I’ve been intermittent fasting regularly for over two years now. It has changed my life for the better. Not only are my numbers better (weight and body fat), but I feel healthier and I’m more aware of what I eat and when. I’ll spend this time briefly discussing why I started, some trials and tribulations, and what has worked best for me thus far.
Why did I start?
I hit my 30s and was not getting the results I wanted despite working even harder in the gym. I’m a Marine, I need to be in top shape for obvious reasons. I used to be able to eat anything. I would literally eat candy bars for breakfast and donuts for lunch. Not gain any weight, and still lead the pack. I hit the gym everyday and ran fast. I started to get a little slower on my runs and not achieve the same definition I did in my 20s. I thought I just needed to work harder. I attempted to eat better, but that was futile. However, after a few years of putting more time in the gym, trying to lead the pack, I still wasn’t getting the results I wanted. Was I just chasing my 21-22 year old self? Was it just part of getting older? Hell no! I refuse to accept less just because I’m getting older. I started do a lot of research and stumbled upon intermittent fasting. How is not eating going to make be bigger, faster, and stronger? Seemed out there, sounded dumb, but I’m willing to give it try. I talked to some friends and bounced the idea around. The general consensus was don’t do it. Sounds bad.
So against all personal advice… I tried it! I read a book called “Eat Stop Eat.” Besides YouTube videos and blogs, that was my first hard copy book I read on the subject. I tried two methods at first with limited success. The first was outlined in the book mentioned earlier. The general concept was to not eat for a 24 hour period just once per week. After the 24 hour period, just go back to eating normally. Just starting off, that was too extreme for me. Now that I’ve been at it for a few years, I do implement that method every now and then, but I don’t recommend it for beginners.
Here is what not to do when fasting for 24 hour periods…
So I learned the hard way… despite reading numerous articles I went against the advice of working out at the end of a 24 hour fast. I remember the day vividly… I was at the gym on my military base, I had just completed a 24 hour fast and wanted to get a good workout in before getting a good meal. I got in a great workout and at the end of it, I truly felt like I spent all my energy and was ready to get a good meal. However… in the locker room there was a sauna. I liked to use the sauna to get a good stretch and try to get a little more out of my workouts. 10-15 mins was normal for me. On this day, as a motivated Marine, I wanted to get just a little more for Chesty! I hopped in for 10 minutes. As I walked out, dizziness and lightheadedness took over. I sat down immediately just an arms length away from a water fountain. My arms and hands started to go numb and could see I was getting tunnel vision. I didn’t have the energy to even get a sip of water. I sat there for what felt like an eternity just thinking about how embarrassing this was going to be if I passed out and all the base services were notified. I looked up and a patron walked by. I tried to express to him to see if he could grab me a water… he just kept walking out the door. WTF?! Another guy walked by, I tried to get help from him. He looked at me, told me to hold on for a second. About a min later he came back with a Gatorade and then left again. A few minutes after that, he came back with some of his lunch from his car! A few strawberries and fruit. That guy saved my day and I felt like a complete idiot. How dumb!
My recommendation is to start slow and LISTEN to your body and maybe the articles too.
The Calorie Counting Fail
The second method I tried early on was restricted calorie diet for two day periods. Instead of not eating anything for 24 hours, I tried eating only 800 calories for two consecutive days. So 1600 total in 48 hours. My mistake there was what I would eat. Typically my 800 calories was cinnamon rolls and milk. Maybe a protein shake in there too. I found calorie restriction to be harder than simply not eating anything. I got really bad food cravings and it just did not work for me. As time has gone on and I have learned more, I have realized it really wasn’t the best method to maximize the benefits of fasting. It was still technically eating…so not really fasting.
So what has worked?
After a bit of stumbling through, hitting some road blocks, and nearly just going back to my old feeding habits, I ran across Jim Stoppani on facebook. I’m sure one of the algorithms tracked me in intermittent fasting and one of his videos popped up. I did more research and tried his concept along with his product line. I’ve been pleased ever since. Some people love it, others don’t; to each their own.
So the basic concept I have been going with for probably the last year and half is 16 hour fasts, but with a twist! So the foundation is a 16 hour fast followed by 8 hour feeding window. I try to do that everyday. If I stop eating at 8 pm, I don’t eat again until noon the next day. So just skip breakfast! It’s really not that hard. But your body is an amazing thing and adapts. Just like the gym, where you need to constantly train hard, push more weight, or shock the body and do lighter weight with more reps, I noticed my body adapted to my feeding window. Almost like plateauing in the gym. Around noon I would start to get some hunger pains. My body knowing the food is near. I didn’t really notice that until 6-9 months into it. So I mix it up. I keep my body on its toes. On the weekend I might eat a nice hearty breakfast, or I might extend my fasting window 2 more hours. I might shorten my feeding window to only 4 hours and stop eating after lunch. I’ve noticed mixing it up, and keeping my body guessing, has really helped with not getting that super hungry feeling. Your body just seems to learn to deal with it. I’ve also noticed that after eliminating gluten, I no longer get that insatiable hunger at the end of feeding windows either. There were times when at the end of a fasting window I just wanted to eat an entire pizza or stuff my face. This has been gone since I took out gluten.
It’s not easy intermittent fasting. It takes discipline.
Your friends will look at you weird when you just drink coffee for breakfast. But the benefits and results have been undeniable for me. At 35, I truly feel I’m in the best shape of my life. But let me put it in some perspective for you… I’m a Marine. I’ve been playing soccer my whole life, so I have always been in generally good shape. I’m 6’3. By age 32 I was lean, but weighing in at 215-220lbs on any given day. I pay attention to weight probably more than your average guy because I want to stay within my max weight for my height for work; which is 214lbs. If I weigh in over mx weight, I would have to get my body fat documented, and its just not worth the hassle for me even though I was 12-14% body fat which is well within standards. So I found myself cutting weight, 3-5lbs, twice a year to make it under the 214 max. That gets old.
So when I started fasting I went and got a bodpod assessment. Basically, its an air chamber that works out weight and bodyfat. The first time I was already two weeks into my fasting, but I weighed in at 217lbs and 13.5% body fat. A year later of dedicated fasting I was 207lbs and 9% bodyfat.
But it is more than just the numbers! I feel so much better. I eat healthier. And now I walk around daily at 200-205lbs. Well under my max and no more cutting weight twice a year. I’m not bigger, but I am stronger and faster than I was in the past. Who would have thought?
I don’t get sick often. I’m not tired during the day. I have laser focus at work. Fasting gives my body time to do more than just digest food. During my fasting window, my body can work on repairing itself and not focus on digesting those McDonalds fries and milkshake. Also, when you only have 8 hours to eat, you really pay attention to what you put in your body. It helps with making wiser choices. There are tons of articles on the benefits of fasting, however, you don’t truly believe it until you feel it for yourself.
It was a difficult journey. My friends didn’t quite understand, but the results have been great for me and I don’t ever see myself going back to a standard three meals a day. I highly recommend fasting. Do some research, ask tons of questions, and let me know how it goes for you!