5 Steps To Rapid Success With Intermittent Fasting
Step 1: Determine Your Caloric Needs
The first step is the most crucial, because if you mess this one up, everything else becomes messed up with it. You MUST determine your energy needs accurately.
The problem with most of the questions I get on Twitter is that they don’t give me any information on their current status. It’s almost always a generic question like: “How do I lose weight?”, or “How many carbs should I eat to lose weight?”
Frankly, I’d be lying to you if I gave an answer to that question without probing for more detail.
To determine your caloric needs, you need to:
- Track how many calories you’re currently eating, every single day, seven days per week (YES weekends included!)
- Track your bodyweight every day, so you can see what impact this is having on your weight
- Make an educated decision based on the above
So if the running average daily caloric intake is making you gain weight, then guess what?
You’re in a calorie surplus.
If everything is static, then you’re around maintenance.
In order to lose fat at a sensible rate with minimal muscle loss, energy problems etc., you will need to ?drop your calorie intake from maintenance by ~10-15%.
For example, if your maintenance calories are 2500, you will need to eat 2250 calories to lose fat.
However, this is just theory for now. DO NOT actually drop calories yet – for now, stick to maintenance. You have to change the food choices first, then the timings, then we can drop calories once we’ve adapted to the new eating schedule.
Step 5 is where we get you into a calorie deficit.
Step 2: Set Your Macronutrient Targets
Once you know how many calories you need to be eating every day, it’s time to look at protein, carbs and fats. Let me start off by saying:
NOT ALL CARBS ARE MADE EQUAL! SAME WITH FATS!
I understand where all this crap has come from, but not all carbs are ‘bad’ for you, not all carbs are sugar, and not all carbs are going to make you a 300 pound guy with heart problems.
Assuming you have set your calorie deficit at 10-15% (modest), you don’t need to be insanely high with protein, however I would recommend higher protein than most people due to the satiation benefits.
0.8-1 gram per pound of bodyweight is a good target to shoot for. So if you’re 220 pounds, a good target would be ~200 grams of protein. The higher your body fat percentage is, the closer to the 0.8 figure you will be. The leaner you are, the closer to 1.0 you will need to be.
Good sources of protein:
- Ground beef
Fats are essential for testosterone production and recovery, and we cannot let them fall too low. Usually, a good guideline I like to use, is 20-30% of your calories should come from fats. You may want to start off at 30% but bring it down to 25% and increase the protein a little as you get leaner.
Another point; Men Over 40 shouldn’t go below 25%. Their testosterone is already in danger, and it’s a risk factor that should be avoided. Keep fats a little higher.
Whatever you choose to do, 20-30% is a good range.
Good sources of fats:
- Olive oil
Oh boy, here we go. Those dirty little carbs that are making everyone fat(!) GRRRRRR!
Let me start by saying that I’m at 9% body fat RIGHT NOW as I type, and I’m consuming ~150 grams of carbs per day, in a calorie deficit.
There is a very big difference between carbs, and sugar. Between carbs, and complete and utter junk food. Some carbs are great, some are terrible.
Furthermore, completely removing carbs from your diet is a hideously unsustainable approach that never works in the long-term. We need balance for sustainable fat loss, and to maintain a lean, chiselled physique year round.
We aren’t going to be happy maintaining a Spartan-like lifestyle whereby we can NEVER TOUCH:
- Many veggies
- Wine (deal-breaker for me)
- Any carbs at social events
- Any carbs at meals out
- Any carbs when travelling
- Any carbs your wife/gf cooks (bless her)
- Any carbs with family
- Any carbs at Christmas, Boxing Day, NYE, Birthdays, Vacations etc.
Of course not. Because it ISN’T!
With that said, I highly recommend that you eliminate junk food forever, and eliminate alcohol for a few weeks.
Junk food will kill you. The problem is that it’s fine in moderation, but nobody knows how to do moderation, and it sets the wrong habits.
Alcohol is fine if you just have a few drinks. But you need to go cold turkey first with alcohol for a few weeks, set the right habits, and only drink with nice meals/a ‘chilled’ environment after you’ve easily gone a few weeks without alcohol.
Getting drunk is always bad. Having a few drinks is okay.
This was highlighted to me by the Spanish culture – they drink, but not to get drunk. The Brits and Americans mess this one up big time.
In terms of specific quantities for your carbs, you simply fill the remainder of your calories (after protein & fats) with carbs.
But as I said, these carbs should NEVER include complete junk food, and occasionally include alcohol. They should include:
- Sweet potatoes
- Boiled potatoes
- Jacket potatoes
- Brown rice
- White rice
- Pasta (grey area)
- Pineapple (grey area due to sweetness/lack of satiation)
Here’s another point; you’re missing out on a plethora of micronutrients and vitamins by purposefully going zero carb. The above foods are not to be missed.
Include the above sources of carbs to fill the rest of your calories and you’ll be good to go. Again, keep your calories at maintenance for now. But change the contents of your fridge and cupboards.
Step 3: Shift Your First Meal Back By 2 Hours
The above two steps will take you a week or two to determine exactly how much energy you need to consume, and then how to distribute this energy across the three macronutrients, and what you need to buy from the supermarket/grocery store.
Step three should be performed for approximately 3-4 days. This is usually enough time for your body to adapt to the new eating schedule without any major hunger issues.
If you go straight into pushing your first meal back by four hours, you’ll be hungry. One of your best weapons of defence against this is to drink 1-2 coffees in the morning to get you through. However, the second one is to merely move that meal back by two hours. This gives you time to adjust and adapt without teething issues.
Step 4: Condense Your Eating Window To 6 Hours
This is the final ‘timing’ step. Specifically, you need to push your first meal back by another two hours, and then make sure your meal #2 is no more than six hours apart from this.
Personally, I eat a fruit snack at 12pm, then meal #1 at 1pm, and meal #2 at 6pm; an eating window of six hours. This will make you fuller during any given moment, for less calories. Magic for fat loss.
Plus, it’s great for energy levels in the morning and social freedom in the evening. If you split calories 50/50 between the fruit snack + meal #1 versus meal #2, you often end up having over 1000 calories available for the evening.
This means that you can actually have a good social life without feeling overly restricted – hugely important for long-term success. Again, be careful with the alcohol! But you at least have options.
Here’s an optional, yet highly recommended bonus tip:
Try to get 70% of your protein requirements at meal #1.
Sometimes this can be difficult. Yes it will probably require meat (vegans, just focus on quorn/quinoa/seitan), and it will need to be prepped in advance and stored in Tupperware’s if you have a normal 9-5 job.
The benefits of this are that you will absolutely kill any cravings for sugar, and you’ll be full for the rest of the day.
Furthermore, you’ll be able to relax in terms of food choices, and you won’t necessarily need to focus on your protein requirements. Great for social freedom.
Here’s another tip:
Keep carbs fairly low throughout the day, otherwise your energy will suffer. It’s actually desirable to have slightly lower energy in the evening as you wind down before bed. But it’s a bloody disaster to have this during the middle of the day.
Save the majority of them for meal #2.
I can’t really stick a figure on this because carb intakes will vary wildly from one person to another – FAR more than protein or fats, following my system. Just save the majority for meal #2.
Step 5: Drop Caloric Intake By 10% Increments, As Required
Okay, now it’s finally time to get yourself into a calorie deficit. You’ve had approximately one week to figure out what your maintenance is, and what a 10-15% deficit would look like.
You’ve also had 3-4 days to change the contents of your fridge/cupboards, and then shift your first meal back.
Then you had another 3-4 days to condense the eating window in to a six hour timeframe. You’ve got the Intermittent Fasting system truly set-up, and perhaps you’ve even gone full hardcore mode and allocated 70% of your protein to be consumed at meal #1, gone cold turkey on alcohol, AND junk food.
Now you’re ready to really blast the fat.
Drop your calories by 10-15%.
And you will really start shredding down. Then in future once you stall, you don’t change anything else, other than calories and maybe protein. Drop your calories by another 10-15%, and then you may want to increase protein a little bit.
Do this until you’re happy with your weight. Then when you’re happy, you slowly work your calories back up in 100-200 increments per week. Slowly increase them, until you’ve found your new maintenance calories.
THAT is how you get lean, and stay lean with Intermittent Fasting.