Protein Sparing Intermittent Fasting


psIF is

Protein Sparing Intermittent Fasting (psIF) is a short term intermittent fasting (IF) modification. Synergized with Spinal Flow Force-5 (F5), my 5-minute daily workout. The combination is what got my strength, stamina, and body fat percent the best they have been in decades, in some ways better than ever, and as I write this I’m 47 years old! The trick being on hard fast days, while calories are minimal, you are still taking in what both research, and my logbook, suggests is an optimal amount of high quality protein for muscle gains, and…

A) makes you hate the fast less

B) doesn't seem to inhibit fat loss at all, so that if you do it right, you will see substantial results (pounds) on the scale, every day you do it

C) maintains, even allows you to gain, strength and muscle when otherwise fasting aggressively, preventing the loss of muscle which disproportionately lowers your metabolism, and resultant yo-yoing.

D) Seamlessly transitions in and out of regular IF (which is a lifestyle you do forever), again preventing yo-yoing

HIPF its most effective form is done every-other-day (two days on, and one day at most) alternated with regular IF.  So far I’ve maintained this level for two years now as I continue to optimize F5. I’ll use psIF, intermittently as needed, as a clean up after a large social gathering, which does happen more often then I would like to admit. But for the most part I think of psIF a short term strategy to hit a weight/body-fat-percentage goal quickly, within the greater framework of IF, should IF not be cutting it, or not cutting fat fast enough. It’s the best way I know of flying as close to the dieting sun as possible, without melting your wings, resulting in a crash, burn, and binge. And also the best way I know fix things if you do binge. A better man might never need psIF, but that man isn’t me. As such, I expect psIF is ideal for those wanting to cut loose Dionysian style on the occasional weekend, yet still appear Apollonian come Monday. A yin to balance the yang, and a way to have your cake and eat it too, minus the bulimia.

Most of what I research and test on myself, I do with a view on its applicability for others, so besides getting ripped and atoning for debauchery, I think psIF is ideal for those looking to get their dieting over with and reach their optimal weight ASAP, so they can:

A) stay motivated

B) stop worrying about it

C) be at a healthy weight sooner rather than never

All while minimizing the chance of freaking out in such a way as to undo so much hard work. In fact I think this lessens diet anxiety because it's such a powerful tool, knowing you can quickly mitigating damage if you do freak out. As it’s a rare loss of control that a single psIF and at worst (so far) a double can’t fix.

When I refer to IF

I’m generally referring to the time restricted feeding variety with an eating window of 5 hours or less. This is how I first started fasting in 2015. At this point it's normal, in fact preferable, for me is to eat just one meal a day, usually within an hour and almost always after 5 pm. I think the popular 8/16 IF schedule (8 hours eating and 16 hours of fasting) is good if you are working out longer, or your foods are long on roughage, and short on calories. But with F5 being only 5 minutes of exercise per day, combined with a standard American appetite, an 8 hour eating window is likely too slack. Besides, with an 8 hour window, you have to eat lunch, which only makes you tired. Anyone finding this talk about IF, eating and fasting windows confusing, here’s my blog, intermittent fasting types and terminology.

Some Context

There are a lot of IFers who exercise hard with weights and look awesome. I like weights; lifting them is effective, resistance levels can be modified to work for virtually everyone, they're great! In fact the bulk of the wisdoms, principles, and methods I incorporate in Spinal Flow I learned in the weight room. Weights have been extremely good to me. However, not everyone has time for, nor access to a gym, and with F5 I’ve discovered time or not, the gym isn’t necessary unless you are trying to gain bodybuilder type mass, and most people aren't.

My original challenge with Spinal Flow was to see if I could create a home program for neck and back pain, that doubled for total body fitness. One that rivaled my gym based physical therapy routine utilizing free weights and weight machines. It took a couple years of research and testing, but Spinal Flow worked out exceptionally well. Most remarkable was the more I shortened it, the more liked it, the more I wanted to do it, and the better it worked. This worked, all the way down to 5 minutes of exercise per day, and that's all I do, and teach, now.

The Spinal Flow Yoga sequences are described elsewhere, and not the subject of this page, but I wanted to set the context in which psIF was developed. I wanted a diet that was effective, simple, inexpensive, and worked, even if you are only exercising for 5 minutes. Above all I wanted a diet that doesn’t end when you reach your weight goal, but rather evolves smoothly into a lifestyle where you live your goal, rather than bouncing off of it. Because that's what I have to do if I don't want to shame myself in my instructional videos. By working on psIF and F5 simultaneously they became synergistic, one helping the other, with the combination being greater than the sums. F5 building/maintaining muscle and metabolism, while psIF burned fat, providing enough high quality protein to keep getting stronger and keep the metabolism high. For me weight loss averaged 0.68 pounds PER DAY, whereas the protein on what would otherwise be a hard fasting day prevented my body from having to catabolize its own protein (aka my muscle) so I fast myself muscular, not scrawny. The latter of which in hindsight did happen when I tried some of my longer fasts in my early IF adventures of the past 6 years (see pic-3 below).

How it went for me…

I was going to put a FAQ in here explaining all the whys, but it’s currently over 10 pages, I still have a long way to go on it, and other things need completion first. So while the deeper why's of psIF get long winded the what and how are fairly straight forward. And people have been asking, so I’m putting how-to of psIF in the member locker for anyone who wants to try it out. If anyone has questions or ideas they can put them in the comments section at the bottom of the page, answers for which I may add to the future FAQ. Also freely available is the blog on my experiences with IF, written when I first started fasting in 2015. About 80% of that blog I still endorse. Additional thoughts on the 20% I have changed my mind on, I’ll plan to add in the FAQ. 

How psIF is Done…

When dropping fat with psIF, I try to alternate every-other-night between a psIF-night and a feast-night. Every few days, or even once a week is a significant boost to IF. Every other day for a couple weeks at a time was most effective, and felt sustainable for longer had I needed it. It's not fun, the but the near instant, very significant, and ongoing results make up for it not being fun. As I allude to above you can do psIF two days in a row, before a regular IF. I've tested that, it's doable and it's pushing it. Three days? I've done it, and wouldn't do it again.

psIF night is a shake, shot, and sardines adding up to 745 calories. The shake is of whey protein (for which every muscle builder knows is the highest quality of protein) mixed in whole milk, so I can hopefully gain, or at least not lose, muscle while on limited caloric intake. The sardines are for the omega-3 fatty acids, the healthiest of fats, good for both brain and body, and for which research suggests bioavailability is at least double if you eat actual fish, rather than take a supplement. Plus the sardines are packed with protein and they taste better than a fist full of pills. The tequila is because alcohol (in moderation) makes you live longer, by increasing HDL cholesterol and making your LDLs less sticky. psIF macros add up as follows: 


-after 5pm, after fasting (zero calories) all day

Shake: 400 ml whole milk, 2 level scoops (53g) Gold Standard® Whey Protein, 5g creatine monohydrate

Shot: One shot alcohol: (45-50 ml) usually tequila

Sardines: One can of Season® Sardines in water: 4.375 oz

Totals 730 cal

  • Protein: 76g, 304 cal, 42%
  • Carbs 19g, 76 cal carbs, 10%
  • 24g, 216 cal fat, 30%
  • 16g, 108cal alcohol, 15%

Feast night

The feast night includes psIF-night’s shake, shot and sardines, plus a high carb meal of my choosing. Looking back at my notes, my high carb meal was anywhere from 1200 to 1800 calories in addition to psIF’s 731. Thus total calories on my feast nights were between 1900 and 2600, however, for the most part, and where my progress was best and most sustainable I kept feast night right around 2000 calories. I noticed if I didn’t eat enough on feast night, the following day’s fast wouldn't feel too good, so I think on feast-night you want to make yourself full. I definitely found some foods make me fuller with less calories than others, not only that night but the next day when I would be doing psIF again. Interestingly, what worked best was not at all what I would have predicted, with a big plate of pasta surprisingly being the best thing.

Feast-night example 1

-after 5pm, after fasting (zero calories) all day

Shake, shot and sardines, same as psIF-night, (730 cal)

10 oz (weighted dry) pasta, thin spaghetti was most satiating and lasting of energy. (1000 cal)

Progresso Soup over pasta: Manhatten Clam Chowder (200 cal)

Totals 1930 cal

  • Protein: 117g, 468 cal, 24%
  • Carbs 258g, 1032 cal, 53%
  • Fat: 36g, 324 cal, 17%
  • Alcohol, 16g, 108 cal, 6%

Feast-night example 2

-after 5pm, after fasting (zero calories) all day

Shake, shot and sardines, identical to psIF-night (730 cal)

Baked oven fries. 3 lb, potatoes weighed before cooking. This makes a BIG plate. (1047 cal)

~1/4 cup olive oil, coating fries pre-baking, calories assume half drains off. (238 cal)

Totals 2015cal

  • Protein: 104g, 416 cal, 21%
  • Carbs: 257g, 128 cal carbs, 51%
  • Fats: 52g, 468 cal, 17%
  • Alcohol: 16g, 108cal, 5%

Feast-night example 3

-after 5pm, after fasting (zero calories) all day

Shake, shot and sardines, identical to psIF-night (730 cal)


  • 3 cups (measured dry) old fashioned oats (900 cal)
  • 1.5 cups whole milk (219 cal)
  • 3 tablespoons sugar (139 cal)
  • Total cal 1258

Night Totals 1988cal

  • Protein: 118g, 472 cal, 24%
  • Carbs: 236g, 944 cal carbs, 47%
  • Fats: 54g, 486 cal, 24%
  • Alcohol: 16g, 108cal, 5%

Note: I just tested this out, in light of A) the current virus whereby pasta is one of my longest storing foods, so I might as well make it last. B) It's gluten free. I watched some documentary on gluten, and I haven't had a chance to fact check it, but my take home was getting my carbs from a greater variety of sources is a good thing. C) Oatmeal is a low cost carb, with a long shelf life too, and thus should help see us through the current apocalypse. D) It's helping me use up my milk, which won't last (which got me thinking, hmm, powdered milk). E) Do you know how good oatmeal tastes for dinner when you haven't eaten a breakfast in 5 years? It tastes amazing!

Energy the following, and next day of psIF was great, on par with pasta, perhaps slightly ahead of oven fries.

High carb meal note: At this point I’m convinced that carbs are not bad. However, the water content of your carbs matter HUGE with regards to how full/happy they make you, as well as how hungry you are going to feel the rest of the night and the following day. I don’t care what anyone says, if I eat pasta, I’m going to fill up and be happy on less calories than if I eat other kinds of carbs. And the pasta is going to have good staying power for me as I fast thru the following days psIF meal, fortifying my resolve not to cheat. If I eat pizza, it’s going to take an extra 6-700 calories to make me happy, but tomorrow I’ll still feel pretty good. If I eat sushi and rice, tomorrow is going to be difficult to say the least.

I have notes going back years now and it’s pasta and whey for the win. Baked oven-fries, are a close second to pasta, again I think because a potato contains a lot of water with it’s carbs, and 2.5 to 3 lb of oven fries makes for a very big plate of food. I expect the protein shake and sardines do a lot to lessen the glycemic index of the pasta and potatoes, which are otherwise not that complex of carbohydrates. Pancakes for dinner have been surprisingly good also, but need more testing to get my full endorsement. If high-water carbs are pasta and potatoes, low-water carbs are pizza crust, bread, cookies, potato chips, tortillas. In theory rice would be a high water carb, but in practice I was always more hungry the day after a rice meal, beans not so good either, but perhaps both depend on how they are cooked.

Breakfast, lunch, holidays & travel

Unless it’s Easter, Thanksgiving, or I’m traveling in a foreign land, breakfast and lunch are not even considerations. Otherwise holidays are made for IF, to include big holiday dinners and potlucks. Once you are at goal weight, big meals (within reason) are the norm with IF so all is well. If you are still trying to drop weight at psIF’s accelerated pace, just time it so you psIF before and/or after the holiday and you’re good. Regarding breakfast, surprisingly, after 30-40 days of consistent IF, most agree that all breakfast does is make them sluggish the rest of the morning, AND more hungry for lunch. I bet that's a food industry secret. If there is a breakfast food I really love (and there are), I’ll sometimes have it for dinner, which is pretty awesome. If anyone invites me out for lunch, I suggest coffee, or meeting up for happy hour, or they can eat lunch, I'll drink coffee and stair at them, making THEM feel weak and guilty. If you travel a lot, you’ve had all the meals before, so you should probably stop using novelty as an excuse. If it were me, I’d want a travel scale, and I’d still eat one big meal a day regardless of where. Of course it’s your life, just know if you choose to be fat, statistically speaking, you’ll die sicker and younger, just sayin'

Harder still? I did, and I wouldn't

For what it's worth I've fasted, real fasting without psIF, for as long as 5 days and I didn't feel more cleansed, mostly I felt miserable, particularly days 3 and 5. Day-4 I felt very pleasant, experiencing some of what spiritualists are after with their fasting, but there are certainly easier ways to get there. Measurably I lost muscle, that took weeks to restore, while the fat lost popped back in days. I also had junk food cravings for weeks, so I would say there is a point where you really are starving yourself and your body knows it. I've also tried psIF for 3 days in a row a few times, and each time regretted it. That said, if you crash, burn, or fall off the wagon, it's not that big of a deal, just pick yourself up and get back on the wagon. On a normal diet a crash and burn can take weeks to undo, so I can see where many would give up, but with psIF it's really not that bad.

That’s it

If you are interested in trying the more aggressive form of my diet, I suggest you alternate between psIF and feast-nights as consistently as tolerable until you weigh 2-3 pounds less than ideal weight. This is because you can expect to gain back a couple pounds carbing up after the final psIF-night. Then eliminate the psIF nights as your scale allows, eating one feast a day (or in a consistent evening eating window) from now till kingdom come. You can never go back to normal, but once you feel the ascetic high of fasting, you won’t want to. 

You’ll want to continue to watch your diet closely for about 6 weeks after achieving goal weight. That’s how long research (fitting with my experience) suggests it takes for one’s metabolism to adjust to the new weight, at which point you can usually increase meal size upwards, which is fun, and strength on F5 usually pops up too. Your scale is your best friend here, and probably your only friend that won’t lie to you. Weigh yourself upon awakening every day, forever, so you continue to feel good about what you accomplished and so you can keep small adjustments in your diet from ever needing to become large difficult ones. Also the scale prevents going too far with the fasting. Ideal weight, is an anchor preventing anorexia as well as obesity, and more than 10% below ideal, regardless of gender leans one towards being scrawny, which is neither fit nor attractive. F5 is the other anchor, because if you stop making progress, and start losing performance, it’s probably because something is out of balance one way or the other. 

Finally, all the above while based on more than a little research, is primarily based on my experience. To match my results, I’m reasonably certain that people will want to adjust food amounts proportionally in relation to size. For reference, at 5’10 my ideal weight is 166 pounds and I’m currently staying within +/- 3% of that honing in on my optimal weight. A final reiteration, psIF is fairly extreme, and it’s the high protein content that is half of what’s necessary to prevent metabolism destroying muscle loss. The other half necessary to prevent muscle loss is doing F5, for 5 minutes…