By Dr Joe
Does coffee break a fast? A very good question. Some people just cannot get on with their day, if it doesn’t start with a regular morning routine that includes a coffee drink. That’s a habit of a lifetime for them and it’s pretty hard for them to change it.
And with all the rave about intermittent fasting as one of the healthiest things you can do for your health, you don’t want to miss out. You know the drill. Fear of missing out (FOMO). So you join in the fun of intermittent fasting.
Now you have a clash of concepts in your hands. I’m supposed to be fasting and I like my coffee. How do I marry the two ideas. Hence, you have to ask the all-important question; does coffee break intermittent fasting?
If you go on this wonderful platform we call the internet to research this, all you get is conflicting opinions and views.
The Plan – What You’ll Get On This Page
You needn’t worry, because you have just landed on the right page where you’ll get the low-down on:
The effect of plain black coffee on intermittent fasting and the effect of bulletproof coffee on fasting (water fast and dry fast). Plain black coffee and bulletproof coffee affect fasting differently. You’ll get to know this.
The science, the effect of coffee on insulin, coffee effect on ketosis, coffee effect on autophagy, ampk enzyme and of course that will include bulletproof coffee as well.
Not forgetting how coffee with cream, stevia, dairy milk, nut milk affects fasting.
Plus, you get my suggested approach to using coffee during your fast.
I’ll clear the confusion for you. You’re going to love this.
First things first…
It makes sense to want to know ‘what a fast is’ and why you’re fasting. Kinda makes sense, right?
What’s a fast?
Our friends at Wikipedia defined it as:
“Fasting is the willing abstinence or reduction from some or all food, drink, or both, for a period of time. An absolute fast or dry fasting is normally defined as abstinence from all food and liquid for a defined period”
So, the fact that you are thinking of drinking coffee in the morning or any time for that matter, during your fast means you are not doing a Dry Fast. Because a dry fast means nothing goes through your mouth. Nothing!
If you are doing a dry fast, and you drink coffee, that means you have broken your fast. Period.
The fact that drinking coffee does break a dry fast is not debatable. Right?
I’m glad we cleared that up…quickly. Now, let’s move on.
What about the more Popular Water Fast and coffee?
Okay, not everyone is suited to a dry fast. I love doing it. You may not.
So, if you’re not doing a dry fast, then you are most certainly doing a Water Fast, right?
And that’s where the question then pops up; does coffee ruin a water fast?
Let’s talk about coffee and water fast then. Because water fast is what we are doing, if we are even considering a coffee drink at all.
Does Coffee break a fast?
As usual with these things, it’s not a straight ‘Yes and No’ answer.
Because coffee comes in various “shapes and sizes”. Not the size of the cup or the shape of the cup. No, not that. I mean coffee is prepared in different ways.
More ways than you can imagine. In fact, I saw an ad the other day on facebook about ‘CBD oil with coffee’. Wow. If that’s not a contradiction in terms, I don’t know what is. But I digress there.
The answer as to whether drinking coffee will ruin your water fast will depend on what type of coffee. I know you are thinking, isn’t coffee just coffee?
Not quite. Because you can have coffee with cream, bulletproof coffee, plain black coffee without sugar or cream or milk, coffee with stevia, coffee with almond milk, coffee with collagen, coffee with monk fruit extract etc. And that’s just a tip of the iceberg when it comes to coffee preps.
Truth be told:
If you are having coffee with any other food added to it, You Are Breaking Your Fast. A true water fast is water only. Drinking anything else muddles the water (no pun intended).
The argument is whether having plain black coffee with nothing else in it breaks your fast or not. And we shall come to that in a minute.
Before then, let me talk about Bulletproof coffee and fasting.
Does Bulletproof Coffee break a fast?
It’s funny how we can try and msucle an argument over simple things just to suit our personal circumstances and sometimes to suit our pocket. Beware of commercial intentions behind what advice you are given.
Listening to podcasts about bulletproof coffee, tea break, calories, fats, ketones and healthy living, it’s amazing how we are are even debating if bulletproof coffee breaks a fast or not. Because it’s not debatable…at all. Remember our definition of a fast?
It’s funny that commercial interest will drive a debate in a direction that wants to make you scream at your smart phone or laptop device.
If you want to know the answer to the relationship between bulletproof coffee and fasting. Here it is.
Bulletproof coffee will break your fast. Period.
You can use bulletproof coffee to boost your fitness results if you want to. Nothing wrong with that. In fact, I encourage it. But just know that bulletproof coffee with break your intermittent fasting.
Why is this?
Okay, let’s look at what’s in a bulletproof coffee first of all. In fact, let’s make a cup of bulletproof coffee whilst we are at it.
How to make a bulletproof coffee
Here’s how you make 1 cup of bulletproof coffee
- Scoop 2 ½ heaping tablespoons of freshly ground Amazonian Coffee Beans made with a French Press. This preserves beneficial coffee oils that paper filters tend to sieve off.
- You add 1 – 2 tablespoons of Brain Octane Oil.You may use other Medium-chain triglyceride oils like Coconut oil instead.
- Then add 1-2 tablespoons of grass-fed, unsalted butter or grass-fed ghee butter. Ensure the butter is unsalted. The last thing you want is Salty coffee. Not nice!
- You may add a scoop of Collagen Powder. This is optional.
- Then blend all of these mixture for about 30 seconds or thereabout. Stop the blender when you have a foamy latte.
This is how you make a lovely, creamy coffee that will send your energy stores through the roof. Think endurance.
So, you have 1 – 2 tablespoons of Brain Octane oil fetching 125 – 250 calories and the butter bringing another 100 – 200 calories making a total of 225 – 450 calories. This is liquid food, by all accounts.
Liquid food like Bulletproof coffee breaks your fast
If you are consuming anything with calories in it, you’re by definition breaking your fast. It’s that simple.
We can argue as to whether consuming bulletproof coffee is a good thing or bad thing, and I’ll clarify that in a minute. But what’s not up for argument is; if bulletproof coffee breaks your fast or not.
Because let it be known here; bulletproof coffee breaks your fast. It sure does.
If you’re potentially consuming those amounts of calories in bulletproof coffee, then you’re techically eating and indeed you are breaking your fast.
I think the question we should be answering is; does it matter at all that you break your fast with bulletproof coffee?
What about Collagen and fasting?
Before I get to that, let me quickly answer the question, does collagen break my fast? If you want to know if collagen will break your fast or not, the answer is; yes, it will.
Collagen will break your fast because it is protein and it contains calories. In fact, 1 gm of Collagen powder will furnish you with 4 Calories.
Hence, if you consume collagen during your fast, you are also technically eating. Because you are consuming calories. Fasting should be a calorie-free endeavour. Adding collagen powder to any drink would mean you are administering calories during your fast.
What about coffee with cream, dairy milk and Nut milk and fasting?
The same thing applies to having your coffee with cream or dairy milk or any nut milk like almond milk. If you consume coffee with cream, dairy milk, almond milk, hazelnut milk, hemp milk, cashew nut milk, goat milk, you are breaking your fast for the same afore-mentioned reason.
But you won’t be breaking your fast if you add calorie-free sweetner instead. So, if you drink your coffee with Stevia, monk fruit extract, erythritol or yacon syrup, you won’t be breaking your fast.
What about plain black coffee.
Does plain black coffee break a fast?
No, plain black coffee without any added sugar does not break your fast. Indeed, you may even add a calorie-free sweetner as stated above, if you like and you still will not break your intermittent fasting schedule with black coffee.
The reason is; plain black coffee has no calories. It might have some influence on insulin but that effect is sub-clinical, so long as you don’t have added sugar, added cream, added nut milk or added dairy milk.
Plain black coffee will not stimulate insulin secretion significant enough to blunt the hormonal benefits of intermittent fasting.
So, does breaking your fast with Coffee really matter?
Let’s start with bulletproof coffee. One reason bulletproof coffee became popular and indeed the reason we are talking about it now is because of Dave Asprey.
He was hiking in the Tibet mountainous regions and he was served coffee with Yak butter during his hiking escapades.
He noticed that he could hike for longer, his endurance was so much better and he wasn’t hungry for hours on end. He felt so much better and naturally when he got back home, he publicized this discovery and here we are.
We’re talking about bulletproof coffee as a standalone concept in fitness. Thanks to that serendipity.
The point is, yes, you’ll break your fast with bulletproof coffee but the fitness benefits are so much more.
You would fast for longer because the fat in the coffee keeps hunger at bay and you’ll still burn fat. Indeed, the longer you fast, the more the benefits especially when it comes to autophagy.
Fat does not stimulate insulin much, so that effect is negligible. And if you are already deep in ketosis, bulletproof coffee will not kick you out of ketosis. You should be fine staying in ketosis with bulletproof coffee.
Some people will argue that you’ll burn more fat if you didn’t have the bulletproof coffee at all. That may be true but there’s a way around that that I’ll tell you shortly.
What about coffee effect on AMPK enzyme?
Well in case you don’t know about AMPK, it is Adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK). This is an enzyme you want to upregulate if you want to burn fat.
AMPK promotes fat burning whilst inhibiting fat storage. The good news is that the caffeine in coffee actually upregulates this enzyme which works in your favour. It not only does that. The caffeine in coffee is also involved in repair activities like blood vessel wall damage repair through this AMPK enzyme.
Chlorogenic acid in Coffee does what?
Coffee is one food that has chlorogenic acid in it. Guess what chlorogenic acid does?
Chlorogenic acid is involved in the delay of glucose absorption from the intestines and promotes the entry of glucose inside the skeletal muscle cell. The net effect is; lowering of blood glucose. That’s what you want.
By the way, chlorogenic acid is also found in caffeinated tea.
Will Coffee affect Autophagy?
Did you know that we all have cancer cells in our bodies every now and again. The reason these cancer cells don’t progress is because of the process called autophagy.
Autophagy is a physiological process whereby our bodies eat up these ‘bad, disordered cells’ that potentially can lead to cancer. This is what this scientific paper that confirmed coffee does promote autophagy in mice said about autophagy.
“Autophagy preferentially targets damaged macromolecules (such as unfolded and aggregated proteins) and organelles (such as dysfunctional mitochondria), it contributes to ridding the cytoplasm of aged structures and hence potentially “rejuvenates” non-nuclear portions of the cell”
That quote above might be too geeky for you but the take home message from that research is that coffee does not interfere with Autophagy. This is good news because autophagy is one of the selling points of intermittent fasting.
It will be a tragedy if drinking coffee inhibited autophagy. I particularly love this because it means drinking coffee will not ruin a water fast.
What about coffee effect on insulin?
Opinion is divided as far as the effect of coffee on insulin and insulin sensitivity is concerned. This paper talks about that.
Looking at all the research, it is clear that there may a short-term reduction in insulin sensitivity when you take coffee. But that may not matter much if tissues like your brain that prefer to use glucose as its energy source metabolize the glucose quickly.
This effect actually applies to people who do not drink coffee often. Because for habitual coffee drinkers, coffee actually increases insulin sensitivity.
Will coffee kick you out of ketosis?
I know this is always a concern for individuals on the ketogenic diet doing intermittent fasting as part of the ‘package’. Well be rest assured that drinking coffee (even bulletproof coffee) will not kick you out of ketosis.
Why, because caffeine in coffee actually increases plasma ketones. So, rather than worry about possible negative effect of caffeine in coffee or tea on ketone production, you should celebrate it because the opposite is true.
This reasearch tells us that caffeine drunk at breakfast actually stimulated ketone production by a whopping 88%. Nice!
What I suggest you do:
Use your coffee if you want to regardless of the fact that you are doing intermittent fasting. Don’t let it bother you.
If you are so concerned about any negative effect, be reassured by what you have read here on this page. I am telling you that it is okay to drink coffee while fasting.
==> Use black coffee if you are still dubious about it. Do not add any other ingredient, although a calorie-free sweetner should not cause any disruption to your fasting plans.
==> If you want to use bulletproof coffee, you may want to delay it until the last hour before your workout. That way any calories arising from using the bulletproof coffee will be used up during your workout. Cool!
Remember, Dave Asprey who “invented” bulletproof coffee used to drink it and then go for his energy-sapping hikes. He didn’t drink it and went sedentary. He moved…a lot. He didn’t sit around doing very little.
Hence, I will recommend you do the same and you shouldn’t have to worry about the calories in bulletproof coffee. Not one bit should you be worried if you adopted this approach.
Let me know what you think about this piece. Have I done justice to this all-important topic. Please leave your comments below. I’ll appreciate it.
Suggested further reading:
1 Unique Spice That BEATS Abdominal Fat (plus controls blood sugar)
By Dr Joe
Is Taking BCAAs During Intermittent Fasting Necessary?
So, I get asked often this question: Is taking BCAAs necessary during intermittent fasting? Framed in another way: Is intermittent fasting BCAA necessary?
Both questions are essentially needing the same answer. So, let me answer those questions on this page.
But before I answer the question, let me quickly settle this other query: Can you have BCAAs while fasting?
That seems to bog a lot of people too, but that’s okay. My blog was created to solve questions.
So, can you take BCAAs during fasts?
Answer: Yes, you can take BCAAs during your fast, but it’s always better to take your BCAAs towards the end of your fast.
Why is that? Well, BCAAs do have a calorific value. That means in essence, taking BCAA supplements, you are technically breaking your fast.
But only to a small degree. See my detailed answer here.
Okay, now that we have established that you can take BCAAs during your fast, let’s get on with the main event of this page.
Is intermittent fasting BCAA necessary?
The answer to that is Yes and No.
Okay, now you are thinking, Dr Joe is hedging his bets here.
No, I am not. Because there are arguments on both sides of the divide.
As I am not one to shy away from a scientific argument, I’m going to explain why you may or may not have intermittent fasting BCAAs.
Whether you should take BCAAs during intermittent fasting depends on what you are trying to achieve, in the first place.
Okay, let me explain. I will start with the ‘Yes, you do’ and finish up with the ‘No, you don’t’
Yes, you do need bcaa supplements during intermittent fasting…why?
Here is why.
If muscle gain and fat loss are your objectives for doing intermittent fasting, then yes, you need BCAAs.
Don’t forget that not everyone wants to sculpture their body with intermittent fasting. Some people just want to lose weight (lose fat) without bothering with muscle gain.
BCAAs are amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Muscle is mainly made up of proteins.
If you are going to build muscle, you are going to need proteins. Lots of it.
There are people whose diet may not be as sophisticated as those in the fitness know. In which case, they may not consume the required dietary amount of proteins necessary for a good muscle build.
BCAA supplements will bridge that gap in these individuals.
Of course, you are going to work out if you desire muscle gain. Good resistance training to build muscle. I don’t need to tell you that building muscle will require some serious lifts. No Pain, No Gain is the well-worn out parlance, right?
Go gently though, to avoid injuries. But to reach your muscle gain goal, you will need to exercise about 3 times a week with rest days to allow your body to recover.
Do you need to workout more than 3 times a week? You may. But you wouldn’t want to do it more than 4 times a week at a push (no pun intended).
Like I said earlier on, to build new muscle and even to preserve existing muscles, you need proteins. And proteins are made up of amino acids inclusive of the branched-chain amino acids in BCAAs.
Here are the advantages of using Intermittent Fasting BCAAs
- Intermittent fasting BCAAs help with Protein Manufacture
The muscle cell is called a myocyte.
Myocytes are one of the most metabolically active group of cells in the body. There is constant breakdown of amino acids by a process of oxidation inside the myocyte (muscle cell).
The more activity the muscle cells are engaged in, the higher the level of breakdown of protein that will occur.
Any breakdown of protein inside will have to be replenished. Without that, muscle loss will occur.
This research tells us that indeed, exercise is one thing that generates a lot of oxidative activity inside the muscle cell.
But that’s not all, that study is also telling us the BCAA requirements do go up during exercise.
If we then agree that essential amino acids requirements inside the muscle cell increases during exercise, then taking BCAAs for workout purposes during intermittent fasting won’t be a bad idea.
We will simply be replenishing the amino acids our muscle cells are burning during workout when we are fasting.
This is particularly important if we are working out when we haven’t broken our fast during intermittent fasting.
In fact, that study did conclude thus:
“BCAA supplementation before and after exercise has beneficial effects for decreasing exercise-induced muscle damage and promoting muscle-protein synthesis”
2. Intermittent fasting BCAAs reduce Muscle soreness
You and I know that when you exercise, you may experience muscle soreness usually about 36 – 48 hours later. It’s called; Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS).
It happens to everyone. Of course, the more trained your muscles are, the less the effect of DOMS.
For those who are not so well trained in terms of physical fitness, muscle soreness can actually become a discouraging factor not to exercise. Not what you want if you are keen to build muscle.
But the fact is; muscle pain can reduce your frequency of exercise against your will.
Now, if you are doing intermittent fasting and you want to build muscle at the same time, the last thing you want is infrequent training regimes.
Here comes, BCAAs to your rescue.
This study took untrained participants and subjected them to squat exercises. You know how squats can make you walk funny a couple of days later because of muscle soreness.
The group that had BCAA supplementation in that study had reduced muscle soreness compared to the placebo group. This led the researchers to conclude that muscle damage during exercise is actually suppressed by BCAA supplementation.
So, if you want to exercise whilst doing say for instance, 16/8 intermittent fasting, then BCAA supplementation is necessary for you to avoid delayed-onset muscle soreness.
3. Intermittent fasting BCAAs limit muscle damage at workouts
You are doing intermittent fasting, working out and are now wondering if taking BCAAs during your intermittent fasting is necessary to limit muscle damage.
Yes, BCAAs do limit the degree of muscle damage that occurs during workouts. It really doesn’t matter whether you are fasting or not. BCAAs limit muscle damage from exercise regardless.
But it becomes more important when you are fasting. Exercising at the time of intermittent fasting means you are exercising at the time of calorie restriction.
So, if you take a supplement that feeds your muscle with the necessary essential amino acids it needs to prevent muscle damage, wouldn’t that be a good thing?
I sure think so.
There are biological markers that can correctly indicate muscle damage following exercise. Markers like creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase.
If a sample of blood is taken from you following an exercise session, we can tell how much muscle damage had taken place in that session.
That’s because damaged muscle releases markers like creatine kinase, myoglobin, aldolase and lactate dehydrogenase. Measuring any combination of these markers will reveal the degree of damage.
Give one groups of individuals BCAA supplements for 14 days. Pitch them against another group not given BCAA.
Now make the two groups perform 2-hour cycling workout. Test the creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase levels in both groups. That’s what this study did and they found that creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase levels were significantly lower in the BCAA supplemented group.
The point is; BCAA supplements are protective of muscle damage.
So, it makes sense to use BCAAs whilst doing intermittent fasting to limit muscle damage when we exercise to tone up and gain muscle.
4. Intermittent fasting and BCAA may stimulate muscle growth
There is a study that appears to support the view that working out in the fasted state is beneficial for muscle growth.
This study should be important to you, if bodybuilding to whatever degree, is something you desire.
Indeed, you don’t have to bust a gut to get anabolic response going according to that study. Simple weight training exercise like bench press, leg press, curls and overhead press are just about enough to experience muscle growth.
It’s a cross-over study with a 3-week washout to remove the confounding factor of one intervention influencing the outcome of the previous intervention.
The outcome measure of the study was anabolic response in the fasted state Vs in the fed state.
Put in another way, the question being answered in the study was: does the protein synthesis signalling pathway get activated more when you eat before workout or more when you workout in fasting state?
The study was quite involving because the researchers actually took needle biopsies from the participants at rest, 1 hour and 4 hours post-exercise.
The researchers were measuring markers like PKB (protein kinase B), GSK3, p70s6k (p70 ribosomal S6 kinase), eIF2B, eEF2 (eukaryotic elongation factor 2), ERK1/2, and p38.
Don’t worry. You don’t need to know what those hard-to-pronounce biological markers are.
All you need to know is that; exercise does stimulate those markers to varying degree. Measuring them can give a good idea as to what is happening inside the muscle cell.
To cut a long story short, a higher anabolic response was seen in the intermittent fasting participants at the 1-hour mark.
What this means?
I have already mentioned that muscle breakdown does occur during exercise because of the oxidation of amino acids that make up protein.
This protein catabolism is inevitable.
Here is where I think that last study makes intermittent fasting BCAA use necessary.
It is expected that the inevitable protein catabolism that occurs in the muscle during exercise may be a little higher when you exercise in the fasted state.
Why…Because the muscle is sort of “hungry” in the fasted state and now you pushing it harder to do some more work.
If we now know that the anabolic response (which gives us the potential for muscle growth) is higher when you exercise in the fasted state, at least at the 1-hour mark, would it be a bad idea to feed the muscle with BCAA amino acids 30 minutes before exercise?
I think it is a great idea.
Feed the muscle with intermittent fasting BCAA before exercise – this reduces protein breakdown activity in the muscle during the workout session.
Eat soon after the exercise session, preferably a high protein meal as they did in the study and voilla, you’ve got yourself a recipe for serious muscle growth direct from a well-defined enhanced anabolic response.
Is that cool or what.
Now, that’s why I think BCAAs are necessary for intermittent fasting.
The case for; No, BCAAs are not needed
I have just made what I consider to be a compelling case for use of BCAA supplements in intermittent fasting.
Now I have to ruin it by making the case against.
Oh yes, we like a balanced argument, don’t we?
For me, the case for not using BCAAs during intermittent fasting is simple.
If you doing intermittent fasting and your intention is fat loss only without bodybuilding, then you don’t need BCAAs. Period.
You can lose weight with intermittent fasting without using bcaa supplements. In fact, they are not necessary at all, if fat loss alone is your objective.
So long as…
…your diet is rich enough with proteins.
The amino acids in BCAA are actually available in your food. See list of foods rich in bcaa here.
If you are getting a rich supply of amino acids from your high protein food, then you will do just fine without bcaas.
I will even go as far as saying that even for those into body building, you can still source your amino acids for muscle growth from having eating a high protein diet around your workout session and you will still get fairly good results.
It’s just that BCAAs are supplements and supplements are easier to take as they are less bulky.
You can look at BCAA use in intermittent fasting in those two ways.
Use intermittent fasting BCAAs if fat loss and bodybuilding is what you want. They are easy to use. They are convenient. They facilitate muscle growth if you use the BCAAs around your workout session. They reduce muscle breakdown too.
If you are not into bodybuilding and you just want to lose weight i.e lose fat, then you don’t have to use BCAAs. You can get by without them.
Let me know what your experience is when you use them or even when you don’t, by leaving me a comment below. Just scroll down and leave your comment.
You may be interested in coffee effect on fasting too. Go see it through that link.
Suggested further reading:
7 “Fatty Foods” for a Flat Stomach – delicious but healthy
By Dr Joe
Wouldn’t it be great if you could adopt a simple fasting method like the 16/8 intermittent fasting and drop the pounds in weight and get lots more benefits at the same time?
Well, you are just about to find out if you can, right here on this page.
The 16/8 intermittent fasting is by far the most popular intermittent fasting method. It’s so popular that it goes by all sorts of nicknames like 16:8 IF, intermittent fasting 16 + 8, eat 8 hours fast for 16, fast 16 eat 8.
All sorts of names have been applied to this common method of fasting. It’s a bandwagon. You better hop on it, if you are thinking about it. Otherwise you will be missing out. Big time.
What is the 16/8 intermittent fasting?
Okay, it’s almost self-explanatory. You intentionally avoid eating for 16 hours in the 24 hours that make up the whole day and you eat in the remaining 8 hours of the day.
The 16/8 intermittent fasting is just as simple as that.
It’s not complicated. Anyone, absolutely anyone, can do the 16/8 intermittent fasting. There are 3 modes of fasting in general.
- Short fasts
- Long fasts
- Prolonged fasts
Short fasts are intermittent fasting lasting 12 – 24 hours
Long fasts are fasting episodes lasting for 24 – 36 hours
Prolonged fasts are fasting intervals lasting 36 hours to 1 week, 2 weeks or even 3 months.
Yes, people do fast for that long and they survive.
I am not exactly recommending prolonged fasts for you here. But as part of the learning process, it’s nice for you to know that prolonged fasts do exist. It’s not some theory. People do it.
As you would have gathered from the above description, the 16/8 fasting belongs to the short fast category.
16/8 fast is not a stretch of your innate human resources by any stretch of imagination.
Yes, for a beginner to fasting and for someone who has been used to eating 4, 5, 6 or 7 times a day, voluntarily abstaining from food over a 16-hour period might prove challenging at first. But it is not that hard, if you really want to do it.
In effect, for a 16/8 intermittent fasting, you stay off food for 16 hours of the day and you compress your eating window to the remaining 8 hours of the day.
And because the 16/8 intermittent fasting is a short fast, you can do it a lot frequently but within reason.
You should be looking to do the 16/8 intermittent fasting for about 3 – 5 times a week. You can do 16/8 intermittent fasting for 7 days a week but you don’t want to do that for too long.
Why fasting everyday is not your best plan?
One major difference between intermittent fasting and other forms of diets is that you can preserve your body’s basal metabolic rate. Your basal metabolic rate should not drop off when you do intermittent fasting correctly.
So, the ‘eat 8 hours, fast 16 hours per day’ for weight loss can lose some of its value, if you do 16/8 intermittent fasting every day for say 6 months continuously.
You will still lose weight. But the weight loss of 16/8 intermittent fasting may start to get marginal over time when abused.
What I am trying to say here is: we want to avoid going into the so-called ‘starvation mode’ where your body adapts to current eating pattern and reduces your basal metabolic rate correspondingly. Energy saving mode, that is.
You want to keep your body guessing. It won’t, if you get into a regular predictable pattern.
Don’t forget the keyword: Intermittent.
Why is the 16/8 intermittent fasting necessary?
Fasting can be done for health reasons or for religious reasons. Fasting for religious reasons is outside the remit of this blog, so I won’t be going there.
Intermittent fasting for health reasons concern us here.
There are obvious advantages of doing intermittent fasting not least for weight management. One of the easiest ways to lose weight and keep it off is through intermittent fasting.
But you have to avoid allowing your body to go into the energy saving mode (starvation mode).
The whole idea behind intermittent fasting regardless of the method of fasting you adopt is to get hormonal advantage. This protects your body’s metabolic health.
Everything begins and ends with the hormonal head-start that intermittent fasting gives to you.
There are 3 principal hormones you want to take advantage of when you fast. They are:
- Human Growth hormone
With intermittent fasting, your insulin levels drop, adrenaline levels go up and human growth hormone goes up too.
The interplay of all of those 3 hormones work synergistically to help you burn fat.
Intermittent fasting enables you to burn your immediate energy stores. I am referring to the glycogen stored in your liver and muscles. That has to be used up first before you access the stored energy – your body fat.
Insulin level getting low enables you to access the fat stores once you have used up your immediately available glycogen. Your body’s metabolic rate is fired up by the elevated adrenaline/noradrenaline and human growth hormone.
It takes 10 – 12 hours for the stored glycogen to be used up.
So, when you fast for 16 hours, you are essentially going to access and burn stored fat for only 4 – 6 hours out of the 16 hours fast period.
Remember, the first 10 – 12 hours of the fast period is a redundant period, where you are simply burning the immediate energy store – the glycogen. Until all of the glycogen is burnt, you will not burn the fat.
That is why I believe that the 16/8 intermittent fasting is about the bare minimum you need to do, if you want to shed fat and lose weight through fasting methodology.
How to do 16/8 intermittent fasting
I should mention that this method of eating was made popular by Nutritional Consultant, Martin Berkhan.
He christened it; Leangains protocol.
Martin is a maverick by all accounts who has a habit of breaking popular diet rules. He still gets results using the 16/8 method. He is quite muscular and has as little body fat percentage as you will find anywhere else.
See his picture below:
He exemplifies what is achievable when you adopt this method of eating. I should mention that Martin Berkhan did not achieve that 16/8 intermittent fasting result overnight.
As you can tell, he does incorporate workouts in his 16/8 regime. You are not going build muscle without some serious commitments to workout.
You will shed fat with 16/8 IF even if you don’t exercise at all (which is not always a good thing) but you won’t add to your muscle bulk without pumping some iron.
How do you start 16/8 intermittent fasting as a beginner?
In truth, you can manipulate the 24-hour clock to suit your lifestyle.
Fast for any stretch of the 24 hours in a day in any 16-hour window.
What do I mean by that?
Your 16-hour fasting period could be between 7pm to 1pm the next day, 3pm to 9am the following day, 12 midday to 6am the next day. A night worker who sleeps during the day can fast from 8am to 12 midnight the next night.
You get the point. It doesn’t matter what stretch of the night or day you use as your 16-hour fast period.
What’s important is: you fast for 16 hours at a stretch and you eat all your meals in the remaining 8 hours.
How you go about dividing the hours is up to you.
This flexibility is important because it means you can adapt the 16/8 fasting method into your lifestyle. Even if you are a shift worker like a nurse, para-medic, doctor; a trucker…
…a sales rep who covers a wide geographical area therefore travelling often, a pilot or air stewardess (or cabin crew as they preferred to be called these days) etc, you can still do the 16:8 IF.
Those categories of workers I mentioned above are the exceptions to the rule. Most of the population work 9am – 5pm and they have regular sleeping hours at night which nature designed for us to rest.
Now, for us regular folks making up the bulk of the population, it becomes a choice for you whether you want to fast at night until about 1pm the following day…
…or rather eat all your meals in the morning into the early afternoon and end 8-hour eating window earlier in the day.
I am referring to eating all your meals between 8am and 4pm, then fasting between 4pm and 8am the next morning, for instance. This would mean early start and early finish. This regime will work for someone who cannot skip their breakfast especially if their job is quite physical.
This 8am to 4pm eating window means you will be done with food commitments by 4pm and you don’t have to think about food anymore.
However, it may mean that, if you are someone who doesn’t go to bed early, there’s a chance you might be hungry by midnight when you want to go to bed.
Temptation to eat becomes high.
By far the most popular 16/8 intermittent fasting protocol is having your last meal of the day at 9pm and skipping breakfast the next morning to resume eating at 1pm.
Why is this popular?
It’s because it falls within the realms of having your 1st meal of the eating window at 1pm which is the regular lunch break for most office workers.
What that means is; your meals must be eaten between 1pm and 9pm. This gives you ample opportunity to do what you like and it falls in line with most people’s regular working hours.
Do remember, you can always shift these hours to suit you and your lifestyle. Don’t get hung up on fixed times.
One of the biggest advantages of intermittent fasting is high degree of flexibility built in. You can bend your hours any way you like. No one is holding a whip over you restricting you to do this and that.
Below are some suggested 16/8 fasting hours and eating windows.
If you work regular hours, please use any of the Schedule below:
|Fasting Hours||Eating Window|
|9pm – 1pm||1pm – 9pm|
|8pm – 12 noon||12 noon – 8pm|
|7pm – 11am||11am – 7pm|
|6pm – 10am||10am – 6pm|
|5pm – 9am||9am – 5pm|
|4pm – 8am||8am – 4pm|
|3pm – 7am||7am – 3pm|
For Night Shift workers, try the Schedule below:
|Fasting Hours||Eating Window|
|7am – 11pm||11pm – 7am|
|8am – 12 midnight||12 midnight – 8am|
|6am – 10pm||10pm – 6am|
|5am – 9pm||9pm – 5am|
The 1-2-3 formula to get you started on 16/8 IF…Follow This
Now do you have to jump straight into a 16-hour fasting period straightaway, if you are new to fasting? Absolutely, not. Remember I said, flexibility.
If you are new to intermittent fasting, start with a 12-hour fast, then the next day make it a 13-hour fast for 2 days, then next a 14-hour fast for 3 days. Give it a break for 3 days.
I call it the 1-2-3 formula. First run for 1 day, then a 2-day run, next a 3-day run, pushing “the boulder” up the hill by 1-hour for each run until you hit the target.
Resume your next fast with a 14-hour fast for 2 days, then a 15-hour fast for 3 days. Give it a break for 3 days.
This is all about building up your confidence, especially if you are someone who has been having 6 – 8 meals a day. This is important. You want to know you can do it.
And there is no rush to hit the target.
You also want to ease your appetite hormones like ghrelin into your new way of eating. Requesting your appetite hormones to behave themselves and stop bothering you!
After your second 3-day break, it’s time for the biggie. Now do your first 16-hour fast.
If your confidence waivers on your first 16-hour fast, then retreat to a 14-hour fast, then push it up by 1 hour each day. So, 14, 15 then hit the 16-hour fast.
Now give yourself a treat when you have done your first 16-hour fast. Hurray, you have arrived. It just gets easier from then on.
Once you get used to this 16-hour fast, you can extend to 18-hour, 20-hour and even 24-hour fast easily. It’s all about confidence.
Which brings me nicely to:
What should I eat after my 16/8 intermittent fasting?
How do you break your 16/8 intermittent fasting? Hmmm, there’s nothing magical about this, to be honest.
Remember, that word again? Flexibility. That’s the one.
Following standard good eating habits is the way to go.
Avoid highly processed foods, junk foods, refined sugar and foods with added sugar. If you follow that simple rule, you can eat just about anything.
If you are someone into carbs, eat your unprocessed complex carbs. If you are paleo or ketogenic guy, go for your standard paleo or keto meal that tickles your fancy.
It’s a good idea not to binge eat. Just be sensible with your portions.
However, if you are doing serious resistance training (which I advise you do) or any High Intensity Interval Training, then you may want up your proteins.
The Intermittent Fasting Workout Plan
Here’s what you should do as far as exercise workout is concerned when you’re doing the 16/8 intermittent fasting. If you follow this training schedule, you’ll reap huge benefits.
==> Exercise about 2 or 3 times a week.
==> If you exercise on your fasting days, do your workout towards the end of the fast period. The last hour of the fast period is best for fat burning.
==> Now if you are exercising intensely, you may want to protect your muscle mass. So, I’d say take branched-chain amino acids (BCAA supplement) about 30 minutes before your workout. See my article on BCAAs and intermittent fasting here.
It’s not mandatory to take BCAAs. So don’t sweat it!
==> Take bcaa supplements if you have them. If you don’t, you can easily compensate by having a high protein meal after your workout.
==> A good balanced meal of Protein (meat or beans, peas if you are a vegetarian or vegan) with lots of veggies and starchy carb will suffice.
==> Have your main meal soon after your workout. Prepare your meal in advance, so you are not tempted to go for takeouts or some junk food.
==> Eat as normal on fasting days that you are not exercising. You don’t need to exercise every fasting day, by the way.
Mix it up. You can do Paleo-style in your non-exercise days by having a meal of Veggies, Healthy fats and Protein (meat or beans, peas if you are a vegetarian or vegan).
When you mix it up, you will be carb cycling and that would be in keeping with what I refer to as the Depletion-Repletion way of eating.
Low carb days interspersed with high carb days but you should dose up on your proteins especially if you are exercising intensely.
A typical high carb meal will be:
==> 100 gm of protein (that’s about 4 palm size)
==> 100 gm of starchy carbs (that’s about 2 fist size)
==> 4 fistfuls of veggies
==> A handful of nuts or seeds
A typical low carb meal will be:
==> 120 gm of protein (that’s about 4 palm size and three-quarter)
==> 4 fistfuls of veggies
==> 2 handfuls of raw nuts and seeds
How many meals should you eat in your 16/8 intermittent eating window?
People are always concerned about how many meals to eat in the eating window once they break their 16/8 intermittent fasting.
Again, that word. Flexibility.
You can have:
- One big meal
- Or you can have two normal size meals
- Or one small meal and a bigger second meal
- Or if you really want to normalise things, you can eat 3 meals in your 16/8 eating window.
But always remember that the more meals you squeeze in, the higher your chances of over-shooting your calorie requirements for the day.
I personally eat one small meal of fruits and raw nuts for lunch and a bigger meal later in the evening. That’s me wrapped up for the day.
Those with digestive problems can have foods like bone broth, mashed potatoes, smoothies, soups, raw fruits, brown rice etc.
Try stuff out. There are no set rules.
Should I exercise during 16/8 intermittent fasting to lose weight?
The short answer is; yes, you should.
But you don’t have to. Exercise is not mandatory for you to lose weight on 16/8 intermittent fasting But it helps a great deal. You will still lose weight if you eat in 8 hours, fast for 16 hours IF protocol without exercise.
When you do add exercise to your 16/8 fasting protocol, it’s better to do it in the last hour of your fast and eat soon after.
Why is this?
Exercise sensitizes the muscles and makes them receptive to the macro and micronutrients made available from your meals. That’s why eating soon after your exercise sets the stage maximum nutrient utilisation.
In particular, protein synthesis, hence the high protein diet recommended when you exercise. This is highly protective of your muscles, preventing any muscle loss. Not only that, protein synthesis facilitates muscle building, if bulking up is your thing.
If you are going to exercise, then the right exercise that gets the best results for 16/8 intermittent fasting weight loss is high intensity interval training (HIIT).
Naturally, if you want to really build muscle, then of course you need to lift those weights.
And just in case, you are wondering if you will lose weight on 16/8 intermittent fasting, well take a look at this study.
The participants in that study are trained young men in their 20s and 30s who were already middle-level fitness guys. They were split into 16/8 IF group and Normal Diet group. The study ran over 8 weeks.
In essence, they didn’t really have much weight to lose.
But the study participants in the intermittent fasting arm still lost 1.6kg (3.5 lbs) of fat compared to the normal diet group who didn’t lose any significant weight at all.
Better still, these guys in the 16/8 intermittent fasting protocol still managed to gain 1.4 lbs of muscle. Not bad!
Something that happens in intermittent fasting is that IF increases the hormone, Adiponectin level in the body.
Adiponectin stabilises the basal metabolic rate. Higher adiponectin means your basal metabolic rate fires up.
This is a huge physiological advantage because it means you don’t go into energy saving mode (starvation mode) when you do intermittent fasting on this account. Cool!
Do I need supplements on the 16/8 intermittent fasting?
No, you don’t need to take supplements when doing 16/8 intermittent fasting. So long as you eat right, you don’t need supplements.
But if you are keen on the idea of supplements, then the only supplement you need for the 16/8 intermittent fasting is branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) supplement.
BCAAs are protective of muscle loss and are best taken on your workout days. You don’t need to take them when you are not working out. Take BCAAs on your workout days about 30 minutes before you commence exercise.
Here’s one BCAA supplement that works well and another one that’s very good for workout.
There’s a lot to be said about the 16/8 fasting method but this guide should be enough to get you going. Don’t hesitate. Give it a go.
Suggested further reading:
CEREALS That are Wreaking Havoc to Your Hormones, Your Energy & Your Weight (Avoid These)