So.. you’re fat. And you don’t like being fat any more, you say? What’s that? You want to start fasting for weight loss?
Well first of all, good for you. Doing your research and figuring out the best way to start fasting is a necessary first step. It’s also the easiest step, because fasting is not an easy thing to do.
If you think about it, it’s kind of crazy to think about how difficult it is for most people to go a few day without food. Even reducing your eating frequency to one meal a day (OMAD) seems to be virtually impossible for some people.
Fortunately, with movements like the Snake Diet and intermittent fasting, a new subculture of people looking to lose weight through controlled starvation is beginning to emerge. I would even say that the reason it’s caught on so much in recent years is that it’s just so damn effective.
The secret to fasting is the same as the secret to investing
And that’s probably what’s brought you here today: you want to know about this fasting for weight loss thing. You probably want to know certain things like:
- What to eat during intermittent fasting for weight loss
- You want to see fasting weight loss results
- You want to know if water fasting for weight loss is a good idea
- Is intermittent fasting on a 16/8 schedule good?
- Can you practice fasting to lose weight in 2 weeks for that event you have coming up?
- Is fasting one day a week for weight loss a good idea?
- What kind of intermittent fasting results can you expect?
We’re going to explore different types of fasting that you can start practicing for the purpose of weight loss. But before you dig into this massive article, I need to ask you an important question:
Are you just reading this article to satisfy your need to procrastinate? Are you still so scared of starting your first 48-72 hour fast that you are still stuck in “research mode?”
How many articles on fasting have you read? How many Snake Diet videos have you watched? Don’t you think you know enough already to get started?
I’m going to say you do. Fasting can be summed up in two words: don’t eat. It’s really not that hard to understand.
There’s a famous quote by Warren Buffett where he was asked in an interview, “What’s the secret to investing?”
His answer: “Do it.”
The same is true with fasting. Just do it.
Sure, there is some nuance to it. How long to fast, how to make Snake Juice, blah blah blah. But at the end of the day it comes down to this: don’t eat.
If you’ve already begun your fasting journey, then that doesn’t apply to you. But I just had to get that out of the way because I know from personal experience that getting stuck in research mode can turn into 7 hour information binge that leaves you a hollowed out husk of the man or woman you used to be, too exhausted to take action on any of the new information you’ve gained.
“I’ll start tomorrow,” you say.
Also I just want to give the obligatory, “you should also be working out” nagging reminder for those of you who somehow still don’t have a gym membership in 2019. Planet Fitness is $10/month. You literally have no excuse.
Anyway, let’s get started.
An overview of the different types of fasting for weight loss
For the purposes of this article, there are 4 types of fasting for weight loss that we’re going to go over.
- Intermittent fasting
- The Warrior Diet
- Prolonged fasting (Snake Diet)
There are obviously more variations than that, but these are the most simple versions of fasting that beginners are likely to adopt. They are extremely effective and easy to wrap your mind around, although there are some more extreme fasting routines that you can do.
Veterans of the fasting game might be more drawn to more intense fasting schedules than the ones I’ve listed above, but one important thing to remember with deprivation-based eating schedules is that testing is paramount. Always always always test and experiment.
What are some typical intermittent fasting results?
The most common definition of intermittent fasting is where you spend the majority of the day in a fasted state and have a fairly large “eating window” during which time you can eat your calories for the day. I almost wrote “as much food as you want,” but if you’re fasting for weight loss, then you still need to keep your appetite in check.
Intermittent fasting is a good first step for people who have never tried fasting before. The paradigm shift from your standard 3 meals a day (or God forbid 5-6 meals a day) to eating during a shorter eating window is a great way to dip your toe in the water of the fasting pool.
Personally, I think the results you’ll see from intermittent fasting are unimpressive at best. In a 24 hour day, most people sleep from 8-9 hours a night. That means that you’re only spending 7-8 hours fasted while conscious and active. And if you wake up at 7 like most people who have jobs or go to school, then that implies that you are allowed to eat your first meal as early as 2 PM.
In my opinion that’s not long enough for your body to flip its biological switches that will keep you lean and free from disease. Digestion is slowed during sleep, and most people will spend those first 8 conscious hours sitting at a desk. And sitting at a desk isn’t exactly how athletes get those sexy bodies.
It’s worth mentioning that intermittent fasting doesn’t have to follow the 16/8 schedule. It could be 20/4 or even 22/2. Extreme fasters will keep their eating window as small as possible, though this can be challenging depending on the time of day you eat and how active your lifestyle is.
A far superior method to intermittent fasting is to practice The Warrior Diet. We’ll go over this in one of the next sections.
One Meal A Day (OMAD) for weight loss
OMAD is as simple as it sounds – you eat one meal a day and that’s it.
If your goal is fasting for weight loss, then there are quite a few benefits to OMAD that make it superior to the more lax forms of intermittent fasting:
- You’ll probably spend less money overall on food
- Living in a fasted state for most of the day will give you more energy and mental clarity
- You’re more likely to train while fasted
- Your body will experience fewer insulin spikes (key to staying lean)
- You’ll lose a lot of weight from the reduced eating frequency
- Your insulin sensitivity will skyrocket
Life on OMAD is very liberating. When you’re on the frequent feeding schedule of 3+ meals a day, eating can almost feel like a chore. Your body gets used to the relatively frequent meals and you start to get hungry every 5-6 hours and feel like you “need to eat.”
One thing you have to understand is that the human body has an amazing capacity to adjust to whatever you throw at it. You can used to eating one meal a day, six meals a day, or one meal every two days.
That doesn’t mean that all eating schedules are created equal. Just because your body can adjust to eating 5 lbs of chocolate a day doesn’t mean you should do it.
OMAD takes a little more discipline than intermittent fasting, but in my opinion is much more rewarding. The anticipation of looking forward to a massive meal where you have license to eat as much as you want (more on this later) is very liberating.
If you do OMAD before going to bed, the resulting insulin spike will make you very tired, conveniently right before it’s time to go to sleep. We’ll talk more about the benefits of eating breakfast vs dinner in another article. For now just understand that metabolically it’s “better” to eat your big meal for breakfast, but practically a meal before bed seems to work better for most people (self included)
To sum it up, OMAD is basically like intermittent fasting except with a tighter eating window and as a result, a much more effective form of fasting for weight loss.
The Warrior Diet: an effective form of fasting for weight loss?
The Warrior Diet is a book written by Ori Hofmekler, an ex-Israeli soldier who was in the elite unite Shayetet 13 (the Israeli version of the Navy SEALS).
During his service, Hofmekler discovered that he and his comrades had better athletic performance when they were fasted. He began to research other elite units in history and found out that training/fighting in a fasted state seemed to be fairly common.
His research lead to The Warrior Diet, a sort of hybrid eating schedule that allows for light snacking during the day. The Warrior Diet can be summed up as follows:
- Undereat during the day (light snacks of juice, vegetables and fruit are okay)
- Overeat at night (eat a large meal starting with raw vegetables, then protein, and finally carbs if you’re still hungry)
- Train at night before your meal
The main difference between The Warrior Diet and the rest of the fasting methods common today is the fact that small snacks are allowed during the day. The idea is that as long as insulin spikes are controlled, then a small bit of food is okay to keep you going.
While this clashes with most of the common wisdom today regarding fasting that focuses on ketosis and autophagy, I can tell you from personal experience that this method is extremely effective for a few reasons.
For one thing, the light snacking during the day helps temper the inevitable binge at the end of the day. If you haven’t eaten anything all day, by the time you eat your meal at night you are going to ravenously devour everything in sight and then some. But if you’ve had a few apples and carrots, you’re much less likely to go berserk in the cookie aisle of the supermarket.
Perhaps the BEST thing about The Warrior Diet is the massive amount of versatility that it offers. Other forms of fasting are fairly strict: fast during these times, eat during those – and that’s it.
But on The Warrior Diet, you’re allowed to snack here and there any time you feel like you might need to. This allows you to experiment with different foods at different times during the day. Over time you’ll learn a lot about how your body responds to certain foods and how they affect your performance, mood, and body composition.
I practiced The Warrior Diet for most of my adult life after reading the book in 2002. I credit it with what – in my totally unbiased opinion – is a massive breadth of knowledge about living in a semi-fasted state.
That aside, you’re probably wondering how the overeating phase of TWD compares to a typical refeed after a fast.
The overeating phase of The Warrior Diet is meant to be completed in this order:
1. Vegetables or low GI fruit (I always used to eat a salad)
2. Protein (chicken, beef, etc)
3. Carbs if you’re still hungry
You’re allowed to mix protein and carbs at your main meal as well, but obviously if weight loss is your goal then carbs should be limited. However I will say that if you are training hard in the gym then obviously you have a little more leeway to eat carbs.
When it comes to training, ideally you would hold out until the early evening or late afternoon to do your workout. I personally found that I had more gas in the tank in the morning, but the problem with that is that you run the risk of catabolizing some of your muscle if your workout is too intense and you wait too long before your big meal.
That said, I think the obsession with “hitting your metabolic window” is completely overblown and a non-issue if you’re more than 10 lbs overweight. During the time where I practiced The Warrior Diet, I was always lean. And if I lost any muscle mass, it took any fat mass with it and kept my bodyfat % sub 10% consistently for years.
Highly recommended that you attempt this diet, although I will say that it requires slightly more discipline than OMAD or intermittent fasting. A taste of honey is sometimes worse than none at all.
The Snake Diet: King of fasting for weight loss?
Not for the faint of heart, the Snake Diet is a no-nonsense approach to fasting for weight loss created by Canadian trainer Cole Robinson. If you somehow still haven’t heard of Cole, he’s a loud-mouthed YouTuber who is prone to yelling at people and calling them fat idiots in an attempt to shock them out of their laziness and get their butts in the gym.
I personally love his style (I often felt like talking like that to my own clients back when I was a trainer) and am thankful that FINALLY someone has come along and begun to say all the things I believe trainers secretly wish they could tell their clients.
On top of that, I can say that I’ve never seen anyone with more firsthand knowledge of fasting than Cole – self included.
Gotta pay respect where it’s due.
The Snake Diet is simple: prolonged periods of fasting (48-72 hours are most common) where dieters drink only “Snake Juice” – a blend of electrolytes designed to replenish salts that are lost during urination.
The rationale is that if you have extra fat stored on your body, then your caloric intake is too high. To simplify, body fat is food that can be utilized instead of ingesting more calories.
You drink the Snake Juice to avoid the problem of electrolyte loss that happens during water fasts. We’ll go over this a bit more in the next section, but for now suffice to say that electrolytes are necessary for several important bodily functions, and if you don’t have them then you’re going to have a bad time.
The Snake Diet is the MOST effective way to lose weight quickly, but it is also the most extreme and difficult to practice. Going 2-3 days without food at a time is not an easy thing to do for most people who live in the modern world.
That said, it’s not uncommon for people to lose 50 lbs in a month on the Snake Diet.
There is literally no more effective way to lose weight than the Snake Diet. What can be better than not eating?
Snake Diet fasts generally tend to run 48-72 hours followed by a large meal or “refeed.” The standard protocol for a refeed is vegetables andlean protein at a ratio of 4:1, respectively. This is assuming your goal is fasting for weight loss and you are extremely overweight.
If you are lean or an athlete, then obviously you have more wiggle room during your refeeds. Personally, I feel that the amount of calories burned during a 2-3 day fast would make it ok to eat as much as you wanted during a refeed, but admittedly I am more chilled out than Cole when it comes to fasting (and most other things as well).
If you want to lose weight and are thinking about trying the Snake Diet, definitely go for it. Spending a few days without food is one of the most liberating things you can do. You have insane amounts of energy, you require less sleep, and you’re able to get 4x as much done because you don’t spend any time recovering from, eating, or preparing meals.
It has to be experienced to be understood.
What kind of protocol should you follow if your goal is fasting for weight loss?
You’ll have to decide on your own which of the strategies above appeals the most to you. We all have different lives, different responsibilities and different training goals.
To give you my own personal opinion, I can tell you that my years of practicing The Warrior Diet allowed me to test thousands of combinations of foods, eating schedules and activities. I have tons of useless factoids in my mind such as the difference in my athletic performance between eating 3-4 apples a day vs small handfuls of almonds while spending the entire day on my feet working in a shopping mall selling hair straighteners.
It may seem like extremely nuanced information, but combine thousands of these little facts together and over time the information becomes unconscious competence. Furthermore, as I mentioned before we all live unique lives and will have equally unique metabolic demands on our body and goals in body composition.
In other words, when you practice fasting for long enough, you will just know what to do without even thinking about it.
And I would encourage you to think of attaining unconscious competence as the end goal when it comes to fasting. Right now, you’re probably most interested in losing weight and looking a certain way. And that’s fine because that’s what gets you in the door.
After you stick with it for a while, you’ll notice that living on one meal a day or every few days becomes the new normal. You start declining invitations to lunch with your friends and tell lies like you’re allergic to strawberries when kind old Japanese ladies offer you some for breakfast.
(Over time, you’ll come full circle and carefully choose the times when you uncharacteristically break your diet and say YES to that lunch invitation or binge on your friend’s mom’s homemade raspberry brie and home-baked sourdough.)
Stick to your guns until you have the body you want. You’ll learn a lot about yourself along the way until someday you’ll have enough confidence in your new eating schedule to be more flexible in how you practice.
What’s the famous quote about art school?
“Spend 4 years learning the rules and then spend the rest of your life learning how to break them.”