10 Weird Things That Happened When I Tried Intermittent Fasting (IF)
Intermittent fasting (a.k.a. skipping breakfast) is making rounds on the interwebz.
There are potential pitfalls (and surprising perks) you should know before embarking on your own intermittent fasting (IF) adventure.
Let this post serves as a cautionary tale (and a source of lolz).
1) Breakfast Will Be Ruined
I love breakfast foods.
I hate eating in the morning.
Due to my love of omelettes, breakfast for dinner is a daily event.
That's totally fine. I always hated cooking in the morning, so if I don't have to do that, awesome.
But after months of skipping breakfast, one day I decided to eat in the morning "for fun."
As soon as I took a bite of those cheesy eggs, my energy crashed and I entered zombie mode.
Then, a mere hour later, I was ravenously hungry again. Not normal.
WTF! I don't know. Martin Berkhan already theorized about why this could be over here, so check that out if your inquiring mind must know (open in new window, of course, since I'm not done with you yet).
Since this day, I have not taken a bite of food before noon. So if you have any emotional attachment to eating in the morning, IF at your own risk.
2) Productivity Super Powers
After you get through a few initial mornings of bitching about being hungry all the time, you'll be struck with a sudden increase in mental capacity.
- You'll have more hustle.
- You'll get shit done.
- Your creativity powers will erupt.
I realize this might sound crazy to those of you who haven't experienced fasting, and I wish I could describe it more precisely in a way that you could understand -- but I think you would have to experience it in order to truly understand it.
I have to function at a high level mentally -- so this perk alone is worth the price of admission to me.
3) Fasted Training Rules
My Typical Day:
- 7 a.m. -- Wake up
- 7-9 -- Get hyped up on coffee, read articles and/or a book, take actionable notes
- 9-10 -- Go on a walk/drive with my dog/some kind of leisure activity
- 10-12 -- Write, e-mail, business stuff, take a few minutes to like cute dog pictures on Facebook
- 12- 1 -- Training
- 2 -- Lunch (FINALLY I ate)
- 5 -- Dinner
- 10 -- Zzzzzzzzzz (obviously I did lots of other stuff in between 2 and 10 but yay concision!)
The Point: I didn't eat for 8 hours after waking, and I slept 8 hours before that (total 16 hour fast)
More specifically, I worked out on an empty stomach (GASP).
WTF bru, what about pre-workout nutrition, etc.!
If you're going to train fasted, you need to supplement with BCAA pre and post-workout at bare minimum. I'd encourage you to toss in some creatine and beta-alanine, too. Good for recovering faster and working harder. Without BCAA, don't train fasted, or your body won't recover properly.
Workout nutrition is important, but you can just get around consuming any calories with BCAA.
I've never had more productive workouts. My mental focus is stronger. My energy is higher. I can push it further. It's increasing strength and muscle at a rate faster than anything I've ever seen.
Today, if I train with anything in my belly, I want to die before I'm done with the warm-up. The difference is staggering.
4) Whoa, This Is Convenient
Various fasting plans call for precise "feeding" and "fasting" windows. LeanGains, for example, instructs you to fast for 16 hours and feed for 8 hours.
This set-up is helpful for the IF beginner. But once you get the hang of it, don't freak out about hitting a precise feed/fast window.
Some days I eat at noon. Others, 1. Others, 3. Sometimes, if dinner is going to be an epic cheat, I'll fast until 6 for damage control purposes.
The point: don't cause unnecessary stress by over-analyzing this. Don't make it more difficult than it needs to be.
Don't make your life fit your diet. Make your diet fit your life.
^^^^^^^Tweet That Quote^^^^^^^
5) Big Meals Kick Butt
Please bear in mind I'm in a slow bulk mode (and also I'm a bigperson), so these meals would be inappropriate for some of you (especially the weight-loss crowd).
A Typical "Lunch" (eaten in between 12-2).
- Whey + Skim Milk Shake
- Cereal with chopped banana
- Yellow rice
- Mashed potatoes
- Bread of some kind
- Strawberry shortcake (or some dessert) if I'm particularly ravenous.
- 3-4 scrambled egg cooked in olive oil w/ mozzarella cheese, hot sauce, spinach, tomato
- Pork chop or steak
- 2 handfuls of nuts
- 2 glasses whole milk
- Hot tea
A Brief Explanation Of WTF I'm Doing: I'm eating the overwhelming bulk of my carbs in the hours immediately following my workout, when they will be used for muscle rebuilding and recovery (and thus not for fat storage) . I then take a sharp turn towards high fat and low carbs in my evening meal. This set-up creates a simultaneous bulk/cut effect (plus having both high carb and high fat meals every day rules).
This has helped me build muscle without unwanted fat storage.
6) Be Careful at the Buffet
Most IFers eat 2 or 3 meals a day. I tend to stick with 2. Doesn't matter, do what you prefer.
A Cautionary Tale: Once upon a time, I decided to test my fasting limits. I limited myself to one meal per day for a week.
Verdict? Hated it.
When you start fasting, it isn't going to be easy to eat everything in the eight hour feeding window. Your body isn't used to it (but will adapt rather quickly).
I theorized that I might likewise adapt to eating one meal in a day.
Wrong. I just hated my life (and looked pregnant) for the two hours following a meal.
7) I Avoid Eating Out on Dates
As Anthony Mychal stated on his post about IF, your conception of a Big Meal Will Be Shattered.
If you go from eating 6 times in a day to eating 2 times in a day, that means your meal size would theoretically be multiplied by three. This is probably more food than you've ever eaten in one sitting (except holiday meal gluttony maybe).
The phrase "Big Meal" will take an entirely new meaning.
I now avoid eating out on dates, as my already-absurd appetite is magnified in ridiculousness due to my extremely low meal frequency. I could literally eat a cow. Also, part of me is afraid of a female asking me if I'm a part-time competitive eater.
Pro Tip: An epic big meal can give you a slightly preggerz look for 2-3 hours after meal completion, so don't get too carried away before a date. Trust me.
8) Your Digestive System Will Thank You
TMI Alert: After a couple months of regular fasting, I noticed the most curious thing. I only poop once in a day -- at the same time, every day (seriously I wrote down the exact time for 5 days in a row and they were all within minutes of each other, eerie!).
The best part? Throne time has never been so quick and easy. Go in, do it, done, get on with my day. My digestive system has never been happier.
9) You Might Prepare Some Bizarre Meals
A week or two ago, I went to fix lunch. I was out of everything. I had to leave for filming in an hour, so no time to go to the store.
Hungry and in a hurry, I put together this bizarre assortment, which was basically everything edible in my kitchen at the time:
- 2 eggs
Normal people would never combine such things. If you IF and find yourself short on food and time, I bet you will, too.
10) Your Friends and Family Will Question Your Sanity
The second you say the word "fasting" to a friend or co-worker, expect an awkward stare.
If you let it slip to a family member that you IF, expect to hear concerns (they might politely ask if you intend to starve yourself or have an eating disorder).
While IF is popular with training/nutrition nerds like myself, it isn't common practice.
"Fasting for 16 hours a day" sounds like a Big Deal. Really, it's not -- skip breakfast and eat a late lunch, voila, you did it -- your entire sleep cycle counts as fasted hours, awesome.
If you choose to try out an IF lifestyle and people give you crap for it, don't sweat it. Never care what anyone thinks about you (unless they think you're awesome, in which case, they're right).
Talk to me
Have you tried intermittent fasting? If so, how do you like it versus the traditional meal structure? What fun things have you noticed about it?
Do you plan to try IF? If so, what's holding you back?
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