“Eat six small meals a day”
“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day”
“Your body will start using your muscle as fuel if you don’t eat at regular intervals!”
What if eating larger meals, less frequently was actually the way to go?
Intermittent fasting: A term that describes controlling your fasting (not consuming any calories) and non-fasting windows
*This is intended to be only an empirical account of my experience with intermittent fasting.
It’s been over 5 months now that I’ve been consistently fasting and following a ketogenic diet and I just wanted to share a bit about my experience, with the fasting part, over this time in case you’ve been thinking about giving it a try yourself.
I’ve known about intermittent fasting ever since I heard about the Paleo diet back in 2009. However, it was always one of those things that was put on the back burner as I felt that it was too much for me and that I wasn’t ready for it.
Not consuming ANY calories for extended periods of time!? No thanks.
Well, over the years, I started to read more about this style of eating and I decided to give it a try. I started easily enough with the standard 16/8 fast. That means that I would fast for 16 hours and eat all of my calories for the day during an 8 hour window. In the beginning that was tough! I played with that a few times and did it maybe once a week for a total of five or so times.
One of the last times that I tried a 16/8 fast I ended up being really busy, coaching back to back classes most likely, and before I knew it it ended up being 24 hours that I had gone without consuming anything other than black coffee or water and during that time I felt great! That’s when I really started to be interested in experimenting more with timing my eating windows.
In 2016 I broke my foot and I used that as an excuse to get fat and lazy. I felt horrible. Once all of the metal was removed and the doctor gave me the all clear, I knew that I had to get serious again about getting back into shape. I decided to start my journey back to being fit with a 72 hour fast. Three whole days of nothing but water, black coffee and green tea. The first 24 hours went by easily enough as I was already used to that. The second day however, was a different story. It was the first time that I can remember actually feeling truly hungry and it was a struggle to not cave into temptation. I remember somewhere around the 48 hour mark thinking, this is the longest that I’ve ever gone in my 36 years on Earth without food! Think about that for a second.. How long have you actually gone without consuming any calories in your life, not counting while you were sleeping.
I’m guessing not too long. Yes, occasionally we’ll go the day without eating because we’ve been busy but I’m willing to bet that you were still drinking calories from coffee and milk, sodas, or tea with honey, juices. Something.
The third day was EASY. I was shocked at how great I felt. No hunger at all, energy was through the roof and I felt like a machine.
Each of the three days I also worked out. I remember hearing that you should rest and not do anything strenuous during a longer fast but I thought that I’d try anyway and I told myself that if I felt bad at all that I would stop working out immediately and wait until the fast was complete.
The opposite was true. My workouts felt great. I had tons of energy all throughout the day and couldn’t wait to get back into the gym. All this is after more than two, solid months of not working out at all.
One of the most shocking things to me was that, on my third day of fasting, during my workout I was doing sumo deadlifts and the goal was to work up to a heavy single. I kept adding weight to the bar and it kept coming off of the floor easily and I ended up establishing a new PR at 210kg! I was shocked. How could I have gotten stronger after 9 weeks of not lifting weights and following 72 hours of not ingesting any calories whatsoever? I’m guessing that it has something to do with extended fasts being linked with increased hgh production.
I felt like I could’ve easily went a fourth day but I thought, enough is enough. Let’s have a steak already! I broke my fast with a big steak, lots of veggies and a glass of wine. I knew then that there was a lot more to fasting than I had originally thought and that I definitely wanted to incorporate it more into my routine.
I knew that regular three day fasts wouldn’t be sustainable and I was also starting to feel like the standard 16/8 fast wasn’t quite enough. So, I decided on 20/4. Twenty hours of fasting followed by a four hour window when I consume all of my calories for the day.
I began this on July 10th and I’ve been following it pretty strictly, Monday through Friday. Every day I’ll wake up at five or six in the morning, get ready and then go to the gym to coach classes or private clients. During that time I’ll have black coffee and water only. I’ll usually then workout at 9am with the class and then continue fasting afterwards until 4pm. Once 4pm arrives I’m very ready to eat! I’ll usually have a big steak, some ribs, a bunless burger, or if I’m in a rush I’ll get meat and veggies only from the local kebab place. I’ll then eat a second dinner around 6:30 – 7pm with my family, which looks pretty much the same, and then I begin my fast again at 8pm.
So, I fast from 8pm to 4pm and eat from 4pm to 8pm.
I love it. My need for mid afternoon naps has pretty much disappeared, my energy is great, mentally I feel more alert and focused and I have a lot more free time! Not having to worry about what I’m going to do for lunch everyday frees up a big chunk of time that I can use to work, visit my family or get other stuff done.
And while this isn’t meant to be a low calorie diet, there’s only so much food you can eat in 4 hours so, in effect, I ended up losing a bit of body fat in the process as well!
(This is after 6 weeks of following the 20/4 fast)
Besides the welcomed fat loss my performance has never been better! I workout fasted everyday and I feel great. My conditioning is much better, gymnastic movements, after losing 4kgs, are much easier (surprise, surprise) and I feel like I’m in the best shape ever.
Interested in giving intermittent fasting a try?? If so, then start very easily. One way that I tried, which was pretty easy mentally, is to stop eating at 8pm and start again at 12pm the next day. That’s an easy way to try a 16 hour fast. After 8pm though, zero calories! No honey in your tea, no beer, no snacks……nothing. Same goes when you wake up in the morning. No milk in your coffee, no breakfast, no calories at all until you break your fast at 12.
Give it a shot and see how it goes. You won’t die of hunger and you may find out that this is an effective way to control your calorie intake while giving yourself an added energy boost!
If you’d like some more info on the benefits of intermittent fasting some of my favorite resources are