Like many others, I have been a faithful breakfast eater my whole life. The idea of starting the day off on an empty stomach seemed not only unconventional – and almost sacrilegious – but also entirely unfulfilling. Despite all of this, the promising science behind intermittent fasting and passionate testimonials of converted breakfast skippers convinced me to forego breakfast for 21 days. In part 3 of this series on IF, I’ll share my experience with the Breakfast Skip and why I now have breakfast for lunch.
The Low Down on the Breakfast Skip
The Breakfast Skip is a modified version of Martin Berkhan’s LeanGains method. It is a daily intermittent fast that consists of two phases: 14-16 hours of fasting, followed by 8-10 hours of feeding.
- For women, 14 hours of fasting is followed by 10 hours of feeding
- For men, 16 hours of fasting is followed by 8 hours of feeding.
Unlike the 24 Hour Fast, which consists of fasting for 24 hours once a week, the Breakfast Skip is less intense, but requires more consistency.
The Rules of the Breakfast Skip
The LeanGains method requires relatively strict macronutrient composition of meals and specific meal timing with regard to pre- and post-workout meals. Three meals are usually eaten, and the composition of the meals varies depending on the day. For example, carbs are prioritized before fats on workout days, and vice versa on rest days. Berkhan also specifies dietary components such as including a slow digesting protein source in the last meal of the day or having 10 g of BCAA (branched-chain amino acids) powder pre-workout. Since all of these rules can get a bit meticulous, I boiled the Breakfast Skip down to the following:
- Keep junk food to a minimum.
- Can you have a couple of pieces of dark chocolate? Absolutely. If possible, have your treat as part of your post-workout meal.
- Can you throw down an entire cheesecake? Not if you want to lose weight, optimize your body composition, or improve your health in general. You can’t expect results on a junk food diet, regardless of whether you are following an IF pattern or not.
- Food quality matters. As emphasized in LeanGains, it is essential to stick mostly to whole and unprocessed foods. Vegetables, fruits, and whole and unprocessed foods should be prioritized over processed or liquid foods. If you’re in a crunch and need a protein shake, don’t sweat it. But you are always better off getting your nutrients from whole food sources; cottage cheese, yogurt, and eggs are all quick and nutritious sources of protein.
- When feeding, calories still count. Regardless of whether you are doing IF, you can’t expect to lose weight while eating excessive amounts of food. If you want to achieve weight loss success, keep this in mind.
- No calories during the fasting phase. This is the essential premise of IF. While coffee (with up to 5 calories of milk/creamer), tea, and sugar-free gum in moderation are fine, you shouldn’t be taking in any other calories, solid or liquid, during the fasting phase.
- Keep pumping iron. If you want to lose weight, calorie restriction is the key to keep in mind. If you want to make the greatest strides in body composition and either maintain or increase muscle mass, strength training and exercise should not be neglected.
- Workout days = carbs. Rest days = fat. To optimize your body composition, follow this general macronutrient composition recommendation:
- On workout days, focus on high protein, high carb, and low fat.
- On rest days, focus on high protein, low carb, and high fat
- Meal frequency doesn’t matter, though most people find it easiest to stick to three meals during the feeding period.
- Consider keeping a food log. Though not a requisite for IF success, if you are looking for weight loss results, it’s a good idea to keep a food log. (If you already know how many calories you are eating and consistently eat the same, there’s no need to keep one.) For most people, a food log may make you aware of how much, what, and when you are eating, potentially providing valuable insight.
- Monitor your progress through InsideTracker. Being aware of changes in your biomarkers, such as blood glucose, is crucial to understanding how IF is impacting your health. InsideTracker can help you ensure that you are properly fasting.
The #1 Way to Ease the (Hunger) Pain:
The easiest way to fast for 14-16 hours is to sleep through much of the fast, and then simply skip breakfast. If you have dinner at 7 PM the night before, 14-16 hours will pass by quickly (given you are on a normal sleep schedule), and your first meal of the day can come at either 9 AM or 11 AM. You don’t even have to think of it as skipping breakfast; you’re simply pushing back the first meal of the day by a few hours.
Ladies, Take Note!
For the first two days, I fasted for 14 hours, per Martin Berkhan’s recommendation. The LeanGains guru points out that the female body is adept in protecting against fat loss below a certain body fat percentage, and that after fasting for the same period of time, women have lower blood glucose concentrations than men. That being said, he has found that 14 hours is the optimum daily fasting time for women, in terms of sustainability and results. While I did spend a number of days fasting for 16 hours without too much difficulty, I found the 16-hour fasting period harder to consistently adhere to.
Pros of the Breakfast Skip
- It’s easy to follow. You just skip breakfast! Despite being a devout breakfast eater for my entire life, after just a few days of the Breakfast Skip, I quickly adjusted to pushing my breakfast back a few hours.
- It eliminates late night snacking. It’s amazing how much junk food you can cut out if you just settle on a fasting period. Many of us crave sweets after dinner and fall prey to unnecessary midnight snacks. Once I started IF after dinner, it became much easier to cut out the late night junk food.
- It can simplify your life. Many fitness followers feel confined in a constant trap of prepping 6 meals a day and obsessively trying to meet particular calorie and macronutrient ratios. Instead, you can just push breakfast back a few hours, eat three (or however ever many you prefer) meals, and stick to general macronutrient ratios while still achieving results.
- You can still have a social life! People often burn out on diets, largely because they limit your ability to go out with friends, participate in family dinners, and so on. With the Breakfast Skip, you can eliminate this problem altogether. By planning your fasting and feeding periods properly, there’s no need to pick between your health and your social life.
- Breakfast skipping takes some training. Most breakfast eaters open up the fridge first thing each morning. While not a big deal, it definitely took me a few days to break myself of this habit and to stop thinking about food in the morning.
- It may constrain (or be constrained by) your schedule. Skipping breakfast can be tough if you work out in the wee hours of the mornings and then can’t eat until 12 PM. (LeanGains suggests working out right before breaking your fast.) The reality is that most people don’t have the luxury of being able to workout at whatever hour they please. The Breakfast Skip is the most constraining for those who work out early in the AM or late at night.
- You can easily overindulge during feeding periods. If you’re not keeping a food log, it’s not hard to imagine that one could still squeeze too many calories into the shorter period of time.
- Minimal cognitive benefits. While I sometimes felt increased mental clarity in the hours before I broke the fast (hours 14-16), the cognitive enhancement was nothing like I felt when I fasted for 24 hours. From a personal standpoint, I would say that the cognitive benefits of the Breakfast Skip are minimal (aside from the brain space that is freed from thinking about food!).
- Some days, you just miss breakfast. And while you can have breakfast for lunch or dinner, I still love my Sunday morning breakfast alongside a newspaper.
- Exercise is critical to success. This isn’t a big con for me, but may be for others.
Overall, I love the Breakfast Skip and found this IF method very easy to adhere to. While there were days when I wanted breakfast at a normal time, or wanted to workout early and immediately have my protein, I found that I eventually stopped thinking about food first thing in the morning. I was able free my mind and thoughts from food and focus my energy elsewhere. I found this IF method to be incredibly beneficial. If the idea of skipping breakfast sounds like a deal breaker to you, rather than foregoing it altogether, I urge you to consider following this IF pattern for most days of the week. Aside from breakfast, what have you got to lose?
Peele, L. (2011, March 14). Martin Berkhan And Intermittent Fasting: Interview. Retrieved from http://www.leighpeele.com/martin-berkhan-and-intermittent-fasting-interview