I have to fast for a month for social/religious reasons and want to make the most out of it in terms of fat loss. I don’t mind cutting calories really low and doing cardio but I’m afraid I’ll lose muscle.
Not sure if it’s better to go for an extreme deficit (something like 1300 kcal mostly from protein) coupled with high volume training and cardio compared to something more conventional.
Combining an extreme deficit with high volume training in a depleted and dehydrated state is literally the worst thing you can do. Don’t expect results with that approach.
In fact, you will not only lose muscle (you have greater chances of retaining muscle when you are obese though), you will also very likely burn out fast because you are burning the candle at both ends (meaning combining a low caloric intake with high volume workouts and cardio).
The key thing to remember if you want fast results with an extreme deficit is that you only do it for 4 weeks, maybe 5-6 depending on your starting point (fat percentage) and mental fortitude (if you are an anxious person, forget about using an extreme deficit, it will burn you out really fast).
After that, you take a 2 week break where you eat at maintenance and proceed with a moderate deficit if you still have fat to lose.
Training really should be minimal. The goal is to maintain muscle, you pretty much won’t gain muscle simply due to an extreme lack of energy reserves that you would normally get from food.
Aim for a frequency of 3-4x/week and somewhere between 6-15 worksets per workout. The margin is big because it depends on how you train and your training split. If you take all your worksets to failure, 1 set per exercise is enough to give your body the proper stimulus. If you like to train 1-2 reps shy of failure, you might need more worksets, somewhere in the 10-15 range, to get the same stimulus. Just don’t go overboard with volume, it’s completely unnecessary.
If you want you can do some steady state cardio or interval training 2-3 times per week but honestly, there is much more to gain in the NEAT (non exercise activity thermogenesis) department. Getting more daily steps in through walking, cleaning, using the stairs, getting croceries, cooking etc. is much more low impact recovery wise and the calories add up a lot quicker than running 20 minutes on a treadmill like a gerbil and sitting for the rest of the day.
Take a lighter meal before dawn and hydrate as best you can. Try to schedule your workouts after sunset so you can drink before, during and post workout and have a big meal post-workout but make sure there are at least 3 hours, ideally 4, between your last meal and bedtime. This way your digestion won’t get in the way of getting quality sleep. Getting quality sleep is the most important part because it will allow you to recover better from training but also curb hunger during daytime and use fat for fuel instead of muscle proteins.
I would normally agree with all that you said but I found this article from CT and now I’m a bit confused. Just wondering if @Christian_Thibaudeau could elaborate on this:
I don’t like to use the lifting session as a fat loss tool (although it will help). I prefer to design the sessions to maximize muscle mass retention. Normally when volume is too high, cortisol is increased which increases the chances of losing muscle. BUT this is a blitz: you want the fastest fat loss possible. You are not likely to lose muscle mass in 4 weeks even if the volume is high and cortisol release is increased. Chronic cortisol increase is a problem, but as part of a blitz it is probably okay
Thank you for posting the article, a great read.
Keep in mind though that the conditions under which you do a Blitz matters for results. The devil is in the details. It’s easy to take what I said out of context but my answer is actually nuanced.
I’m not saying that you will lose muscle on a blitz. I’m saying that you will lose muscle and risk hormonal and mental health issues when you combine an extreme caloric deficit with high volume training/cardio in a severely depleted & dehydrated state, especially if you are naturally anxious or lean to begin with.
Even though I cannot speak for CT, I don’t think he wrote this article specifically for people who want to lose a lot of fat during Ramadan. A person who doesn’t drink or eat all day (which means that sleep will also most likely be affected by eating/drinking late at night), will have a different internal environment than someone who does have acces to food and water all day.
I say that with respect, it’s certainly not an attack against your culture. I’m just looking at it from a physiological and neurological perspective.
Ultimately what I’m trying to say is that you probably will need to be more mindful of how to implement a Blitz under the conditions you wrote here.
Having said that, Christian has a lot more experience with Blitz. I’ll gladly step aside and don’t mind being corrected if he disagrees with what I said.
Not High Volume Training. He recommends 3-4 sessions max per week and eating protein exclusively. Supplement with EPA and DHA. Only 800cals per day if you weigh 200lbs. Diet break every 2 weeks or so for a couple days.
*not taking away from anything said by @lou_smeets or @Christian_Thibaudeau, just the best way (IMO) to retain muscle while in a fast-adjacent state. Probably cool it with the thoughts on cardio though.
I agree with both posts. Here are some points, they may be similar in some cases to what was recommended before.
I do believe that it is possible to retain muscle, maybe even gain some during Ramadan, which is essentially a form of intermittent fasting similar to the “original” intermittent fast: the warrior’s diet.
However, I think that dramatically increasing training (lifting) volume to be able to lose even more fat is a dumb approach at that time. There is a difference between 1) a blitz diet where you still follow a regular eating pattern albeit at a large deficit (the influx of food throughout the day can help mitigate the cortisol increase) 2) the protein-sparing modified fast recommended by Lyle (which does provide small protein feedings throughout the day, reducing the risk of muscle breakdown) and 3) Ramadan-type fasting during which you are fasted all day, which will lead to more cortisol elevation.
“Yeah but you mentioned that it’s possible to gain muscle on intermittent fasting à-la Warrior’s diet”… True, but the Warrior uses a caloric surplus or at least doesn’t try to create a large deficit. And the training recommendations by the author are very low volume.
More lifting volume = more muscle damage/breakdown. Fasting right away leads to slower muscle damage repair since there is a good portion of each in which you cannot repair tissue effectively. If on top of that, you are on a pretty solid deficit which also slows down muscle repair… so do you think that it’s smart to cause more muscle damage when your capacity to repair tissue is down??? THAT is something that could lead to muscle loss.
The main problem with Ramadan and that plans like the Warrior’s diet doesn’t have is the dehydration effect. Since you cannot drink either, you will be dehydrated when you do your workouts. This both reduces the efficacy of your workout and increases the stress response to your day and workout. And the thing with dehydration is that it does take a while to rehydrate and replenish electrolytes even if you drink a lot at night (the body can absorb 125ml of water per 15 minutes, so pounding like 2-3 L of water in one sitting will not rehydrate you as well as you think. It will also make you pee a lot during the night, negatively affecting sleep.
If you do use a large caloric deficit AND a high activity level while fasting and not drinking during the day I guarantee that you will feel like total crap REEEEAAAALLLY quickly. Best case scenario you are able to stick with the plan but feel miserable and irritable for a month; worst-case scenario you feel so bad that you just can’t keep up the plan and now you will feel like a failure on top of everything else.
From my experience with the Warrior’s diet, you will lose fat anyway. I do not think that it’s the smart thing to do to try to push the envelope and lose an inhumane amount of fat. The more you lose with such a restricted approach, the greater the rebound will be after the 4 weeks. Making it likely that 2-3 weeks after the Ramadan you will not end up with less fat than if you kept eating a normal amount.
That Article is great. The intervals is what I’ve fallen into…4 week all out || 1 week maintenance -500 cal.
I love the maint. week with the Plasma/SWF I get to have! I also wave the calories by day, so I give myself a “big cal day”
Just started new 4 week cycle this week, so no carbs for me