Tag Archives: intermittent fasting

Should You Intermittent Fast? A Basic Primer on Intermittent Fasting

Photo by Omar Mahmood on Pexels.com

First, in brief:

Intermittent fasting can work sometimes with exercise, depending on what you do and how.

You should avoid intermittent fasting if you work out in the morning.

The more training you’re doing, the less likely it’s a good idea.

Most of those who practice intermittent fasting and train effectively only strength train as their only meaningful, intense exercise. Generally, their only aerobic training is whatever walking they do during the day, or very brief high intensity interval training… if they do any cardio at all.

If you don’t do much exercise at all, then yes intermittent fasting is a good idea. And you should probably get some exercise, but intermittent fasting is a good habit.

A General Overview of Intermittent Fasting:

Instead of traditional fasting, where you may go a day or more without eating… intermittent fasting is about eating all your day’s meals in a short window of time and not eating the rest of the day.

Even if you eat a similar number of calories, the long break from eating gives your body an extended metabolic break, which can help reduce inflammation and better promote healing and recovery. This is actually more of the benefit of intermittent fasting than the potential fat burning improvements that can occur during the fast.

There’s no calorie restriction on how much you eat during the food window. But, obviously, it’s going to be harder to overeat in a single 8 hour window than it would be if you ate meals throughout the day.

Still, it is possible to outeat the fast during the 8 hour window and still maintain or gain weight. The fast doesn’t cause you to lose weight in itself. While it’s obviously more difficult in a shorter window of time, you can still overeat. That said, intermittent fasting can help with food portion and weight control.

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Twelve (12) Training and Lifestyle Tips For Fat Burning

There’s a lot I could say about fat burning, and there’s a legion of users-guide material throughout the internet world about methods to healthy fat burning (and many more about unhealthy fat burning ideas, which I will not bother to cover). I could write a piece about a dozen topics.

But I think it would help you to get some actionable tips in one place, and perhaps a shorter bit of writing on each of those in one place may help you more in the present. I can always cover all of these topics in additional pieces later.

So instead, I’m going to put a dozen topics into this long post, and succinctly get into why you should make it a standard or best practice.

If you’re trying to burn fat and struggling with it, these tips should help spur things along or keep things moving in the right direction.

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Eat A Big Dinner Before Bed

This won’t be long or in depth. I just understand that many people struggle with sleep, despite knowing much of the general advice every other person and website gives. I want to offer a key actionable tip that works for me and MIGHT help you.

Eat a big meal a couple hours before bed. I don’t subscribe to the “breakfast like a king, dinner like a pauper” mindset, in some part because I usually intermittent fast, skip breakfast, and when I do eat lunch it’s lighter largely out of necessity: I’m usually working, and a big lunch will only tank my energy level, which I obviously don’t need.

So lunch should be light. Dinner has to be big.

The big reason you want to eat a big dinner before bed is that hunger can keep you awake. If you eat a light dinner, then you will probably be hungry when you go to bed. Hunger will rev up your hormones and keep you awake when you want to not be awake.

And no, a snack before bed is not the answer. You typically shouldn’t be snacking either way.

A subsequent and useful reason for a big dinner is that digestion can cause fatigue. Blood flows to your digestive tract, taking away resources and emphasis on the rest of your body. This causes the general fatigue you often feel after a big meal, and certainly on workdays after lunch.

Yes, your food choice also matters, and certain foods can make you more sluggish than others. I notice if I eat a light lunch with, say, tuna and produce, I feel mostly good afterward. If I eat a lunch with something processed/fried or a lot of carbs, my energy level tanks and I physically feel heavy. That’s not totally because I ate a large lunch, so much as because the quality of the food required my body to inflame plus required more energy to digest.

However, if you eat a bulkier meal before bed, then that sluggish effect is exactly what you want. You want to go to sleep. Feeling tired and sluggish is going to get you there.

If you’re worried about indigestion, then you probably need to clean up your diet some. I’ve had foods that cause acid reflux. I also never eat those foods for dinner. The whole food protein, vegetables, clean carbs that I do eat are much better for digestion. If you’re having heartburn or reflux problems when you eat a big dinner before bed, it’s probably the quality of your food rather than the fact that you ate before bed.

It honestly helps if you practice some sort of intermittent fasting or limited intake during the day. But I recognize if you have your reasons not to do so. Just recognize that you need to burn at least as many calories as you take in, lest you gain weight.

Yet you don’t want to get to dinner having to calorie-count that meal and heavily limit your intake. At least get to dinner with enough calories left to consume that you can comfortably have a big dinner.

This points to your smart move being to eat light or not at all during the work/school day. If you don’t skip breakfast, have a light, protein rich breakfast. Definitely have a light, protein rich lunch. Don’t eat anything out of a package unless that anything is as close to its original form as possible (like a bag of nuts, not like a bag of potato chips… like a can of tuna, not like a TV dinner).

Drink coffee or tea. Learn to love it without cream and sugar. Drink water. But now I’m digressing into a separate subject.

Anyway, never minding things like dimming lights and screens, sleep hygiene, etc… the most important element to sleep that’s never addressed is how satisfied your appetite is when you go to bed. Err on the side of making sure you don’t go to bed hungry, even if it means going somewhat hungry during the day to allow for a larger dinner.

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Summer Slimdown

After deliberately taking all of July off from writing here, I plan to write as much as I can in August about what I’m doing to stay fit, knowledge I can share, and so on.

I am currently in an aggressive intermittent fasting phase. Similar to what’s practiced in The Warrior Diet, I am now eating all my meals in a roughly 4 hour window each day.

I typically eat my first meal at around 4-5pm, and then eat dinner at home around 8pm. Sometimes I will chase dinner with something else, almonds or oatmeal, but after that I go to bed and I don’t eat again until 4-5pm the following afternoon. I just drink coffee in the morning, and water in the interim.

I had successfully pared my weight down from the 180-185 lbs I peaked at early this year. I had two brief periods of rapid loss buffered by more extended periods of flatlined, maybe slight increases in weight, and had gotten down to about 170-175.

Ideally, I run at about 160 lbs, lower if I can get there in healthy fashion. My bodyfat, which in my peak running days was around 15%… is currently around 19-20%, and that’s an improvement over the 22-23% I peaked at early this year. By BMI rough estimates, I was technically overweight for a few weeks.

It’s harder to lose weight now in Las Vegas for some obvious reasons.

1) Because I no longer commute on foot, a lot of my previously built-in daily calorie burn is now gone, unless I go to great effort to put it back.
2) Because of the Vegas heat (100-110 degrees Fahrenheit, and in the early mornings it’s 80-90 degrees), no races to train for, and no need to run-commute in car-focused Vegas (want to run 12 miles one way in 100+ degree heat?)… I’m not running nearly as much as I did in Chicago. Again, I’d have to make great efforts to match that mileage right now.
3) Because it’s summer in Las Vegas, it’s also really hot. Endurance exercise outside is often impractical.

So I wasn’t surprised to see my weight go up, and then struggle to come back down. I knew that, diet in principle being 80% of your body composition, most of my work to slim back down was going to require aggressive dietary habit changes.

I don’t eat processed food unless not doing so would be impractical, or if I’m about to exercise or just finished exercise and something like a protein bar is readily available.

I got my family to start cooking exclusively with healthier oils: Avocado oil, extra virgin olive oil. They were leaning on cooking with canola and vegetable oils, and getting them to switch was somewhat difficult. But the oxidative stress, inflammation and water retention from eating food cooked in the refined oils wasn’t helping them, let alone me. While they still have a lot to work to do with their diets (and that’s honestly up to them), the food we eat for dinner together has been better for my health.

I got so aggressive with cutting out industrial oils and processed food that I stopped eating most restaurant food altogether until I’ve hit my current goal. Every restaurant uses those refined oils for cooking due to cost, and then people wonder why most Americans are overweight and unhealthy. It’s not ever good for you, but now it’s harder than ever for Western society to not eat this garbage.

We’re trained to eat out of boxes and eat from restaurants, and these unhealthy ingredients are EVERYWHERE. They’re ubiquitous parts of most people’s diets and people don’t realize that it’s the source of their health problems.

And while I didn’t write this post to end up preaching out of nowhere, I did want to explain why cutting these ingredients out was important to my efforts to slim down. You can’t just fast, count calories and exercise. WHAT you eat matters as much than any of that.


I realized my current struggles with running, aside from obviously reduced volume, is because I weigh more than I did when I regularly ran in Chicago. The added fat is slowing me down. It needs to come off.

Also, because the quality of the Vegas Diet is not what I could maintain in Chicago, it was harder for me to maintain the needed metabolic health to run a lot. I’m also turning 42 in October, and I can’t just power through bad diet decisions and bounce back the way a twentysomething can.

So I decided to also curtail running, not totally stop but just do it every few days or so for now. I want to ramp up training in the fall when Vegas cools down to a more human temperature, and I want to be in better shape to maintain that volume.

Instead for now I focus on an old fitness-bro standby: Do walking for most if not all of my “cardio”, to let that and the hot Vegas sun fuel some calorie burn, instead of burning myself out by trying to run often in Vegas heat. I look to get in one good 30+ minute walk each day, and at least a bit of walking throughout the day if I can’t get that longer walk.

Since getting aggressive with slimming down in the last couple weeks I’ve gone from a stubborn 172 lbs to 170-171, and I notice energy-wise and mentally I’m feeling better overall. And this is despite some upheaval situations at work plus dealing with the 110 degree Vegas days in often-limited air conditioning.

I also strength train several times a week. I’ve increased my focus on weight training and now have found a consistent series of defined workouts, plus I’m seriously tracking my progress in weight I can lift for these workouts. I’ll get into these at some point soon. And I still walk even if I do strength train, so it adds onto the calorie burn and mitochondrial development from the walking.


That’s where I’m at right now. My plan to resume running is when the Vegas heat becomes cooler Vegas fall temperatures, and I can run in weather cooler than 87 degrees Fahrenheit or run at times other than the early morning.

Until then, I’m going to slim down with aggressive intermittent fasting, an aggressively clean diet, walking everyday and strength training throughout the week.

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Losing Fat Without Losing Sleep

An irony of New Year’s Resolutions driving people to diet and hit the gym in January is that winter is probably not the best time to try and burn fat in colder climates.

You have a more difficult time sleeping when hungry, especially if it’s cool or cold. Your body will kick into a sort of overdrive to burn body fat, which revs your circulation up enough to keep you in a state too awake to get to sleep. In fact, if you have issues getting to sleep, you may want to make sure you’re better fed shortly before bed.

But most of you want to lose weight and this is the time to do it because blah blah bathing suit season etc. You don’t want to punt the golden opportunity, and you certainly don’t want to gain weight during the winter when you want or need to lose fat in the long run. Fair enough.

There’s actually a middle ground, and it works especially well if you prefer to train later in the day. The key is intermittent fasting, i.e. not eating for most of the day, then eating all of your food in a limited time window like 6-8 hours.

Now, a myth with intermittent fasting is that it causes you to lose weight in itself. That isn’t necessarily true. You could still overeat for the day in the 6-8 hours you can eat. It’s very easy to pound a frozen pizza, and then a hamburger or something 4-6 hours later, let alone snack on anything in-between, and end up over the line. Even with 16-18 hours of not eating, you could still end up storing extra fat overall.

Given that, it’s still entirely possible to diet effectively and lose weight, while still going to bed each night feeling satiated after a ridiculously sized meal.

The key is to flip the conventional “breakfast like a king, dinner like a pauper” wisdom on its head. This is actually for most a counter-productive way of eating that has been sustained largely out of forced cultural habit. It makes sense to many people (even alleged experts) because that’s always how they’ve eaten.

Basically, even if your last meal of the day isn’t your largest, you want your last meal to be a large meal, one where by the time you go to bed you’re not in any way hungry. You may even want to top it off with a hearty snack right before bed.

Also, as this infers, you probably don’t want to start your limited feeding window at dawn and then eat your last meal around noon or 1pm, going to bed several hours after that meal. You will almost certainly be hungry at bedtime.

You will want to follow a more conventional intermittent fasting window, where you skip breakfast, eat your first meal at lunch, and then eat regularly until before bed. This allows you to fill your stomach close to full before bed and avoid insomnia-producing hunger.

Now, that doesn’t mean your first meal of the day should be the smallest. You can break your intermittent fast at lunch with a large meal as well. Just make sure any meal or snack you eat between lunch and dinner is not too large.

You probably do want to make sure you eat something a few hours after lunch to avoid any hormonal crashes or temptation to binge-eat any garbage at dinner… unless you have a specific reason you’d want to do so (like a special family dinner). Just make sure it’s around the 400-600 calorie range, bigger than a little snack but not quite a full meal.

Just because you can still gain weight intermittent fasting doesn’t mean your body isn’t burning fat during the fasting period. Moderating your diet just makes sure you aren’t piling on more fat than you burn. The fasting period does its job burning fat without food in your stomach. This process revs up your circulation, which you want during the day when you’re awake but mostly sedentary.

By back loading your food intake later in the day, your body can utilize this nutrition for post-workout and overnight recovery, and allow you to relax and sleep.

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Losing fat, losing weight, begins with knowing your eating habits

One of the reasons most dieting fails is because people lack a healthy, sustainable diet baseline. Of course, a big part of that is people not having any idea what their baseline is to begin with… if they even have one.

This is also a key reason modern people insidiously gain weight over time. Their metabolism slowing with age and decreased activity certainly doesn’t help. But a lack of consistency and healthy eating habits is the larger contributor.

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The Control Rest Day Baseline, and using it to successfully carb cycle

Yesterday with the day off I did nothing, in terms of training. No running, no strength work, nothing particularly strenuous. I actually drove to get coffee, since I had vehicle-related errands to run that day. I did a minimum of walking… not easy to do in Chicago when you live in Wrigleyville and you do most of your business on foot.

Okay, big deal, just a rest day, right? Well….

… it had been a while since I’ve taken stock of my working basal metabolic rate (BMR). Your BMR is the rate at which you would burn calories in a day if you did nothing but lay or sit there. For men my size and age, this is somewhere around 1650-1700 calories.

You do more than sit around all day, so to find your baseline calorie burn you multiply that BMR by a standard multiplier.

  • Sedentary people who drive everywhere and never exercise can use 1.2 as their multiplier. You multiply your basic BMR by 1.2 to get your actual basal metabolic rate.
  • If you get any exercise once or twice a week, or you walk to get around everyday, your multiplier may be closer to 1.3.
  • If you work out every day it may be as low as 1.5 or as high as 2.0, depending on what you do for workouts.

Of course, I can’t just set my baseline at 1700 calories multiplied by a standard multiplier. My daily activity can vary widely, as a Chicago local who gets around on foot and runs a lot. Even if I don’t run, I may walk anywhere from 20ish minutes a day to several miles, and there’s no rhyme or reason relative to my training as to how much walking I do. Plus, this completely ignores strength training and any other physical activity.

I’ve had days where, with identical training (or lack thereof), I’ve burned anywhere from 2100 calories to over 4000. So, plugging my estimated general activity into a BMR tool and spitting out a number isn’t necessarily going to help me.


I still want to get enough to eat, while not overeating. I still do have tracker data that shows an average weekly calorie burn, which is around 3000 calories per day during training. But there’s more to it than that:

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