I am a "Self-Experimenter", that means I try all sorts of remedies, diets, sleep patterns etc. in the search for the most optimization and efficiency to apply to every aspect of my life. Through out my experimentation, I have found that a lot of stuff is BS, other are near impossible to sustain for extended periods of time and that very few actually work and do provide benefits over traditional habits we might be used to. One of those is intermittent fasting. I’m not saying this is for everyone, this is solely my experience and my findings after sticking with this particular eating regimen over a period of 3 months.
I have always been a relatively fit individual having exercised daily for the last 10 years. That being said, I’ve never struggled much with staying in shape. Obviously when the holidays come around I’m usually a few pounds heavier but I quickly shed any excess fat in the following months. None the less I’ve always been a clean eater. I’ve never been on an actual diet but I have avoided sweets, processed sugars, refined carbs and processed foods. The only issue is I usually eat A LOT of the foods I consider “healthy”. In an attempt to stay leaner through out the year I stumbled upon the new craze of intermittent fasting. To my surprise it has been surprisingly easy to keep up and my body as adapted quite well. I wake up with more energy than usual and I have gotten very lean without sacrificing muscle mass.
At first I thought it was insane to starve yourself. Especially someone like me that’s always hungry, I couldn’t fathom having to restrain my self for a large portion of the day without eating and still maintain a healthy weight. But the more I researched the topic, the more sense it made to me. Most people are out there trying to eat this super clean diet that is practically unsustainable, after having spent the last 20 years of their life eating fast food and ice cream. The problem is, we live in a day and age where the media is constantly bombarding us with irresistible commercials of Dominoes’ new cheese stuffed crust, extra cheesy pizza with cheese on top. So when you are on your eleventh hour and you’ve spent the day eating a hand full of almonds, a dry rubber chicken breast and an apple, it becomes nearly impossible to to not give into the temptation of devouring that delicious and greasy pizza. So it makes total sense why most people can’t stick to a diet and why we are amongst the most obese countries in the world. I’m not saying intermittent fasting is the solution to all of this, but in my experience it’s a great tool to have and given the right circumstance can prove to be very beneficial for many individuals.
So what is Intermittent fasting?
Well it’s not a diet and its not starving yourself. Its basically limiting your eating to a specific time window...
The average American eating schedule goes something like this:
7:00am Breakfast & Coffee
An intermittent fasting schedule looks something like this:
The difference is that the normal schedule has you eating 13-14 hours of the day while the intermittent fasting schedule limits you to some certain hours a day (4-10). This on its own is big game changer. By just limiting the amount of hours you have to eat food in the day, you will automatically reduce the amount of calories you consume. Even if you stuff your face with food during an 8 hour eating window, studies have shown you will eat less than if you had your typical 3 meals of the day. This is important not only for weight loss but for for a variety of reason. Everything from low insulin levels in the blood to raised GH levels during your fast.
How does it work?
Step 1. You fast
Step 2. Your insulin levels drop
Step 3. Your body turns to burn stored energy in the form of first glucose then fat
Simply put, when we eat we consume more energy than what we can use immediately. There fore our insulin levels rise while we eat which allow the liver to store glycogen but when the liver is topped off it will convert the extra glucose into stored fat. If we are eating through out the day our insulin levels are constantly high and our stores are constantly being topped off, giving no time for the body to burn the stored fat. By fasting we are allowing the body more time in the day to burn stored fat.
What is the right way to do intermittent fasting?
There is no right answer to this, since there are a variety of ways to fast. Its all about what works for you. Some of the most popular are:
-16hr Fast / 8hr eating window (I follow this particular schedule)
-14hr Fast / 10hr eating window
-5/2 Eat normal 5 days of the week and fast (500-600 calories) for the other two days
-6/1 Eat normal for 6 days and do one full 24hr fast a week
-1/1 Fast 24hrs / Eat normal for 24hr
Choosing what works for you is based on what is easier for you to sustain over a long period of time. Remember the reason most diets fail is because people can’t keep up with the demands and find it too hard to sustain. The goal with intermittent fasting is not to limit your self so much on the foods you eat but instead on the duration of time you eat in the day.
My experience with intermittent fasting
I’m a very active individual. I do Crossfit 5 days and I run 5-7 miles 3x/week. This means that I need a lot of calories and energy to get me through the week. When I first started adapting my self to this eating schedule I found it a bit difficult the first 2 days but by the third day my body was fully adapted and I was cruising through my 16 hour fast with out a hiccup. Not only was I adapted but in the mornings when I’m usually groggy, now I was full of energy. By the time lunch came around at 11am, I was excited to eat and would devour a big lunch. Around 5pm id go to Crossfit and kick ass. To my surprise I didn’t have the least bit of weakness I thought id experience. Finally, when I got home I would have my final meal of the day, usually a big plate full of a lean protein, potatoes and avocado.
In those 3 months of following a time restricted eating schedule I’ve lost considerable body fat (not that I had much to begin with but now I’m very lean) and kept or even added a bit of muscle mass, I’ve gotten stronger with my lifts and I feel my endurance on long runs is much better. I’m not sure how much of this can be accredited to intermittent fasting, but I can tell you that I have felt overall better, lighter and with more energy since I started. I also indulge in more “cheat meals” than ever before with out any sense of guilt.
This in itself is enough for me to make it part of my life style. As a climber I do have to modify the eating schedule as I approach a trip since a typical 2 or 3-day climb does require you to feed yourself every few hours to try and not fall into a calorie deficit. But for my day to day life, intermittent fasting has proved to be more efficient and convenient for me and will be something I will maintain going forward.