Intermittent fasting and meal/macro periodization

As I have written many times before, I am a long time follower of intermittent fasting(IF). So long that I have even forgot when I actually started, but probably like 6 years ago. My take on IF is a 16/8 approach – 16 hours without any calories and only black coffee, tea and water, and then the 8 hour feeding window. I therefore eat my first meal at 11am and the last one at around 18-19pm. There are a lot of wild claims behind IF, but my main reason for sticking with it is that it really fits both my goal, my schedule and my appetite. In short it just works for me.

There are however a few areas where this approach is backed by science. First of all, when you wake after a long night’s sleep your body is generally in “fat-burning-mode”. In order for the body to get out of this mode all you need is some carbohydrates(carbs) – but this is not really what I or any other human being looking to stay lean wants. You can start your day with a meal consisting of only protein and fat to counter this “problem” or you can, as I have skip breakfast altogether and thereby your keep you body in “fat-burning-mode” for longer.

Taking this a step further my first meal at around 11am does not really include any carbs either. As long as I do not have to compete in sprinting or anything else where I need to perform at my best (in which case all this goes out the window – but I’ll cover this in a post about both meal, training and psychology leading up to competition) I do not need any carbs at around 11am in the morning. All the physical activity the next hours will be done primarily by my fingers and my brain anyway – the protein and fat will fuel that just fine.

Then moving on to my second meal at around 3pm. This will be the first time of day where I eat any significant amount of carbs as this meal will fuel my training, being either track & field sprinting or strength training. The carbs in this meal is to fuel my performance, but there are however exceptions. In my case I have a leisure/light running session on saturdays for instance. This is around 3 miles in relaxing tempo. Those days I would switch and have the running first – in order to burn fat, and then have the meal afterwards to fill up glycogen and help recover. In other words my carbs are very much ingested for two reasons:

  1. Before an intense workout where the goal is not to burn fat but to perform at my best.
  2. After workout to fill up glycogen and help recover.

The last point leads to my final meal of the day; dinner. This is probably highest in carbs of all meals or close to similar with second meal of the day. This could usually be 180g(before being cooked) of rice. If you are active and needs to perform in any high intensity sport, you need carbs. So dinner is usually where I’ll have most of them, it is also most often right after either sprint or strength training where I’ll have “earned” my carbs.

Periodization of meals or macro’s is not as important as having your diet dialed in, in the first place. But once you are comfortable with how much you need this might be a good second step. It sure has helped me be lean for the last 6 years year round. Whether you want to combine it with IF or not is entirely up to you, it works either way. It just takes advantage of the natural changing of hormones in your body throughout the day into account.

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