Intentionally skip a meal? Blasphemy! But what are the actual health benefits of intermittent fasting?
Have you heard about intermittent fasting? It seems that lately I’ve seen it all over my social media pages, or maybe I’m just starting to pay attention. At first, the thought of fasting seemed crazy to me. However, once I did my research, it seemed as though it could be a very beneficial thing.
The gist of my research concluded that there were a couple of different types of fasting. There was a 24 hour fast which you could do 2–3 times a week, or there was a shorter fast where you would eat for about 8 hours, then fast for 16. The latter seemed more doable, so that’s what I set out to do! The purpose of doing a fast is to give your body a break from food! When we eat, we produce insulin, so the point of fasting is to limit the amount of insulin your body produces. By minimizing insulin, our bodies turn to fat for fuel, essentially eating the fat in your body as a meal replacement. Fasting has been done for thousands of years, so while it might seem crazy, it’s actually very widely practiced! I decided that I had to try it for myself for a month and see how it went.
I bought two ½-gallon water bottles to make sure I always had water with me. I read that you can have zero-calorie and zero-sugar drinks during fasting such as black coffee, tea, and BCAAS, so I made it a point to fill my first ½ gallon of water with a scoop of BCAAS. I found that this helped to emulate juice and made me think I was chugging calories when I wasn’t. I usually finished my first ½ gallon by noon, ate lunch, then filled it up again with plain water and continue to drink it throughout the day.
The first day I was gung-ho and ready to go! I didn’t think it was that hard to get to noon without eating considering I went to the gym in the morning and went home and gorged in a huge lunch. The rest of the day went totally fine, and it wasn’t until the second day that I started to feel the hunger pains! It was out of nowhere when I woke up STARVING! I knew I couldn’t quit and just had to wait until noon. Luckily, I had started the fast on the weekend, so I could sleep in a little longer than usual to wait out the hunger, but day two was killer! It’s like somehow my body knew what I was doing to it. However, I made it through the day and continued the week fasting.
It worked best to eat a huge lunch at noon, then eat again at 3:30 or 4, and then finally have dinner at 7:30 before stopping eating by 8. If I was hungry at all though, I munched on veggies, granola, fruit, or had a smoothie.
Going into the second week, I feel like I had it under control. I knew when my body was hungry, I felt like I was drinking a lot of water, and I didn’t feel like my strength in the gym was different. However, I did begin to adjust my calories to eat more food within the 8 hour period. I also wanted to have more calorie dense foods since sometimes it was hard to eat at the times I wanted, so I needed to make sure that I was full! I made a chia pudding with full-fat coconut milk, had avocados on hand, and also made sure to have cut up veggies with hummus in the fridge. I found that these extra snacks helped me to feel fuller longer in between meals and were also great on-the-go grabs!
I was working out five days a week, sometimes in the morning before I broke my fast, and sometimes in the afternoon after I had been eating. On days I worked out, I made sure to eat a lot of carbs such as rice or potatoes and on rest days, I gorged on fresh fruit, raw veggies, and anything that would make me feel light.
One thing that I learned from the first week that I carried into the second week was not to overeat! I would get scared at night that I would be hungry, so I would stuff my face at dinner until the very last minute of being able to eat, and then I would be so full that I couldn’t do anything. I started to listen to my body more, and when I was fully satisfied, I stopped eating.
This week I pretty much got into the groove. I found I was waking up HUNGRY! However, that made me think that this whole thing was actually working. My body was getting used to not eating breakfast, so I guzzled water with the thought that the hunger was my body munching on fat. At least that’s what I told myself to get through the week.
I tried to really up my calories this week during the 8-hour feeding window by eating rice, pasta, veggies, protein shakes, and of course all the fresh summer fruits. I felt good when I wasn’t eating, and I felt good when I was!
Up to this point, I hadn’t really noticed any changes in my body (i.e., weight loss), but I still start to notice that my stomach was feeling tighter in the morning. Not that I woke up with a six pack or anything, but it was feeling a little bit leaner. I also felt like my workouts were getting heavier in the gym. I was able to lift more and push myself harder. I wondered if maybe that was thanks to the fact that I wasn’t eating breakfast, so my body wasn’t worried about digesting food and instead could focus the energy into working out.
I also cheated this week *gasp*. We had friends who had a housewarming party where I had two glasses of wine but overall ate pretty well. I had also continued to eat until about 9 pm. Needless to say, the next morning my stomach did not feel good. However, I started right back up the next day, but I pushed my feeding time to 1 pm instead of noon and ate until 8 pm.
This week, I focused on weaning myself off of the fast. I began to eat at 11:30 am and stop at 8 pm, then the next day eat at 11 am and stop at 8 pm, and slowly move the time up by half an hour until I got to a 9 am feeding time. I wanted to do this to see how my body would adjust and I had also planned a month long vacation where I wanted to make sure I could eat everything! The one thing that I noticed is that the earlier I ate, the hungrier I was during the day. When I got to the 10 am breakfast, my body was still hungry for lunch at 12 like it had been used to for the past three weeks! However, once again I noticed no weight gain or any significant changes.
Overall, I enjoyed intermittent fasting. It took my mind off of trying to make breakfast in the morning which was a huge stress reliever. Instead, I was able to focus on preparing a really good end of fast meal and have healthy snacks throughout the day. I also was able to focus on hydration and drank over 1 gallon of water every day!
One of the great things that my body learned was to be able to distinguish between hunger and boredom. Believe me when I say that I really, really, really know what hunger feels like now and am more aware of when my body NEEDS food versus when it WANTS it.
I noticed on the diet that I had limited sugar cravings which is something that I always have issues with. However, when you’re focusing a lot on feeding your body the right nutrition for only eight hours, there’s no room for sweets! Don’t get me wrong, I did have a piece of chocolate here and there, but I wasn’t running to the fridge to eat ice cream at 9:30 pm as I usually do.
As with any new eating plan, always do your research before starting something that you don’t know a lot about! If you are interested, definitely try intermittent fasting for a couple of weeks and see how it works for you!
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