Let me first start this post off by saying that this is in no way intended to be taken as nutritional advice. You should always consult your doctor or healthcare professional before starting any new diet/nutritional plan. This is simply my experience from the month that I tried intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting is one of the fastest growing trends in the fitness world, as well as for the average Joe. It is a great was to drop those extra pounds. What makes it so enticing is the fact that there really isn’t any counting calories or keeping track of macronutrients. You simply need to change the time of day that you eat. It works because you are consuming fewer calories over the course of a day, but you are also eating bigger meals, so you may feel fuller (Collier, 2013).
Fasting is abstaining from food or drink for various reasons. Intermittent fasting is the cycling between fasted states and feeding states (Collier, 2013). There are various ways that people can intermittent fast. The two most popular methods of intermittent fasting are whole-day fasting and time-restricted feeding (Morin, 2017).
The method I chose was the time-restricted feeding method. I would fast for 18 hours and have a ‘feeding’ window of six hours. The hardest part of this for me was figuring out when I would fast and when I would feed, since I have such a crazy schedule. If you read my post in March, “Should You Become a Personal Trainer,” I posted a picture of my alarm schedule, so you can get an idea of my day from that.
I usually train around 6 a.m. for about an hour, so I would have my first ‘meal’ around 7 a.m. But, I always started my day with a cup of coffee at 4:30 a.m., usually black coffee; if I wanted something to sweeten it up I would use honey. My first meal, after I trained, was usually Greek Yogurt mixed with some peanut butter, honey and depending on the day, oatmeal which amounts to somewhere between 400-500 calories.
At the beginning of the month, I was starving, absolutely starving when I started to train, since I usually ate breakfast around 5 a.m. It took about a week or so for me to get into the routine of training on an empty stomach. It wasn’t all that bad; my training numbers stayed relatively the same (within 10%). I felt weaker at first, but once I got used to it, I was feeling back to normal. I imagine the drop in numbers is partly because of lack of ‘instant’ energy and partly because of the weight I was losing.
I would usually have a protein shake around 9 a.m., when I would start to feel a little hungry. The protein shake would add around 120 more calories and 25 grams of protein, which would hold me over until I got home, around 11 a.m. My second meal would vary from day-to-day, depending on how I was feeling, and if I trained that day and what intensity I trained.
On days that I trained at a lower intensity I would have ½ - ¾ serving of rice, quinoa or something along those lines; some kind of vegetable, usually a serving or two; and, a serving of protein - sometimes chicken, sometimes pork, sometimes beef - just depending on what I was in the mood for.
Higher intensity days called for pretty much the same ‘formula’ just in larger portions, anywhere from 25% to 50% more, but I usually didn’t count how many calories I ate. I do a lot of meal prep on Sunday’s, so I had most of the food made, I just had to heat it up (I did have to cook the veggies, those don’t keep too well once they’re cooked.)
Non-training days were a little different. I would almost completely cut out the heavy carbs (rice, quinoa), but keep the fresh veggies and protein. These were the days that I had to struggle through, I would be absolutely starving by that afternoon, I got used to it to a point, but never fully used to it. And add in some more healthy fats in their place.
This meal would hold me over, for the rest of my ‘feeding’ time, but by the time I got back from work at night, around 8:30, I would be absolutely starving. The first week or so of this was terrible, to the point where I had to get something to eat because I didn’t think I could make it until the morning after I had trained. This is around the time I started adding another small snack around 12:30, 30 minutes before the end of my ‘feeding time.’ Some days it was a protein shake, others a sandwich. It was never a big meal; it was usually something in the 300-500 calorie range. I noticed that this actually did help some. I was still hungry when I went to bed, but I wasn’t starving. I was hungry, but it wasn’t going to keep me up that night.
The whole experience of intermittent fasting was an interesting one. I did lose weight, but not as much as I thought, even though I didn’t want to lose a lot of weight. The hardest part was definitely the beginning. It took about a week to a week and a half to get used to eating on a pretty set schedule for only 6 hours a day.
I would do it again, but only if I had an actual weight loss goal in mind. I would much prefer to do a little bit longer feeding period, probably 8 hours and a 16-hour fast. But, with my schedule, this would have been extremely hard for me to accomplish. It is something to try if you are looking to lose some weight (after you have done your research and consulted with your health care professional). In my experience, it didn’t seem to be great if you had a significant amount of weight to lose.
Part of this could have something to do with the fact that I already have a relatively healthy diet (not perfect, but good…decent at least) and I am very physically active (1 hour of training a day and 8-10 hours working in a gym).
It did show my mental strength when I had to get into the routine and I was hungry at what was typically dinnertime. I did cave a few times and have a snack around 8:00 pm, but I tried to push through it. Worst case, you learn how mentally tough you really are and if you can stick to a plan. Best case, you lose some weight and feel better about yourself.
Collier, R. (2013). Intermittent fasting: The science of going without. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 185(9), E363-E364.
Morin, K. (2017). 5 intermittent fasting methods: Which one is right for you? Retrieved from: http://dailyburn.com/life/health/intermittent-fasting-methods/.
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