Daily fasting plan
Choose the time and meal to skip and try to stick with it as often as possible. The regularity might be important for long-term success. Fast for 12-14 hours, daily. This may be hard to start with, but the researchers report that subjects adjust to the plan in time.
Skip breakfast (eat at noon)
Eat an early, light dinner; wait 2 hours to exercise; no food after exercise or before bed OR skip dinner.
Daily eating plan
PLAN OUT YOUR MEALS!
The guidelines are for a low-glycemic, Mediterranean-style diet:
Eat a whole foods diet rich in plant foods: vegetables, fruits, whole grains.
Eat lean proteins: fish, eggs, dairy, poultry, meats and plant proteins.
Eat healthy fats: avocados, olives, nuts, seeds, and their butters and oils.
Drink plenty of water, especially during your mini-fast and before, during and after exercise.
Combine foods to maximize the low-glycemic effect: always eat carbohydrate-rich foods with protein and healthy fat.
Avoid added sugars, processed foods and packaged foods.
DO NOT TRAIN ALONE!
Three days each week: Exercise moderately during the fast. Do light to moderate aerobic exercise, including brisk walking, jogging, stair climbing, treadmills and elliptical gliders, for 45-60 minutes. Do not eat for at least two hours after you exercise.
Three days each week: Exercise during your feeding hours, not during the fast. Go into exercise after a meal, and eat a meal after exercise. Have a concentrated exercise time that is more intense than your fasting exercise plan. Ideally, include some high-intensity interval training (HIIT) on these days, which has been shown to maximize calorie burning for hours after exercise. Try to be as active as possible throughout your hours of eating by taking stairs and moving around at least every hour.
One day each week: rest, but continue the mini-fast.
Organize these exercise days according to what feels best to you. There is no science to determine whether the three similar days should be consecutive, or whether the two different exercise-fast days should alternate. On the one hand, it might feel better physically to alternate days so that your body recovers from the more intense exercise days. However, practically speaking, it might be easier to stick with one plan for three days, and then switch to the other strategy for three days. Physiologically, it is hard to know whether your systems will respond with better fat burning following consecutive or alternating days.
It should be very clear that this is theoretical and experimental, not truth or gospel. Try it. Use what works and play around with what doesn’t. Adjust the diet, the fasting, and the exercise to make it work for you in a sustainable way. Let us know what happens!
Cravings are one of the downsides of this whole fasting strategy. The mini-fast and exercise subjects had psychological support and group motivation to stick with their plan. As I mentioned above, we don’t know if they continued the program beyond three months. The authors do mention in their discussion that all of the subjects were not absolutely compliant with the fasting regimen. We don’t have individual results to see how the differing behaviors impacted weight loss.
A recent publication in the Archives of Internal Medicine documented the food choices of people who had been deprived of food for 18 to 24 hours and then allowed to eat at-will. One hundred and twenty-eight students from Cornell University were recruited for study and randomly assigned to one of two groups. The study group fasted for 18 hours prior to a lunchtime meal (no food or beverages from 6:00 p.m. the previous evening), and the control did not fast. The groups were broken down into sub-groups of 10-12 and the study was conducted during 12 weekday lunches.
Lunch was served to the groups in a buffet of two starches (dinner rolls and french fries), two proteins (chicken and cheese), two vegetables (carrots and green beans), and a beverage. The presentation order of the food was rotated between groups to prevent bias in food choices. The types and amounts of foods chosen and eaten by the participants was filmed and weighed without their knowledge.
Seventy-five percent of the fasting participants started their meals with the high-fat, high-calorie starches and proteins compared with less than half of the control group. The trend was stronger in women versus men, but the trend was not statistically significant. Compared with the control group, fasters were more likely to choose a starch rather than a vegetable first. Even more importantly, whatever food was chosen first was the food that was eaten the most.
Apparently, fasting can lead to craving high-calorie foods. A lesson from this study is that order of food choices matters. This is probably always true, but perhaps most significantly after a fast. Prepare meals with nutrient-dense vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains as the abundant foods in the meal, with high-fat and calorie-laden foods playing a less prominent role. Planning meals will also help you know that you still have food coming in your day, and perhaps minimize cravings.