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A Beginner’s Guide to Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting is pretty simple, but at the same time it can be pretty dang confusing. I have a couple friends who have tried it and they swear by it. And to be honest, those friends are lookin' GOOD.

Completely clueless, I went to Chris Alarcio, a fitness coach and nutritional consultant at Pro Fit Training Gym in Seattle, to get the DL.

First things first, what the heck is intermittent fasting and why on earth would I want to 'starve' myself?

"In short, intermittent fasting is a protocol that strategically cuts down the amount of time we spend eating throughout the day," said Alarcio. "The decreased amount of eating time, or 'feeding windows', allows our bodies to take advantage of the benefits of fasting."

Those benefits can include increased fat loss, improved insulin sensitivity, increased energy and cognitive function.

OK - so it's not starving yourself, it's setting 'eat times'. Sounding better already.

"One of the most common setups for IF is the 16/8 method, or 16 hour fasting period and 8 hour feeding window," explains Alarcio. "The easiest way to do this is to skip breakfast and have your first meal at noon."

Then, just make sure you eat your next two meals and snacks before 8 p.m. Once 8 o'clock're done for the day until tomorrow at noon, and you start all over.

"Feeding windows can be extended to 12 hours while keeping the benefits of fasting," he said. "The fasting/feeding cycle can be arranged in any orientation throughout the day to fit a persons needs."

Alarcio sticks with it because it truly has worked for him.

"I was raised like everyone else thinking I needed to eat three meals a day and I would sometimes stress out about not being able to have a 'healthy' breakfast," he said. "After trying IF, it became clear that breakfast didn’t have to be the most important meal of the day, and that was very eye-opening."

IF lets him create a plan that works with his schedule and needs, and can be flexible. Don't get us wrong though, there are some more hardcore IF plans.

"There are some protocols that call for one meal a day (called the warrior diet) and very conservative approach that calls for a 12-hour feeding window just a few days a week," Alarcio said. "I feel I am more productive when I plan to do work during fasting periods. I have experienced body fat loss, but that has not been my primary goal, more like a side effect."

Um, fast loss as a side effect is exactly what I'm aiming for.

Of course - anyone can give intermittent fasting a go, but Alarcio says he's seen some people have more success than others.

"To me, good candidates are those who have been fairly successful at changing their nutrition habits or have decent habits to begin with. For these types of people, IF serves as a way to jumpstart progress again after already having experienced some initial success."

There are a few basic ways to set up workouts around feeding windows. For example, if working out in the afternoon is your thing, you would want to have a moderate meal a couple hours before your workout to break your fast, and then a larger meal after your workout.

"Some people prefer to work out and fast in the morning while still keeping a 12 p.m. to 8 p.m.-ish feeding window, so they can have dinner at a more traditional time," he said. "Of course, you can also have breakfast at 6 a.m. then workout and have your last meal of the day by 2 p.m."

So in a nutshell, you have options people.

If you decide to go for it - there's a little wiggle room during your fasting period. Most experts agree that these beverages are approved while you fast:

  • Water
  • Black Coffee
  • Black Tea
  • Herbal and green teas
  • Diet Soda (in moderation)
  • Sparkling Water
  • Or any drink that is zero calories

Perhaps most importantly, intermittent fasting is one of the simplest strategies we have for taking bad weight off while keeping good weight on because it requires very little behavior change. This is a very good thing because it means intermittent fasting falls into the category of “simple enough that you'll actually do it, but meaningful enough that it will actually make a difference.”

As of the posting of this article, I'm on day three of 'daily fasting'. I chose to do exactly what Alarcio does and have my eating window be from 12-8pm. You guys, its not hard. I'm not starving and I do have more energy. I'm into it!