I’ve had a fantastic experience so far, so the cliff notes are here followed by some tips on how I’m doing it.
As a lifestyle, I find that Intermittent Fasting (IF) works extremely well for fat loss and for improving overall health. After one month, I’ve lost 15lbs, am sleeping better, and generally feel more alert and energetic. I strength train as well, and, in spite of fewer overall calories in my diet, I have continued to improve in both stamina and strength performance. As a side note, I haven’t really dealt with ongoing cravings and during my eating window tend to focus on clean meals (usually two in total) that are relatively high in protein with a balance of healthy fats and carbs. I handle cheats in stride and plan ahead for those based on my schedule and what I’d like to eat.
In the grand scheme of things, it’s been a very manageable effort so far – without stressful preoccupation – which is extremely important for long term lifestyle change. For those interested, here are some details on how I’m doing it and how I’m establishing a new mental model for improved health.
I think of it as a lifestyle
The program isn’t temporary, nor is it intended as a crash diet to lose a quick 10-15 lbs. The fat loss is a by-product of a much more holistic, healthier life choice I’m making. Fasting offers a significant number of health benefits – becoming leaner is just one of them.
Increase consumption of non-caloric beverages
I drink over a gallon of water every day and complement that with black coffee and unsweetened iced tea. I stay away from any zero calorie sodas. The excess water in particular promotes hydration, among other benefits, and provides a sensation of fullness at times.
I use an app
There are many apps available for IF and my preference is fastic (I also pay for the subscription which is about $30 / 3 months). It’s not necessary, but I like its features and its very useful for tracking progress. Doing a search on your mobile app store will show you a litany of alternatives – some free, some not – but a tracker will be extremely useful.
The tracking on fastic is particularly useful since it breaks down the stages of body activity during the fast. This is extremely motivating for me personally.
One or Two Meals During the Feeding Window
For most fast breaks, I’ll eat a relatively large meal first then complete my feeding window with a smaller meal. On other days, I might just eat a single large meal. The app recommends two meals versus grazing, but I’m not sure how much it matters.
Focus in on Autophagy
As noted above, I don’t think about intermittent fasting solely for losing body fat. I’m interested in the long-term health benefits of the lifestyle Itself. Cellular cleansing, or autophagy, begins about 14 hours into a fast. This is where damaged or dead cells are broken down and absorbed into healthy cells – in essence cleaning out waste.
I don’t follow a single Fast:Feed ratio every day
My feeding times change depending on circumstances such as social occasions. I simply plan ahead and may fast longer to accommodate a later meal. For example, my usual feeding window is 10AM to 4PM. Last week I had dinner with a friend of mine where I cooked (and therefore controlled the menu), but didn’t eat until about 7:30 PM. I simply extended my feeding window from 10AM to 7:30PM and ate until about 9 that evening. This sounds like a huge swing but it was uneventful. To reset my schedule, I simply followed a shorter fast from 9PM to 10AM (13 hours), which brought me back to my normal timing. On other occasions, I’ve simply fasted through an entire day (24 to 30+ hours) to reset.
I’ve made the process very binary
…and proactively plan my eating schedule. During my feeding window I eat. During my fasting window, I don’t. It’s very regimented in some respects but also very simple – I turn on food, I turn off food. This was originally tricky because, like many others, I may eat out of boredom; I may eat due to stress; or I may eat socially. This has all stopped. I now eat because it’s time to do so. I hold myself accountable to my schedule and adjust fasting windows as needed (but do at least a 12 hour fast between feedings).
I generally emphasize the fast over the feeding times
There’s no reason why you can’t have a 12-hour feeding window followed by a 12 – 24 hour fast. This is generally impractical but it’s also plausible. I tend to stick to a strict feeding window of between 4-6 hours, but there are times when I’ve also extended it and simply adjusted my fast accordingly.
As noted above, after each feeding, my personal goal is to give my body enough time to reach autophagy for a couple of hours. At this point, ketosis (fat burned as fuel) is well under way, blood sugar is down, and cells are regenerating.
I’ve just started with Juice Plus to ensure that I’m getting an over-abundance of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein. If anyone’s interested in this, please send me a message.
For anyone considering intermittent fasting, I would suggest researching the practice before jumping into anything. On the surface it may seem “not for the faint of heart” but in reality, it’s a lifestyle choice that can be eased into and followed indefinitely over time. Don’t think of it as a quick fix and don’t think of it as a diet. It’s an effort to change your own behavior to improve your overall health. The benefits are numerous including a leaner, healthier physique.
- Netflix Documentary, Fasting by Director Doug Orchard
- The Fastic App offers its own library of resources and articles on the practice of fasting.
- Lean Gains by Martin Berkhan is a great resource for lifters, in particular, but covers significant ground for anyone interested in the practice of IF.