Earlier this year I decided to try out intermittent fasting in order to lose some weight and improve my fitness
I've blogged previously about intermittent fasting, however it wasn't until this year that I actually tried it out myself. Since I hate counting calories and dieting, intermittent fasting looked like an appealing option to help prepare for the upcoming summer racing season.
Myths about Intermittent Fasting
Before I tell you how I implemented intermittent fasting into my lifestyle, I'd like to dispel some common misconceptions about it.
- You won't go postal and kill people because you're hangry (hungry and angry).
- Your body won't go into starvation mode and eat all its own muscle with short-term fasts of 24 hours or less.
- Your insulin levels won't go all haywire because you're not eating every two to three hours.
- Fasting isn't about cleansing or detoxifying.
How I Fasted
There are a number of different ways to do occasional fasts and the method I chose was to do a 24-hour fast once every week or so. My plan was to begin my fast after dinner one day and not eat until dinner the next day. This was the simplest way for me to incorporate weekly fasts. You basically get a head start because you're sleeping for six to eight hours of your fasting period.
I didn't go a full day without eating for the first few weeks. My first week I went about 18 hours and over the next couple of weeks I increased the length of my fast until I was doing the full 24 hours. If you're interesting in trying fasting I'd suggest you follow a buildup period so your body and mind adapt to not eating for extended periods.
My schedule is pretty busy already and I didn't need one more thing adding to the complexity. So I chose to be flexible with the day I do the fast instead of being rigid with it. Some weeks I may fast on a weekday and others on a weekend, which means I'll go anywhere from six to 10 days between fasts. This approach appeals to my personality but if you're a more structured person you may want to schedule a set day each week to do your fast.
It's been an interesting experience so far. I've realized just how conditioned we are to eating on a regular basis. I've learned the difference between physiological hunger and psychological hunger and quickly noted the distinction while walking around downtown at lunch hour on a fasting day. I wasn't hungry until I watched other people eating.
My Fasting Results
So has it worked?
My endurance and strength have improved, plus I feel great. I've also gotten leaner.
In February I weighed about 188 lbs. at around 14% body fat. That calculates to 162 lbs. of lean body mass and 26 lbs. of fat mass. As of May 10, I'm 179 lbs. at 9% body fat; 163 lbs. of lean body mass and 16 lbs. of fat. Not too bad considering I haven't given up eating chocolate, ice cream, bread or drinking beer. I've definitely cut back a bit on those things, but they're still part of my diet.
However, I should also add that I've been consistently training four to five days per week as well; primarily strength training in the gym and running outdoors. But I've been doing those things for years; the biggest change in my lifestyle the last few months has been the addition of intermittent fasting. I attribute most of the results to this change in my eating habits.
I'm not going to suggest it's the magic bullet, but if you don't have any major medical issues I would recommend giving intermittent fasting a try, especially if weight loss is one of your goals.
Intermittent Fasting Resources
For my training and nutrition I did get some specific help from my friend, fellow strength and conditioning specialist and Ph.D. in exercise science candidate Mike T. Nelson. Yes, even trainers hire other trainers.
You can also read through the Precision Nutrition eBook, Experiments with Intermittent Fasting. It's free and very insightful.
Another website you might want to browse is Leangains.com; lots of free content.
And finally, I bought Brad Pilon's excellent eBook Eat Stop Eat. If you're a geek like me you'll love all the scientific references.