Ah, yes, being ripped – the most important thing for your social media presence in 2022 and beyond – as it should be. Jokes aside, being ripped isn’t always as easy as it would appear and will take a great deal of effort.
Is intermittent fasting the easiest way to do so? Let’s find out.
What Exactly Is Intermittent Fasting?
As the name suggests, fasting refers to a period of time when you aren’t consuming any type of food or liquid that contains calories.
This means you can’t drink coffee with milk or sip on BCAAs (yes, BCAAs contain calories), nor can you have a protein shake.
This popular dieting method is common in many cultures and practices around the world. But intermittent fasting seems to have found its origin in the 1940s when scientists experimented on animals (mice, mostly) to see the effects of fasting from a physiological perspective.
Fast-forward to the year 2022, and the intermittent fasting world has blown up – in a good way. While many firmly believe that eating smaller meals every 2 – 3 hours is the way to a ripped physique, intermittent fasters believe fasting for a period of time to restrict the feeding window is the way forward.
Their arguments are:
- Fasting could help with keeping in a calorie deficit, as it limits your feeding window.
- Fasting can increase levels of natural human growth hormone, which does have fat-burning properties.
- Fasting could help lower basal insulin levels, which can lead to greater fat loss windows.
- Fasting could lead to increased insulin sensitivity, which – in turn – not only increases health but both muscle-building and fat-burning capabilities as well.
Just how the points above are “triggered” is by going a set period of time without consuming any calories – solid or liquid.
Types of Intermittent Fasting Schedules
There are a few different fasting systems available:
- Time-restricted eating (16:8 split, etc.)
- The 5:2 diet (eat normally for 5 days, and then 80% less for two)
- Eat-Stop-Eat (you do 24-hour fasts)
- Alternate-day fasting
The most popular of these is the first one – the 16:8 Fasting diet. This means that you’ll fast for 16 hours and then only have 8 hours to consume all the food you “have” for the day. From a health perspective, there are definite positives to this plan, such as decreased blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and insulin resistance.
These health benefits could make it an ideal plan for someone who suffers from cardiovascular concerns (with a doctor’s approval first, of course). But the plan is definitely not for someone who suffers from a condition like diabetes.
Intermittent fasting has caught on like crazy in the 21st century, with companies like Martin Berkhan’s Lean Gains Method helping hundreds of people improve their health and strength by using the intermittent fasting method.
Intermittent fasting is healthy; we get it! But how is it going to make me shredded? How is it going to get my crush to finally react to my Instagram story?
What? I Still Need To Be in a Caloric Deficit?!
Yup. You ain’t beating the laws of thermodynamics, buddy. Okay, that’s a bit harsh, but let’s look at it more closely.
You’re not eating any less when doing intermittent fasting. In fact, you’re eating the exact same amount; the only difference is the time in which you eat it. This means that the number of calories still remains exactly the same and will impact whether or not you build a ripped chest … or sculpt ripped arms.
When we look at the basics of weight loss (or fat loss), you have to be in a calorie deficit in order to lose weight. There are some things you can do to amplify this, sure, like eating a lot of protein and training with resistance. But you still need to have a negative net balance of calories to lose fat.
Many have argued that because of the limited feeding window, you don’t “need’ to be in a calorie deficit. Yeah… That ain’t true.
We still need to be in a caloric deficit in order to burn body fat as energy, according to the literature, at least. No matter how much you restrict feeding time, at the end of the day, if you eat several cakes in an hour, it’s still several cakes. Sounds amazing (and rich) but not viable.
But how do you get into a calorie deficit? And for how long? And how much should you aim to lose? Fear not, and simply follow the steps below.
Step 1 – Calculate Your Current Intake
It’s very easy to say, “oh, start doing this immediately!” – when the reality is your history plays a massive role in your starting point. For example, food intake, training, etc.
Get one of the calorie-tracking apps like MyFitnessPal to find both your calorie and macro intake over 1 – 2 weeks, giving you the best idea of an average day’s intake of food.
It would also be wise to track a few other things, such as:
- Fiber intake
- Strength in the gym
- Water intake
These may seem like ‘small’ things, but when you’re really looking to get exotically lean, you’ll need every tool in the shed to get there. All five of these play a role, such as sleep is important for managing cortisol.
Step 2 – Design Your Diet Plan
Now that you know how much you’re eating, sleeping, and drinking currently, it’s time to start creating your diet plan and deciding what to eat to be ripped. You should now know minor things, such as how much protein you are eating, etc.
Deciding Your Calories
Let’s look at how many calories you will need to survive:
Maintenance Calories*: Bodyweight (in pounds) x 15
* This calculation is not perfect, and other calculations like the Harris-Benedict Equation might be better.
Now that you have a rough idea about how many calories you need to actually sustain/maintain your current body weight, we need to calculate the number of calories you need to eat in order to lose weight. The short answer is “less.” Shocker, right?
When trying to lose weight, we should only aim to lose between 0.5 – 1.0% of total body weight per week, as trying to lose less can become tedious (and who has the time!), while trying to lose more can lead to … well, a bad life (ask me how I know).
So how many calories less from maintenance do you need to eat? Well, it depends from person to person, but aiming for 200 – 400 calories less should do the trick. Due to genetics, some folk might need a bigger push, whilst others can get away with only 200.
Cool, calories, check! Now, how do I know which macros to eat?!
Macros are the descriptions in which calories come in and include:
- Protein: Consists of amino acids that are the building blocks of muscle cells and needed for muscle growth*
- Carbs: Carbs are the best source of energy for athletes or individuals looking to exercise
- Fats: Still important for other hormonal functions within the body
* Many will be worried that protein can be harmful to the kidneys, but this is typically only true if the individual is already suffering from a kidney problem.
There’s a definite influence on how a macro split can influence your results, and the reason for this is simply the manner in which the body utilizes these macros. For instance, a diet higher in protein is less likely to cause fat gain due to the higher thermic effect of food it has.
So, how should your macros be split?
- Protein: At least 1g per pound of body weight and up to 1.3g per pound of body weight
- Fats: At least 0.3g per pound of body weight and up to 0.5g per pound of body weight
- Carbs: The remainder of your calories
You can easily calculate these as both protein and carbs contain 4 calories per gram, whilst fats contain 9 calories per gram.
So, let’s look at an example, a 200lb male:
Maintenance Calories: Bodyweight (in pounds) x 15
Maintenance Calories: 200 x 15
Maintenance Calories: 3000 Calories
Deficit = 300 Calories
Thus, Total Daily Calories = 2700 Calories
Protein = 1g x 200 = 200g of Protein [800 Calories]
Fats = 0.4g x 200 = 80g of Fat [720 Calories]
Carbs = 2700 – 800 – 720 = 1180
Carbs = 1180 / 4 = 295g of Carbs
I realize those are a lot of numbers, but read them carefully, and you should be able to grasp them. At least it’s not Pythagoras, right?
When fat loss stops, you can simply remove 200 – 300 calories (from carbs), and then repeat this process every time weight loss stops.
So we have the diet amounts, check. Now, let’s look at meal timing – this article is about intermittent fasting, after all!
Step 3 – Master Meal Timing
For ease of maintenance, we’re going to stick to the very popular 16:8 split, but the tip can be applied to other fasting methods as well.
Meal timing! Influencers say it matters a whole lot. Science says it matters somewhat. And Grandma says you just gotta eat! She’s not wrong; food is incredibly important when looking to reach a physical goal.
So how should you split your meals?
It depends on when you plan to train. From a muscle preservation perspective, it would make sense to train at the very end of your feeding window since you’ll be loaded with amino acids and glycogen to have a quality workout.
If you were to train on an empty stomach, you run a huge risk of muscle loss due to the fact that… you don’t have food to recover. Without wood, how are you going to build a boat? By having a meal rich in protein and carbs before a workout, you could potentially increase the amount of muscle you build.
Furthermore, having an intra-workout carb drink could help you retain muscle mass due to lowering cortisol levels after the workout! Thus, it would be better to keep workouts towards the end of a feeding window.
Other than that, there are a few tips you can follow to get the best possible results:
- Follow the macro split you calculated before.
- Have a protein and carb-rich pre-workout meal.
- You could include an intra-workout carb drink to lower cortisol.
- Train at the tail end of the feeding window.
- If your feeding window ends before going to bed, consume protein 1 – 2 hours before hitting the sack.
By following these tips, you’ll be able to retain as much muscle mass as possible whilst losing fat tissue. And finally, we get to the part of the training!
Step 4 – Start Training
It won’t come as a surprise that training is going to massively improve your results. Both resistance and cardiovascular training will be incorporated as this combination will bring you the best results.
So how should you structure these?
Without getting too scientific, you could use fasting to your benefit here. See, one of the effects of fasting is that it increases the natural production of human growth hormone. One of the effects of HGH is that it forces the pancreas to secrete lipase!
Lipase is a hormone that has several functions, one of which is cleaving fat from adipocytes (fat cells) and depositing them into the blood as free fatty acids – which the body can then use as energy. The body becomes good at this when doing fasted cardio.
Ideally, the most ideal day of fasting would look like this*:
- 22h00 – Fasting window starts
- 14h00 – Break your fast with a protein shake or BCAA drink
- 14h15 – Do ‘fasted’ cardio
- 18h00 – Resistance training
- 20h00 – Pre-bed protein
* I realize this is the “perfect” situation, and 99% of people won’t be able to do this, but we can dream.
Fasted cardio should ideally be lower intensity, as this will allow the body to use free fatty acids as energy as opposed to glycogen. Start off with maybe 10 – 20 minutes per day, and only increase when fat loss stops.
Resistance training will be a metaphorical fight you have against gravity to convince your body not to burn body muscle as fuel. Bit dramatic, but you get the idea.
See, the body will burn anything to stay alive. Food, muscle, fat, bad memories… Okay, the last one is wishful thinking. But essentially, you need to convince the body (through training) that it needs to keep hold of muscle tissue.
“Holy sh*t, this guy is gonna deadlift tomorrow. NO! Burn literally anything else but the muscle; we need that!”
Resistance training can be any form, in reality, weights, machines, calisthenics, bodyweight, as long as there is some form of resistance the body needs to work against.
For the best possible results, you would also want to incorporate progressive overload in some of the following ways:
- Doing more weight/load
- Doing more reps
- Doing slower reps
- Having less rest time
These are the ways we will force the body to keep building muscle. If you haven’t noticed, the body needs a lot of convincing. How often you train will be up to you and your recovery capabilities. We are all different with different life stressors, after all.
Ideally, you would want to train a muscle once per week, preferably more like two-three times per week. This will allow your body to grow muscle tissue at the easiest rate, but again, it depends from person to person. Here are a few training splits you could follow:
Training every muscle in the body with a full-body workout 3 – 4 times per week. This is a lower volume and higher intensity training split. Full-body workouts are especially great for beginners, as the amount of stimulus they need to provide to get results from training is very low.
The step up from the full-body training, is simply training the upper body (chest, shoulders, back, arms) and then the lower (legs), taking a rest day, and repeating.
It’s a perfectly viable training session, but keep in mind that cumulative fatigue can become a lot, so make sure you pay attention to recovery.
PPL (Push Pull Legs)
A PPL program involves training push (chest, shoulders, triceps), then pull (back, biceps), then legs, taking a rest day, and repeating. It’s a training style that is tested and true, and most people (including myself) love this split a lot.
Named after pro bodybuilders, this is simply training a muscle once or twice per week.
Any of these would work, and you can choose any that suits your lifestyle best. A training program needs to be enjoyable. If you enjoy training, you’re more likely to pitch up and actually do the work. Thus, choose a program you enjoy but that is still challenging.
Step 5 – Put It All Together
So, a lot has been said and instructed, and it can be overwhelming. Fear not; it’s actually really simple when you break it down into smaller parts and execute each individually.
That being said, no one is perfect, and you should aim for consistency rather than perfection.
- You find your maintenance calories.
- You calculate your deficit.
- You calculate your macro split.
- You choose a training plan.
- Follow this plan for 12 – 16 weeks.
Yes, the whole process might take up to 16 weeks, depending on your starting point, of course.
There are some other ‘smaller’ tips that can help this whole process even more, but the above are way more important:
- Highest quality foods: Typically, processed foods aren’t the best, but they can serve a purpose for someone who’s super busy.
- Supplements: While not everything, supplements such as protein powder, creatine, and omega fatty acids can help your journey.
- Sleep: You should sleep at least 7 hours, but ideally more like 8 – 9 hours per night.
- Stress management: Trying to lower external stressors can make the whole journey both easier and more enjoyable.
- Fiber intake: A large number of adults don’t get enough fiber in their diets, which literally helps regulate blood glucose levels. This can help you feel fuller for longer and lowers cholesterol. Get your 30 grams a day, please.
A fat loss plan comes down to “suffering.” You won’t really be suffering, but even a slight amount of stress might feel big when calories are low. Thus, you want to keep stress as low as you possibly can. You can then easily train and do your cardio with a smile on your face.
… actually, I’ve never seen someone smile on a treadmill…
Ripped Body Intermittent Fasting Conclusion
Can you really get ripped with intermittent fasting? Absolutely. As I discussed above, all you need to do are:
- Calculate your calorie intake.
- Design your diet plan.
- Master meal timing.
- Start training.
- Put it all together.
Is it going to be substantially better than just following a normal calorie deficit and resistance training plan? Absolutely not.
There are many who believe it might be due to hormonal changes, but the evidence does not exist. While there are other benefits to fasting, such as gut health or management of cholesterol, these won’t inherently make you lose more fat, and you can lose fat just as easily by following a normal fat loss protocol.
The mechanisms at play are exactly the same as a normal diet. You still need to spend a decent amount of time under the bar to retain muscle mass, and you need to eat slightly less food to create a calorie deficit.
You need to follow this plan for a good amount of time and introduce progression both in the kitchen and the gym. When fat loss stops, you can reduce calories or increase cardio. A combination of both might be best.
Staying with this plan for a set period of time will get you results without a doubt. Fasting is a great diet with tremendous health benefits. It just isn’t better than a normal diet. If you like it, do it. If you don’t, don’t do it.
I wouldn’t! Hangry me is a hassle.