I’ve been following the 16/8 intermittent fasting model (16 hour fasts and 8 hour eating window) for several years now.
Though I follow the fasting hours looser than I did at the beginning, it’s made losing weight or cutting extraordinarily easy when that’s my goal. Plus, the health benefits are well-documented by now.
But some people get confused about what they can eat and when while fasting.
So here’s an intermittent fasting meal plan example: exactly what I eat during the eating window on a typical day to drop fat and lose weight:
On my meal plan, I wake up around 730am and break my fast around 1pm.
I’ll usually start with a light but filling lunch — a high-protein sandwich on wheat bread and an apple, for example. Sometime in the afternoon I’ll get another shot of protein with a low-calorie protein bar or a cup of Greek yogurt.
Then I have a large dinner, somewhere around 1000 calories, and a small sweet treat before bed.
(By the way, did you know you can use a simple breath sensor like this one to detect if your body is in ketosis, aka fat-burning mode, during a fast?)
Here’s a closer look at what I eat in a day during fasting (and why) and how you can build your own intermittent fasting meal plan.
7-8am: Wake up & drink black coffee
One of the biggest adjustments to intermittent fasting was learning to drink black coffee.
I used to take my coffee with lots of milk and sugar. It was a delicious treat that I craved every morning, and honestly I still kind of miss it sometimes.
But in the name of getting the physique I want, I had to learn to embrace black coffee.
The Starbucks Veranda blend (Amazon link) is the best I’ve found so far for drinking black, but I’ll also drink whatever I can grab in bulk from CostCo!
I usually start my day with about two cups of this.
(Some intermittent fasting proponents say you can put a splash of milk in your coffee if you’d like, but I like to play it safe and just keep it black.)
10-12pm: Drink lots of water! (Or preworkout, if it’s a lifting day)
This part of the day can be a challenge, after you’re done drinking coffee.
It’s not so much that your body needs food, you just feel the need to do something, consume something, do something with your hands and mouth.
During this period of time I try my best to:
- Stay busy
- Drink lots of water
- Be active if possible
The more focused I am on work or projects, the better I feel.
I’ve also found that getting up and going on a walk or doing something active helps my body better tap into its energy stories, and I feel more alert.
These are zero calorie drinks (OK, some preworkouts have about 5 calories per serving) that use artificial sweeteners for flavor. Whether you believe that breaks a fast or not is up to you and which philosophy you follow, but for me it’s never been an issue.
If I’m working out that day, I do my workout fasted at some point during this window so I can eat shortly after.
If I’m not working out, I find sparkling water is the perfect way to dampen your appetite and get a little flavor in your mouth.
Brands I love:
- La Croix
- San Pellegrino
The fizzier, the better for appetite control!
(Also check out my guide to 11+ ways to not feel hungry when fasting)
You can tell your body is converting fat into energy while fasting by using a handheld sensor like this one that detects acetones in your breath.
1pm (breaking the fast): High protein sandwich (350 calories) and an apple (70 calories)
When I first started fasting, I would break my fast with something really tiny, like just a protein bar.
Then I’d hold out for a huge dinner.
These days I spread the love around a little bit and get something more filling and nutritious in my belly when I’m ready to break the fast after my workout.
I’ll often go with a few servings of lean lunch meat on a small wheat bun (or one slice of wheat bread) and some cheese. Pair that with a fresh Pink Lady apple and you’ve got an absolutely delicious and high-protein lunch.
Why the apple?
Apples are an AMAZING snack for intermittent fasting.
They’re low calorie and mostly made of water, so they have a ton of volume.
Cut an apple up into slices and you can enjoy eating it for a couple of minutes, with lots of flavor and satisfying, crunchy chewing.
Compare that to eating 70 calories of, say, french fries or chocolate… which would be about one bite!
The good quality carbs you get from fruits like apples are also fantastic for giving you energy to power through until dinner.
This lunch keeps me satisfied for a few hours and comes out to somewhere around 400 calories.
3pm: Protein Bar (240 calories)
I love these ThinkThin high protein bars on Amazon (especially the creamy peanut butter flavor), and really look forward to them as a sweet, high-protein treat in the middle of the day.
These are really tasty, not super high in calories, and come packed with 20g of protein.
Having a bar like this takes some of the pressure off of having to have a “perfectly macro-balanced” dinner, like grilled chicken and broccoli.
If I want to finish off the day with pizza, I’m OK with it! I know I’ve had a good start toward my protein goals at this point.
If I’m in a pinch and splurged on lunch, I usually keep some 180 calorie Pure Protein bars (Amazon link) around to shave off about 60 calories.
3-6:00pm: Patience! (And maybe another snack)
A funny thing usually happens to me once I’ve had my afternoon lunch and snacks (about 600 calories total).
I often get way hungrier.
Once you prime your body for eating, it’s like it suddenly realizes it’s been running a massive deficit and you can become ravenous.
The key to overcoming this is, believe it or not, patience.
The food you just ate needs a little bit of time to digest and start providing your body with energy.
More snacking is often not the right thing to do… Instead, just wait, be active, focus on getting some things done, and the energy will kick in.
If I’m really dying, though, I’ll have another 100 calorie snack or so in the form of a granola bar or more fruit.
6:30pm: Big Dinner (800-1000 calories)
This is where all of your hard work and diligence pays off. You finally get to eat something substantial.
The big (or sometimes massive meal) at night is the primary benefit and selling point of intermittent fasting. Time to enjoy!
The challenge is that this is your main source of calories for the day, so you need to not simply stuff your face, but make sure you’re getting the right balance of macros, along with some quality foods.
Ideally, this should be a high protein, moderate fat and carb dinner.
My favorite intermittent fasting dinner is a baked chicken burrito bowl with:
- Brown rice
- Two small/medium chicken breasts
- Green salsa
- Black beans
- Mexican cheese
- Sour cream
The way I’ve portioned it out, this comes out right around 8-900 calories and has some good quality carbs (brown rice & quinoa) plus some fat (cheese & sour cream), and a ton of protein (60+ grams).
It’s delicious and I can eat this almost every single night, if pressed.
I know exactly what I’m getting when I eat it, and best of all, most of the ingredients give you plenty to make this dish several times. (A can of beans and corn will last you a while.)
My other go-to meal is spaghetti with chicken meatballs:
- Meatballs (ground chicken, bread, garlic, onion)
- Whole wheat spaghetti or angel hair (Related: How to measure pasta calories)
- Tomato sauce
I’ll often rotate between these two meals if I’m cooking at home. It keeps things simple for me, and they’re both meals that I love.
If I’m eating out for dinner, I don’t freak out about my macros.
I just order something high in protein (burger, steak, something with lots of chicken, etc.) and try to estimate the calories the best that I can.
10:30pm: Sweet snack or dessert (100-400 calories)
I like to round out the day with something sweet.
It’s a nice reward, and it makes it feel like you’re not really dieting at all.
Sometimes I’ll choose a high-protein sweet snack here, like a Greek yogurt (110 calories and 13g of protein), but I’ll often just have a delicious dessert that helps keep me excited about the “diet” like:
- Ice cream
- A cookie
- Peanut butter on graham crackers
The goal of this final snack is to a) round out my calorie goal for the day and b) get something in my stomach so I’ll sleep well and not wake up too hungry.
If it can add a few grams of protein to my daily total, that’s great.
Anything in the 100-400 calorie range, depending on what I’ve eaten that day, will do.
(If I’ve had a humongous dinner, I may skip this snack entirely or have something really small, like 50-100 calories.)
Total: 1600-2000 calories
So that’s it! That’s what has worked for me and helped me drop 10+ pounds pretty effortlessly this summer.
Best of all, it’s actually an enjoyable way to eat! Though it may not be for everyone.
If you want to get started on a workout and nutrition program that utilizes intermittent fasting to help you get lean and strong, check out the Kinobody Warrior Shredding Program.
Is Intermittent Fasting good for bulking?
One of the challenges of bulking while utilizing intermittent fasting is getting in enough calories in a restricted eating window.
However, if you can manage that, IF can really help your body burn up or prevent storing excess new fat while you’re eating in a calorie surplus and adding size.
When I’m bulking, I’m trying to eat somewhere around 2250-2500 calories per day.
I’ll often use a similar meal plan to the one above, but I’ll add in a few of the following for extra calories and protein:
Greek yogurt: 110 calories and 13 grams of protein
Greek yogurt is an amazing source of protein, tastes delicious, and is great for your gut health.
String cheese: 80-100 calories and 7 grams of protein
Hands down, one of my favorite intermittent fasting snacks. Delicious, satisfying, and packed with good protein and fats.
Cheese quesadilla: 250 calories and 5-10 grams of protein
This is a great thing to cook up for lunch in the afternoon. Good carbs from whole wheat tortillas and lots of delicious fats and proteins in the cheese.
More fruit: 100 calories
When you’re bulking, the temptation is to get all of your extra calories from crap and junk. Don’t do it!
Splurging a little here and there is one of the benefits, but don’t forget to get even more good antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals from fruits and veggies.
Oatmeal :200 calories and 8-10 grams of protein
This is becoming one of my favorite late night snacks for bulking while using intermittent fasting.
It’s really great to get those extra carbs in before sleep, it’s sweet and tastes great, is easy to make, relatively inexpensive, and you can get protein-heavy versions of this stuff to get even more gains overnight.
(You might also be interested in my guide to intermittent fasting on vacation.)
Intermittent Fasting Shopping List
Don’t forget a ketosis breath sensor like this one from Keyto so you can get useful biofeedback and know when you’re body’s burning fat!
Can you give me an example of a good intermittent fasting meal plan for 1500, 1700, or 1800 calories?
I could tell you exact things to eat, but I think you can take any foods you love and make them fit into your intermittent fasting lifestyle.
A good rule of thumb is to take your daily calorie goal and split it up like this:
- 20% of calories to break the fast (snack or small lunch)
- 60% of calories for dinner
- 20% of calories for dessert or before-bed snack
Remember, since you’re skipping breakfast, you only have to make it a few hours after breaking the fast until it’s time for a big dinner feast.
You can alter the percentages a little bit as needed.
For example, I prefer to have a few more calories at lunch so I can eat a respectable meal with my wife and daughter, and fewer calories before bed.
Some people prefer a bigger dinner, or more snacks throughout the day.
Do what works for you. But in general, the goal is to have a large and filling dinner and split the rest of your calories as you see fit.
Hope that helps! And definitely check out my favorite cookbook with intermittent fasting recipe ideas!