Intermittent Fasting 101: The Basics On Fasting To Lose Weight

July 18, 2018 | 447 Comments

fasting to lose weight

Quick, if you told anyone that you were fasting to lose weight, they would probably think:

a) You’re crazy


b) You’re crazy

It’s sad, but anytime you tell someone that you’re fasting, the only acceptable reasons for doing so are for medical or religious reasons. If you even mention the words “weight loss” and “fasting” in the sentence, then you’re in for a world of hurt.

But in my opinion, fasting for the sake of weight loss isn’t crazy. Not at all.

In fact, strategically fasting everyday for 16 or even 24 hours can provide a whole host of benefits over the conventional “eat breakfast and 6 meals per day” saying.

fasting to lose weight
Couldn’t find a relevant picture, so um… here’s a hot dog.

Basics of intermittent fasting

So what exactly is intermittent fasting (IF)?

Simply put, IF is the act alternating periods of fasting (not eating) and eating. While there is no official IF program, most programs range from 12-24 hours of fasting.

So why is Intermittent Fasting awesome?

Well lets see:

  • You get to eat bigger meals
  • You get more work done since you’re not eating as often
  • You have more energy since you’re not bogged down by food
  • You get to stick your middle finger at every single fitness guru who says eating every 2-3 hours is absolutely necessary for good health

I could go on and on.

Is IF unsafe?

In short, IF is safe.

However, just like everything else in life, if you overdo it and take it to the extreme, then it will become dangerous. If an intermittent fasting program tells you to fast for 16 hours, you shouldn’t disregard that and decide to fast for 100 hours.

As long as you don’t do anything crazy like that, then there’s really nothing dangerous about IF.

But won’t fasting make me fat?

I never really saw the logic in this statement, but since when the hell did not eating make you fat?

But anyways, many people have this ludicrous belief that fasting will make them fat. This belief originates from mainstream media where they constantly promote the fallacy that fasting will force your body hold onto its body fat and make it burn muscle instead which is just incredibly stupid.

Will IF make me lose muscle mass?

When it comes to fasting, another popular myth that people believe is that fasting will make you lose all your hard earned muscle mass.  This is simply not true and as long as you perform of heavy resistance training 2-3 times per week, then you shouldn’t fear about losing any muscle mass.

If you need further proof, check out this research study. In it, scientists showed that even when people ate a super low calorie diet (800 calories per day), they were able to maintain all their muscle by lifting weights. The reason behind this is because the act of lifting weights sends a signal to your brain that you want to preserve all your muscle mass.

But don’t you need to eat more often to have more energy?

This is exactly what food companies thrive off of. They create all these products that target people who need a “quick energy boost” or a quick afternoon “pick me up”.

But in reality, these people probably don’t even need these products. They buy them because they fear that they’re suddenly going to crash and burn when in reality nothing is really going to happen.

If you just give your body a chance to experience what it’s like be without food every 2-3 hours you’ll realize that you’ll actually have more energy than ever.

Just give it a shot.

IF is just another way to eat

Even though I love IF and would NEVER go back to eating 6 times per day again, I have to admit, it’s just another tool. It’s another tool to help you lose/maintain weight.

Unlike most fitness professionals, I’m not going to tell you that it’s 100% necessary to do something. I’m not going to tell you that it’s absolutely mandatory to do IF because honestly, it’s not for everyone.

Some people just love to eat small meals every 2-3 hours, and if you’re one of those people, then that’s cool. I’m not gonna judge you.

But if intermittent fasting sounds good to you, then check out the 3 most popular IF programs below.

A look at various IF programs

Over the past couple of years, more and more fasting programs have come into the market. IF is slowly growing in popularity, but here are the 3 most popular forms of IF:

1) Eat Stop Eat

Eat Stop Eat was created by Brad Pilon is now arguably the most well known form of intermittent fasting. I’ve been using this program for the past 3 years, and if you read my blog often then you know that I absolutely love this program.

Brad Pilon
Brad Pilon – creator of Eat Stop Eat

Eat Stop Eat requires you to fast for 24 hours (e.g. 7pm on Sunday till 7pm on Monday) 1-2 times per week. On the other 5-6 days of the week, your main goal is to simply eat normal (maintenance calories).

The whole goal of fasting 1-2 times per week is to let those days create a calorie deficit of 10-15%.

Important Eat Stop Eat notes:

  • Even though you’re fasting for an entire 24 hours, this doesn’t mean you get a free pass to the all you can eat buffet. The main goal is to simply eat normal after each fast. Don’t over or under compensate for anything.
  • Despite fasting for 24 hours, you still get to eat every single day. So for example, if you start a fast on Wednesday night and end it on Thursday night, that means you get to eat a meal on Thursday night. Awesome, huh?
  • Eat Stop Eat is more of a lifestyle change than an actual diet since you’re only eating less for 1-2 days of the week.

You can red my review of Eat Stop Eat here.

2) Leangains

Leangains - Martin Berkhan
As you can see, fasting has made Martin a very fat man

And now we have Leangains created by the oh so famous Martin Berkhan (seen above).

But unlike Eat Stop Eat, Leangains has a much larger focus on pre/post workout nutrition and macronutrients.

With Leangains, you’re fasting every single day. Men will fast for 16 hours and women will fast for 14 hours.

While many people have effectively used Leangains to lose weight, many people have also used it to effectively pack on muscle mass. But not only is this muscle mass, it’s lean muscle, meaning minimal fat gains hence the term “Lean” gains. This is achieved though calorie and macronutrient cycling. If you’re ever looking for a program that lets you pack on muscle with minimal amounts of fat, then this one’s for you.

There are a couple different variations on Leangains, but all every one has you taking 10 grams BCAA before workouts.

I don’t want to delve into the rest of the details but if you’re interested in the rest of the Leangains protocol you can read the Leangains guide here.

3) Warrior Diet

Warrior diet
Ori hofmekler – creator of Warrior Diet

And lastly, we have the Warrior Diet created by Ori Hofmekler.

This form of fasting to lose weight isn’t as popular as the first two, but it was the first form of IF I tried and till this day, I still use it from time to time.

The Warrior Diet has you fasting for 20-24 hours every single day, so it’s similar to Eat Stop Eat in terms of the fasting length.

During your fasts you can still drink water and zero calorie drinks like tea, coffee, and diet soda.

But the main difference here is that you’re eating all your calories in 1 massive meal per day. The mainstream media will probably never promote this way of eating, but hey, it works.

I’ve done it in the past, and you really don’t feel hungry while fasting. Plus, every day is like a mini feast since you get to eat a crap ton of calories in one sitting.

4) Honorable mentions

Some other great intermittent fasting programs include:

So which program is best?

Whew, all this fasting talk has gotten me a little hot. And hopefully I’ve gotten you a little bit excited too, maybe even got your nipples hard.

But if you had to choose, which of the above 3 is the best intermittent fasting program.

Well… I don’t know.

It’s really a personal preference. I’m not going say that Eat Stop Eat is the absolute best IF program out there because it’s not. It’s one of the best, but it’s not the absolute best.

Some people don’t like to fast for 24 hours and that’s fine. In that case, you should try something more along the lines of Leangains.

And if someone likes to come home from work every day and just stuff their face with food, then the Warrior Diet is probably best for them.

In the end it all comes down to choosing a program that fits your lifestyle.

Fasting to lose weight = not crazy

Seriously guys, fasting is not as crazy as you think. You’re simply waiting longer between meals.

But to be able to effectively use intermittent fasting, you need to have an open mind.

You need to be able to let everything that you thought you knew about nutrition and dieting  behind and be able to step into this new world of “not eating”.

But trust me, once you starting fasting, you’ll never want to go back.

Have you ever tried fasting to lose weight? Did you like it? Let me know in the comments below.

447 Comments - Leave Your Thoughts

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  1. Hi, I’ve been reading about IF and have decided to give it a try. But I am not sure how to determine how many calories I should be eating. I am going to either EatStopEat or Leangains. I am a female at 5’5″ and currently weigh 330lbs. Can you suggest calorie intake or tell me where to find it?

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  2. Keith,
    I have been using intermittent fasting for a few weeks and have cut a lot of things out of my diet. I started strength training again as well and I have lost almost 4o lbs and am starting to get that ripped look. Lots of people have noticed and asked what I am doing too. Great times! Love the Lean gains as I too use the 16 hour fast model. Thanks for the great article.

    Mike Mason

  3. Hi there

    I’m female 47, 164cm 83.5kg and recently been diagnosed with T2 diabeties. I’m keen to do IF 24hr but unsure of calories qty to eat in my one sitting?
    You opinion would be appreciated thanks

      1. Thanks!!! I’m struggling to get 1200-1300 cal in but I’m happy with my 24 IF so far. I do get a bit weird between 20-24 hours but I’ll get accustomed to it soon enough. Only been 4 days and I’ve lost just on 2kg 🙂

    1. People diagnosed with diabetes, hypoglycemia or any other sort of illness should not participate in a fasting program. The long hours without food will cause drops in your blood sugar levels that are potentially very unsafe. This could be why you get “weird” between 20 and 24 hours without food. I can’t tell you what to do, but I hope you will be careful please.

  4. You say to multiply BW by 10 to get the daily intake. Does that mean I would still consume 2800cal every day after my 16hr fast? Or if I chose to do EatStopEat, would I consume 2800cal on the days I eat? I’ve hit a plateau, so I’m trying to understand what I need to do differently.

    1. if you weigh 280, yes.

      ESE is different. After your 24 hour fast, Pilon likes to recommend eating a “normal sized” meal. Something maybe no more than 1000 cals. So this creates a huge deficit. But that’s why you only fast 1-2x per week.

  5. I’m 5’5″ female who weighed 128 lbs when I started IF, 8:16 ratio. My caloric intake was between 700-100 calories with little or no brisk walk as my only form of exercise. It has been 10 days and instead of losing weight, I’ve come to app 130 lbs. Why???
    Below are my rough nutrient intake:
    Protein: 34-27g
    Cabs: 100-125
    Fibre: 8-12
    Sugar: 40-60

    1. cals are a bit lower than what i recommend. There’s also always the potential that you’re eating more than you think.

  6. I have been on keto diet for over 8 months. I have lost 51 pounds and hit the wall. I am 15 pounds to my goal weight and I started 8/16 4 months ago and not budging the scale. What should I do. I have been staying with protein, salads, some fruit and nuts. I drink plenty o water. Any Suggestions? I hike on weekends and during the week go to the gym to lift weight.

    I’m discouraged this week I was up 3 pounds. Thanks or advice.

  7. I have been fasting doing my own thing… 20 hours of fasting and eating for 4 hours. I also started doing one 48 hour fast per month. I started out with eating 1200 Calories a day. Whatever I wanted. Even cookies, frozen yogurt and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Lol I lost 15 lbs in the first 6 weeks. But wanted to lose faster. So I switched to 1000 calories a day. And lost an additional 15 in just 4 more weeks. I also switched to fresh zucchini and sweet potatoes since finally local veggies are ripe and at market. I eat an entire large zucchini. That is only 62 calories! I am so stuffed that I have to make myself eat enough calories. I have never had so much energy! And my peri menopause symptoms are gone! That right gone!!! I was having horrible hot flashes! As well as most of my fibromyalgia pain! I honestly cannot believe how much better I feel! Like a kid again! I am 50 years old. I am 5′ 8″. I weigh 145 lbs. And like to be about 120 lbs. I have a very small frame. I will without question will continue this way of life! My goal is to lose 25 more pounds. I have never been fat. But had a medical issue that prevented me from taking care of myself. Intermittent fasting is amazing!!! I normally do the low carb thing. But this is in my opinion a thousand times better. And it is something that will be easy to continue with higher maintenance calories~once I reach my goal. Love it!!

      1. I jst wanted to add… That due to my sacroiliac joint being out of socket. I am in physical therapy. But the excercises are very minimal. And do nothing to burn calories or build muscle. I have lost this weight without losing muscle. And have had a sedentary lifestyle. I weighed myself this evening. So since Wednesday. Which is the weight loss that I originally reported… I have lost 3 more pounds. This is Friday. Bringing the total to 33 pounds. I have become a fat burning machine! I cannot believe how amazing the positive benefits of fasting effect the body! Or how rapidly it works! And I am
        never hungry! And have no cravings which is unheard of for me. I read that studies show that fasting has taken animals back to their embryonic state! It is a youth tool! My skin has never looked better! My wrinkles and fine lines are diminishing. I have never had so many positive changes so rapidly. And I also know my body’s production of hgh has increased! I can feel it! I had been on injectable for several years. I will say. That this is actually better! I just tried this on a whim… Who knew that it would be life changing?!? Lol Score!!! I highly recommend fasting! I cannot say enough good things about it! 🙂

  8. I get off work at midnight and like to drink a glass of 2% milk as I calm down for the night. Would this screw my 16 hour fast up? Or is it just food? Thanks.

    1. nothing ever “screws up” the fast. It’s not an all or nothing thing. As long as your target calories are hit by end of day, nothing else really matters.

      1. Okay. So how many calories should I eat a day? I weigh 219lbs. Also what if I don’t meet that calorie intake? Sometimes because of the weird hours I work I don’t eat a lot. I do a cross-fit class everyday except Sunday at 9am. I then go to work at 4 and stay till midnight. So I am going to try this by only eating between noon and 8pm then starting my fast then. Does this make sense? Thanks.

      2. Okay so what happens if I don’t meet my daily calorie intake? I work 4 to midnight so I don’t eat a lot. I am trying this by eating only between noon and 8pm. I know you said take your body weight and multiply it by 10. I know sometimes I am no where near what that would be. Just didn’t know what the results would be. Thanks

  9. I am on the weight loss warpath. I am 46, 5’1 and weigh a disgusting 170lbs. I am going through, or praying at the end of Perimenopause and it has been a horrible journey for me.
    I want to take my life back.
    My goal is to lose 50lbs.
    I fasted (24hrs) for first time today. Last meal Saturday night at 8, next meal in 2.5 hours (whoo hoo). I like the idea of doing this 2 days a week. Resuming normal healthy eating in between fasts.
    If I read correctly on the non fasting days I should be consuming 1700 calories?
    I do 30 min of interval cardio daily and every other a regimen of weights to tone.
    Looking for insight I guess.

  10. Hi Keith I see that a lot of questions above are about caloric intake when breaking fast. That is pretty much my question too because I’ve been doing 24 fasting for 7 days a week and I’m wondering when I have my meal it tends to be around a thousand to 1200 calories a day so I’m concerned whether or not I’m not eating enough. My goal is to lose weight and body fat as well but I don’t i feel full when eating around 1200 calories. Plus I eat high fat low carb meals in order to remain in ketosis. By eating this way, am I training my body to only eat 1200 calories so that when I do go over my caloric intake say normal 2000 would that set me up for weight gain? what’s your recommendation or what is the correct way of breaking fast? what’s the caloric intake one should eat per body weight? You gave equations of body weight x 10. Since I’m 230 lbs that would put my caloric intake to 2300 per day. However I need to lose weight. Currently my weight is 230 lb, height 5 6 and would like to lose about 90 lbs. I eat 1 meal a day 7 days a week.

    1. I feel like you’re overcomplicating this.

      10x is a solid multiplier. Do that consistently and you’ll lose weight like crazy. It will take time though, there’s no quick fix. IF is nothing magical, just a way to spread your calorie intake.

  11. What about training first thing in the morning? I usually wait until 2-4 to have my first meal. I like training in the am cuase that’s when I feel optimal. Will pre workouts and / or bcaas take you out of the fasted state?

  12. Eating less than 1000 cal after 21 he fast. Been fasting 15 days I weighed 178, down to 174. I brisk walk 3 miles daily. Fasting was tough first several days now it’s easy. Trying to get to 150. I like to have meat on my bones.5’6″… Any tips you have for weight loss?

  13. I’m on here looking for answers as to why this is working fir me? I randomly decided to give IF a try. I fast 20 hrs per day and only consume calories between 5-9pm. I have been using a fitness tracker to track the calories I do consume. For my height and weight (originally 229lb) 1380 calories/day was recommended for 2lb per week weight loss. I have been going over, more like 1500/day and have weighed in this AM (10 days into dieting) weighing 218lb. I am always so surprised when I step on the scale and see another loss each morning. I will be 50 soon, so losing weight these past few years has been challenging, but gaining has been a breeze. I’m crossing fingers that this is my magic tool to help me go all the way. I have found that when my stomach growls during my fasting hours, that sips of seltzer water calms that right down. Thanks for providing the info about IF-ing, I really think it’s incredible and I’m feeling amazing for the first time in many, many years.

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