Today’s the day, my friends.
Today’s the day that I begin my 4 weeks of Intermittent Fasting. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you can read this post from a couple weeks ago where I described the nutritional experiment that I’m beginning.
For the past 2 weeks I’ve been documenting my normal weight fluctuations as well as body composition. I’ve also been documenting how I’ve been feeling throughout the day, sleep patterns, etc. so that I know my base line before I start all this. Granted, for a full week of that I was sick as a dog, but I don’t think that had much of an effect on my normal weight fluctuations and such. So now that I have some numbers documented to compare to, it’s time to get started with the fun! As I said in the original experiment post, I’ll be starting with Intermittent Fasting. I promised that I’d elaborate a little bit more on this when the time came, and that time is now.
What is Intermittent Fasting (IF)?
IF is used to describe a style of eating in which you alternate prolonged periods of fasting with shorter periods of eating. In reality, we all utilize some form of IF, because technically we fast when we sleep at night. However, the research behind IF suggests that health benefits may be realized when the fasting period is prolonged, from anywhere from 16-24 hours. I am not going to get into all of the science behind it in this post, but there is research out there that suggests that IF may help to increase life expectancy, regulate blood glucose, regulate blood lipids, and help to maintain a desirable body weight/composition. The research is limited, but I’m willing to work with it for now.
There are many different protocols for IF. There are those who follow extended fasts, going a full 24 hours 1 – 2 days per week, and those that alternate 36 hour fasts with 12 hours of “regular” eating (now that just sounds like pure torture). There are those who use a 20/4 ratio, fasting for 20 hours and eating all of their calories within a 4 hour window (also torture, no?). The protocol that I will be following is the Leangains style, which incorporates a 16 hour fasting window with an 8 hour feeding window (only very mild torture).
How Will I Do This?
I will most likely be fasting from 8 pm until noon on most days, but will have to give myself a little bit of wiggle room due to my ever-changing work schedule. The times may shift 1-2 hours either way (7pm – 11am, for instance), but I am really going to try my hardest to stick to the 16/8 schedule.
There are some rules here though. I can’t just go all CHEESEBURGER!!!!! for 8 hours (although I wish I could. Love me a burger.) Following a Leangains style of eating incorporates the following: carb cycling, eating mostly whole, minimally processed and unprocessed foods, and eating your largest meal directly after training. This could get tricky with my schedule.
*Important Note – I will still be getting all of my normal calories in each day, just in a shortened time frame. This is not a way to drastically cut calories from my diet.
If you wanted to do this as well, you could choose to eat early in the morning, and have your fasting start late afternoon (essentially skipping dinner instead of breakfast) but I have a feeling that would not work out great for me personally. Based on my work and training schedule, the night-into-morning fast seems to make the most sense for me. Who knows though, that could change!
Following this schedule will also help me to make the transition into Carb Back Loading more easily in a months time, but I’ll go into more detail on that later.
What Challenges am I going to face with IF?
This is most definitely going to be a very challenging thing for me at first, of that I’m sure. I’m a snacker; I hate feeling hungry, and tend to have a very bad reaction to it (shaky hands, nausea, inability to think straight, irritability, etc.), but part of me thinks that this is something that can be controlled. I think that the first week or 2 will be extremely challenging, but hopefully after that my body will settle in.
I think my biggest challenge of all is going to be training fasted. I train almost exclusively in the mornings, and I’ve only done so without breakfast a couple of times in my life. It will be interesting to see how my body responds, and most likely I’ll be experimenting with some BCAAs (branched chain amino-acids) pre-workout, as I’ve read that these can help with energy when training in a fasted state.
The final challenge that I will probably encounter will be in my social life. I’m often out after 8 pm, and will find myself munching away on things, even when I’m not particularly hungry. I can attack this in 2 ways: I can either shift my fasting window on those days, or I can practice some self control and just keep my hands away from the snacks. We’ll see how this goes!
What am I looking forward to?
I would say the biggest thing that I’m looking forward to with IF is learning the difference between physical and psychological hunger. I’m interested in learning more about my own personal hunger cues, and how my body will respond to such a strict schedule.
If you are curious about IF, and would like to try it yourself or just learn more about it, I recommend that you start with this awesome (free) downloadable PDF from Dr. John Berardi, the mastermind behind Precision Nutrition. There are tons of great resources out there, but this is an excellent overview!
And with that, here we go! I’ll keep you updated as the weeks go on, so you can either share in my misery or hear about what I’m loving about IF. Hopefully it’s the latter.
Do you have any questions about IF? Have you ever tried this style of eating? Do you think you would be able to manage skipping breakfast? What do you think your biggest challenge would be with this program?