My buddy Jordan suggested that I make a follow-up post to my advice on skipping breakfast, because as he reminded me: “For people that don’t have the other elements of their diet dialed in, intermittent fasting (IF) is a disaster.” This can be very true. I’d also like to point out that I started that article by writing “In most healthy individuals…” If you are an outlier and have atypical sleep cycles or hormonal issues, or if you suffer from a health problem like diabetes, you should be following advice from a healthcare practitioner, not an online fitness blog. With that being said, this article will outline how you should eat the rest of the time in order to capitalize on your extended fast.
Firstly, skipping breakfast doesn’t necessarily mean that you are following a specific IF protocol. For the most part however, skipping breakfast will almost certainly result in a 10-12 hour fast, depending on your last meal the night before and the time that you wake up. I typically eat my last meal around 10 or 11pm and eat my first meal around 10am, but sometimes wait until noon. This works for me; I’m alert, active and it helps me keep the physique I’m looking for.
The main thing to remember is that after your fast, you need to make healthy food choices. I’m a proponent of delaying carbohydrate intake until after lunch (again, this works for me), and limiting carbs as much as possible if I’m not going to the gym or doing much physical activity that day. I stumbled upon a great IF article the other day, and it outlines things meticulously. You should definitely give it a read. However, getting back to the topic at hand, here are some key points to remember if you’ve skipped breakfast:
- Eat whole, healthy foods. Avoid processed, calorie-dense, nutrient-poor foods. You should be consuming lean protein, vegetables and fat with every meal. Mix in carbs- think potatoes, sweet potatoes, oats, rice, fruit- as you find necessary.
- Eat lots of protein. For everyone, eat at least 1g of protein per lb of body weight each day. For active people, aim for 1.5. For strength athletes, upwards of 2g per lb won’t hurt you one bit. Invest in a protein supplement, it will be your best friend.
- Drink lots of water. I’m talking minimum 1.5 litres per day, and would recommend 2-2.5. Your kidneys will thank you.
- Try to get your fats from different sources. Ideally, you want a balanced intake of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats, as all 3 kinds of fats have their benefits. You get your saturated fats from animal sources or tropical oils, mono fats from most nuts (almonds, peanuts) and foods like avocado and olives, and poly fats from fish, and natural products like hemp, flax and canola (Omega 3 and 6 fats are poly).
- Don’t worry about making sure you eat 6 times a day. If eating 6 smaller meals every day is the best way for you to control your calories and monitor your diet, go for it. However, eating on a more regular basis won’t help you burn more calories. If it works best for you to eat only 3, 2 or even 1 giant meal during the day (Warrior diet, which I wouldn’t recommend to many people), just do it. The message is that you should have a plan, so that you know how many calories, grams of protein, servings of veggies, etc., that you should be eating at your scheduled meal times. If you don’t have a plan, you won’t get the nutrients you need and your body won’t react well to an extended fast.
- Avoid sugary foods. I recommend this to everyone, regardless of IF. I avoid sugar and artificial sweeteners as much possible. The exception is POST-workout. After strenuous exercise, your muscles are depleted and are starving for nutrients. Providing them with sugar and protein will make them very happy, and immediately following a workout your body will selectively shuttle these nutrients to your muscles instead of storing them as fat. The post-workout window is the best time of the day. If you love carbs, do your best to postpone eating them until after a workout when your body needs them.
***Bonus tip of the day- keep your intake of carbs and fats inversely proportional. If you are having a high-fat meal, try to avoid carbs. If you are having a high-carb meal, try to avoid fats. If you can do this, you’ll have a hard time keeping fat on your body.
To finish off, here’s another, lighter, look at IF. If you can’t have fun with your diet, what’s the point??
It’s 11am and I’ve been awake for 5 hours- time for breakfast!