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How Many Hours Should You Fast?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created June 07, 2012 at 2:05 PM

I've begun Intermittent Fasting as per the 16/8 philosophy. Its been working. I was doing some research and started thinking about what the best amount of fasting should be to get the benefits while limiting the side effects.

What works for you? 16/8? 18/6? 20/4? A full day per week? etc.

Lets hear opinions!

F31d10b54b31428e189d9b771bf7b1d1

(1439)

on June 08, 2012
at 11:34 PM

MathGirl72, the strategy at http://www.fatsickandnearlydead.com/ is to have enough micronutrients to be able to metabolize one's excess body fat. Unfortunately, the http://www.fatsickandnearlydead.com/ folks are vegan, and not being a complete fool, I knew that I would not be able to get all of the micronutrients necessary to stay healthy and vigorous without some kefir and egg. The coconut oil was to maintain brain health. But my caloric intact in this "fast" is probably well below 800 per day. I also don't care what it is called; it works.

5e63e3fa78e998736106a4a5b9aef58c

on June 08, 2012
at 03:33 AM

Same here. I fast from midnight to 6:00 PM, have one big meal and maybe a second, small one, and that's it. I don't even start to get hungry until close to 6:00, and often not until much later (for example, it's almost 8:30 and I'm now just barely hungry, despite having had a very long, busy day). I don't even think about food until I'm hungry, these days. I used to be a bottomless pit, eating all the time--or obsessing about what I was going to eat next. No more. I'm no longer run by insatiable cravings for food. And that's just astonishing to me.

7bcdcce584eb132e4c06b8ad2b1d22cc

(644)

on June 08, 2012
at 03:07 AM

This is where I found myself gravitating after a few months of paleo-life. I find it very easy to maintain.

Fd70d71f4f8195c3a098eda4fc817d4f

(8014)

on June 07, 2012
at 09:24 PM

@Chris -- oh, okay. Total amount of fat makes much more sense.

61844af1187e745e09bb394cbd28cf23

(11058)

on June 07, 2012
at 06:51 PM

I am usually able to go from 8PM - 2PM without eating food, as long as I have bulletproof coffee (I use 32 oz coffee, 3 tbs grass-fed butter, and 1/4 cup coconut oil). I'm working up to going longer, but can't shake the brain fog that sets in around hour 18. I'm also still VERY food focused and can't think about anything other than that meal that I will get to eat. Working on that, too, but it is all such a slow process.

7660f5a0ec906d3922d79b20f3434ecc

(788)

on June 07, 2012
at 06:48 PM

Great comment Ian! I am about in the same camp as you. I don't limit carbs workout or no workout and I aim for 17 to 18 hours though I settle for 16. Glad to hear what I am doing works for you.

61844af1187e745e09bb394cbd28cf23

(11058)

on June 07, 2012
at 06:47 PM

I don't consider what you were doing fasting. Call it what you want, but you were consuming carbs (veggie juice), protein (veg, eggs, and kefir), and dairy. Limited caloric intake =/= fast.

7f8bc7ce5c34aae50408d31812c839b0

(2698)

on June 07, 2012
at 05:37 PM

I also do a bulletproof coffee in the AM. 3tbsp ghee plus 2tbsp MCT oil in 10 ounces of coffee. Then I don't eat anything else until dinner. I used to do straight 22/2 fasting, but find the fat in the morning makes the day WAY WAY WAY WAY better and I'm still losing weight at the same pace. I did remove some fat from the dinner meal to compensate (I eat my berries without HWC).

De641ff2accb4975e1f42886b43009db

(2227)

on June 07, 2012
at 04:25 PM

I'm also VLC, being in ketosis complements this routine.

De641ff2accb4975e1f42886b43009db

(2227)

on June 07, 2012
at 04:24 PM

Yeah that's a total of 4 tbsp butter/oil for all 4 cups of coffee.. it's definitely a "modified fast", but it works really well for me. I'm not too worried about the fasted state (although I believe I'm still benefiting from it), the mental clarity throughout my work day and ability to just get shit done, plus the convenience of not worrying about eating anything until I'm home for the day is why I do it. I also believe the small about of fat (~50g) in my morning coffee will help prevent the inevitable muscle breakdown that comes with extended fasting.

Fd70d71f4f8195c3a098eda4fc817d4f

(8014)

on June 07, 2012
at 04:13 PM

Just curious - is that 4 Tbsp of butter/oil with *each* of the 4 cups of coffee? I hate the numbers game with calories, but just for the sake of my question, that would be approx. 440 calories per cup x 4 cups = 1760 calories. You consider that a fast? (Or are you talking mostly a no *protein* deal when you say "fast?") Unless it's a *total* of 4 tbsp butter/oil for the coffee.

7660f5a0ec906d3922d79b20f3434ecc

(788)

on June 07, 2012
at 03:46 PM

As in I have seen stable fat loss.

Eed7dabde3d61910685845e04605267f

(2934)

on June 07, 2012
at 02:53 PM

What exactlydoes it mean that it's 'working'? Where were you at before starting the IFing...?

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13 Answers

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3
1407bd6152d9fdbc239250385159fea1

on June 07, 2012
at 04:02 PM

Hi Denis,

I've been tinkering with different variants of intermittent fasting protocols for a little over a year now, settling on a slightly modified version of Martin Berkhan's Leangains. I fast daily for about 17-18 hours and keep carbohydrate relatively high on both workout/rest days as I live near the equator, am frequently active, and am still very much on the younger side.

With that said, I think you have three options that I'd recommend when it comes to fasting:

  1. A Leangains-style approach in which you fast daily between 14-20 hours.
  2. A 24 hour fast several times a week, in the vain of Brad Pilon's Eat Stop Eat.
  3. A very unstructured set up in which you just skip different meals on different days based on convenience and personal preference.

If you're attempting to lose weight, I would recommend the 1rst approach over the other two, as it will give your body a chance to adapt ghrelin release at specific meal times. If that's the case, I find 2-3 meals within 8 hours works best.

If you're just attempting to maintain your weight, pick whichever option you so desire. Play around with them all if you like, but make sure to eat enough food.

If performance beyond strength training is your primary goal, I wouldn't be fasting at all if I were you.

Best,

-Ian

7660f5a0ec906d3922d79b20f3434ecc

(788)

on June 07, 2012
at 06:48 PM

Great comment Ian! I am about in the same camp as you. I don't limit carbs workout or no workout and I aim for 17 to 18 hours though I settle for 16. Glad to hear what I am doing works for you.

1
De641ff2accb4975e1f42886b43009db

(2227)

on June 07, 2012
at 03:25 PM

I fast everyday 8PM - 6PM with four cups of bulletproof coffee (two tbsp clarified butter + two tbsp MCT oil) in the mornings around 9AM and 10g BCAA's before my workout at 4:30PM.

Fd70d71f4f8195c3a098eda4fc817d4f

(8014)

on June 07, 2012
at 09:24 PM

@Chris -- oh, okay. Total amount of fat makes much more sense.

De641ff2accb4975e1f42886b43009db

(2227)

on June 07, 2012
at 04:24 PM

Yeah that's a total of 4 tbsp butter/oil for all 4 cups of coffee.. it's definitely a "modified fast", but it works really well for me. I'm not too worried about the fasted state (although I believe I'm still benefiting from it), the mental clarity throughout my work day and ability to just get shit done, plus the convenience of not worrying about eating anything until I'm home for the day is why I do it. I also believe the small about of fat (~50g) in my morning coffee will help prevent the inevitable muscle breakdown that comes with extended fasting.

61844af1187e745e09bb394cbd28cf23

(11058)

on June 07, 2012
at 06:51 PM

I am usually able to go from 8PM - 2PM without eating food, as long as I have bulletproof coffee (I use 32 oz coffee, 3 tbs grass-fed butter, and 1/4 cup coconut oil). I'm working up to going longer, but can't shake the brain fog that sets in around hour 18. I'm also still VERY food focused and can't think about anything other than that meal that I will get to eat. Working on that, too, but it is all such a slow process.

7f8bc7ce5c34aae50408d31812c839b0

(2698)

on June 07, 2012
at 05:37 PM

I also do a bulletproof coffee in the AM. 3tbsp ghee plus 2tbsp MCT oil in 10 ounces of coffee. Then I don't eat anything else until dinner. I used to do straight 22/2 fasting, but find the fat in the morning makes the day WAY WAY WAY WAY better and I'm still losing weight at the same pace. I did remove some fat from the dinner meal to compensate (I eat my berries without HWC).

De641ff2accb4975e1f42886b43009db

(2227)

on June 07, 2012
at 04:25 PM

I'm also VLC, being in ketosis complements this routine.

Fd70d71f4f8195c3a098eda4fc817d4f

(8014)

on June 07, 2012
at 04:13 PM

Just curious - is that 4 Tbsp of butter/oil with *each* of the 4 cups of coffee? I hate the numbers game with calories, but just for the sake of my question, that would be approx. 440 calories per cup x 4 cups = 1760 calories. You consider that a fast? (Or are you talking mostly a no *protein* deal when you say "fast?") Unless it's a *total* of 4 tbsp butter/oil for the coffee.

1
01adafcb4dd4147c6af543f61eee60a8

on June 07, 2012
at 03:19 PM

I do 18hrs every day. Its natural to me now so I dont even think about it.

5e63e3fa78e998736106a4a5b9aef58c

on June 08, 2012
at 03:33 AM

Same here. I fast from midnight to 6:00 PM, have one big meal and maybe a second, small one, and that's it. I don't even start to get hungry until close to 6:00, and often not until much later (for example, it's almost 8:30 and I'm now just barely hungry, despite having had a very long, busy day). I don't even think about food until I'm hungry, these days. I used to be a bottomless pit, eating all the time--or obsessing about what I was going to eat next. No more. I'm no longer run by insatiable cravings for food. And that's just astonishing to me.

7bcdcce584eb132e4c06b8ad2b1d22cc

(644)

on June 08, 2012
at 03:07 AM

This is where I found myself gravitating after a few months of paleo-life. I find it very easy to maintain.

0
089dd41b18fbb95ebb5347cded708d98

(5635)

on October 18, 2012
at 11:48 PM

naturally, i fast for about 12-14 hours a day. i don't think i could go any longer without fainting since i'm anemic.

0
489d6842b84b920fabcb9eeb83783c91

on October 18, 2012
at 06:58 PM

like many, if not most, things 'round these parts, it depends.

i do leangains style (16/8) fasting when training hard.

i do eat-stop-eat style (24 hour fast once or twice a week, two to three meals other days) fasting when i take a month off from training or on the weeks that i travel for work.

tinker with it, based on goals and activity levels.

ps - i don't count calories and the like, i do stick to paleo and just add a bit more starch in the form of white rice / sweet potato in the post-workout meal (and eat a bit less fat that day) when on leangains style approach.

0
4430c600b097f03d9936f0ae8b6b0201

on October 18, 2012
at 06:54 PM

I usually intermittent fast for 16 hours three days a week, though I could easily do it every day since I am fat adapted. I try to do a 24 hour fast at least twice a month to help lower my chances of getting cancer.

0
C3c36c9094a5f5dd327e22ba2195d413

on October 18, 2012
at 06:26 PM

I am now 290 lbs. but am a natural faster. It just feels right to me. I'm just not that hungry in the morning 'till I eat. Then I'm hungry for the rest of the day. If I wait 'till 4 pm to eat, it's not that hard for me. So what I do is eat from 4PM to 7PM. Usually a couple of meals, but always less than 1500 cals.Then I do it over and over again. I do not eat any junk food. I've tried all the so called "sensible" diets. They just don't work for me. And the more I get used to this method, the easier it is to do.

0
93eea7754e6e94b6085dbabbb48c0bb7

on June 07, 2012
at 09:38 PM

Fast until your hungry. Why would u force ur body to continue doing something it doesn't want?

0
3ab5e1b9eba22a071f653330b7fc9579

on June 07, 2012
at 04:40 PM

I tend to eat a LOT so I typically follow a 16/8 6 days a week, and then I try to do another 20-24 hour fast at least once a week. Experiment and see what works for you.

0
F31d10b54b31428e189d9b771bf7b1d1

on June 07, 2012
at 04:20 PM

I fasted for 720 hours (30 days). There are no shoulds with paleo. The original paleo folks did not have a set time that they would go without eating. Sometimes food was plentiful; sometimes it was scarce.

I fasted with raw veggie juice (that I juiced), one or two eggs blended into the veggie juice, and 2 tablespoons of coconut oil in the morning, and one and only one cup of homemade kefir for lunch. I could drink as much veggie juice as I felt like. This ensured that I got enough micro-nutrients. I do not recommend any fruit juice during this fast. It will make you hungry and contributes too many calories.

I dropped 25 pounds doing that.

I modified what I learned from this site and his movie: http://www.fatsickandnearlydead.com/

Joe Cross is nearly paleo, except for his misguided veganism.

61844af1187e745e09bb394cbd28cf23

(11058)

on June 07, 2012
at 06:47 PM

I don't consider what you were doing fasting. Call it what you want, but you were consuming carbs (veggie juice), protein (veg, eggs, and kefir), and dairy. Limited caloric intake =/= fast.

F31d10b54b31428e189d9b771bf7b1d1

(1439)

on June 08, 2012
at 11:34 PM

MathGirl72, the strategy at http://www.fatsickandnearlydead.com/ is to have enough micronutrients to be able to metabolize one's excess body fat. Unfortunately, the http://www.fatsickandnearlydead.com/ folks are vegan, and not being a complete fool, I knew that I would not be able to get all of the micronutrients necessary to stay healthy and vigorous without some kefir and egg. The coconut oil was to maintain brain health. But my caloric intact in this "fast" is probably well below 800 per day. I also don't care what it is called; it works.

0
C25ca23835e8b74e61979890f5c45c53

on June 07, 2012
at 04:20 PM

I think that the various methods of fasting fits better to certain people. For instance:

  • Eat stop eat (24 hour fasts 1-2 times a week) would fit someone trying to loose weight.
  • Leangains style for maintaining non-fat bodyweight, especially if youre prone to overeating.
  • "Primal fasting" for peolpe that likes the freedom of doing whatever their body tells them.
  • Warrior Diet - just a cool name.

I used Leangains approach to fasting before I went primal, it worked very well. The problem is adherence - counting calories, non-fat days, non-carb days, 300 g of protein and so on - for strictly following the protocol. Since I went paleo (recently) I decided to do the fasting as it comes naturally. But once or twice every month do a 24 h fasting to reevalute my relationship with hunger. What is real hunger, and what is only my phsycological eating habits?

0
9cb19b6c9fe8eb1352c002b606761eb2

on June 07, 2012
at 03:15 PM

I can only do so much. Usually somewhere around 7-8PM to noon the next day. I could go longer, but I get fuzzy and it's tough to concentrate. If I was a bit more practiced, maybe that would go away.

0
962a7ca099bef7fc43a5bffdc4a1545b

on June 07, 2012
at 02:45 PM

I am new to it and I do an easier 14/10 or at least a 7pm to 7am. That's my opinion. Primal/Paleo allows me to go further, but I am still pretty reliant on food to feel able to do my work(desk job).

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