How I Lost 20 Pounds in a Month With Intermittent Fasting
A few weeks ago I started to notice that my weight was creeping up a bit. I guess I’d been ignoring it for a while, but now it had got to the point where my jeans were feeling rather tight at the waist. So I decided to take action and do something about it.
Just one month later I was 20 pounds lighter and my jeans were looser around the waist than they had ever been. It wasn’t difficult, but it did require a bit of determination. That’s the bottom line with weight loss; you have to decide you are going to do it no matter what. So if you’d like to do the same as I did, this is how I lost 20 pounds in just a month.
How I Lost 20 Pounds in a Month
I skipped breakfast and drank only water in the morning.
For lunch I ate protein (tuna or an omelette) and a salad followed by two cups of coffee.
Dinner was my biggest meal. I ate meat, poultry or fish, with vegetables and some carbs (rice or potatoes).
After dinner I had a mug of unsweetened cocoa.
I did a brief full-body workout with weights three times a week. After each workout, I had a protein shake and a banana.
1. I Skipped Breakfast
Contrary to what your mother may have told you, breakfast is not the most important meal of the day. In fact, it’s probably the least important. And unless you are a student with early classes, have a physically demanding job, or work out in the morning, you may find that you perform better if you simply give breakfast a miss. So, in the morning, all I consumed was water. But you could have some black unsweetened coffee or tea if you wish.
Why does skipping breakfast help with weight-loss?
Skipping breakfast is a form of daily intermittent fasting, and will not only help you burn fat and give you more energy, but will provide you with many other health benefits as well. Doing this will train your body to use its own fat stores as its primary fuel source, resulting in less effort and more weight loss, says Keith Kantor, a doctor of nutritional science and naturopathic doctor in Atlanta.
"Fasting works best when it is coupled with quality, whole, unprocessed foods and hydration with alkaline hydroxide water," says Kantor. "This water decreases inflammation and clears the detoxification pathways, which of course helps with detoxification which will help a little with weight loss."
After an overnight fast your body is in prime fat-burning mode, due mostly to the fact that your insulin levels are low first thing in the morning. So when you eat the typical breakfast, which tends to be high in carbohydrates, this raises your insulin levels and brings fat-burning to a halt.
Conversely, growth hormone (which burns fat and builds muscle) is higher early in the morning. But as soon as your insulin levels go up your growth hormone levels plummet.
Eating early in the morning also tends to reduce (rather than increase) your energy levels due to the fact that it puts your body into "relax and repair" mode. So by eating breakfast (especially one that is high in carbs) you stop fat burning and reduce your energy levels.
The 16/8 Intermittent Fasting Method
Intermittent fasting is the practice of incorporating short-term fasts into your eating regimen. Of course, we all "fast" while we're sleeping (thus the first meal of the day is breakfast). While some intermittent fasting methods involve not eating for 24 hours once or twice a week, I simply extended my night's fast until lunch. So I fasted for 16 hours and ate during an 8-hour window (from noon to 8 p.m.).
There's quite a debate about whether skipping breakfast actually helps with weight-loss or not. One study, conducted in 2014, showed no difference in results between dieters who skipped breakfast and another group that ate breakfast. Another study from the same year however found that skipping breakfast not only assisted with weight-loss but lowered the risk of disease.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Experts note a number of benefits from brief fasts. According to Kantor, they include increased longevity, improved brain function, improved insulin regulation, stronger resistance to stress, improved satiety, benefits of endogenous hormone production, and increased mental clarity.
And no, skipping breakfast will not cause your metabolism to slow down or put you into "starvation mode". It takes a much longer period of time for that to happen.
Who Shouldn't Try Intermittent Fasting?
Talk to your doctor before starting this diet yourself. Skipping meals can be dangerous for people with diabetes as well as for anyone on medications for heart disease or high blood pressure.
2. I Ate a Light Lunch
For lunch I just ate some protein and salad. The protein source was either a can of tuna (in brine or spring water) with a little olive oil mixed into it, or a 4 egg plain omelette, or occasionally about 100g of ham with a little cottage cheese.
Salad choices could be cucumber, celery, lettuce, beetroot, peppers, tomatoes etc. That’s it; no salad dressing was used and no starchy carbs were eaten at lunch time. By not eating carbs (other than those in the salad) you keep your insulin level fairly low, which facilitates fat burning during the afternoon, as well as giving you more energy. But eating a reasonable serving of protein is important as this helps preserve muscle mass while you are losing body fat.
After lunch I had two cups of coffee with a splash of semi-skimmed milk in them.
And yes, I did get a little hungry during the afternoon sometimes; but that’s just something you have to accept and put up with. A little hunger occasionally will not do you any harm.
3. On Training Days I Had a Post-Workout Shake and a Banana
I trained with weights three times per week, doing a brief but intense full body workout. On these days I had two scoops of whey protein in ¾ pint (400 ml) of low-fat (skimmed) milk after training. I also had a ripe banana at this time to provide a readily assimilable source of carbohydrates.
The post workout shake is important as it helps put back what the training has taken out of you; and it gets the recovery process off to a good start too. You then need to eat a good meal about an hour or two later.
Some form of resistance training is important whilst dieting in order to preserve (or even build) muscle. But if you don’t want to go to the gym and lift weights, you could always do some bodyweight exercises at home instead.
On non-training days I did not eat anything after lunch until the evening meal.
4. I Had My Main Meal in the Evening
In the evening I had about 10 oz of meat, poultry or fish, with vegetables and some carbs (more carbs were eaten on training days than on off days). The carb source was either brown rice, potatoes or sweet potatoes.
This was quite a substantial (but healthy) and filling meal. Having a larger meal with some carbs in the evening helps to replenish glycogen stores, keep the metabolism high and boost leptin levels. Leptin is your main fat burning hormone, so it’s important to keep levels high if you want the fat burning process to continue beyond a certain point.
Then about an hour later I had a mug of organic cocoa made with semi-skimmed milk.
And that’s everything. No processed, refined, packaged or sugary foods were eaten at all. And apart from the coffee, cocoa and post workout shakes all I drank was water. No alcohol was consumed; and no nuts or cheese were eaten either, as despite the fact that these are healthy, they are high in calories so are best avoided if you are trying to lose weight as fast as possible.
How much weight have you lost in a month?
5. I Took a Day Off Every Week
I followed the above regimen for six days each week and then I had a day off. Some people call this a ‘cheat day’ or a ‘re-feed day’, but it’s just a day when you can relax and eat a bit more of what you fancy. It’s not an excuse to eat whatever you want though, but you can eat more food, more calories and more carbs. You can even have a bit of junk food or a sugary desert if you want to. But just the one; and just on this one day.
The purpose of the re-feed day is to give your metabolism an additional boost, and raise your leptin levels even more. If done right it will accelerate your fat loss during the following week. But if you overdo it, you will just undo a lot of the good you have done the previous week.
So on this day I'd still skip breakfast, but for lunch I would have some cheese in my omelette as well as a slice of whole wheat pita bread. I’d have a glass of red wine with my evening meal, and afterwards I might have a desert – a piece of cheesecake perhaps. Or possibly a bowl of oatmeal instead. And I might also have some chocolate with my cocoa.
During the week I did get my cravings for sugary foods, but I just told myself that I couldn’t have any until Saturday. That worked quite well; you can stick to something better if you have something to look forward to that’s not too far off.
So that’s exactly what I did to lose 20 pounds in 30 days. This particular way of eating combines daily intermittent fasting with low carb under-eating during the day, a substantial evening meal and properly scheduled re-feed days. It worked great for me and I’m sure it will for you too. Let me know if you decide to try it.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Questions & Answers
I have done intermittent fasting 16:8 daily for 30 days, and have lost only shy of 8 lbs. Some people eat more meals during their eating window, but still lose more pounds. I eat only one meal per day (lunch at 4-5 pm); the rest of the time is fasting. My meals are comprised of fats, veggies and some meat, with no carbs at all. What do you think is wrong with my body? I weigh 106.5 kg and I'd like to see myself at 85-90 kg.
There is very likely nothing wrong with your body. It's just that some people lose weight more easily than others for a variety of reasons. There are some points you might want to consider though. First, if you are only having one meal per day, and fasting the rest of the time, you are not doing 16:8 IF. You are probably doing something like 20:4 or even 22:2. Going for such a long time without eating every day will cause more muscle loss than if you had a larger eating window. Also, if you are not having any carbs at all, your metabolism will start to slow down after a while, and certain hormones will get out of balance. This is particularly the case if you are quite active. So I'd recommend you have at least one meal per week where you include some starchy carbs, and you can increase that when you have lost more weight. Also, make sure you get out for a walk most days of the week, and ideally lift some weights (or do some callisthenics) at least two days per week as well, assuming you are not already doing this of course.Helpful 84
I fast from 8 pm until about 11 am, and sometimes I would like to have porridge with skimmed milk and a teaspoon of peanut butter mixed in as my first meal, and then have my main meal at about 7 pm, with protein, veg and a small amount of carbs. Is that ok, or should I have protein in my first meal as you suggest - tuna or eggs?
Oats are a slow digesting form of carbohydrate, so will give you more sustained energy than most other carb sources. So having porridge as your first meal a couple of times per week should be fine. A protein meal is better though, so have this on most days. It's worth noting, however, that adding peanut butter (or any other legumes) to grains gives a more complete amino acid profile, so you get a more useable protein source. Not as good as animal protein of course, but still decent.Helpful 26
While intermittent fasting, when did you do your workout? What was your routine on exercise days?
I did my workouts in the afternoons, a couple of hours after lunch. I would not train with weights in the fasting state, as performance would be compromised, and it would result in too much muscle tissue breakdown. The routine I was following at the time was a brief full-body workout, performed three times per week. Though generally, my preferred method of training is an upper/lower split, performed either three or four days per week.Helpful 25
Can you continue intermittent fasting for more than one month?
Yes, you can continue for as long as you want. Just remember that if you are on a calorie deficit for an extended period of time you should take a diet break occasionally to get your hormones back into balance and boost your metabolism a bit. A diet break is a period of 1 - 2 weeks where you bring your calorie intake back up to maintenance (or slightly above). Then you can resume your weight loss efforts and you will see improved results. You'll feel a lot better too.Helpful 21
Can I consume meals from 7AM-3PM, and fast the rest of the time, and get the same results?
Yes, that should work just as well. It's the time spent in the fasting state, and the amount of calories and macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fat) consumed in the eating window that is important.Helpful 21
© 2014 David