Achieving and Maintaining Your Sexy With Alternate Day Fasting

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Sexification Note: This post won’t be heavy on the science front and will be filled mainly with notes from my personal experience. I’m happy to answer any questions that you have in the comment section, and all I ask is that you keep an open mind while reading this.

If you’re new to fasting in general, I recommend reading this aaaaaand this to quickly educate yourself on what it’s all about before diving in.

After a year of shorter duration daily fasts, I began experimenting with longer fasts, ranging anywhere from 24 to 62 hours (known loosely as Alternate Day Fasting) without eating during my longest stretch, essentially only eating on the days that I strength trained. The details of that experiment can be found here, but a quick summary is that I dropped 7lbs in 2 weeks (losing 4 more over the course of the trial), while either maintaining or increasing my strength.

My results were near effortless and I was able to maintain them with ease. Stepping back from this extreme style of fasting and going back to something more conservative (Leangains styles or simple 24 hours fasts), I want to share with you what some of the benefits were and how you use it in the pursuit of your own fat loss and maintenance goals.

But…..WHY?!

Gigantic benefits such as lack of hunger while dieting, increased focus and improved mood from fasting are all discussed here, but my reasons for experimenting went beyond these reasons and I hope that you can glean something from these experiences.

The main benefit for me was purely psychological. For the majority of my adult life, I’ve struggled with food. If I’m sad, I’m eating a ton of food. If I’m happy, I’m eating a cave full of the delicious nom noms. I wanted to use this an opportunity to explore my own habits and see what I could learn from them.

With actual physical hunger taken out of the equation, I found that I ate primarily when I was under stress, bored or simply looking for a distraction from something that I was supposed to be doing. By setting a hard fasting deadline (i.e. not eating for 24-36 hours) for myself, I was forced to sit with the uncomfortable feeling and resolve it instead of using food as medicine. Sometimes I broke and ate early, but I didn’t beat myself up about it, learned from the experience and simply hopped back on.

On the actual fat loss & maintenance side of things, fasting creates a large deficit with minimal effort. It’s easy to get OCD about dieting and keeping track of your macros, so I used it as a tool to free up my mental real estate to focus on more important things while simultaneously worrying less about the eating side. Plus it allowed me to not have to even worry about stressing at social gatherings, which is a huge plus because I love food & good company.

Less food prep. Less dishes. Less money spent.

Preparing For Battle

A good relationship with food

I can’t overstate the importance of this step, both from personal experience and from that of my clients.

When I first started fasting, it exposed a major flaw within myself: I was a binger. I LURVE to eat – my mom called me a bottomless pit as a kid – and if I’m not careful I can cause dietary destruction with even the most restrictive feeding window (I went from 16/8 to 20/4 before going back to a conventional style of eating until I got a handle on things).

For some, fasting tends to intensify issues that people have with food and bring them bubbling up to the surface in a big, bad way, especially during longer periods of fasting. It’s extremely difficult to tame the beast while you’re inside it, so if you find yourself running into the same issues over and over again, take a step back and resolve them before writing fasting off completely. If it works for you, cool. If it doesn’t, then that’s cool, too. You learned something new about yourself and you can apply it to whatever you decided to do going forward.

The mindset of a boss

A boss does what needs to be done.

Let me preface this by saying that I know where you’re coming from. Having been a 6-7 (up to 8 if i was feeling particularly sassy) meals a per day dude in the past, I’ve been through periods of ravenous hunger to the point where I would actually get angry if I couldn’t eat my next preciously scheduled meal on time.

You’re the owner of the most adaptable machine in the universe – act accordingly.

You will not die if you don’t eat in the short term. If that were the case, it would’ve been game over for the human race a long time ago. You’re a lot more flexible than you give yourself credit for. Hunger is a real thing, but how we respond to it mentally plays a huge role as well. When we come face to face with hunger, more often than not we give in right away, stomping it out with food (usually way more than we actually need).

While adapting your body to go for longer periods of time without eating, expect hunger. Some will have more than others, but learn what you can from it during your transition. Each successful encounter where you power through those hunger spikes like the boss you are, the more you empower yourself. Hunger doesn’t control you, you control your hunger.

Chill out!

Long fasts can be a big stressor on the body, and when you throw that into the mix of an already stress-filled lifestyle you have  a recipe for disaster. Before giving this an honest go, make sure you’re getting adequate sleep (fasting on little sleep can make fasting extremely difficult) while also doing your best to reduce stress in all other areas of your life – it will make the process a lot easier.

Getting Started

1) Choose your fasting window

For those just starting out in the world of extended fasts, 24 hours (‘ala Brad Pilon’s Eat Stop Eat style) is a good place to start. Depending on your lifestyle, here are some examples of how that would look.

  • Finish your last meal at lunch and fast until lunch time the next day.
  • Finish your last meal at dinner and fast until dinner time the next day.

For someone with a family, dinner time with them is probably pretty important so dinner to dinner may be the best option. On the other hand, someone who is single and has a large degree of autonomy has more wiggle room. I’ve found that going to bed on a full stomach helps myself & my clients with compliance, but the strategy you choose is completely up to you.

To extend the fast to 36-48 hours, simply adjust and plan accordingly. Here are some examples.

  • Finish your last meal at dinner on Monday and fast until breakfast on Wednesday (36 hours).
  • Finish your last meal at lunch on Monday and fast until dinner on Wednesday (36 hours).
  • Finish your last meal at dinner on Monday and fast until dinner on Wednesday (48 hours)
  • Finish your last meal at lunch on Monday and fast until lunch on Wednesday (48 hours)

Fasting for this long is not necessary at all, but can be done and by doing so you afford yourself the opportunity to eat more when you do eat. Depending on your personality, this can be a powerful motivator.

For me, training 3x a week, I only ate on Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday and single meal on Friday or Saturday depending on social outings/hunger levels. This allowed me to eat essentially whatever I liked on training days without keeping track of my macros because the the large deficit that I was creating on the other days of the week.

2) Choose your feeding window

This may seem complicated, but it’s actually the easiest, and most delicious, part of the process.

All you do here is decide how long your eating window is going to be (I’ve found 4-8 hours to be best, but this isn’t set in stone by any means) and plan accordingly.

The number of meals you eat is entirely up to you, but I recommend at 2 to 3 depending on if you’re in fat loss or maintenance mode as the gastric stress from trying to fit an entire day’s worth of calories in one may leave you with a broken toilet and no friends – you have been warned!

3) Fit your training into the equation

You have a couple of options here.

  • Fasted training.
  • Beginning your feeding window with a small meal prior to training.

For fasted training, consume 10g of Branch Chain Amino Acids 15-30 minutes prior to training. After training, you can begin eating or if that isn’t possible, consume 10g of Branch Chain Amino Acids for every 2 hours that you go without eating until you start your feeding window. Here’s an example of this.

8:30am – 10g BCAAs
9-10am – Train
10am – 10g BCAA
12pm – Begin feeding window

Frequently Asked Questions

How much should I eat ?

That all depends.

For fat loss, I recommend that you start by eating at maintenance on your training days and 10-15% below maintenance on your off days, adjust according to your results.

If you’re following more of a 48 hour fast approach, you can eat at maintenance on training days if you’re a brave soul or 10% more than that to help stave off hunger, letting the deficit created on your off days handle the rest.

For maintaining your physique once you’ve achieved it, you can obviously get away with eating more as long as you make sure to adjust according to your results.

Again, the number of meals you eat is up to you, but I recommend at least 2 meals.

What should I eat?

For most people, the main benefit of fasting is that you can eat larger, satiating meals while dieting or maintaining. Of course this means that some junk food (any eating plan devoid of a Cinnabon now and then has no place in this world) will sneak in there from time to time, but make sure that the majority of your food intake comes from whole, unprocessed foods.

Here are some specifics.

  • Protein – Eat between 0.8 – 1 gram of protein protein per pound of body weight (the fluffier you are, the less protein you’ll need to stave off muscle loss) regardless of the day. Bump this number up slightly if you’re having issues with feeling full – I’d rather have you get slightly more protein than too little.
  • Carbohydrates – Eat 1 gram per pound of body weight (adjust this number down if you have a significant amount of weight to lose) on training days, and for the sake of simplicity cut them down to as low as you can handle on your off days. Play around with this number and adjust according to your results.
  • Fat – Fill the remainder of your calories with this delicious macronutrient. A general rule of thumb to start by is consume less on the days that you train (because of increased carbs) and more on the days that you don’t (because of decreased carbs)

For those following the 48 hour fast, maintain protein levels for sure, but you can be a bit more flexible what you’re taking in, increasing protein, fats and carbs as long as you don’t let your overall caloric intake get out of control.

What about muscle loss?

I haven’t found this to be an issue at all as long as you’re training progressively with a combination of the big lifts (squat, bench variations, chin ups, dips, deadlift variations, overhead press, leg press). Cover your bases with these exercises, training in the 4-8 rep range. Make sure to include some fun pump work as well with your accessory work – lunges, curls, rows, dumbbell bench variations, and machine work has its place, just get your heavy stuff out of the way first.

If you find your strength levels dropping, increase your calories slightly and reassess as necessary.

From a general standpoint, the leaner you are, the more that you have to worry about muscle loss during extended periods of fasting. The more fat you have to lose, the less at risk you are for muscle loss with your fat acting as essentially the sacrificial preferred energy source before the body starts looking to break down lean body mass.

With that said, if you lose a little bit of muscle along the way and you look amazingly awesome as an end result, would you be upset? As long as you’re following the above advice most of the time, muscle loss is a bit over exaggerated and doesn’t happen all at once at any rate. Don’t let optimal stand in the way of good enough.

For more fasting myths, check this in-depth post out.

How do I deal with hunger?

  • Stay busy. Go for a walk, hang out with friends, dance like a foolish mortal while listening to music. Pretty much do anything you can to distract yourself from a hunger spike. Hunger is like a bully – it pops up and demands your attention momentarily, but if you confront it proactively it goes away quick, fast and in a hurry. They usually last for 15-20 minutes in duration.
  • Supplement. Caffeine has an appetite suppressing properties  which goes a long way towards quieting the hunger beast – coffee & tea fiends, rejoice! I’ve also found that 5-10g of BCAAs taken during a hunger spike does a very good job of telling your stomach rumblings to “shhhhhh”.
  • Sleep. If you can just make it to bed and go to sleep (or even a nap whenever you can fit one in), it acts as a bit of a reset button for your hunger.
  • Eat. Sometimes you’ve just gotta eat, and the good thing is that rarely do you need as much food as your brain may try to convince you in order to take the edge off your hunger and return your sanity. Try to have on hand an “in case of emergency” scenario. This could be a protein bar in your car, a few pieces of fruit, or just a cooked meal waiting in your fridge. If you’e finding that your hunger is mainly from not eating enough prior to ending your fast, experiment with making your last meal of the day the largest and made largely of protein.

What happens if I mess up?

It’s all good! There is no “messing up”. Some days you’ll fast for long periods of time and on other days barely at all. This isn’t something that you have to do on a daily basis, although the longer that you do, the better you get at it, recognizing and dealing with patterns that may act as road blocks.

Don’t put any unnecessary pressure on yourself to extend the fast beyond the point where you feel comfortable, especially if it begins to interfere with your life and defeats the purpose of this being more or less a relaxed way of eating. Remember, at the end of the day fasting is just another tool in your Batman utility belt to get the job done – no more and no less.

 

Don’t associate any magical properties with fasting or any other protocol. Demystify it as much as possible. If it helps with compliance then use it to your advantage, but the moment it becomes a hindrance to your success, abandon it without a second thought for something more appropriate for your circumstances.

Above all else, I hope that you’re open to experimenting with your body. You’re a lot less fragile than many have convince you to believe.

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Comments

  1. says

    Awesome post, Rog.

    I was a binger as well, but I feel that fasting helped me use the binging to my advantage. It would get me into a sacrifice-reward pattern; I would sacrifice calories in the first half of the day, knowing that I would have a big, satiating meal post-workout.

    I’ve been interested in trying out longer fasts (24-48) for a while now as they seem like a great challenge mentally and physically.

    Again, great post, keep up the good work.

    Jake

    • says

      Hey Jake,

      Definitely, man. It’s really all about re-allocating calories/meals in such a way that makes you feel less deprived, which goes a loooooong way towards keeping binging to a minimum.

      Glad you liked it!

      – Rog

  2. Sean says

    What adjustments (if any) did you make to your training volume during periods of longer fasting? I recall you having some periods where you ate next to nothing for 36+ hours from previous updates. Did you roll with a bare bones training program or did you simply opt to break the fast before training after going that long without food?

    • says

      Hey Sean,

      Good to see you back around these here parts!

      Honestly, it’s less of a science and I went more by feel. On some days where I didn’t get enough sleep the night before I just went with a scoop of protein powder and a piece of fruit to get me going. When I did get sleep or just felt awesome in general, 10-20g of BCAAs and caffeine was all I needed to crush it.

      Initially I struggled with voluminous workouts, but the more I got used to fasting the less of a problem that they became.

  3. Edward says

    For someone on a current fat loss plan, is this something that should wait until after they are finished to try this thing out or can this be incorporated within? Would you even recommend them stepping away from their plan to do something like this?

  4. says

    Great article, Rog!

    I’ve been doing Intermittent Fasting for a few years now, and couldn’t agree more with you, here. It has changed my relationship with food more than any other tool. I now know what hunger is vs just wanting to eat!

    Good stuff!

    Roland

  5. says

    Well-written, Rog! I am back to fat loss after tackling the Boston Marathon, and my protocol of choice is a full-day fast, maintenance the rest of the week. I have two reasons for doing this that are different than yours, just wanted to share in case anyone else deals with the same.

    First, low calories destroy my sleep. Within 2-3 days of dropping calories even 200-300 calories below maintenance, I wake up at 3a with crashing blood sugar and HAVE to eat some simple carbs in order to fall back. Happens every time, regardless of macros. And i completely fall apart without enough quality sleep. One fasting day means one night of poor sleep, potentially. I fast on Friday so that a Saturday nap can restore things, if needed.

    Second, all mental challenges of restriction are limited to one single day. Rather than feeling deprived of all the tasty goodness in the world every single day, I have six days with plenty of wiggle room. One day of not eating actually is easier than moderation for me; I don’t have to deal with limiting portion sizes, or the temptations of unexpected treat offerings, I’m just flat-out having zero; very little willpower is actually required.

    • says

      Hey Sabrina,

      Thanks for sharing this. All of these are great points and go to show that one approach just isn’t gonna work for everyone and some experimentation is necesary to find out how you’ll apply it to your life.

    • Gwen says

      These are all pretty common side-effects of fasting diets for women. It can also lead to disordered eating (read: borderline anorexia) for a lot of us, and messes up hormones majorly. Gaining 5 pounds you can’t shift when you stop IF is to be expected (boy can I attest to that one). And driving yourself into early menopause is not unheard of – just ask the lady who runs Stumptuous.

      I did Leangains for a few months. It was very effective for me. And then it was horrible. My hormones are still not back on track to how they were (constant, terrible PMS anyone?) and I’m just getting back to thinking normally about food.

      Here are some links I WISH people would start including in articles like this, because while IF is great for guys, not all lifters are guys!

      http://www.paleoforwomen.com/shattering-the-myth-of-fasting-for-women-a-review-of-female-specific-responses-to-fasting-in-the-literature/

      http://www.marksdailyapple.com/women-and-intermittent-fasting/#axzz2VYgKYu4q

      • says

        Hey Gwen,

        Thanks for providing some different viewpoints and I’m sorry to hear about your experiences with IF.

        At the end of the day, I encourage everyone to experiment with their own body and listen. While Leangains may not be an appropriate starting point for everyone, that doesn’t mean that fasting in some form (since we pretty all do it on one level or another) isn’t a viable strategy for men and women alike.

  6. David Arroyo says

    I was a bit surprised when I did ZAW that you and Roman didn’t include anything on IF. On the surface it seems like a good match. You could go without eating a loooooong time in World War Z, but from what I’ve seen the further you go beyond a 3xweek training model the harder it gets to make IF work. I’m training 5 days on average with either heavy lifts/met-con or bjj (which can be a lot like heavy lifting AND running very fast for a 135 lbs Napoleon such as myself), so I’m reticent to try it. Do you know of any athleteles that have had success with the IF model?

    • says

      Yo David!

      For someone training as frequently as yourself, there wouldn’t be any real reason to try something like this as your training demands you eat like a boss, and cutting your meal frequency just gets in the way of said bossly eating =).

      I’m personally not aware of any such athletes, but I’m sure most of them could alter fasting to their needs as it’s pretty flexible and can be used when needed in a variety of ways.

  7. says

    rog,

    I may have to give these a go, and step it up a bit. I typically do well on the traditional 16/8, but lately I’ve been itching for something a tad more limit pushing.

    thanks

  8. Tim says

    Roger,

    Great piece and very timely. I have been working with 2 fasts per month and am liking it a great deal. For me, having my last meal at dinner on Sunday and not eating again until Tuesday morning, has given me a very effective path to fat loss. I still train on Monday nights and honestly have not seen any negatives.

    I have not added in the BCAAs and wonder what the exact thinking is on those? For me, water and caffeine have had the desired suppression effect. We still need to chat and I’ll be in touch this week!

    • says

      Hey Tim,

      The BCAAs are to help stave off muscle loss so that you’re not training in a fasted state. You could do a scoop or protein powder if you don’t have access to those, but if you’re training fine with out them then no need to optimize/switch things up unless you start to notice any negatives begin to creep up.

  9. George says

    Hey Rog,

    Thanks for sharing your experiences. You mentioned taking 5-10 grams of BCAAs to help quell hunger pains; did you take them to prevent muscle sparing as well?

    Thanks,
    George

  10. Nick says

    Hey Rob!

    Awesome site, first time visitor and amazingly impressed at the information.

    I did have one question I wanted to run past you if it was ok..

    I saw those pics of you and Andy downing massive amounts of cheesecake.

    How on earh is this possible? They’re doesn’t seem to be any weighing of food or concern of fat grams.

    Thanks a bunch for taking the time.

    Nick

  11. Eitel says

    Hey Rog!

    We actually met years ago when I visited Cressey Performance (I live in Minnesota and was visiting my brother) and you were interning there. You were incredibly helpful, and certainly added to my training experience there. I just came across your website and immediately recognized your name. It’s great to see you carving your own way in the fitness world – hats off to you. I’d like to hear your thoughts on BCAA’s. I know you’re a fan but I also understand that BCAA’s are highly insulinogenic. If the goal is fat loss, and from what I understand, it’s difficult for the body to burn fat when insulin is elevated, what are your thoughts on this?

    • says

      Yo Eitel!

      Glad to hear that my madness didn’t make me immediately forgettable ;)

      For fat loss, the most important factor is a caloric deficit – this above all else matters, with macronutrient composition of the diet coming second. While BCAAs spike insulin a bit, unless you’re dealing with someone who is diabetic I wouldn’t worry about insulin at all as it just complicates matters beyond what’s necessary.

  12. Jake says

    I’ve always been a tad confused with this. With the BCAA intake, can I take that total amount (25g) during the workout instead of before and after? Does taking BCAA surpress Yohimbe intake at all? Thanks for the answer

    • says

      1) Yep, I don’t any problem with that at all (BCAAS). You could probably get away with 1 scoop vs 2.

      2) BCAAs raise insulin levels, which most likely will be enough to suppress the stubborn fat loss benefits of the appropriate does of Yohimbine, but not the stimulation effect.

  13. George says

    Hey Man, awesome post.
    I have a question if that’s ok. I am a former Rippedbody.jp client, and I am used to Andy’s prescribed method of training days and rest days macros (training day meals 3 times a week after dinner, rest days 4). I’m finding though with these that I still get hungry even after the training day meals, and it’s the craving kind of hunger.
    Could I not simply combine the rest day meals with the training day ones – so I end up eating 3 times a week, say, Monday/Wednesday/Friday Night.
    The total calories going in per week would be the same, and the macros would be the same, though just squished together. I can’t see anything wrong with it…apart from it being a lot of food at once. :D

    Any thoughts?

    Forgive me if this is too long/complex.

    • says

      Hey George,

      It’s hard to say without knowing more about your specific situation (how long you’ve been dieting, how much you’ve lost since working with Andy, current life stressors, etc).

      You COULD do something like this, but honestly I would first start with less complicated interventions. Try eating a bit more on training days (200-300 calories more to start) and see how you respond. Shift your meals around and make your largest meal prior to going to bed to help deal with cravings. Also, if it’s a craving for a specific food, try fitting it into your macros to help avoid the overwhelming urge for it.

  14. David De Castro says

    Hey Roger, nice article you’ve got going on here.
    I haven’t read the entire thing, but read most of it, but can I just add something in here that may inspire your viewers more?

    Actually it’s to simply say how EASY it is to do fasting (maybe you’ve already written this on another post or even here, whatever).
    I mean, like you, I used to have a bottomless pit stomach. Plus I’m actually a semi-fat person (It doesn’t show in my face or anything when I’m clothed, but I’m slightly larger than the average person).
    And EVEN FOR ME, fasting is so easy to do! (Plus all of the other positives that you’ve mentioned here like mental challenge, a deeper relation with your own body and eating, etc.)

    And for those who are hesitant to try this. Hesitate no more. This isn’t as hard as it sounds, just give it a try and adapt it to your own lifestyle accordingly.

    • says

      Hey David,

      Great point you make. I think once you get most people to realize that they’re already fasting, more or less, it becomes an easier concept to grasp. The thing I like to stress is that people should first start where they are and scale back once they find it interfering with their lifestyle. No need to try something like this if “fasting” and pushing your breakfast back a few hours get you where you need to be.

      Glad you’re loving it, and thanks for reading!

Trackbacks

  1. […] I was inspired to finally delve into longer periods of fasting by Roger Lawson, who is an awesome strength coach and blogger who just published a post around a week ago about his results with alternate-day fasting. His post intrigued the shit out of me, and it pushed me headfirst into this post that I’m writing today (check out Rog’s post here). […]

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