I can’t believe I’m already at the end of my 4 weeks of Intermittent Fasting. For those of you who are new here, you can read my previous posts about this here, here, and here to find out more. For those that are all caught up, let’s move on!
I can’t believe it’s been 4 weeks for two reasons:
1. I actually survived. Before I started this experiment, I thought I might die from not eating for 16 hours each day. Not eat from 8pm until noon? Are you crazy? It turns out, it has actually been surprisingly awesome, and although I haven’t been perfect, I have found it relatively easy to do.
2. The 4 weeks flew by. I really thought I’d be counting down the days until I could eat on a “normal” schedule again, when in reality, I don’t have any desire to go back to the way I used to do things (eat immediately upon waking, with frequent snacks during the day).
The following are my major findings for the past 4 weeks:
Strictly looking at the numbers, I have not lost any body weight (which is ok by me, and if you’ll recall, was not one of my goals for this process). Unfortunately, I am traveling for work this week and was unable to test my body fat percentage before I left. However, I do feel leaner, although any change in body fat in 4 weeks is probably very very small. It also could be just a decrease in abdominal bloating that I’m noticing, but overall I’ve felt better in my clothes than I did a month ago. I honestly think that if I kept this plan up for another couple months, I could be well on my way to my desired BF%.
Going beyond those very basic numbers, I have noticed a whole range of other physical changes during the past month.
– Gastrointestinal changes – I have dealt with many GI symptoms for the past several years without ever having an official diagnosis. Throughout the past four weeks, I have generally felt the best I have in years in terms of GI symptoms. Save for a couple rough days due to questionable food/drink choices, I’ve felt excellent in this department. I’ve had almost no bloating/discomfort for an entire month now, which is pretty incredible. Now, I’m really not sure whether this has to do with my eating schedule, or due to the fact that I’ve cut out most of my snacking (ie, Luna bars and things similar to that). My inclination is towards the latter, but I really don’t know. Either way, I’m not complaining!
– Sleep Changes – I’ve been needing a ton of sleep lately, not feeling rested without 8-9 hours per night. I’m not sure if this is connected to IF at all, or if it’s just due to increased stress at work. I also didn’t get a good nights sleep for about 4 nights after my finger ordeal last Sunday, so that’s a bummer.
– Energy Levels – Besides this past week with very little sleep, my energy levels have been so much better during the day than normal. I haven’t been hitting that mid afternoon slump, and I’m assuming it’s because of the fact that I’m not on an insulin rollercoaster from eating all day long.
Workouts: My biggest findings related to my workouts were that BCAAs were, in fact, essential for a quality fasted lift. By the time I was lifting, I was generally 13-14 hours into my fast. On days when I forgot or plain just didn’t take my BCAAs, my lifts and conditioning sessions suffered. My strength only decreased slightly on these days, but I also felt shaky, dizzy, and short of breath very easily. It was not pleasant. On days when I took my BCAAs though, I was able to lift just fine, even hitting a max deadlift of 185 for a single 2 weeks ago. Takeaway? BCAAs helped my fasted lifts a lot, despite the fact that they taste like death.
Mental/Emotional Findings: Like I said, when I started this, I anticipated being miserable and hating every second of it, especially at first. Being someone who used to eat first thing upon waking and graze all day, I wasn’t sure how I could tolerate the daily fasts. At first, it was a little bit difficult to not eat in the morning. However, after about 10 days, I started to enjoy it, and found a sort of peace with not eating in the morning. I know that sounds weird, but it’s the only way I know how to explain it. Instead of starting my day immediately with food, and literally thinking about food and hunger all day, I was able to focus on other things in the mornings, which led to less thinking about food for the rest of the day.
In fact, just the other day, the morning after my finger incident, I was feeling pretty sorry for myself. I woke up and said “I’m going to eat breakfast this morning!” thinking that it would be comforting (yes, I am an emotional eater for sure!). But when I went to go prepare breakfast, I realized that I didn’t actually want it, and that I knew I would feel better during the day if I held off eating for a few hours. Overcoming emotional eating with IF? I’ll take it.
The one thing that was a little tough was the serious sugar cravings I had for the first two weeks. I’m not sure if this is normal during the beginning of an IF protocol, or if my body was just rebounding from my decreased sugar intake (due to decreased snacking).
Will I continue this after the experiment ends? I think I absolutely will incorporate this into my normal routine once I’m done with the whole experiment. I love the way I’ve felt while doing this, and like I said above, this regimen has really brought me to peace with food and realizing my actual hunger cues (not psychological hunger cues). I don’t think though, that I’d be able to follow this strictly for the rest of my life (nor would I want to). More than likely, I’ll end up following a schedule where I do at least 3-4 days with fasts each week, but giving myself flexibility when I need it (or just plain need a break).
**Note: For success during my fasting times, hydration was key. I’m really bad at keeping myself hydrated some times, and symptoms of dehydration were seriously magnified while fasting. To be successful with this, I really believe that you have to work very hard to maintain proper hydration, especially during the fasting periods, or they really do feel like pure torture.
Would I recommend this to others?
I would definitely recommend this nutritional style to others, but only those with a very strong nutritional foundation in place. This is not for people who are going to fast, and then pig out on bags of chips and popcorn. This style of eating takes a very good understanding of nutritional needs, macronutrients, energy needs, etc. I would not recommend this to someone who is looking for a crash diet or easy fix. I would also be extremely hesitant to recommend this to those with a history of disordered eating (whether it be restrictive or binge eating). I can imagine that it would be very easy for someone to turn this into an extremely restrictive and dangerous diet if those tendencies were present. There were even a few days where I had to force myself to eat more at the end of the day after realizing I had only taken in about 1200 calories that day. (Not enough for someone my size). Likewise, those prone to binge cycles may have a lot of difficulty with control on this type of diet.
If you recall, my nutritional experiment called for IF, followed by 4 weeks of Carb Back Loading (CBL), followed by 4 weeks of Paleo. Unfortunately, with the recent finger episode, I am not yet allowed to lift heavy (and might not be able to for another few weeks). CBL is a plan that is designed for people who are training hard and lifting heavy, so it would be pointless for me to try that now and expect any significant results. I think what I’ll do is continue with IF for the next 2-3 weeks until I can get back into my training regimen, since I like it so much, and move on once I can start training again. This week is a little hiccup in the whole plan because I’m traveling with the Lacrosse team that I work with, and our schedule would make it very difficult for me to keep up with a strict IF. So while I’m here, I’m back on a “normal” eating schedule, which I don’t mind temporarily. So back to IF next week, and I’ll update you all when I’m moving into the CBL phase!
I know I originally said I would include a sample day of eats for me on IF for you all, but then this post got really long. Would anyone still be interested or should I just skip that idea all together?