I Tried Intermittent Fasting - Here's What Happened
“We are wired for feast and famine, not feast, feast, feast.”
Dr Jason Fung
A few years ago, I found myself reading about the topic of Intermittent Fasting. At the time it seemed hokey. Although it made a lot of sense (our body is designed for feast and famine not feast, feast, feast) it was tough to overcome the traditional nutrition advice that had been shoved down my throat (pun intended) since the day I was born.
Advice such as:
- Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
- Not eating for extended periods of time puts your body into “starvation mode” which consequently slows down your metabolism and increases body fat.
- Eating frequently (snacks in between meals) will “stoke your metabolic fires” and help keep the hunger cravings at bay.
These were a few of the irrefutable laws of optimal health that had been and continue to be perpetuated since the day I was born and based off my interest in nutrition history this poor advice has been making it’s rounds for way too long.
There are quite a few other commonly held beliefs that fall into the category of opinion and not fact, but I’ll delve deeper into those in another blog.
Fast forward to a few months ago and I stumbled upon the topic of IF again. Having spent some time and energy in the past few years reviewing a lot of the work of Dr. Jason Fung coupled with a basic understanding of endocrinology a light suddenly went off in my head. IF wasn’t hokey at all. In fact, it made A LOT of sense. The reason it had seemed so hokey a few years back was due to my lacking knowledge base. Having spent the last few years learning from other professionals in the field, the dots proved a lot easier to connect.
Having just opened my own business I found that mornings were time strapped and my days were SLAMMED with appointments. I should have paid one of those self-help gurus $50 000 to restructure my schedule and to help me set personal boundaries (sarcasm) but it just wasn’t possible. I found myself missing breakfast almost 3 days a week and having nothing other than a black coffee. The other thing I noticed? I was beginning to see my abs again which I hadn’t seen in A LONG time.
Curious; I figured if I’m already doing this 3 X a week by accident I might as well develop a structured approach and pay attention to what happens. Being a coach; I’ve always been big on practical experience-based knowledge. Reading a book only gets you so far; implementing and experiencing an approach is MUCH more progressive. So; instead of eating breakfast at my earliest convenience I decided that my first meal would be at 12 PM and my “eating window” would close at 8 PM. This daily structure would provide me with a 16:8 split which is one of the most common IF time structures.
16:8 refers to the ratio of time spent “fasting” to the time spent “feeding”. The 16-hour block INCLUDES sleep which usually accounts for approximately 7-8 hours of that 16 hours. It’s quite common for people to immediately perpetuate their “starvation” theories when hearing that a meal is being skipped. I invite people to entertain the reality that the concept that your body perceives itself as starving because you skipped breakfast is a little bit extreme AND the word BREAKFAST itself when broken down means BREAK FAST aka the first meal of the day. Contrary to popular belief there is no universal law that states you must break your fast because you woke up nor is there a specific time at which you should break your fast. It’s also interesting to note that you didn’t eat for the entire 7-9 hours that you were asleep and somehow you didn’t die. Isn’t that curious?
Sarcasm aside; this approach proved to be one of the most progressive strategies I’ve ever implemented relative to my physical development as well as my mental health and acuity. A few of the benefits that I recognized were as follows:
- MENTAL ACUITY: For years I had spent my mornings experiencing a mental fog / grogginess after eating breakfast for the initial 1-2 hours following. This had always frustrated me as it felt like it took too much of my morning to feel in the groove AND it felt like wasted time. After adopting a purposeful IF structure I noticed that within 15-20 minutes of waking up I was ready to rock – DAILY.
- INCREASED ENERGY LEVELS: My energy levels have proven to be higher than ever. I often work 100-105-hour weeks. Although I’ve always had the ability to power through long days, napping was a consistent cornerstone of my day. Around 2-3 PM daily the yawning would begin, and I would find myself thirsting for a 20-45-minute nap. Now? I rarely take a nap once in a week and if I do it’s by choice relative to relaxation and far from a necessity.
- DECREASED BODY FAT / INCREASED MUSCULARITY: As is evident from my before and after photos. I am much leaner than previously. Implementing a consistent IF has allowed for both a reduction in body fat AND an increase in muscle mass. Curiously; I am approx. 5-7 lbs heavier on the right. The photo on the left I weighed 192 lbs and currently I hover between 195 & 200 lbs. This of course has contributed largely to my physical performance in the gym as well as my personal confidence / self-esteem.
- TOTAL ELIMINATION OF HUNGER CRAVINGS: I can only imagine the head shakes at this statement. Yes, you read that right. I NEVER feel hungry during fasts and what’s most surprising is that even when I’ve broken the fast I still don’t experience an overwhelming feeling of “hunger”. As I will explain in Part 2 of this 3-part series; there is a biological reason why hunger cravings don’t typically occur when employing an intermittent fast. I should qualify that during the first 1-2 weeks I did initially find it challenging to last through an entire 16 hours. This is no longer the case.
- SIMPLICITY OF LIFESTYLE: Due to my hectic work weeks and desire to be hyper-productive I have found that IF reduces my stress and anxiety levels as it’s one lesser piece of the daily task list to be worried about. I have since adjusted my IF schedule to compliment my lifestyle further, but it can be quite worrisome when you’re in a rush to imagine that you’ve missed a meal and now you’re losing ground or that you have to figure out what to eat when you don’t have access to the best of options. During an IF – water or black coffee / tea will suffice and seeing as Canada has an over-abundance of Tim Horton’s – I never fear.
To conclude; there are biological reasons why Intermittent Fasting is so effective for so many people. Next week I’ll be releasing a blog (Part 2/3 of this series) explaining the “biological behind the scenes” of IF.
I’ll give you a few hints:
1. It has nothing to do with starving.
2. It has nothing to do with calorie deficits.
3. It has nothing to do with voodoo magic.
4. It’s FAR from a fad.
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