Monday, September 28, 2015

Intermittent Fasting



Intermittent fasting.  I mentioned it with my recap on Saturday and that I discovered I was doing it purely by chance.  It started off that I was trying to control my hunger urges (false and real) by spacing my meals strategically.  The best way for me to do that was to delay eating breakfast.  Since I’m on medical leave and am not constrained by a work schedule at the moment, it is really easy to delay breakfast until noon, 1pm, even 2pm.  I will obviously either have to change what I’m eating for breakfast and make it something portable, or just start eating breakfast no later than noon every day.  Which is fine, I’ll just have to eat my final meal of the day no later than 7 or 8pm to optimize my fasting schedule.

I’m no expert and I haven’t done a LOT of reading on intermittent fasting.  There is science behind it, but that’s pretty much the part I haven’t done a bunch of reading on because it’s super sciencey and lots of big words and very long study summaries.  You’re more than welcome to read those, but I’m okay with reading multiple people’s summaries of the study summaries, especially when I read more than a few people’s summaries of the summaries and they all say the SAME THINGS.

First, intermittent fasting is NOT A DIET.  It is simply a way of eating.  A schedule, if you will.  You can eat whatever you want during what is called your “feasting” time and then have nothing that has any calories in it during your “fasting” time.  Everything I read says that coffee and tea are both fine during your fasting times, but it is obviously preferred that you drink them as is (no additions), but if you must use sweetener and cream, keep it minimal so as to not interrupt your fast.

Let’s go over the basics of intermittent fasting.  I do what is called daily intermittent fasting, so that’s the one I’m going to talk the most about.  This means that I fast every day.  But that does not mean that I don’t eat ever.  Nope, not even close.  I am still eating my usual amount of calories (1300 or less), but I’m not starting eating when I first wake up and then eating my final meal right before I go to bed, essentially eating off and on all day long.  Instead, I’m fasting for the majority of the day and eating all of my calories within a small window of time during the day.  The times for the fasting time vary from 14 hours to 20 hours a day, meaning you have anywhere from 4 hours up to 10 hours in which to eat your food during.  Some of the things I’ve read recommend that women stay toward the more conservative end of this scheduling with 14 hours fasting and 10 hours feasting.  But, those same articles also say to find out what works for YOU because everyone is different.  I’m leaning toward fasting for no less than 16 hours, leaving me 8 hours to feast.  I would actually like to do 17 or even 18 hours fasting with 6 or 7 hours feasting.  But that’s later.

The basic concept behind intermittent fasting is that it’s the way of eating that most closely resembles the way our ancestors ate.  Our ancestors didn’t have refrigerators full of food, restaurants on every corner, grocery stores, or farmers markets where they could go and grab something to eat whenever they wanted to eat.  No, they had to hunt and gather their food and eat it whenever they could find it and then they would be fasting until they could hunt and gather their next meal.  And who knew when that would be?  They could get lucky and manage to hunt an animal to feed their family every single day, or, more realistically, they would be able to hunt and kill and animal to feed their family every other day or every 3 or 4 days.  This means periods of a day or two with no food at all except for maybe a couple handfuls of berries or other edible plants.  This is one of the main reasons I really accept this way of eating.  It makes the most sense to me when you think of how humans pre-historically would feed themselves.

Some of the benefits of intermittent fasting include reduced hunger, increased energy, increased mental sharpness, muscle gain and fat loss.  I have definitely felt the effects of these.  I absolutely LOVE that I’m not obsessing about food anymore and that I’m eating not because I’m really hungry, but because “it’s time to eat.”  Sometimes, the food I’m eating almost seems like too much, even though it’s not.  Something I noticed when I first cut my calories from over 2000 down to 1300 (or less) a day, even before I started with the accidental intermittent fasting, was that I had so much more energy than I had when I was eating more.  My energy levels have continued to increase as I’ve gotten more into the intermittent fasting way of eating.  For the past month plus, I have lost 2-3 pounds every week and this is accompanied by noticeable drops in body fat percentage as well.  My muscles are toning way faster than they ever did in the past, even when I was actively involved in power lifting and body building.  And the mental sharpness?  I’m able to focus on things a lot easier than I was before.  I forget less.  And I’m finding it easier to write blogs that aren’t just recaps (which I’m sure you appreciate…haha).

I’m sure you’re now wondering if intermittent fasting might be for you.  That is completely up to you.  Do a Google search and read multiple articles on it.  Buy a book about it and read it.  Do your research.  If you like what you read, give it a try.  There are no supplements or prepackaged meals or memberships to pay for.  All you do is change the times you eat.  Start small.  Start with fasting for just 12 hours.  The easiest way to do this is to eat your final meal of the day 2 to 3 hours before you go to bed.  Then you sleep for 8 hours.  Then wait 1-2 hours after you wake up before eating breakfast.  Use that time to exercise or drink your coffee or watch the news.  And there you go, you just fasted for 12 hours!  Easy peasy.    If you like it, just increase your fasting time by 30 minutes to an hour at regular intervals until you get to the point that is perfect for YOU. 

While this is not a diet, eating this way will change the way your body processes food and often it enters true fat burning modes, so even if you’re eating the exact same things that you were before you started this process, you will probably lose some weight.

Also, you can structure how many meals and how big they are however you want so long as you eat them all within the feasting period you have assigned yourself.  For instance, we’ll go with my schedule.  I eat between 1100 and 1300 calories a day.  My breakfast is around 250 calories.  I eat that about 2-3 hours after waking up (right now, after I’m off medical leave, I will be waking up earlier and that window will increase to more like 3-4 hours).  Right now, that means I’m eating lunch between noon and 2pm.  Then, I don’t eat anything until between 5 and 6pm.  This is my biggest meal at about 550 calories.  Sometimes I eat piece of icing-less cake, adding about 180 calories.  A couple hours later, at about 8pm, I eat 0% fat plain Greek yogurt with either fruit or veggies.  That snack is 150 calories or less.  For dinner, around 9:30pm, I eat a serving of fruit or veggie (1 apple, 3 roma tomatoes, half an acorn squash, etc) and this is about 100 calories.  For starters, I’m thinking of combining my snack and dinner together and making my final meal at 8pm.  After I’m off medical leave and back to work, I would really like my final meal to be at 6 or 7pm.  Basically, what I’m saying is you can structure your food and meals however you please and however works for you during your time of feasting.

So, go do your research and decide for yourself if this is for you…or not.  It’s not for everyone.  You have to decide for yourself.

2 comments:

  1. Glad it's working for you. I can't imagine running 8 or more miles in the morning with nothing in my stomach. For workouts under an hour, I don't have a real need to eat, but going over an hour, I always do (and I work out first thing).

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    1. i obviously haven't thrown running into the mix yet as i'm still in the boot of misery, but i'm guessing i'm going to have to adjust the hours of my fasting to correspond with my running. especially longer runs where i'll be eating gels (any run longer than 8 miles for me necessitates gels). probably what will end up happening is that my feasting time will start around 8am and go until i eat my final meal of the day around 3 or 4pm. and then just chug massive amounts of water after that. i'm cool with that, tho. i really like this lifestyle and i want to make sure it works for me. my favorite part is the whole not obsessing about food and having anxiety about food anymore. cravings will pop up and then after i've acknowledged them, they just go away. it's so weird. i'm not complaining, but i am super fascinated.

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