Beginner Guide To Intermittent Fasting

Eat Less, Lose More, Get More Done


4/29/202318 min read

an open book with a picture of a waterfall
an open book with a picture of a waterfall

I have done IF for more than a year now.

I first learned about intermittent fasting from wifey when she was looking into it for weight loss and the allure of longevity smelled too sweet for me to ignore.

You see, I intend to live till I get to see my grandchildren (hopefully they decide to have children) grow into teens.

Considering that I am 41 now, with my eldest (Lele) at 6 years old and youngest at 3 months old, I will need to live for another 22 years to see Lele get married (in Singapore average age for female is 28.8) and another 16 years to see her child grow up, assuming she has one in 1-2 years time after marriage.

Alas, this scenario only occurs if my eldest does get married.

Otherwise, or if she decides to marry late (secretly happy since it means I have more time before the dreaded aisle) or don’t (which I will then worry if she has companionship when we leave this world), I will have to add 4 or more years (waiting for my youngest instead) to my lifespan.

Which means I will have to live till 86 - 90 years old…. Looks daunting and hopefully I am still able to kick ass.

While the promise of longevity attracted me, I was appalled by the idea of skipping breakfast and that you don’t have to eat three meals a day.

And it is pretty clear that you will have to go hungry during IF and the thing I hated most in my life is hunger.

Nevertheless, I decided to find out more about IF... and I was blown away by what I discovered.

For a start, there are mainly two ways of fasting.

Dry fasting: Basically, means you can’t put anything into your mouth.

This is commonly practiced by Muslims do during Ramadan.

They stop drinking and eating anything, abstaining from cigarettes and sexual activities from dawn (around 6 am) till sunset (around 7 pm).

While I love the idea of being thankful for everything in life (it is true that we tend to take water for granted since it is so readily available by the tap), I don’t think it is good for the body to withhold water intake.

Plus, it is unlikely we can dry fast for an extended period of time since we can only last without water for around three days.

Wet fasting: Entails restriction from any calories intake but water is allowed.

Some people use unsweetened tea and black coffee as they are addicted to caffeine.

Others claim that caffeine can help in staving off hunger pangs while you fast.

There is also juice fasting where you only drink vegetable or fruit juices. However, I don’t think it should be considered fasting since you are still putting food into your body.

Macro and micronutrients are still being absorbed and fiber, while minimal, still ends up in your digestive system, forcing it to do work.

In 1965, Angus Barbieri fasted (with clinical supervision) for 382 days with only water and multivitamins.

He lost 125 kg and managed to maintain a healthy weight thereafter.

Different Type Of Fasting

Of course, it is not recommended to do this hastily without any medical advice and supervision.

In addition, Angus was extremely overweight in the beginning and has lots of fats to burn as fuel during his fasting ultra marathon.

And if you are like me, you will probably shudder at the thought of fasting for a year or even a month.

His willpower to do such a feat is pretty unprecedented and he held the longest fasting streak (Mahatma Gandhi's longest was 21 days).

Hope is not lost though! Luckily for us, there is intermittent fasting.

Intermittent fasting is a pattern of eating that cycles between eating and fasting. It is not a new age diet plan and there is no need to count calories.

Rather than deciding what you eat, IF changes when you eat.

Can changing the time of eating be useful?

It does.

In fact, this has been practiced by our not-so-ancient ancestors for many years, albeit unintentionally.

It is noted by Brad Pilon in Eat Stop Eat that previous generations had used to eat dinner much earlier than we do today.

This pattern left a longer fasting period which has provided several health benefits.

Top Five Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting

There are many reported and scientifically proven benefits of intermittent fasting.

To make this article as concise as possible, I had placed the research I had made on the benefits in another article.

Check it out if you are interested in diving through the details.

Here are my favorite benefits of IF.

1) Easy to follow

Of all the habits I have incorporated in my life, intermittent fasting is the easiest habit to implement.

It doesn’t mean it is easy to do (needs some amount of willpower) but it doesn’t need us to do anything extra

For example, you will need to find time to meditate, exercise, do journaling, read a book or play guitar.

But IF frees up time for you instead since you will be skipping meals. Which means you don’t have to spend time planning or cooking.

Most habits are difficult to build because of the additional effort you need to put in consistently so that they can stick.

There are many unforeseen circumstances that can happen that cause us to put it off one day or more which may eventually lead to dropping the habit altogether.

For example, if you decide to visit the gym after work at 7pm - working overtime, a special date, family needs, last minute meeting, forgetting to bring gym clothes, boss’s invitation to dinner or even having a rough day at work can stop you getting that work out done.

There are much less deterrents to IF other than our mind. Since you can decide your IF schedule any time you want and there is no need to make time for it, it is very easy to carry it out consistently.

If you are going to have a late dinner, start your eating window later on that day. If you feel that you are dying from hunger and need to eat early, just go ahead and eat. Then end your last meal of the day early.

Unless it is affecting your health and wellbeing, intermittent fasting is really easy to adopt.

2) Simplify life

Whether you are on time restricted feeding or full day fast on certain days,

IF lessens our mental burden of thinking and planning about eating.

It often surprises me how much time I spent thinking about the 5Ws of eating.

What to eat, where to eat, how to cook, when to cook and preferences of who I am cooking for or eating with.

How often did you find yourself thinking about the same thing?

To make things worse, time spent on thinking about one meal often leads to the other. As we start thinking about lunch, we will also think about dinner so that we don’t repeat what we eat.

That causes us to spend more time than we think we would be thinking about meals.

We spend a lot of our mental capacity and decision-making muscles in deciding the course of food when we can allocate them to more productive tasks.

It is mindblowing.

Removing some meals releases our mental capacity for more important decision making and also reduces decision fatigue.

It allows me to make better decisions throughout the day and keep my cool in my interactions with my loved ones at the end of a long day.

3) Increase productivity

brown and white wooden desk with chair and laptop
brown and white wooden desk with chair and laptop

I find myself most productive in the mornings 5am - 11am when I am fasting. I will exercise, meditate and write articles in a clearer state of mind.

Food planning is a huge distraction as it will hover at the back of our mind until the meal is cooked and eaten.

Then you start thinking about the next meal.

In addition, I have to often deal with a certain level of food coma (regardless of how well I eat) after every meal since all my energy is directed to digestion.

There is also research that specifies fasting can increase our mental acuity due to release of cortisol and noradrenaline.

Both hormones are released during the “fight or flight” and increases blood flow to our brain.

They also make us more alert and make us think faster on our feet for survival.

And of course without the need to eat/cook, you free up at least 1-2 hours (more if you cook) for every meal you skipped. More time to do work means getting more done (if you focus).

Less is more in its full glory.

It will surprise you on how much you can get done when you don’t eat for a day.

4) Better emotion handling

I always had an anger management issue with hunger before I started IF.

It always makes me irritable and utterly hostile when I miss my feeding time.

To make things worse, I thought it was justifiable since I believed that feeling hungry means I am doing something wrong to my body.

Not only that.

The type of food we eat often affects us in ways we aren’t aware of. Science has proven that our gut health affects our emotions greatly (1).

While I do not have a sweet tooth, I love fried chicken and have my fair share of chocolates, ice creams, biscuits with cream (especially Oreos) and cakes.

There were even times where I put sugar in all the dishes I cooked due to a so-called secret recipe to make all food tastier from a Taiwan cooking show.

Bad advice man~ Sure way to spike your blood sugar level.

IF makes me realize the real cause of hunger (which will be explained in detail at the tips section) and overcoming it.

It also reduced my reliance on food for emotional support and cut down my intake of junk food drastically.

Nowadays, I am able to maintain a more zen state without the roller coaster ride that comes from junk eating.

I am also more in touch with my body, knowing when to eat and avoid sugary stuff as they make me easily irritable.

I can’t eat ice cream without severe repercussion such as sugar crash, feeling nauseous, lightheadedness

One more win in the game of health since sugar does nothing beneficial to our body except ruining it.

5) Better Workout Rewards

Working out in the fasted state is amazing.

It helps to burn fats faster since excess blood glucose has been metabolized by the body after prolonged hours of not feeding.

Do note that your performance may suffer in the beginning as it takes time for our body to adapt to using fats for fuel instead of glucose that it is so used to having plenty around.

I remembered feeling easily out of breath and slight lightheadedness when I first started my fasted workout (50 burpees daily)

It did go away after a week or so.

So take it easy in the beginning and avoid injuring yourself.

Nowadays, I prefer working out fast. No more stitches, waiting for digestion, acid reflux or feeling of bloatedness. Just pure excitement to get some exercise done.

Some gurus (such as Steve Kamb from Nerb Fitness) advise scheduling your workout so that you can eat immediately right after heavy weights training since you will need the glucose to repair your muscles.

While it seems to make sense, I don’t feel much difference whether I eat right after a workout or wait for 5-6 hours till the feeding window as I mostly do body weight training and HIIT.

If you do heavy resistance training, that can be helpful.

Also Celebrities like Hugh Jackman, Joe Rogan and Chris Patt are big believers of fasted workouts.

Look at how ripped they are despite their age.

So if it works for them, it is good in my book.

topless man in black shorts carrying black dumbbell
topless man in black shorts carrying black dumbbell

Is Intermittent Fasting Safe?

Fasting has been around for thousands of years.

It has been practised by several known religions such as Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Taoism and Jainism.

It should be safe unless you go overboard with it. 12 to 48 hours fast should not hurt anyone who is relatively healthy.

When people think about fasting, they often think of fasting for weeks or months.

Come on people, use our common sense when you try to do something.

In life, everything should come in moderation. Even taking too much water or oxygen can kill you.

I am not a health professional so all I can share is my personal experience. So far, I have tried the 18:6 window (daily basis) without any side effects.

However, there are medical conditions that may cause concerns. So check with your doctor first if you have the following condition(s):

  • Women who are trying to conceive

  • Pregnant or breastfeeding

  • Underweight

  • History of eating disorders

  • Diabetes

  • Low blood pressure

  • On medications

IF also seems to work differently for women.

While my wife Niki had been doing OMAD (one meal a day) for almost one month now without any problem, there is much conflicting information on how some women benefited greatly (like men did) and others experienced problems like missing the menstrual cycle and worsening sugar control.

Therefore, it is better for women to slowly ease into the fasting cycle (such as starting with 12/12 first) and stop if they notice that they are experiencing disruption in their menstrual cycle.

Types Of Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting is an umbrella term for several types of eating patterns that cycles between eating and voluntary fasting on a regular basis.

It is not a diet plan as it focuses on when you eat rather than what you eat.

There are many different ways to do intermittent fasting and these are the most popular ones.

Time restricted eating

The most popular form of intermittent fasting. Basically, you restrict yourself to eating only within a period of time everyday.

With a minimum of 12 hours fasting window as that is only when our body starts to use fats as fuel. Popular belief is that the more hours you fast the better it is for your body.

There are several variations of time restricted fasting. 12/12, 14/10, 16/8, 18/6 and 20/4.

The number basically means hours to eat / hours to fast. For example, 16/8 means you have a 16 hours fasting window and 8 hours eating window.

16/8, also called the Leangains protocol, is popularised by Martin Berkhan of Lean Gains and it’s the easiest to stick to.

You can either skip breakfast or dinner and sleeping helps to clock at least 8 hours of the fasting window (making it much easier).

Personally, I fast for 16-18 hours daily. I have my first meal around 11am (usually just nuts and fruits to break my fast) and end my last meal around 5-6pm.

Here are some examples of 16/8 eating schedules:

Another variation of 20/4 is commonly known as the warrior diet. Practitioners usually fast in the day and feast at night, following the belief that it is how our primitive ancestors carried out their days.

In addition, there is also an eating protocol called circadian fasting which follows the circadian rhythm and restricts eating window within the daytime only.

According to some research, our body’s DIT (diet-induced thermogenesis) is 50% lower in the evening than the morning (2).

As for the timing, find one that fits you.


One meal a day is an extreme variant of time restricted eating which can also be referred to as 23/1.

People either just eat one meal or eat anything they want within 1 hour window. Some people stretch into two hours to make sure they get enough calories and avoid weight loss.

Many people and celebrities (many out of necessity) swear to how omad helps them stay slim and lose weight.

For example, Wim Hof, popularly known as The Iceman and the holder of 20 Guinness Records against extreme temperatures, eats only dinner everyday.

It is important to note that most research on IF were done on time restricted eating and alternate day fasting though.

There is rarely any study on the health benefits and disadvantages of OMAD in the long term.

As mentioned before, Niki has been on OMAD for almost a month.

She only eats lunch and has been losing weight consistently.

It is not easy to follow though as it requires iron will to not eat when your family is eating dinner right in front of you.

I try to let the children eat before she comes home to make it easier for her.

5:2 diet

This diet plan consists of eating normally for 5 days and fast for 24 hours on two non consecutive days. It usually lasts more than 24 hours considering the sleeping fast.

Muslim Sunnah is a form of 5:2 diet which has fasting on Monday and Thursday.

Some practices advise having (500 for females and 600 for males) restricted calories intake on your ‘fasting’ days instead.

For me it is easier to do fasting without food at all.

Hunger goes away after a while (typically an hour or so) but if I eat even a teeny bit, I will become lavishly hungry and unable to concentrate on anything else.

Fasting for more than 24 hours sounds like a great plan as it allows your body to start autophagy. Which is the main reason why I practised fasting for more than 40 hours on every Monday.

An example of 5:2

Alternate day fasting

Also known as ADF. In a nutshell, you eat one day normally and fast on the next day.

Which means that you are likely to fast more than 24 hours on every alternate day if you have a fixed sleeping schedule or you stop eating after dinner.

The most popular version of this diet is to modify the fasting day to eat around 500 calories instead.

I think this is the fastest way to lose weight.

While some short-termed studies had reported several health benefits such as weight loss, reduced body fat and cholesterol level, it is notoriously difficult to follow (3).

I believe the cause is due to the lack of daily consistency, it takes longer time for the habit to stick.

People are likely to go back to the default eating mode as they spent most time fighting hunger.

I personally find having to eat 600 calories for fasting days for any variation of IF quite misleading.

Fasting means abstaining from food intake. Period.

Plus, I find it more difficult to handle hunger when you have some food in your stomach and making sure it is within 600 calories is a lot of work and counter intuitive.

There is always a tendency to eat more (willpower tends to be overrated) or snack on ‘zero’ calories food.

Just go nothing on fasting days if you are looking for simplicity. Life is complicated enough doing nofap (in a good way). ^_^

Which one is the best?

There is no best way to intermittent fasting as everyone is different physiologically and psychologically.

For some people, skipping breakfast is detrimental for their productivity throughout the day while for others, it doesn’t affect at all.

Also, we all have different environments and circumstances which can make certain fasting methods more difficult than others.

For example if you are working shift, 5:2 might work better since it takes too much effort to plan time restricted feeding according to your shift schedule.

Find one that fits yours in order for IF to be effective.

The three meals a day myth

The common trend today is that you need to eat at least 3 meals a day or 6 meals for optimum functioning and weight loss.

Fasting and missing out meals is considered heretic.

Is it really so? Let’s pause and think.

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect. - Mark Twain

Apparently, eating three meals a day is a modern-day phenomenon and six meals a day is a new age fab or most likely what food companies want you to do.

Let's take the time machine and go back to the prehistoric age.

It is a dangerous time and most creatures around are stronger, bigger and faster than our caveman ancestors.

The luxury of eating every day is impossible here.

Can you imagine our dear Mr ancestor caveman looking at the sky to decide what time to have his meals?

No. Of course not.

He would have to live through days without food while looking for the next successful hunt. And he had to be able to function optimally in order to face the harsh environment and avoid predators.

It was only after humans started agriculture that we have more consistent food sources that allowed the more well-to-do social classes to have food everyday.

Fast forward to the closer dynasties, the ancient Romans only eat one meal a day (only during lunch) as they have an obsession with digestion and eating more than a meal is a portrayal of gluttony.

Breakfast wasn’t eaten in the morning during the olden days and was typically eaten at noon. Lunch did not even exist till the 19th century and dinners are largely eaten in the late noons.

It was only during the industrial ages that eating patterns were defined by the working hours of low and middle classes.

With the invention of light, dinner was pushed into evening as working hours became longer.

Which also solidified the existence of lunch as mid-day meals become essential to sustain the workers due to the extended working hours.

In the 1920s, the US government started promoting heavily on “breakfast as the most important meal of the day”.

They believed that it would improve productivity of workers if they had a meal to sustain them for longer hours in the morning.

You see, meals are designed mainly out of circumstantial effects.

As Yale University history professor Paul Freedman, editor of "Food: The History of Taste" shared that three meals a day is a cultural pattern that people adopted due to predictability rather than biological need.

Also let us step back and ponder, who will lose out if you stop eating certain meals?

It is obvious that the idea of having multiple meals a day is exactly what the food industry wants you to do.

The food and beverage industry is worth $3232 billions in 2021 and the breakfast cereal market alone makes $36.5 billions globally!

They can only profit if we eat more frequently and stick to three meals a day. Lottery for them if we can go 6 or even 12 meals daily.

The cereal companies don’t want you to skip their “fortified” sugar coated low nutrition corn flakes; and it will certainly scare the sh*t out of the fast food industry if we entertain the thought of having less meals a day.

brown horse running on brown field during daytime
brown horse running on brown field during daytime

Isn't breakfast the most important meal?

In Asian culture and especially as a Chinese, I was taught that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

There is a famous Chinese saying: “早餐吃得像皇帝,午餐吃得像平民,晚餐吃得像乞丐.”

Translation means “Eat like a king for breakfast, a commoner for lunch and a beggar for dinner.” This shows how prioritized that breakfast is in our culture.

Eating well for breakfast is equivalent to being well for the whole day.

You have probably heard many times that not eating breakfast affects your day badly and causes long term consequences such as putting on weight and higher risk of cardiovascular diseases.

There are even studies that support these claims.

However, the problem with these studies are they are often observation studies and they do not demonstrate causation.

They only show that breakfast eaters are more likely to be healthier but it does not mean that breakfast is the cause.

It might be because breakfast eaters tend to have healthier habits such as having more fibre in their meals and exercise in the morning; or people who do not eat breakfast usually sleep late, eat supper, smoke and drink (4).

Also, study like this does not include intermittent fasters and it does not focus on the quality of the diet.

And for people who think eating breakfast can help losing weight, another study has shown that it has no effect either.

You can watch the documentary below to see what faux is cereal industry all about.

From my perspective, breakfast literally means breaking the night’s fast (at least in English translation).

It is definitely important since it is the first meal that you use to replenish your body

Like if you were to fill up your gas, you won’t want to put diesel in your Ferrari.

However, it doesn’t have to be in the early morning as our current culture set it to be.

It can be at any time as long as it is not before you sleep since we don’t want to tax our body which is ready to repair to spend its energy digesting food instead.

While there are studies that dictate eating according to circadian rhythm (5) might be beneficial, what’s more important is to adapt it to your schedule.

If dinner is important for your family gathering, then stick to it. Just make sure you have 2-3 hours to digest it before you sleep.

If morning breakfast is essential to keep your day going, then eat your breakfast and skip dinner instead.

Or you can still have 3 meals a day. Place them out like 8am breakfast, 12pm lunch then 4pm dinner.

Everyone’s body and schedule work differently. Find out what works for you.


In conclusion, we've learned that fasting doesn't have to be a torturous experience of deprivation and hunger.

With the different types of fasting, you can find a method that works best for you and your lifestyle. And let's face it, who doesn't want to simplify their life and reduce the mental burden of meal planning?

Intermittent fasting seems to be the most user-friendly option, and it comes with a whole host of benefits, from weight loss to improved insulin sensitivity.

But before you jump on the fasting bandwagon, remember to listen to your body and consult with your healthcare provider if you have any medical conditions.

And if you're still clinging onto the belief that you need to eat six small meals a day to function optimally, it's time to let go of that myth.

Eating breakfast is essential, but it doesn't have to be at the crack of dawn.

So go ahead, break that fast whenever it suits you, and enjoy the benefits of fasting in a way that works best for you.

Happy fasting!