If you’ve read through our blog, you’ve seen the articles on the many benefits intermittent fasting has to offer beyond fat loss and adding muscle. The purpose of this article is to cut straight to exactly what steps to follow to drive fat loss with IF. Though you’ll get a ton internal health benefits while getting lean, we’ll leave those for the other articles. Here is exactly what to do to get lean with IF.
Step 1: Know your schedule.
- Schedule: To start, you’re going to set up a 16 hour window where you have zero incoming calories. You want this to work as conveniently as possible based off your schedule. For most people, the hours from 8PM-12PM work well but if you’re a nurse or have an unusual schedule, you’ll need to find a window that works best for you. Ideally, the majority of your fasting hours will be when you’re sleeping but to each their own. In layman’s terms, you’re simply skipping breakfast and having your first meal at lunch.
NOTE: There may be an adaptation period when you’re just getting started. The body needs to adapt to skipping breakfast, especially if you’ve been eating breakfast religiously for a long time. Typically, 3-5 days are all it takes. If you find yourself feeling dizzy, shaky or lightheaded and the clock hasn’t struck 12PM yet, eat. Continue to push the meal back as you adapt and you’ll hit your windows in no time.
Step 2: Identify your numbers.
- Calories: Since the goal is fat loss, you’ll need to consistently maintain a caloric deficit over time. In order to find your numbers we’ll be using your goal or target weight. Here’s your equation:
- Goal Weight x 12 = Daily Caloric Limit (DCL)
- Your goal is to eat less calories than you DCL consistently, over time.
- Protein: When the body is in a caloric deficit, there is a growing potential for the body to use muscle as fuel. We do not want to let this happen. Losing muscle tissue while getting lean sabotages long term sustainability. The less muscle tissue you have, the lower your metabolic rate. The lower your metabolic rate, the less calories your body burns per day, making it harder and harder to maintain fat loss. For this reason there is a Daily Protein Minimum (DPM) we’ll focus on hitting. Here’s how to find your number;
- Goal Weight x .7 = Daily Protein Minimum (DPM) in grams
- As long as you’re average amount of protein per day is coming in close to your number, you’ll continue to progress and set yourself up for long term success.
Step 3: Drink Up
- It’s always important to stay hydrated but it becomes even more so while in a fasted state. Dehydration leads to premature hunger pangs and slows fat loss. Aim for close to a gallon a day and it’ll make the process much easier. Along with water, you can have tea (caffeinated or not), black coffee and sparkling water. Feel free to add lemon to your water or a plant-based sweetener like Stevia to your coffee or tea. Caffeine can be used strategically to suppress hunger when the mid-morning pangs hit. However, caffeinating too early in the morning could lead to shakiness which won’t help your early efforts to get to lunch calorie-free. Test for yourself and adjust as needed.
Step 4: Eliminate Snacking & Nail Lunch
- Technically, the standard eating window is about 12PM-8PM, within which you can eat as often as you’d like as long as adhering to the numbers in step 2. Instead of free-wheeling it and taking the unstructured route, I’d like you to take a more strategic approach and eat only at lunch and dinner. The reason being that the body releases insulin anytime anything with a calorie is eaten. Insulin is counter-productive to fat loss.
Additionally, snacking is typically mindless and can push you over your caloric limits without you even knowing. Instead, I’d like you to focus on having a protein, fat and fiber-filled lunch. This magic mix of macronutrients will keep you feeling full, keep the caloric load relatively low and allow tons of freedom for your choices at dinner.
A cobb salad is a great example of the protein, fat and fiber mix. You’ll get a good amount of protein from the eggs and chicken, good fat from the avocado and lots of fiber from the greens. If you swap the heavy dressing out for a vinaigrette, you’re looking at 500-600 calories. For most, this leaves about 1,000 calories for you to play with at dinner.
The goal is to make this easy and allow you to fully enjoy the process. The end of the day should be built for kicking back and relaxing, not worrying about calories. For most this works like a charm. If you prefer a bigger lunch and smaller dinner, feel free to switch it around. Either way, eliminating snacking will streamline the process and require less mental effort.
Step 5: Track Everything
- If you don’t know where you are, you cannot get to where you’re going. Tracking each and every calorie can be tedious at first but this is a mandatory step if you’re serious about making permanent change. Think of tracking as a crash course in the school of nutrition. You won’t have to do so forever and just a few weeks of monitoring your calories will teach you all you need to know about food.
There are tons of food tracking apps but the one I recommend is My Fitness Pal. It’s got an enormous food database and saves entries so you don’t have to manually re-enter foods every time. We are creatures of habit and tend to eat the same 20 or so foods over and over again. In addition to what you eat you’ll need to track how much you eat. A little extra effort goes a long way.
Do not skip this step or try to eyeball your nutrition. If you know exactly how much you’re getting and apply the steps we’ve covered here, you are guaranteeing your efforts will yield the results you’re after.
In conclusion, fat loss is not complicated. You need knowledge and a vehicle to get you there. There is a lot on the nutritional front we purposely did not cover here because these are the principles that matter regarding fat loss. After covering and implementing the steps we’ve covered here, you have everything you need to take control of your health and get you exactly where you want to go. Start today.