In recent years, intermittent fasting (or IF for short) has taken the world by storm, receiving loads of critical acclaim. This is due to the countless health benefits it provides, and the fact that it doesn’t change the diet – but rather the time – of your meals. This article will outline the most ideal number of meals for most guys, for you to use as a starting baseline.
Since IF typically benefits men more than women, it caught our attention at TOG.
There are many versions of intermittent fasting, which can make following this eating pattern unnecessarily complicated. Every eating plan or diet should consist of filling, healthy foods, and optimized supplementation for the last 10-15%. However, the lack of clarity around how many times to eat per day, turns away many men who can highly benefit from it!
So, in this article, we’ll reveal how many times per day you need to eat while intermittent fasting.
The Short Answer On Daily IF Meals
Generally speaking, the answer is that you should eat one to three daily meals while intermittent fasting – depending on the exact method of intermittent fasting you chose, and whether there’s a limit on caloric intake.
If you’re still confused about the number of times you should eat (because you haven’t picked a method yet) let’s jump into everything you need to know.
A Recap on Intermittent Fasting & How It Works
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that alternates between fasting and eating, according to a specific schedule or caloric intake. Popular methods of intermittent fasting are the 16/8 method, 5/2 method, alternate-day fasting, one meal a day (OMAD), Eat Stop Eat, the Warrior Diet, and spontaneous meal skipping.
Here’s The Breakdown on Each of Those:
You fast for 16 hours and eat for 8. This gives you an 8 hour “eating window”
Eat from 9 am to 5 pm or 12 pm to 8 pm. Fast the rest of the time.
You reduce your caloric intake to 600 calories for only 2 separate days of the week. * This is a pretty intense method, and should only be used with specific goals in mind, like “cutting” fat. *
Eat normally all week, except for Fridays and Tuesdays, when you eat two 300-calorie meals. Arguably the most difficult method on the list.
You fast every other day, either by not eating, or reducing your caloric intake to less than 500 calories when fasting.
Eat normally on the first, third, fifth, and seventh day OR only eat 500 calories on the second, fourth, and sixth day.
One Meal a Day
You fast for 23 hours and eat for 1 hour. Or, however long it takes to eat your one meal. Take your time eating, so you don’t stress your digestive system with a huge meal.
You eat one meal (i.e. dinner), and fast until the next dinner.
Eat Stop Eat
You fast 24 hours once or twice a week.
If you finish your last meal on Sunday at say, 6 p.m., you don’t start eating on Monday until 6 p.m. Repeat throughout the week.
The Warrior Diet
You eat very little raw fruits and vegetables for 20 hours, then eat normally in a 4-hour window at night.
You eat a few fruits and vegetables during the day, then one huge meal in the evening over a four hour window.
Spontaneous Meal Skipping
Pretty straightforward – you skip a meal whenever you feel like it.
Eat when you’re hungry, and skip meals when you’re not!
A Quick Breakdown of the IF Types & Methodologies
- Also called time-restricted fasting, the 16/8 method is the most common IF method, since it’s the most manageable. It’s ideal for breakfast-skippers and early dinner eaters.
- Also known as the Fast Diet, the 5/2 method works for many guys, because fasting days are non-consecutive, making it easier to follow.
- Alternate-day fasting is a bit more challenging than other methods, so it’s not recommended for a first-timer.
- Also known as the OMAD diet, the one-meal-a-day approach is considered one of the most extreme forms of intermittent fasting. After some adjustment time, it can be very simple to follow since your body will adapt accordingly!
- If you find the OMAD diet too extreme for heavy work weeks, you can try the Eat Stop Eat method, where you can practice it once or twice a week. This helps you transition to OMAD.
- Also known as the 4-hour eating window, the Warrior Diet isn’t for everyone. However, nocturnal eaters will find it easier than others.
- Spontaneous meal skipping is the most flexible and natural approach.
What to Eat During Intermittent Fasting
Fiber-rich food is the key to a happy digestive system, and a more satiated state while fasting.
Fiber-rich fruits include raspberries, apples, and oranges. Your fiber-packed vegetables are broccoli, potatoes, carrots, and green peas. Also, quinoa, whole grains like brown rice, and oatmeal, should also be part of your meals on fasting days.
Protein is an important part of any balanced meal. It keeps your appetite in check, boosts metabolism, helps build lean muscle, repairs tissue, and provides sustainable energy. You can get your protein from whole grains, eggs, seeds, nuts, meat, fish, and seafood.
Healthy Fats & Carbohydrates
Even if you’re trying to lose weight, fats and carbohydrates aren’t bad words; you just need to get them from the right sources.
You need healthy fats to reduce inflammation, aid weight loss, improve insulin sensitivity, and lower blood pressure. Get your healthy fats from olive oil, avocados, almonds, and pumpkin seeds.
Carbohydrates are also a primary source of energy, and you definitely need this fuel when fasting. The healthiest foods with carbohydrates are sweet potatoes, beetroots, kidney beans, bananas, and chia seeds.
Keep in mind, high-glycemic carbs will spike your insulin, digest quickly, and often leave you hungrier than before. And that can be a nightmare on IF. This is why you need to balance with fats, proteins, and low-glycemic index carbs.
Water & Calorie-Free Drinks
You can drink water and calorie-free fluids all day on IF – and still be in a fasted state. In fact, you’ll need hydration when you’re fasting. Why? Because dehydration will give you headaches, leave you tired, and make you dizzy.
Remember, when you consume calories from anything – even sugar, milk, or juice – you’re breaking your fast, thereby making IF less effective.
But you have many other ways to hydrate besides water, including all calorie-free drinks. Black coffee can help keep you energized when you’re not eating. It also leaves you less hungry. Green tea curbs your appetite while reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease long-term.
Some of the Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Long story short, our evolutionary past has contributed to optimal eating patterns. Through natural selection, and millions of adaptations over hundreds of thousands of years…
Our bodies have figured out what’s best for us long-term.
From our hunter-gatherer past, days of feast or famine were very common. Oftentimes, even in current hunter-gatherer societies across the globe (Aché of Paraguay, Hadza of Tanzania, and the !Kung San of Namibia) still practice fasting.
These cultures do it naturally, preserving the hunter-gatherer-typical consumption of calories – because big hunts with large kills are not an everyday occurrence. They may go days without a large beast as prey, and survive off of gathered crops, fruits, nuts, and berries.
And this is the exact way modern humans have evolved to intake calories too, which is why your body responds very well from a health standpoint. Let’s explore exactly how:
One of the main reasons people practice intermittent fasting is to lose weight. Some variations of the eating pattern reduce your caloric intake, while others simply reduce the number of hours you can eat. Either way, intermittent fasting has been proven to be effective in aiding weight loss and cardioprotection.
Lower Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a silent killer (especially for men with high-stress business lives) that operates low-key, without their awareness, before it’s too late. If you want to keep heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease away, intermittent fasting can do that for you by helping to lower your blood pressure.
Lower Insulin Resistance
One of this eating pattern’s most rewarding benefits is stabilizing blood sugar levels. It does so by lowering insulin resistance – which reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes – even for those who are already at risk!
Increased Cell Turnover
Every now and then, a new trend shows up, promising “detoxification” of the body. However, it seems that intermittent fasting has actually been proven to achieve that by increasing autophagy (cell cleanup or turnover), which gets rid of toxins and infectious agents, for a healthier body.
If you have sleep troubles, intermittent fasting may be the answer. It does so by regulating your circadian rhythm or internal body clock, which helps you wake up more refreshed because you suffer from fewer digestive problems than someone who eats large meals and sleeps immediately afterward.
Related IF ‘Meal Schedule’ Questions
Can You Eat Anything While Intermittent Fasting?
Most variations of intermittent fasting don’t dictate your caloric intake, and none of them tell you exactly what to eat but rather when to eat. However, it’s better to eat balanced, healthy meals that keep the hunger away and sustain your energy. When you add a lifestyle of focused work, intense bodily movement and exercise, you want to eat foods that aid you in your aims.
How Many Calories Should You Eat On 16/8 Diet?
The 16/8 diet puts no restrictions whatsoever on how many calories you can eat in the 8-hour window. So, feel free to eat your normal meals as usual. However, try to be mindful not to eat more than your normal, which can be tempting when fasting.
How Much Weight Can You Lose in a Month With Intermittent Fasting?
It depends on many factors, such as your height, weight, and the type of eating pattern you follow. That being said, a 2014 study found that people lost around 0.55 to 1.65 pounds a week while intermittent fasting.
If you’re losing far more than this each week, you’re probably restricting calories too much. If you’re not losing weight even this fast, you should adjust calories downwards.
Conclusion to How Many Meals A Day Is Optimal While On IF
As you can see, the number of times you eat while intermittent fasting depends on the IF pattern you choose.
If you pick the 16/8 method, you can eat up to three times a day. However, the 5/2 method, spontaneous meal skipping, and alternate-day fasting limit you to two meals. Finally, the OMAD diet, Eat Stop Eat, and the Warrior Diet allow you only one full meal.
Remember, with health, diets, and nutrition, there is NO “one size fits all”. Nowadays, the fitness and diet space has become religious and proselytizing. At TOG, we just want to provide you with all the possible options, and let you experiment on your own.
After all, it is your body – treat it like a healthy experiment, measure out your results, and have fun with it! This process is all about optimizing your food, to fit your lifestyle, your goals, and your desired states.