Search Results for: intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting review just published

By Ivan Nikolov

I was hinted about this work on Intermittent Fasting (IF) by Martin Berkhan over at It’s a thorough systemic review of possibly all that we know about Intermittent fasting and how it works in animals and, to a lesser degree, in men (that’s understandable – lab animals live two years, humans quite a bit longer, so naturally it’s harder to study humans and it tends to take decades… provided you find enough subjects who would voluntarily choose to alternate hunger days with food days).

The review appears to be the thesis of a young, hard-working for the health cause MD – Bojan Kostevski. The review is published on his website I won’t comment on his work. I’ll just say that I highly recommend that you go to his website and read it. He mainly studies the most common (I suppose) Intermittent Fasting style – one day fasting followed by one day ad libitum or restricted eating (depending on the research papers he’s studied).

Bojan Kostevski’s thesis is structured in a way that discusses common conditions, metabolic and physical systems. So, if you are short on time (or patience) you can scroll to the parts that are of interest to you. But, again, finding the extra few minutes to read the entire thesis is better.

Once again, the website is (this is a direct link to the the Intermittent Fasting review page).


Intermittent fasting – long term? Or not.

By Ivan Nikolov

I don’t know yet.

I will explain. But before I do here are two snapshots (selfies I guess) that I took about an hour ago. These are taken at noon before my first meal for the day and after I’ve just come back from a 3-mile run, preceded by a few sets of pull-ups and hand-stand push-ups. In short – 15-hour fast + physical activity to top it off before I finally have something to eat.

Ivan Nikolov shap shot

Taken after a 15-hour fast – May 30, 2014

Ivan Nikolov shap shot

Same as above

I started fasting in the fall of 2012. I wanted to try Intermittent fasting for two weeks only and it’s been close to two years since then – I haven’t had the need to return to having another solid meal at breakfast (now that I think about it, ‘breakfast’ literally means breaking the fast and in my case that’s lunch since it’s then when I actually break the fast). When I tried Intermittent fasting I came to it from having six meals a day to about two.

I have to say that sticking with something for that long requires that whatever that ‘something’ is you don’t make it an ‘absolute must’. If you do, you are asking for trouble – you tend to want to ‘get back to normal’ – it’s just in human nature. I said back then, “I’ll try this for two weeks just to see what the heck could possibly happen to me. Will I waste away? Will my muscles just get eaten up by my unchanged high requirement for calories? What could possible my reaction to such a complete U-turn to all I’ve believed and taught others to believe in (you know, the eating every 3 hours deal, avoiding starvation mode, etc)?”.

And, here I am now more than a year and a half later and still not feeling compelled to return to my old ‘correct ways’ of doing human nutrition.

A part of it is that I have the option to do what I want – and I simply choose another option. In other words I don’t feel obligated.

But, a bigger part is that I can’t find a single benefit to going back to my old ways. So, why should I? I’m not saying that I’ll never ever in my life have another calorie before noon. In fact on a few occasions I’ve had something to eat in the morning. But, in all but one of these occasions I did that mostly because I wanted to be silly and prove myself that I’ll be fine either way I choose. On one occasion only I felt that I had to do it and that was before I ran a 10K. I think this was a very smart move.

And, what about the benefits of fasting for 15-16 hours? What is it that makes me still not want to eat breakfast (or rather an early meal  that breaks a semi-fast)?

Here are a few benefits – many of them I’ve learned based on my own experience:

  • I feel lighter during the day
  • I feel that I have more energy
  • I train better
  • My strength has not decreased – quite the opposite
  • My efficiency during non-conventional movements seems to have improved
  • It’s cheaper – I eat less food
  • I assimilate proteins better (this is evident to me from the fact that I have no problem maintaining muscle mass on 60-80 grams of protein a day – coming down from 200+ grams a day)
  • I don’t have to think about what to eat in the morning. I can go straight to doing something productive (most of the time)

Are there any negatives of Intermittent fasting? I’m still trying to make sure I should attribute this to the fasting, but I’m not 100 percent convinced yet. Still, I started noticing early last year that when I have to be in an air conditioned room that is maintained at what seem to be normal levels for most people – about 72 F – I feel pretty uncomfortably cold. I’ve noticed that other people (especially during the summer) feel just fine wearing short-sleeve one-layer clothing and slippers… Me? I’m shivering if not wearing long-sleeve and closed shoes.

I suspect the reason for this is my internal ‘furnace’ isn’t producing much heat because of not much food digestion going on. I’ve noticed also that I don’t feel as cold in such environments in the afternoon (after I’ve broken the fast). That leads me to believe that this is a nuisance side effect of Intermittent fasting. I’m not sure yet, but even if it is it’s something I can live with.

Will I ever go back to eating 3+ meals a day? I don’t know. For the moment I do what I what works for me – and Intermittent fasting works for me just great.

Intermittent Fasting Experiment

By Ivan Nikolov

More updates on my progress with Intermittent Fasting here.

– – –

Just recently, following the Wholehealthsource blog I found myself onto another blog (don’t remember) and the from there on a couple of blogs (Rippedbody and Leangains) that discussed Intermittent Fasting (IF). Then I remembered one of my two employees from the time I had Viitals asked me whether I’ve  heard of IF before. I hadn’t at that time.

Reading trough the blogs I thought that the IF idea:

1) Is pretty close to a diet regimen that I’ve followed throughout my competitive career called – Ascending-Descending Calories. Basically, the idea was I started the week at maintenance calories, moderate-to-high protein and high carbs. Going further down the week I’d progressively increase the protein and decrease the carbs until I was on less than 20g carbs on Friday and Saturday. Then on Sunday I’d up the carbs significantly and bring the protein to average. At this point the total calories were above maintenance level.

This diet plan was what brought me and kept me in the best shape of my life. Too difficult to follow for a regular person, though. It eventually wore me down, too.


2) A compilation of studies by someone I know on increasing lifespan via calorie restriction.

So, basically, this where I am today. I am not in the best shape of my life, but not the worst either. I’ve managed to keep relatively low BF percentage – 8-10 for a period of 4 years (since I last competed), but I’ve lost quite a few pounds of lean muscle mass.

That was achieved trough regularly undereating as far as total calories, irregular eating habits, relatively low-carb all along and lately higher fat in accordance with what I know about ancestral (paleo) nutrition. Oh, and a quick stint as a vegetarian (oh, well..)

So, any way, it seems like the Leangains type of IF is something that scientifically makes sense to me, not last in importance – easy to manage as I will have to eat twice (maximum 3 times) a day – easy. Plus, all these years of calorie counting and weighing my foods I am used to it and it won’t be a difficult switch.

So, I decided to give it a try for as long as I feel comfortable with it. Who knows – it may turn out to be for life… or may be a couple of months. Don’t know. We’ll see. The goal is to eventually shed a bid more fat and stay at around 8 percent while increasing the lean muscle mass 5-10 pounds.

Here is a pic I took this morning after 15 hours of fasting (started yesterday)… and flexing a bit (it comes from my competitive BB days)

Ivan - IF pic 1

Training (to get this out of the way)

I will train 3 days a week (like I have been doing for a while now) – compound exercises as much as I can (no dead lifts – back injury won’t let me) and free weights more isolated exercises. May insert some machines for major muscle groups if I don’t feel the past injuries will allow me to go more compound on a particular day.

Intermittent Fasting (IF) Diet Setup

There is still a whole lot left to read from the guys that are leading the IF movement, but from the reading I’ve done so far I decided to follow the IF diet set up instructions on the Andy Morgan’s blog on this page with a couple of twists.

Step 1. Calculate your BMR

Weight: 154 lb

BF%: Roughly 10%

I took BF% down this morning using an Omron manual fat analyzer. 8.2% in “normal” mode; 9.7% in “athlete” mode. So, I’m rounding this to 10% for simplicity reasons, and also because this will actually lower my BMR calories – not a bad thing, and much preferred over accidental overestimating.

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR): 1650 Calories

I determined the BMR using a revised-revised (yeah, twice revised) Harris-Benedict formula. I used a tool that I developed some years ago that I called FitNA – it’s on my oldest website and it uses the double-revised Harris-Benedict equation.

How is it double-revised? Well, they revised it once. And, I revised it once to account for the fat percentage. Basically, my thinking was if there is inaccuracy it comes from the fact that the equation uses total body mass and lean body mass (LBM). If fat is mostly a not very metabolically-active tissue why account for it and factor in calories in the BMR? So, I basically replaced the total body mass with LBM in the formula.

Step 2. Adjust for Activity

I’m always very careful with this step because this is where I’ve made a lot of mistakes estimating my total daily calories (TDEE) and those of clients when I was a trainer. I’d say based on my experience and observations about 90 percent of all folks qualify for the sedentary work multiplier regardless of what they do. So, I choose that for myself, too.

Activity multiplier: x 1.2

TDEE: approx. 2,000 Cal

Step 3. Choose to ‘Cut’, ‘Slow-Bulk’ or gradual ‘Body-Recomposition’

‘Body-Recomposition’. I think that’s what I need.

So, this is TDEE + 20% on workout (WO) days or 2400 Cal/day, and TDEE – 20% on rest days (RD) 0r 1600 Cal/day. If you do the math, since I workout 3 days a week and rest 4 days, the mean average will come slightly below my TDEE calories. In other words:

3 x 2400 = 7200; 4 x 1600 = 6400; (7200+6400)/7=1943 Cal/day, which is a totally welcome deficit of about 5o Cal.

Step 4. Calculate a Training-Day and Rest-Day Calorie Figure

I got a bit ahead of myself in the previous step, so again:

WO days – Mo, Wed, Fri: TDEE +20% or 2,400 Cal
Rest days- Tue, Thur, Sat, Sun: TDEE – 20% or 1,600 Cal

Mean average: 1,943 Cal/day

Step 5. Calculate your Macro Targets for Training-Days and Rest-Days

Protein (constant): LBM = 60kg (134 LB) x 2.5g = 150 g (x 4 = 600 Cal)

Fat – Rest days:  90g (x 9 = 810 Cal)
Fat – WO days:  60g (x 9 = 540 Cal)

The reason why my fats are higher than recommended on the Andy’s blog is I generally don’t do well on very high-carb diets. I just know myself. On a high-carb diet I turn from someone who loves food and eating and can’t wait to the next meal into someone who hates eating because he still feels stuffed from the previous meal when the time comes for the next one. I know the window between meals is higher, but still I can’t eat a lot of carbs in a single sitting.

Besides, I don’t eat gluten-containing foods and I generally stick to tuber starches for carbs. Don’t like grains in general (arrived to recently for our genetics to adjust to them) and the only one that I afford myself sometimes is white rice (something to do with the lectins and other antinutrients in brown rice). So, eating carbs from such sources most of the time makes for a very large meal.

Onto the carbs…

Rest day carbs = 1600 – (600 + 810) = 190 Cal or 45 g carbs (190/4=~45)
WO day carbs = 2400 – (600 + 540) = 800 Cal or 200g carbs (800/4=200)

There is something else that I’ve always believe, as far as macro nutrient ratios (macros) are concerned. In my practice as a competitive athlete for myself, and later for clients I awalys adjusted the macros based on the morphological body type (you know the ecto- meso- and endomorph and those in between). My logic was endomorphs should be more carb restricted than mesomorphs, who should be more carb-restricted than ectomorphs – the first group is the most sensitive to a possible negative impact of a high-carb diet, the second less.. and so on.

I’ve been fat before and I know that I qualify for the endo-mesomorph group, so there is one more reason I thrive better on a lower-carb diet in general. That’s one of the reasons I feel better on a low-carb, high-fat day – like the rest day of the Intermittent fast routine – than most people (or at least than those who are used to large amount of processed carbs any way..)


Rest day total:
Calories – 1600
Protein – 150 g
Carbs ~ 45 g
Fat – 90 g

Meal 1 (around 1pm –  post WO on some days):
Protein – 75 g
Carbs – 22 g
Fat – 45 g

Meal 2 (around 8.30 – 9pm – post WO on some days):
Protein – 75 g
Carbs – 22 g
Fat – 45 g

WO Day:
Calories – 2400
Protein – 150 g
Carbs – 200 g
Fat – 60 g

Meal 1 (around 1pm – post WO on some days):
Protein – 75 g
Carbs – 100 g
Fat – 30 g

Meal 2 (around 8.30 – 9pm – post WO on some days):
Protein – 75 g
Carbs – 100 g
Fat – 30 g

To determine how much of what food I will need in order to build my meals I will use 1) digital scales, and 2) the USDA national nutrient database. These two are all I need.

I don’t know.. It still seems a lot of food to me – especially the protein. But, what do you expect from I guy that’s always preached small, frequent meals throughout the day.. I still have to get my head around the concept that more than 30-40g of protein is ok in a single meal.. and let my body get used to it, too.

I am sure that there going to be changes made as I discover things that can be further customized/improved and based on progress or lack of such thereof.

I also know that I will try to figure out ways to make even these two meals more intuitive, so I may come up soon with some type of cooked/baked product that has exactly my macro nutrient ratios – something that I can eat without counting the calories before the meal. Something that I know it won’t set me behind on my goal because I want to make my life easier.

I will be posting progress/changes updates below this line in the near future. ~I.

– – –

Update: 9/27/12 – 5 weeks later

A couple of days into IF I felt like relaxing the diet regimen from strictly conforming to the high-carb-low-fat-high-cal on training days, followed by low-carb-high-fat-low-cal on non-training day to low-cal-low-carb during any meal but the post-workout meal, which was high-carb-low-fat-high-cal.

I also went back to entimating grams of macros instead of strictly weighing them – I’ve been weighing my foods for so many years that just thinking of doing that before I put food in my body was making the whole process feel a lot more like a chore than it should have.

During these 5 weeks I never ate before 1pm and after 9.30pm (10pm on rare occasions).

Here are the results from this morning:

Weight: 153 lb
Body fat %: 7.9 (using my Omron hand-held fat analyzer, which I used for the prior measurements)


Ivan - IF pic 2

So, body fat is about 2 % down and it seems that fat is all the weight I’ve lost, which is 1 lb.

I still need to read about the science behind all this, if I want to do it long-term. For now my impressions are:

  • it’s easier to plan for 2 meals than 5 or 6
  • it’s easier on the digestion
  • I haven’t lost any muscle mass or strength from not eating breakfast

Video: How to eat what you want and never gain any fat

By Ivan Nikolov

It’s never a great idea to eat what you want but it is possible – without gaining any weight.. or fat, just to call it what it is.

During my competitive bodybuilding years, I used to eat six times a day and I used to carefully measure everything I ate. It was cumbersome and boring.

Then one day I decided that I wanted to be able to – at least sometimes – enjoy foods that others enjoyed, too.

So, I searched the web and found something that looked promising. I tried it and it worked. It’s called Intermittent Fasting (I’ve written about it before).

In this video, I share exactly how and when I fast.

Althugh, I still eat healthy whenever I want I allow myself some indulgences. Not only is it not affecting my body fat level but I actually stay lean while maintaining the muscle mass I had before I started. My strength has gone up. And, I feel great.

I want more people to know about Intermittent Fasting. It allows freedom. It is liberating… and it’s healthy.

Have you tried Intermittent Fasting? Let me know in the comments below.

Six Meals vs Two Meals

By Ivan Nikolov

The question is are more frequent and smaller meals better for you or are fewer and larger meals better? Six meals vs two meals? Which way to go?



You’re probably going to ask, “Doesn’t this depend on your goal? Isn’t it different if you want to lose fat vs to gain weight/muscle?” The answer is “No” and that’s why I posed the question in this manner.

But, for the sake of having a goal, let’s assume that your goal is to lose weight (fat). You want a faster metabolism and calorie deficit. That’s it!

Small meal - Large meal

But, how do you achieve faster metabolism? By eating smaller, more frequent meals? Not really.

Here is why. Let’s assume for a second that you eat a certain set amount of calories and a set ratio of the macro nutrients (carbohydrates, fats, proteins), so in other words these variables are not variables. In our case they are constant. This is because we want to see if we only have one variable if our metabolism changes and how it changes.

I will give you the scoop right away. Whether you eat six small meals or two large meal you will NOT burn more calories from eating more frequently. And, it’s very simple why. All macro nutrients require a part of the energy they supply the body to be used against the process of digestion itself. So, whether you swallow these Calories and this set ratio of macro nutrients, the body will still use up the same amount of Calories to digest that food.

In other words, eating more frequently does not increase your metabolism. And, vice versa, eating less frequently does not decrease your metabolism. And there are many scientific papers to prove that metabolism does not suffer if you eat less frequently (1, 2, 3).

What determines how many Calories you burn is mainly the rate at which you expend calories from moving around and exercise. So, if your goal is to lose fat the solution is very simple: eat less frequently (by for example skipping breakfast – a type of Intermittent Fasting), and use your body more. It’s as simple as that.

Calorie Restriction And Muscle Loss

By Ivan Nikolov

It is common knowledge among body building circles that calorie restriction causes muscle loss. In other words, if you eat below your maintenance calories you lose muscle mass.

Calorie Restriction And Muscle Loss – True or not?

I personally am guilty of subscribing to the “calorie restriction makes you waste muscle” notion. I used to eat 6 times a day. I used to eat a high-protein meal pre-workout and a high-protein/carg meal post-workout. I was especially careful not to train on an empty stomach or not to miss “feeding my muscles” right after my workout, so as to avoid immediate muscle loss.

Well, it turns out that training in a fasted state (like in Intermittent Fasting) or in a state of calorie restriction does not cause muscle loss. The main condition in order to preserve your muscles is to exercise them. Stated differently, if you use them you won’t lose them (1, 2)!

Still, can you lose muscles while restricting calories (dieting or Intermittent Fasting)?

Yes, you can.


If you diet and don’t exercise at all (not even walking) eventually you will lose muscle, along with fat. Again, it goes back to not using the muscles.. Which is generally true for everything – if you don’t use it Nature takes it away.

I am a living proof of the fact that resistance training preserves (and can even help you gain) muscle while being calorie deficient. I have been doing Intermittent Fasting for about 4 months now and I’ve lost fat and gained a bit more muscle. I train, using my own body as weight, only 3 times a week.

Here are two photos of me, taken today after 16 hours of fasting (it’s almost 1 pm and I haven’t eaten anything since last night 9 pm).

Calorie Restriction And Muscle Loss

Dec. 27, 2012 – Snapshot 1

Calorie Restriction And Muscle Loss - 2

Dec. 27, 2012 – Snapshot 2

Bottom line is this: Decreasing calories and/or skipping meals (like pre- and/or post-workout) WILL NOT cause you to waste muscle mass AS LONG AS you exercise those muscles.

I do it, drug-free bodybuilders have been doing it for many, many years: doing their resistance training, while being calorie-restricted for many weeks and coming out very lean and big on contest day.

How To Eat Daily to Lose Weight

By Ivan Nikolov

It is an interesting fact, I think, that so many people want to know how to eat daily to lose weight. Why? Because of the paradox: “how/what to eat” to “lose weight”.

See what I mean? Folks still want to know how with eating they can lose weight.. And, the simple truth is you don’t lose weight by eating, but by NOT EATING!

I am not saying not eating at all. I am saying that in order to lose weight you must be calorie deficient, which state you achieve if you eat less. Starving is not good, but neither is eating 5-6 times a day.

See, many “nutrition gurus” will tell you that if you eat multiple small meals daily you will increase your metabolism and will burn more fat. Their advice is based on the premise that it takes calories to digest the meal, so if you eat more often you will burn more calories.

This is simply not true! Her is why..

Say, your diet consists of 2000 Calories a day (it’s easy to work with a nicely even number). And, these calories consist of a certain ratio of fats, carbohydrates, proteins. Well, it takes the body the same amount of energy to digest these calories regardless if you eat them in two large gorging-style meals or six small nibble-type meals. It is a very simple concept – same calories and macro nutrient ratios take the same energy for digestion regardless of the number of meals.

So, my question is why then eat six times a day?

You’ve heard before that if you eat less meals a day your metabolism will slow down and you will burn less fat and consequently lose less weight.

Again, not true.

Today we know that even if you don’t eat for up to 72 hours your metabolism will not suffer and slowing down. In fact, if you eat less frequently your metabolism actually will speed up (Read the studies: 1, 2, 3, 4).

How To Eat Daily to Lose Weight – The Two Simple Rules

How to eat daily to lose weight

Rule No. 1:

Eat two and maximum three meals a day. I’d suggest you stick to two. How do you do that? Simple: by skipping breakfast. If you want to know more why this works – it’s called Intermittent Fasting, meaning in the 24-hour period you dedicate less of your waking hours to eating and more hours to expending energy (burning fat), while maintaining high metabolism.

Rule No. 2:

Very simple: Don’t eat man-made foods – nothing that comes in a box with an endless Ingredients list. Another way to tell if a food is man-made or not is if you can name the food. For example: broccoli is broccoli – you can recognize it and can name it. MNM’s… I don’t know what they are! Do you?

And, by the way, if you conform to Rule No. 2 in only 80 percent of the time you will still be widely successful. I call this the 10K 80-20 rule.

This is it. Very liberating, indeed, to know that you can eat whatever you want and as much as you want, unless it is highly processed man-made and unless it is breakfast. Go try it. Trust me. It’s all you need. That’s how I live and that’s how I maintain great health and superb physical fitness.

Oh, let me know your progress in the comments section below. I want to know how it’s going for you.

Do Crunches Burn Stomach Fat?

By Ivan Nikolov

I get this question so often in one form or another.. It’s interesting how confused and mislead most folks are about the way fat is used for fuel (burnt)..

Let’s get this straight once and forever. Crunches DO NOT burn fat from the stomach – at least not directly. They may in an indirect way, but so will any other exercise. So will even sitting on the couch at home.

I am not suggesting that if you have belly fat that you want to get rid of you sit on a couch for a prolonged period of time and watch the fat disappear. No, it doesn’t work that way. Yes, we use fat for fuel while sitting still, but the amount of total energy is far less than the energy your body needs when you actually move. Not to mention that when you’re on the couch you usually snack on something, which makes the entire situation far worse than even just being still.

Any way, let’s get to the meat. In order to understand why crunches do not, and will not, help  you get that six pack, you need to know how fat is used for energy..

The process of using fat for energy is caller lipolysis. It’s a very involved process, but to keep thing simple it happens like this:

When your body needs energy and the blood sugar levels (from carbohydrates) are low:

  • the fat cells release some of their fats into the blood stream, where they are bound to certain proteins (like serum albumin)
  • these proteins carry the fats to the liver and tissues (including muscles) that have high demand for energy at the moment
  • the fats enter the cells and energy is generated via the mitochondria

The point I want to make is this: when your muscles need energy, and when the conditions are right for stored body fats to be used for energy (again, like when your blood sugar levels are low, also during stress, etc.) the tissues that need this energy take it from the fat cells throughout body. It’s a process that’s regulated by the central nervous system (hormones, and specific messengers released by the body activate the lipolysis) and NOT by your abdominal muscles.

Stated in the simplest terms YOUR ABS CAN’T DIRECTLY USE THE FATS, stored right above them – in your abdominal flab. That’s for the brain to decide. And, the brain doesn’t agree with you that your abs are the most important part of your body.

So, what is the solution then for getting rid of the belly fat?

Well, start a plan that will help you burn fat in general. And, as you are burning a layer from the entire body, your abs will become a bit more prominent, too. Continue burning and your abs will eventually become the six-pack that you think is impossible for you to ever get (it is very possible. I was fat once). But, be warned. By the time you see a great six-pack you will have lost most of your fat from underneath the skin and the muscles and will be looking very, very lean! This is good, it’s good..

A few simple rules that will get you to much closer to the great abs you want:

  • eat less calories than your maintenance calories (your Basal Metabolic Rate)
  • eat starchy carbs more moderately – mainly from tuber sources and fruits, not grains
  • avoid simple sugars from processed sources; afford some that come from natural sources, like fruit
  • avoid wheat products
  • start exercising – not severe exercise – moderate exercising, but consistent
  • consider Intermittent Fasting
  • DO NOT BOTHER WITH CRUNCHES beyond what’s normal in order to maintain the tone of your mid section (core)

That’s it. Let me know about your progress.

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