How to Get Started With Intermittent Fasting

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that you probably ate a ****load of food last night while watching the Super Bowl (Google definitely had the best ad, by the way).

You’re thinking to yourself, “I put on five pounds last night, how the hell do I get back on track?”  I’m going to introduce a seemingly ridiculous concept to you, one that I hadn’t ever considered until doing the research:

Intermittent Fasting.

Sounds like the worst thing ever, right?  Starving yourself on purpose?  “TOTALLY LAME,” as Awesome-O would say.

Well, if you’ve been unsuccessful at losing weight, if you’ve lost weight but you’ve hit a plateau, or if you just want to try something new, this might be the jump start you need.

Disclaimer: this is just my opinion based on my research and reading. This is less of a recommendation article rather than an eye-opener and call for discussion.  I do present my opinion at the end though, and I’d love to hear yours.

Diets – Six Meals For the Win?

For years, the concept of lots of small meals throughout the day really clicked with me.

If you space out your meals evenly, keep your calorie count low, you’ll lose weight, right?  I’ve even talked about how breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  Lots of people follow the “eat multiple meals a day” ideology and lose weight, so it works.  Less calories, more meals, evenly spread out.  It makes sense.

However, I’ve recently done some research and reading on IF…which also makes a lot of sense to me.  By not eating every once a while, your body has to burn the fat in your system for energy, which would lead to weight loss.  Also, by not eating for twenty four hours, you’re pushing your body into a calorie deficit, which also leads to weight loss.  It makes sense.

So, how can these two seemingly conflicting ideologies both make sense? Simple – they both allow your body to burn more calories than you consume.  And, if other research on the body’s physiology while fasting is to be believed, there are multiple other benefits as well.

Let’s get down to business.

What the Hell is Intermittent Fasting?

IF is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: you purposely avoid eating for a twenty-four hour period (or two) during the week. Why?  Because recent studies have shown that your metabolism operates more on a marathon basis (how many calories consumed over a long period of time) than on a sprint basis (what you ate yesterday).  Prior to this research, I was giving way too much credit to my stomach – it’s not nearly as intelligent as I thought.  Think long term when it comes to calories consumed and burned, not short term.

Mark over at Mark’s Daily Apple has a great write-up on the evolutionary science behind fasting. Mark runs one of the most thorough and successful paleo diet blogs out there, and I highly value his opinion.  I love looking into the evolutionary aspects of diet and fitness, and I’m often very weary of any new “breakthrough” that requires a pill or drink or anything.  We’ve survived as a species for tens of thousands of years with diet, exercise, and intelligence.

Fasting is one of those evolutionary aspects that makes complete sense to me.

How Does it Work?

Our bodies are genetically engineered to deal with feast or famine.  10,000 years ago, surprisingly there was no free All-Star Slam Breakfast from Denny’s!   Our bodies need fuel to operate, and if there isn’t any food in the stomach to pull from, it uses the fat stored within the body for energy.  The fat gets burned for energy, the body keeps moving, and thus becomes leaner.

Secondly, because of these skipped meals, you are putting your body into a calorie deficit (averaged out for the week).  Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint, so start thinking of your calories more in terms of weekly units rather than daily amounts, if that helps.  More calories burned compared to calories consumed = weight loss!

Here’s a video from Brad over at Eat Stop Eat (which reads like an infomercial, ugh…but it’s legit) explaining the similarities between fasting and exercise.  He also wrote a guest post over on Fitness Black Book.  I considered setting up an affiliate link for Brad’s e-book in case you’re interested in purchasing it, but I didn’t want you to think I wrote this article to get affiliate money.  Instead, you can form your own opinion, and then buy Brad’s book if you’re interested.

Brad Pilon – Eat Stop Eat

How Do You Do It?

Simple: pick a day (or two) per week and purposely skip breakfast and lunch, and then eat a normal dinner. Brad over at Eat Stop Eat recommends doing this type of fasting once or twice a week – for example, a fast on Monday, and then another one on Thursday.  Liquids are okay on fasting days, just not ones with calories.  Heyoooo H2O!

If you’re used to eating a LOT of food, and you normally eat a big breakfast, this is going to be a pretty big drastic change.  Start by skipping breakfast and see how your body reacts to it.  If you can handle that, work your way up to skipping breakfast and lunch.  Notice that I’m not saying you should skip breakfast and lunch every day.  Eat normally five days a week, try a fast one of the other days for a few weeks and see how your body reacts.

Eat, don’t eat, and then eat.  Got it?

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

A recent article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition gives a great overview of these benefits which include decreases in blood pressure, reduction in oxidative damage to lipids, protein and DNA, improvement in insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake, as well as decreases in fat mass.”  This study discusses studies done with humans (not mice) specifically.

From the LA times: Mark P. Mattson, chief of the laboratory of neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging: “In normal health subjects, moderate fasting — maybe one day a week or cutting back on calories a couple of days a week — will have health benefits for most anybody.”

I’d like to see more studies, with better controls done for more solid proof of these benefits, but I expect that to happen soon.

Risks of Intermittent Fasting

So, all we see so far are GOOD things about not eating for a full day. What the hell is BAD about it? First off, I can see myself getting extremely hungry to the point of annoyance when starting out this process.  This is echoed by Ruth Frechman, a registered dietitian in Burbank and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Assn: “You’re hungry, fatigued, irritable. Fasting is not very comfortable. People try to cut back one day and the next day they’re starving and they overeat.”

I imagine there is quite the learning curve for your body when it has to switch from using readily accessible carbs for energy to using your body’s fat stores, so I can see the first few fasting days being extremely difficult.  NF Reader Matt makes a great point in the comments that I’m reposting here for all to see:

“One thing I think people who are considering this should ask themselves – how are you at controling your hunger at the moment?  Losing weight is all about consuming less calories than you burn.   The biggest obstacle to this is hunger.  That is, uncontrollable hunger.  If you are starving yourself on 800 calories a day, then you will be much more likely to binge and go way over your calorie goal.  So it becomes important to eat when you are hungry, not when you are starving.”

Moral of the story? Don’t overdo it – if you feel light headed and you can’t function, EAT SOMETHING.  Listen to your body, and find a way to make it work for you.  We only get one chance on this planet, so make it count.

Have I tried It Yet?

Honestly, I haven’t. Well, not on purpose anyway.  The idea of skipping a meal or two goes against everything I’ve done for the past seven years.  If you’re a person who is used to eating a lot of food all day long, this probably scares the crap out of you too.  However, considering the fitness gurus and researchers that I read all highly recommend this type of “diet,” I’d be stupid if I didn’t give it a shot.  After all, if I can’t practice what I preach then I’m being dishonest to myself and to you all.

My biggest concern was losing more weight and muscle mass.  Then I saw that Craig Ballantyne, another fitness dude whose opinion I really respect, gained 13 pounds, most of which was muscle, while doing IF.  If he can do it, so can I.

Lastly, I was worried I wouldn’t have enough energy to get through a workout if I didn’t eat beforehand.  However, after doing my research on IF, I did a test-workout this past Saturday in a fasted state and had zero problem getting through the routine.  That was a big boost for me to move forward with writing this article and planning to try it out myself.

I’m going to try this one day this week, I’ll let everybody know how it goes. I still expect to build muscle and put on some pounds, even when skipping the first two meals of the day occasionally.

Do I Recommend It?

This is tough for me. Because I haven’t done it yet, I’m cautious about throwing my whole support behind the concept.  However, I do believe that this is another system that will definitely work for many people (but not all).  It’s just like every other successful diet: eat good foods, and don’t eat too much.

This is my recommendation:

  • Is your current plan working? Good! Don’t change it!
  • Is your current plan NOT working? Give this a shot.

If you only get ONE thing from this whole article, it’s this: there is more than one way to lose weight, so don’t worry about your method being the best.  The best diet is the one that makes you lose weight and keeps you healthy.  If you’re already losing weight, keep doing what you’re doing.  If you’re not, maybe do a little bit more reading on IF and give it a shot.

My advice? Do it the day after you’ve stuffed yourself, and balance things out.  In terms of losing the most weight the quickest, I’d probably recommend the Paleo Diet and intermittent fasting with weight training in the gym.

So what are your thoughts? Have you tried fasting before?  Successful or miserable failure?  Will you give a shot?  If so, please post your stories, thoughts, successes, concerns in the comments and we’ll see if this is something we can all wrap our heads around.


PS- Message Board Update – The message boards are still in ‘beta testing,’ but I would love to add some more readers to the mix to help me test it out.  We have about 20 readers contributing already , keeping track of their workouts, encouraging each other, etc, and I want some more!  If you’re interested in helping kick start the NF message boards, email me at and I’ll get you an invite.


picture – Undronotto

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  • Alison Westwood

    This article caught my eye because, for a few months now, I’ve been naturally skipping meals. I don’t feel particularly hungry, so I don’t bother eating until I do. Some days I don’t eat anything (besides a cup of ‘bulletproof’ coffee) until 3 or 4pm – and then I don’t eat more than I normally would for a light meal. Even though I think I’m ravenous at the time, a small amount of food usually proves to be plenty.

    I’d been feeling worried about this, because I’ve had the ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day’ message drilled into me all my life and was also told that if I skipped meals regularly, my body would get ‘anxious’ and hoard any calories I did get around to giving it.

    I’m also hypoglycaemic, so you’d think that my blood sugar wouldn’t be happy about this arrangement. But oddly, as long as I’m busy and focussed, drink plenty of water and have an apple around for emergencies, I don’t feel any of the shaky, irritable, weepy symptoms I used to suffer from when I ate more regularly. This said, I don’t think I’d cope very well if I skipped a meal and then did strenuous exercise. I’d definitely make sure I’d eaten something before going for a 3-hour hike, for instance.

    As for weight loss, I can’t comment. I’ve had a pretty steady BMI of around 20 – 21 most of my life, so I don’t pay much attention to the bathroom scale. I’m much more interested in flab loss and muscle gain, which is why I’m here 🙂

  • Big John

    I sort of started this around 6 weeks ago. I am about 6’0 to 6’1 tall and weighed 260. My blood pressure was high. My doctor sent me to the hospital.

    I stopped the sugar drinks; started water and stopped eating so MUCH. I have not added exercise. Ive lost 25 pounds in 6 weeks.

    I am hungry alot; but if you push through it you get used to it. Ive also made better choices about healthier foods.


  • DumbassNigga

    Yeah because that 1 dollar cheeseburger a poor person eats a day is really going to break his bank and make him fat.. you’re an idiot who missed the point entirely.. i named myself after you

  • MARY

    I’ve tried this lost 20 pounds then went to the hospital was 20 pounds under weight and you basically damage your body your body breaks down your muscles and use them for nutrition then you get dark circles under your eyes you get stretch marks and varicose veins your bones stick out you become weak you get bruises from lack of nutrition and you get scares easily and you can basically die yes you loose weight but then too much weight and your like a walking skeleton it’s DEADLY!

  • MARY

    You can’t starve your body and not eat at all if you want to die then starve your self and not eat anything but if you want to life but loose some weight exercise and eat healthier foods don’t starve yourself!

  • MARY

    If you want to live don’t starve yourself!

  • KhanGirl95

    I’ve usually always just read posts and blogs like these. Never got so tempted to appreciate anything though…
    So, this term “intermittent” fast is fairly new to me however, I have been fasting since I was 7. Yes, since I was 7… every year, once a month, for the entire month I’d fast (from dawn till sundown everyday). This is due to religious reasons. No food or drinks for 16-17 hours straight. Every year, during this time, i’d try to sleep as much as possible and not be active at all.
    However, this year was different. As a bioengineer I was working in a lab throughout the month and it’s safe to say that i’ve never been this focused and active in my life. The thought of not eating or drinking from dawn to sunset scares people, it scared me too. But by the end of it I realized how this should actually be a part of my lifestyle.
    IF makes total sense. We’re meant to be able to starve ourselves but our lifestyles are so “luxurious” that we want to eat every 15 minutes (that’s me on regular days!)
    I ate mostly vegetables and lean proteins and healthy fats when i was allowed to eat (night time) and i actually lost a huge percentage of body fat(which i was struggling with).
    I’m not considered fat or anything. I’m 5’6 and I weigh 130 lbs. But i’ve always had trouble finding a meal plan that would not make me bloat or feel lightheaded.
    Now i fast once a week (again for more religious reasons) and it works perfectly. That is usually the day I’m at home though since on other days I have lunch with my friends!

    always been a huge fan of self control and discipline and things that test my will. THIS IS ABSOLUTELY MOTIVATIONAL IF YOU DO IT AND REALIZE HOW STRONG YOU ARE!
    thanks for the article. Felt great reading it and could totally relate.

    btw, to clarify.. Muslims have a month every year where they have to fast from dawn till dusk- a fast from food, drink, sexual stuff and bad habits(like back biting etc).The purpose is to learn patience, practice self control, to realize how the poor have to go without food and to see what life is like without these things. All in all, i had never been so appreciative of this practice until I realized how much more energy,attention and willpower I had while fasting.

  • Jeff Sherry

    Great write up Steve. I’ve followed IF now for about 4 years as have many clients. The stories of improved health are endless. Not just improved body composition…IMPROVED HEALTH. Enjoy your journey!

  • Lee Barry

    I have been doing this for the past few weeks..I didn’t know it had a name. I had tried eating good foods 6x a day..working out like crazy and I only maintained. I am 44 years old and never had a problem with weight until I turned 42. Last year I blew out a disk and did not do much and I gained about 18 pounds. I had surgery and now I am at 95% well. I think the IF method may work I am down about 3 pds in 3 or so weeks. I am able to get in my workout on an empty tank and if I need a lol something I try a piece of fruit. Thanks for the informatiom. Good luck to all who are on their weightless journey I hope you find your method.


  • Jamal Elektro

    Check this out guys simple android app for your intermittent fasting journeys.

  • Susu

    So I do this really often, and I didn’t even know it was a thing, but I never really see results..when I skip a meal and stuff should I eat a full meal that day? Or .. usually I just snack on some fruits but it is not working.

  • Amir

    I am 13, should I be doing this? I wanna burn more body fat.

  • Dana

    Honestly I tried this and it actually works but just one thing, I don’t skip breakfast and I really don’t recommend anyone to skip breakfast unless you don’t work and you’re at home all day. I simply have breakfast and skip lunch and dinner which is quite easy for me to do, I eat like an orange and some cereal in the morning and it gives me lots of energy than one might assume. And even though at like 5-6 pm I get this little grumble in my stomach I just ignore it and it passes within 20 minutes. Then I go home and at like 9 pm I go to bed! It even gave me a regular sleep circle! So yeah my advice is to not skip breakfast, lunch dinner is the mistake here.

  • Morgan

    I have been doing this for 2 weeks although I go 3 days without eating, I just drink water. I can certainly tell a difference in my weight. Which I do this with exercise as well. I don’t really get hungry because the water fills me up and when I do eat it’s not much. I get full very quickly now

  • Grace Jarrett

    Can I eat a small snack between breakfast and lunch. ?i am a diabetic and I just switched to a dofferent set and want to feted of belly fat but can’t have low bg so if I cold eat something like a cheese stick or a cracker ?

  • Grace Jarrett

    Can I eat a small snack between breakfast and lunch. ?i am a diabetic and I just switched to a dofferent set and want to feted of belly fat but can’t have low bg so if I cold eat something like a cheese stick or a cracker ?

  • Sebastian Goryl Chonchera

    I’m 6’4 and was pushing 340lbs…did this twice a week for 3 weeks and lost 40 lbs and stopped for a while (I really don’t want to loose too much too quickly)cut all sugar ,soda and fried foods and ate oatmeal for breakfast big salad with olive oil and vinegar for lunch and usualy passed on dinner not feeling hungry or grabbed a burger at Wendy’s (burger only)
    I’m a truck driver so I lost all that weight sitting on my butt all day not exercising .I can’t even imagine what kind of success I’ll have starting tommorow when I put my new gym membership and paleo diet to test…I’m Onegative blood type so paleo is my genetic match and I can’t wait to see the results