I have heard a lot about intermittent fasting over the past few years and initially thought it as just some other diet fad.
Who would want to fast?! As in, CHOOSE to not eat for extended periods of time. Not me that’s for sure.
Well, I decided to try it out before I fobbed it off and I have to say, I am thoroughly enjoying it and the effects from it in the 4 weeks I have been implementing it.
What is intermittent fasting?
It’s really exactly as it sounds. It’s a pattern of eating and then not eating for a specified time period.
There’s different ways to implement IF and you can make it fit in with your lifestyle, which is what really attracted me to it. Not this cookie cutter, one size fits all sort of way of eating. It’s not a diet and you generally eat the same food but you change the times you eat.
The more I researched it the more I realised that intermittent fasting isn’t a new fad. In fact, it’s really been around as long as humans have been and our bodies are equipped, and even benefit from going for a period of time without digesting.
Think about it, when we were hunters and gatherers we didn’t have an array of food at our fingertips, on it’s way to us in a backpack on a bike whenever we felt a twang of hunger.
Our bodies enter a fasted state about 8 – 12 hours after our last meal which is the system that IF plays on and why it is so effective. When our body is digesting food our insulin levels are increased which limits fat burning. When our body is in a fasted state, it can access the fat burning state & some articles suggest that it increases norepinephrine, a fat burning hormone.
Intermittent fasting can take many forms and there are various ways you can implement this eating pattern. You can fast for 24 hours or 14 and anything in between.
A common one is the 14-16/8 protocol: where you fast for 14 – 16 hours and then eat in an 8-hour window. For example: last meal at 8pm and first meal at 12pm the next day.
24 hours: Eat-stop-eat some people fast for 24 hours, eat normally and then fast for 24 hours again.
You can really implement fasting how every you want it to fit into your lifestyle but I would suggest that the minimum time you fast for is at least 14 hours.
I haven’t had the audacity to expose my colleagues to me on a 24 hour fast yet but I have implemented a way that fits in with my lifestyle where I fast for 14 – 16 hours, twice or three times a week and I don’t die of hunger.
Females need to be careful with how they fast and how often as it can wreck havoc on our hormones.
We can’t do it everyday and unfortunately for some women, you might not be able to do it at all so it is imperative to tune in with your body. If you start missing periods or it doesn’t agree with your energy levels and mood, stop.
Here’s what I do:
I like to start the week in a fast, especially if I have had a weekend of smashed avocado and more flexibility than I’d like. I will finish dinner around 8pm on Sunday night and fast until 10 – 12 on Monday. This is the 16/8 way.
I still have coffee every morning no matter what. You do not want to see me caffeine-free at 7am, believe me. Around 9am when I would usually eat my breakfast I have BCAAs to help with muscle retention and it can also help hunger, if you feel it.
When I break my fast I have my usual 2x egg + 1 egg white breakfast and wholemeal English Muffin.
The research says that after your fast you should have a protein-rich meal so I try but to be honest, I love my breakfast and I’m trying to implement it INTO my lifestyle, not change what I currently do so I pretty much have my usual breakfast.
I then eat normally for the rest of Monday and Tuesday before I fast again on Wednesday OR Thursday, depending on what time I train and then have one more fast on a weekend day.
I’ve been fasting on Saturday where I train fasted in the morning and have a big breakfast after training. Some people will disagree with training fasted and that’s fine, but I haven’t noticed any difference in my energy and it works for me.
This is the format I follow and what works for ME. I’m not an expert or nutritionist, just an average person who likes to experiment with different eating styles and loves training and learning about this sort of thing, so if you are going to implement some form of intermittent fasting, you need to find what works for you.
I started trying out IF expecting to hate it and feel like I starving, malnourished child who would think about food the whole of my fast but so far, that has not at all been the case.
I have made it pretty easy on myself in the way I implement it so for the most part, I fast when I sleep. Also, Monday’s for me are busy. Like, 300 emails busy so it’s only around 930/10am when I start to even think about food because I’m otherwise occupied.
IF has taught me how to feel hunger again instead of looking at the clock and telling myself it is time to eat. Most of the time when I think I’m hungry, a cup of water or BCAAs help to subside the feeling and it passes pretty quickly. It has made my listen to my body’s cues about food and hunger rather than my brain’s cues, which, by the way, are sometimes quite dissimilar.
It’s also made me MORE relaxed about food. Instead of thinking “I have to eat”, I ask myself “do I need food or am I not hungry?” I am less regimented and feel a little more liberal in my diet.
Now, I’m not too sure whether it’s from Crossfit or IF so I’m not going to give IF all of the credit because I think it is a combination of the two but, I have tightened up and lost fat as a result.
I have noticed and other people have noticed and this wasn’t at all my intention. It’s not a lot of weight, more so that my body has tightened up a fair bit but it’s definitely noticeable and I seriously love it. I am so comfortable in my body at the moment, without even trying, that in itself refreshing and rather invigorating.
I feel like I have more flexibility and freedom with my eating and like I have control over my body again, instead of eating because it’s 9, 11, 2pm etc., it has allowed me to tune into myself.
My energy hasn’t changed one bit. I had the expectation that I would feel sluggish or lethargic the days I was fasting but it hasn’t been the case at all. I feel fresh, clear and light.
I think next I will aim for a 15 or 16 hour fast instead of the lesser of 14 hours and see how this goes but I was very conscious of easing myself into this eating pattern.
I think that last point I so important. You don’t want to go from eating every 3 hours to throwing yourself in the deep end and attempting a 24-hour fast because your body will hate it, you will most likely hate it and conclude that it isn’t for you.
It’s a simple way of implementing SMALL behaviour change that is easy to stick with, which reaps the results.
So far I have enjoyed IF and how I feel when fasting so I think I will maintain what I’m doing for the foreseeable future.
As with anything, I a not a nutritionist or doctor or anything of the sort, so listen to your body and if it doesn’t agree with you, don’t force something that’s not meant to be.