An Intro To Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting is exactly as it sounds, which means alternating blocks of time between eating and periods of abstaining from food. There are numerous evidence based health benefits from intermittent fasting, including but not limited to:
Induces several cellular repair processes
Gene expression benefitting longevity
Weight loss and management
Lower risk of type 2 diabetes
Potential to stave off Alzheimer’s disease
There are several methods of engaging with intermittent fasting. I find the easiest way is to simply wake up from sleep, with your sleeping hours counting as a fasted period, and extending the fast by skipping breakfast. The only thing I will ingest during the morning while fasting is black coffee and water. The fast is then broken at Noon and I will eat up till 8:00pm that evening. This schedule averages me a 16 hour fasted period alternated by an 8 hour window of feeding. I typically do this about 4 out of 7 days per week.
Water is highly encouraged during the fasting period and teas and coffee are allowable too. Some proponents even suggest adding a clean fat source like unsalted grass-fed butter or MCT oil to your coffee during the fasting period, being that fats themselves do not technically break the body from the process of fasting. A little MCT oil in your coffee can be a helpful trick, especially when trying a fasted period for the very first time.
The few days of the week I do not fast are typically the days after strength training or days with a long and demanding work schedule. I do, however, typically do my kettlebell routine while fasted and take lots of walks and practice yoga while in a fasted state too. Doing a moderate amount of exercise while fasted, with an emphasis on moderate, is a powerful way to boost your body’s fat burning abilities.
Here is what Intermittent Fasting Has Done For Me:
I am leaning out. It has been gradual, but noticeable. For most of my adult life, I have battled being "skinny fat" with persistent areas of flab. For the first time ever I feel the tide is slowly turning with an increased ability to burn body fat while building and retaining muscle.
It has made life simpler. I have now eliminated the minor annoyance of figuring out and preparing what I am going to have for breakfast each day. Thinking of food upon waking up, let alone cooking it, has always been a chore for me. Knowing that I now wake up the majority of days and only have to brew a cup of coffee has me easy like Sunday morning.
It has reset my context for feeling hungry and full. I used to be a hardcore advocate of eating something every 2 to 3 hours for the sake of keeping my metabolism churning. I adhered to that for years, but I now see there were snacks if not even whole meals that were eaten beyond hunger. Intermittent fasting has reset my entire calibration for feeling full and has given me a healthy perspective on what is truly feeling hungry.
It has increased my cognitive functionality. I can not show data, tests, or brain scans to back this up. I can only convey how I feel and I feel sharper and more alert. It is purported that intermittent fasting ramps up your body’s reparative and regenerative processes allowing for a more proficient version of you. I feel like I am benefiting mentally from this practice.
It has kept me actively practicing. The simplicity of intermittent fasting is the true beauty of the process. There has been no other wellness practice, like taking up weight lifting or adhering to a Paleo diet, that has kept me this fully engaged. This is mainly due to the simplicity of implementing and continuing with an intermittent fasting practice.
Here is what Intermittent Fasting Has NOT Done for Me:
It has not restricted my caloric intake. Yes, I have benefited from an overall healthy reduction of calories through intermittent fasting, but to say my calories have been restricted is a mischaracterization of the process. Often I will end a fast and go on to consume a typical day's worth of calories within my condensed 8 hour feeding period. I will do so with larger meals or at times enjoying snacks or protein smoothies in addition to my meals.
It has not made me starved for food. My very first few fasting periods were commenced with a bulletproof style coffee to help ease into the process. The healthy fats and appetite suppressing power of bulletproof style coffee were a huge help in my early goings. Eventually, I transitioned to mainly black coffee or green tea during my fasting periods and even then remained free from pangs of starvation.
It has not made me crave sweets treats or refined carbs. The noticeable reset my appetite underwent through fasting also involved an increased desire to refuel my body with healthier and more nourishing meals. I enjoy an occasional clean treat like a piece of 90% dark chocolate but I am now even more conscious of the foods I consume and the potential effects each meal has on my daily life performance.
It has not made my body cling to fat in an unwelcoming manner. There is a lot of talk about metabolism and how a body will begin to store fat if deprived of a steady pattern or smaller multiple meals throughout a day. I can attest that intermittent fasting has not produced an uptick of body fat on me at all. It has been the opposite. I seem to be getting more efficient as a fat burner and appear to be leaning out while establishing core muscle mass.
Fat-Based Diet and Intermittent Fasting
It is important to note that prior to beginning an intermittent fasting practice I had been making a concerted effort to become, as trusted wellness blogger Mark Sisson would say, fat adapted. Meaning, the bulk of my calories were coming from fats with a complement of protein and slow burning carbs. If your diet consists of a high amount of carbohydrates, which means you are constantly burning sugar for energy all day, you may have a tougher time at the beginning with implementing intermittent fasting.
I think it is also fair to point out that coupled with my high fat diet I have also tweaked my exercise routine, ditching 5+ mile runs for more frequent high paced walking in combination with lifting kettlebells and practicing yoga. I think it would be wrong to attribute my recent wellness uptick strictly to intermittent fasting, as the diet and revamped exercise routine have also played a major role.
Intermittent Fasting - A Practice For Life
Intermittent fasting has played an integral part in my progression of wellness and it is a practice that is synergistic with the diet and exercise. I am thankful I was open to the concept of intermittent fasting, especially flying in the face of the societally ingrained dogma regarding breakfast being the most important meal of the day. The ease of the practice and the results I have been experiencing firsthand are bound to keep this as a recurring routine moving forward for my life.
Have you tried intermittent fasting? Are you skeptical of the concept? Please share your thoughts in the comments.