean meats, veggies, etc.) in the house and ready to go when you “break” the fast on Sunday night with a small meal. We suggest a tablespoon of almond butter and some celery. Also, having healthy food in the house is good insurance that you won’t binge on Monday when you return to normal eating.

2. The Periodic Fast

What It Is

The Periodic Fast is exactly what it sounds like: you fast periodically. So while you should still eat well (high protein, lots of veggies, a balance of fats, and a moderate intake of minimally processed carbohydrates) you’d periodically take a full day to fast (just like the Trial Fast).

You can do this once a year, once a month, once a week — whatever works for you. But we recommend no more frequently than once a week; as you can read in Chapter 5, twice a week proved disastrous. Fair warning.

Why Do It

To further practice hunger management and experience more of the potential health and fat loss benefits of intermittent fasting.

Who It’s For

The Periodic Fast is for anyone who responded well to the Trial Fast.

How To Do It

The Periodic Fast is flexible: you can choose whichever 24 hours you want. Want to fast from breakfast to breakfast? That’s cool. Just eat breakfast on Monday, and don’t eat again until breakfast on Tuesday. Want to fast dinner to dinner? That’s cool too. Eat dinner on Wednesday, and don’t eat again until dinner on Thursday.

To do it, simply follow the rules above from the “Trial Fast”.

Tips and Strategies:

  • I like to do the Periodic Fast when traveling. When I'm in and out of airports and good food is hard to come by, I'll throw in a full-day fast when it makes sense. Other people find that travel stresses them out, and fasting may exacerbate that feeling. You may prefer to pick the least stressful day in your week or month and start with that.

3. The Daily Fast

What It Is

The Daily Fast is an 8-hour feeding period followed by a 16-hour fast.

Why Do It

To pursue extreme leanness.

Who It’s For

The Daily Fast is best for people who are already fit, have plenty of experience eating healthy and want to be extremely lean.

Men generally respond best to the 16-hour fast, 8-hour eating split; women seem to need a longer eating window and shorter fast (try a 14-hour fast with an 10-hour eating window) or a more relaxed approach in general. But it can work for both men and women as long as they have good self-discipline and don't have a history of eating disorders.

Who It’s NOT For

Pregnant women, people who have or have had eating disorders, and people simply looking to be healthy and fit with no particular desire to be extremely lean. The Daily Fast will typically be much harder to adhere to for men over 15% body fat and women over 22% body fat. Furthermore, there are far easier ways to make rapid and lasting change for people in those categories. See “How to get in shape without fasting” below.

How To Do It

The Daily Fast is outlined in more detail in Chapter 6.

The basic principle? You eat during an 8-hour feeding period and fast during a 16-hour fasting period. But there are other key principles as well:

  • High protein & vegetable intake: During the 8-hour eating window, eat a ton of protein (meat, poultry, fish) and vegetables (think green growing things). Err on the side of eating too much of these foods.
  • Fasted training: Do intense resistance training 3 times per week, right before you eat your first meal. In other words, you’ll be training on an empty stomach.
  • Carb cycling: On training days, add carbs (quinoa, rice, whole grain bread, fruit, etc.) to your base diet of protein and veggies.
  • Nutrient timing: On training days, eat as much of your food as soon after training as possible. Your biggest meal should come right after your workout.

Most people who follow this protocol fast from 9 PM until 1PM the next day, exercising around noon while consuming 10 grams of BCAAs (branched chain amino acids) during training.

After training, eat 2-3 large meals before 9 PM, with your biggest meal coming right after exercise.

(Note: If you can’t get away for a workout in the middle of the day, there are other was to set this up. Also, this protocol is more strict and therefore suited for more advanced trainees. Not for newbies.)

Sample Single-Day Schedule

8:00 AM - Wake up, drink 500 mL (2 cups) water

9:00 AM - Drink 1 L (4 cups) water with 1 serving greens+, 250 mL (1 cup) green tea

11:00 AM - 250 mL (1 cup) green tea

12:00 PM - Workout session with 10 g BCAA during session

1:30 PM - Eat first meal, largest of the day

4:30 PM - Eat second meal, moderate sized meal

8:30 PM - Eat third meal, moderate sized meal

Tips and Strategies

  • Don’t fool yourself into thinking you can just skip breakfast and get shredded; what makes it work is combination of all the principles at play, including the food selection, fasted training and nutrient timing. This is an advanced strategy, not a magic bullet.
  • Even if you think you can do the Daily Fast, consider choosing the Trial or Periodic Fast first.
  • Make sure to re-read Chapter 6 for a full outline on how to perform the fast safely and effectively.
  • If you find eating this way is too strict, try a) extending the eating window from 8 hours to 9 or even 10 hours, or b) turning your hardest training day into an “eat what you want” day to relax things a little. Or try two “eat what you want” days. These aren’t rules, just guidelines; better to follow a more relaxed plan than abandon a stricter one.

Not a fit for you? Here’s how to get in shape without fasting

So how does intermittent fasting fit in? In three ways.

First, its a great way to intentionally practice being hungry. The better you can manage hunger, the less likely you are to react compulsively to it. To get fit — and stay fit — you need that skill.

Second, it’s a lesson in disguise for people who care about their health and fitness: relax. So you missed a meal. Who cares? Might even be good for you. Just keep going.

Third, it’s great as an advanced strategy for extreme leanness. If you want that, and you’re prepared, you may find this protocol easier to follow than the typical bodybuilding-style diets. I did.

But ultimately, fasting is a “nice-to-have.” It’s unnecessary to get in shape, and alone it’s insufficient.

You know what’s both necessary and sufficient? Things like eating good quality food in the right amounts at the right times. Things like learning to prepare healthy food in the first place. Those things are enough for most people to get in the best shape of their lives. I know, because my team and I have helped thousands of clients get there; none of them did any more than the Trial Fast, but all of them are taught those essentials.

So if you’re looking at all this intermittent fasting stuff and aren’t sure where it fits in for you, what should you do?

Learn the essentials of good nutrition. It’s by far the best thing you can do for your health and fitness.

Here’s how: